H1 Steel: Is it a Good Knife Steel?

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Many of the knives from Spyderco Salt are made using H1 steel blades. As the name of the series indicates, these knives are made to work in saltwater environments while keeping corrosion and rust away. For many H1 is synonymous with corrosion resistance.

Let’s explore more on this steel in detail.

What is H1 Steel?

Spyderco Dragonfly 2 Lightweight Salt Folding Knife with 2.25

H1 is a mid-range steel featuring complete resistance to corrosion in any natural environment. It is a Precipitation-Hardened (PH) steel alloy, which means it is rolled hard without giving any kind of heat treatment. It is manufactured in Japan by a company named Myodo Metal. Thus, it is also referred to as Myodo H1.

Chemical Composition

The basic structure of H1 is quite unusual. It has very low carbon, high nickel, and some nitrogen with sufficient Chromium. Following are the different elements of this specialty steel:

  • 0.15% Carbon: For enhanced hardness as well as resistance to wear and corrosion
  • 14% Chromium: For enhanced edge retention, tensile strength, and resistance to corrosion and wear
  • 7% Nickel: For enhanced toughness
  • 3.78% Silicon: For enhanced strength as well as resistance to corrosion
  • 1.12% Manganese: For enhanced hardness and less brittleness
  • 0.94% Molybdenum: For improved strength, machinability, and corrosion resistance, specifically pitting resistance
  • 0.05% Nitrogen: For enhanced strength and edge retention ability

Hardness

According to the Crucible metallurgists, the hardness rating of H1 is around 57-58 HRC at the spine and 65 HRC (harder) at the edge. According to Spyderco forums, Crucible metallurgists tested a minimum of two Spyderco knives, one with H1 plain edge and other with H1 SpyderEdge. According to them, although the hardness level of both spines was 58 HRC, the edges scored 65 HRC and 68 HRC, respectively.

Well, this is extremely high hardness. According to the same source, the steel does not show brittleness even at that high level of hardness. The mix of molybdenum and silicon contents and the manufacturing process result in a score of 57 HRC. However, some disagreement exists regarding the edge’s hardness.

H1 is work-hardening steel, meaning it gets harder as you use it. However, many knife users and experts disagree.

Properties

Spyderco Assist Salt Folding Knife with 3.68" H-1 Corrosion-Resistant Stainless Steel Blade and Lightweight Yellow FRN Handle - SpyderEdge - C79PSYL

  • Good Toughness: Leaving the debated hardness levels of 65 HRC+ apart, the hardness rating is 58 HRC. This is considered relatively low. If the hardness level is so low, the toughness level is truly going to be high. So, H1 is considered to have good toughness when its hardness level is low. This steel has no brittle carbides but does contain soft and ductile ferrite, due to which one can expect its toughness level to be high. In other words, it will not chip or crack easily or quickly.
  • Poor Wear Resistance: The ability to resist wear increases in proportion with the increase in hardness. So, since the hardness level is low, H1’s wear resistance is poor. The lack of very hard carbides, relatively low hardness and the presence of delta ferrite result in lower wear resistance performance than several other knife steels.
  • Poor Edge Retention: H1’s edge holding ability to be below that of AUS-8 and 8Cr13MoV because of its low wear resistance. It is reported that H1 can retain a sharp edge better if it is serrated.
  • Great Corrosion Resistance: This is where H1 truly shines. Although there is not much carbon, the trivial amount of nitrogen acts like carbon and does not interact with chlorine to trigger rust. H1 is considered to be a level below the austenitic steels having 8% nickel and 18% chromium. However, the inclusion of molybdenum enhances corrosion resistance. H1 is considered ideal for knives to be used in and around saltwater. This is because high molybdenum content is required for keeping rust away at continuous exposure to saltwater. There are indeed steels like 316 or 304 which is even better at corrosion resistance.  Another reason why H1 offers high corrosion resistance is that almost all the chromium content is available as chromium in solution, instead of chromium carbide like in many other steels.
  • Ease of Sharpening: It is very easy to sharpen an H1 steel blade because of the low level of hardness. A simple sharpener will give you a sharp H1 edge.

Comparison With Other Knife Steel Options

H1 vs VG10

VG10 seems to win in terms of edge retention. However, H1 takes it over in terms of toughness, corrosion resistance, and ease of sharpening.

H1 vs. VG-10

H1 vs O1

When it comes to corrosion resistance and ease of sharpening, H1 is a better choice than O1. On the other hand, O1 is slightly tougher and retains an edge for a longer time.

H1 vs. O1

H1 vs AUS-8

H1 is tougher and resists corrosion far better than AUS-8. While both rank the same when it comes to ease of sharpening, AUS-8 is slightly better in retaining a sharp edge.

H1 vs. AUS-8

Top H1 Knives on Amazon

We have seen only Spyderco makes knives with an H1 blade.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

So, is H1 Steel Good?

H1 is the ultimate knife steel in terms of corrosion resistance. If you’re interested in the perfect fishing, diving, or marine knife look no further. The expensive LC200N is the closest in terms of its corrosion resistance. However, In terms of hardness and edge retention, this is one of the worst steel.