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12C27 is a classic Sandvik steel grade widely used to make various outdoor knives. For example, knifemakers like Russ Kommer and Robert David prefer this steel. Similarly, many knives from Ka-Bar, Columbia River, and Gerber are made using this steel.
What is 12C27 steel?
Sandvik 12C27 is a martensitic high-chromium steel alloy from Sandvik AB, an esteemed Swedish company. The Sandvik series contains seven steel grades, including 12C27M, 13C26, and 14C28N.
This Swedish steel is popular in the American knife market for its great corrosion resistance, high hardness, decent edge retention, and moderate wear resistance at an affordable cost. This Swedish steel is widely used to make tactical, camping, hunting, pocket, fishing, and high-end chef knives. It is also used to make skate blades and ice drills.
This Sandvik steel is stainless. Following are the elements that make up this Swedish steel:
- 0.6% Carbon: For increased hardness as well as resistance to wear and corrosion
- 13.5% Chromium: For increased edge retention, toughness, tensile strength, hardness, and resistance to corrosion and wear
- 0.4% Manganese: For increased hardness, tensile strength, and resistance to wear
- 0.4% Silicon: For increased strength as well as resistance to corrosion
- 0.03% Phosphorus: For increased strength and machinability
- 0.01% Sulfur: For increased machinability
On the Rockwell C scale of hardness, the Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel gains a rating between 54 and 61 HRC. The exact value varies as per the implemented heat treatment. Still, the given range indicates high hardness. A value above 59 HRC is considered hard.
- Great Toughness: Considering that the hardness level is not that high (not beyond 61 HRC), it can be concluded that 12C27 is tough! Some might consider it is tougher than the lips of a woodpecker. This is attributed to its fine carbide structure. These knives can take a beating while resisting chipping, breaking, and cracking.
- Good Wear Resistance: As a thumb rule, the higher the hardness, the better is the wear resistance. Keeping in mind the range of hardness this steel has, it can be inferred that it has good power to resist wear and tear. This ability is sufficient but not the best compared to other stainless steel variants. However, you can expect 12C27 knives to stand up to usual wear and tear.
- Good Edge Retention: Even edge retention is directly proportional to hardness. Keeping this in mind, Sandvik 12C27 is known to have a good ability to retain a sharp edge for long with regular use.
- High Corrosion Resistance: As this Swedish steel is stainless due to sufficient chromium and minimal carbon content, it ensures high resistance to corrosion and stain. This justifies its use in making fishing and hunting knives. However, it is important to note that this steel is not 100% resistant to corrosion. You will have to dry it after every use and lubricate it periodically to keep rust at bay.
- Ease of Sharpening: This Sandvik steel is pretty easy to sharpen as it is not super hard. This is unlike most high-chromium steels that are difficult to sharpen.
Comparison With Other Knife Steel Options
Sandvik 12C27 vs. D2
D2 is admired for its ability to hold an edge exceptionally well and resist wear tremendously when used in various applications. Many knife fans consider it to be the king of wear resistance. The reason behind such exceptional abilities is its high hardness.
Even 12C27 retains a sharp edge and keeps wear away, but not as great as D2. On the flip side, it is easier to sharpen the Swedish steel. It is also easier to work with the Swedish steel too. Moreover, it is cheaper to make 12C27 due to its fewer alloying elements and is better at corrosion resistance.
12C27 vs. 8Cr13MoV
The Chinese steel has additional elements such as vanadium, nickel, and molybdenum, absent in 12C27. This means it gets an edge over the Swedish steel in hardness, toughness, and sharpness. However, it is not a good option for resisting corrosion on the flip side.
Sandvik 12C27 vs. 440C
440C is harder because of its high carbon content. The higher chromium content makes 440C superior to the Sandvik steel in anti-corrosion properties. Moreover, 440C knives are more affordable and attractive due to the mirror finish.
12C27 vs. 420HC
420HC has less carbon content, due to which 12C27 seems to be harder. This means it retains a sharp edge for a longer time than 420HC. However, the presence of vanadium makes 420HC superior to the Swedish steel when it comes to wear resistance performance.
On the flip side, it is easier to sharpen a 420HC blade than this Sandvik blade. Both grades, though, have similar power to resist corrosion and are for buyers on a budget.
12C27 vs. VG10
VG10 is harder, provides better wear resistance and edge retention, and depicts more corrosion resistance. However, it isn’t easy to sharpen a VG10 blade on the flip side compared to a 12C27 blade. Further, VG10 is brittle, which means that its edge will chip if used on hard surfaces. Above all, VG10 knives are more expensive.
Sandvik 12C27 vs. S30V
S30V is a high-end option. The vanadium and carbon contents in S30V make it win over 12C27 in edge retention. On the other hand, Swedish steel is easier to sharpen and is more economical than S30V.
So, is 12C27 steel Good?
Yes! Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel is durable enough to endure a lot of abuse during heavy use. In addition, it is resistant to corrosion, holds a sharp edge well when put to regular use, is easy to sharpen, and is affordable.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.