1095 carbon steel is an old steel. It’s popular in blades and knives. As with all 10xx family steels, the first two digits in the name indicate the two main elements in the alloy, while the last two digits show the percentage of carbon present. For instance, the first digit ‘1’ refers to carbon, the ‘0’ means no second main element in the alloy, while ‘95’ refers to the 0.95% composition of carbon in 1095.
1095 is carbon steel, very basic as it contains only two main elements, carbon, and manganese. It’s relatively hard with good wear resistance. This steel lacks enough manganese for great toughness but is harder and flexible than many 10xx steels such as 1080, 1070, and 1060. The 1095 steel is great for knife beginners as it is easy to sharpen, and it retains an edge fairly well. However, it demands some deliberate care to keep it rust-free.
But how good is 1095 steel? For well-known steel like 1095, you may decide to trust it based on its popularity or understand it better by following our 1095 discussion below.
At A Glance
1095 is simple and well established. It’s high carbon steel common in knives and swords. 1095 has long reliability in cutlery making as it is easy to sharpen and can get to razor-sharpness. Conversely, it lacks the many elements found in modern steel types and thus not so good in toughness and corrosion resistance. If you are looking for beginner-friendly knife steel, 1095 may be a good start.
- Easy to machine
- It gets to razor sharpness
- Easy to re-sharpen
- It’s decently tough
- Relatively Cheap
- Rusts easily if left wet and unattended
- Not tough enough
- Lacks the higher hardness of other higher class steel types
Unlike modern steel alloys, 1095 has a specific and very short chemical composition. It lacks common elements such as chromium which improves rusting and corrosion. All the same, it contains high carbon levels and added manganese, making it hard enough to resist wear and tear effectively. The elements in this carbon steel are:
- 0.95% of Carbon: Carbon improves the hardness and consequently wear and corrosion resistance of this steel.
- 0.5% of Manganese: This element adds to the hardness of steel.
- 0.03% of Phosphorus: It enhances the strength of steel.
- 0.05% of Sulfur: This element makes 1095 easy to work with, making this steel a favorite of beginner knife makers.
- The rest of the composition is iron.
From its chemical composition, it’s clear 1095 is neither tool steel nor stainless steel. It fails to have the more than 1% of carbon found in tool steels and the required more than 10% chromium in stainless steels.
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Let’s look at its mechanical properties:
|Yield strength||78300 psi||525 MPa|
|Rigidity strength||99400 psi||685 MPa|
|Mass modulus (steel normal)||20300 ksi||140 GPa|
|Shear modulus (steel normal)||11600 ksi||GPa 80.0|
- Hardness: 1095 has a certified Rockwell 55-58 HRC hardness, and tempering happens at 700-13000F (372-7050C). The actual blade hardness depends on the heat treatment process employed.
- Good edge retention: 1095 is hard steel, thanks to the carbon and manganese in it. The hardness gives this steel a good edge retention ability, which is improvable through proper heat treatment.
- Great sharpness and ease of sharpenability: This is where 1095 scores well. This steel is very easy to sharpen even with the most basic sharpening tools and achieves a razor-sharp edge fast. It’s an ideal choice for beginners for field or home use.
- Decent wear and tear resistance: 1095 has proper wear and tear resistance to suffice outdoor use, though it barely compares to harder steel types.
- Good toughness: 1095 is tough to withstand low to medium impact cutting tasks. It is ideal for bushcraft and survival knives as it can baton wood well without chipping or breaking.
- Fair machinability: 1095 have a machinability rating of 45%, placing it in almost mid-position in ease of machining. It’s not the best in machinability but is relatively easy to work with.
- Poor corrosion resistance: 1095 steel is not stainless, and thus you will have to prepare to live with its poor anti-corrosion abilities. Even so, simple measures such as cleaning and wiping dry your blade after use will keep it rust-free.
1095 Equivalents and Alternatives
How does 1095 compare to other similar or different steel types? Let’s have a look.
1095 vs. 5160
5160 is high-end steel which is very popular among knife forgers. Unlike 1095, 5160 has other elements such as chromium, thus better hardness and corrosion resistance. It also holds an edge for longer and is tougher. However, 1095 is cheaper, but both are common in making swords and hard use knives.
1095 vs. D2
D2 has more carbon than 1095 and has high chromium content. The added elements make D2 have better hardness, corrosion resistance, edge retention, and wear resistance compared to 1095. D2 is better for durability though more expensive. Alternatively, you can go for 1095 as it’s cheaper and very easy to sharpen.
1095 vs. W2
These two steel types have proximate chemical compositions but differ considerably in performance and properties. Both are carbon steels with low corrosion resistance, but W2 is tougher and harder.
1095 vs. 1075
As their names show, 1095 has more carbon than 1075. They are both great 10xx steels for knife making, but 1095 has better hardness and edge retention. On the other hand, 1075 is tougher and easier to sharpen.
1095 vs. 1084
These two equivalent steels belong to the 10xx family. They offer almost similar properties and perform the same in easy sharpening, toughness, and corrosion resistance. However, 1084 has higher hardness ratings and thus resists wear better and keeps an edge longer. Below is a summary comparison between these equivalent steels on a 1(worst) scale to 10(best).
|Sturdiness(toughness)||8 out of 10||8 out of 10|
|Corrosion Resistance||3 out of 10||3 out of 10|
|Sharpness Simplicity||7 out of 10||7 out of 10|
|Edge Retention||4 out of 10||3 out of 10|
1095 Steel Common Uses
Besides making knives, you will find 1095 in:
- Car springs
- Commercial saw blades
- Railroad spikes
- Other hand tools
- Decorative swords and katanas
- Various cutting tools
- Added to 15N20 steel in creation of Damascus steel
Best 1095 Steel Knives
1095 has survived for a long time due to its good performance when used in swords and knives. It has good edge holding and is very easy to sharpen to razor-sharpness. This old steel is relatively tough and thus ideal for outdoor and EDC knives. Some of the best 1095 steel knives include:
ESEE Knives 6P Fixed Blade Knife
This high-performance fixed blade knife design favors its effectiveness in bushcraft, hiking, camping, and survival jobs. It has the following features:
- Total weight of 12 ounces
- 11.75-inch overall length
- 6.50-inch blade
- Gray Micarta handle
- Coyote brown polymer sheath
Ontario Knife Co. Rat-7 Fixed Blade Knife
This Ontario-made knife is a good choice for EDC carry, camping, or utility use at a fair price. Notable features include:
- 100% USA-made knife
- 7-inch length
- Black powder blade coating
- Molle compatible nylon sheath
- Ergonomic Micarta handle
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User’s Review on Amazon
Overall, users rate 1095 steel blades positively on Amazon. Notable high-rated properties include the ease of sharpening, relatively fair prices, and the razor-sharpness right out of the box.
Some users have expressed concerns with the fast rusting and blackening of blades, while others have observed quick loss of an edge after constant heavy-impact cutting jobs.
Another matter is with the oils manufacturers use on 1095 blades to keep them rust-free. Some users have been uncomfortable with the oil odor. All in all, most 1095 knife brands have a lifetime and transferable warranty.
1095 has seen better days, with most knife markers having a 1095 steel knife brand in the market. You will certainly encounter several 1095 brands in your search for ideal knife steel. Despite its low corrosion resistance, 1095 is great knife steel for almost all knife types and blades. A 1095 steel EDC or fixed blade knife will serve you for a long time. All you need is some deliberate care like oiling and keeping clean and dry.