Element Round-up

Steel chemistry is part and parcel to steel performance.  The different elements will create unique structures in the steel matrix as well as affect the three basic forms of steel, ferrite, austenite and martensite.  Here’s a list of some of the alloying elements found in steel and what we believe they affect.  There is some cross over in properties.  Here too, we should remember increasing one element will increase some properties while decreasing others.

Common blade alloying elements
Carbon (C)
Increases edge retention and raises tensile strength.
Increases hardness and improves resistance to wear and abrasion.
Reduces ductility as amount increases
Provides hardenability.
Chromium (Cr)
Increases hardness, tensile strength, and toughness.
Increases resistance to corrosion, heat and wear.
More than 11% makes it "stainless", by causing an oxide coating to form.
Carbide inclusions reduce wear, but bulk material is softer.
Cobalt (Co)
Increases strength and hardness, and permits quenching in higher temperatures.
Intensifies the individual effects of other elements in more complex steels.
Increases resistance to heat and corrosion.
Copper (Cu)
Increases corrosion resistance.
Manganese (Mn)
Increases hardenability, wear resistance, and tensile strength.
Deoxidizes and degasifies to remove oxygen from molten metal.
In larger quantities, increases hardness and brittleness.
Increases or decreases corrosion resistance depending on type and grade of steel or stainless steel.
Molybdenum (Mo)
Increases strength, hardness, hardenability, and toughness.
Improves machinability and resistance to corrosion.
Nickel (Ni)
Adds toughness.
Improves corrosion and heat resistance.
Reduces hardness.
Too much prevents hardening by heat-treatment.
Niobium (Nb)
Restricts carbide grain growth.
Increases machinability.
Creates hardest carbide.
Increases strength, heat, corrosion resistance and toughness.
Nitrogen (N)
Used in place of carbon for the steel matrix. The Nitrogen atom will function in a similar manner to the carbon atom but offers unusual advantages in corrosion resistance as it leaves much more chromium available for chromium oxide formation.
Phosphorus (P)
Improves strength, machinability, and hardness.
Creates brittleness in high concentrations.
Silicon (Si)
Increases strength, heat and corrosion resistance.
Deoxidizes and degasifies to remove oxygen from molten metal.
Sulfur (S)
Improves machinability when added in minute quantities.
Usually considered a contaminant.
Tantalum (Ta)
Increases corrosion and heat resistance, strength, ductility and toughness.
Tungsten (W)
Adds strength, toughness, and improves hardenability while adding weight.
Retains hardness at elevated temperature.
Improves corrosion and heat resistance.
Titanium (Ti)
Increases strength, toughness, heat, and corrosion resistance plus reduces weight.
Increases hardness and wear resistance if nitrogen or carbon is at the surface of the alloy.
Vanadium (V)
Increases strength, wear resistance, and increases toughness.
Improves corrosion resistance by contributing to the oxide coating.
Carbide inclusions are very hard.
Increases chip resistance.

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