Selecting the Best EDC Knife

Selecting the Best EDC Knife

How do you choose the best EDC knife? This is a highly individual choice based on a person’s daily tasks and environment. A law enforcement officer or soldier has a different set of needs than a college student. In general, most people choose a folding knife with a blade that is between 2.5″ and 4″ since an EDC knife of that size can fit into a pocket and is usually legal to carry. For an urban environment a folding EDC knife will be easier and lighter to carry.

There are many different blade styles to consider when selecting the best EDC knife for you. The most common blade shapes are listed below:

Tanto – A style that originated in Japan, the Americanized tanto has a high point in-line with the pivot. A flat grind is applied to the point, leaving it very thick and extraordinarily strong. This thick area helps absorb the impact from piercing, as the tanto was originally designed for armor piercing. The front edge meets the bottom edge at an obtuse angle rather than curving to meet it as seen in the Japanese tanto. Negative aspects of the tanto blade shape are that the cutting surface area is sacrificed to gain tip strength, and they may be difficult to sharpen.

Drop point – A convex-curved drop in the point characterizes a drop-point blade. This blade lowers the point for control but adds strength to the tip. It is a very popular blade shape that has many variations. Usually coupled with plenty of area for slicing, this format is often used for EDC knives. Drop points are a the best EDC knife blade format.

Sheepsfoot – This blade shape has no point on the tip, very little belly and the spine of the blade curves down to meet the edge. It is used in applications where slicing is the main requirement, and a point is either not needed or would cause problems. Emergency rescue blades are usually of this design. This is a blade that has a straight or curved edge.


Serrated blades are generally better at cutting through tough materials such as plastic, wood, rope, or anything where you may need to saw at the material. Many EDC knives are available with partial serration on the part of the blade near the handle and a straight ground edge for the front half of the knife. Depending on the cutting task, most of the best EDC knives are non serrated, as they are easier to sharpen.

EDC Knife Steel Elements

Carbon (C)
• Increases edge retention and raises tensile strength.
• Increases hardness and improves resistance to wear and abrasion.

Chromium (Cr)
• Increases hardness, tensile strength, and toughness.
• Provides resistance to wear and corrosion.

Cobalt (Co)
• Increases strength and hardness, and permits quenching in higher temperatures.
• Intensifies the individual effects of other elements in more complex steels.

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.

Molybdenum (Mo)
• Increases strength, hardness, hardenability, and toughness.
• Improves machinability and resistance to corrosion.

Nickel (Ni)
• Adds strength and toughness.

Niobium (Nb)
• aka columbium. Improves strength and toughness.
• Provides corrosion resistance.
• Improves grain refinement and precipitation hardening

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.

Phosphorus (P)
• Improves strength, machinability, and hardness.
• Creates brittleness in high concentrations.

Silicon (Si)
• Increases strength.
• Deoxidizes and degasifies to remove oxygen from molten metal.

Sulfur (S)
• Improves machinability when added in minute quantities.

Tungsten (W)
• Adds strength, toughness, and improves hardenability.

Vanadium (V)
• Increases strength, wear resistance, and increases toughness.


The Best EDC Knife Steel Alloys

10XX – Basic steel, with the last two digits reflecting the amount of carbon. Higher numbers mean more carbon and more wear resistance. 1095 is the most common 10XX steel used for knife blades with .95% carbon content. For an EDC knife, 1095 steel would have more wear resistance, but may be more brittle. 1045 steel holds an okay edge but would need more frequent sharpening, 1095 steel holds an edge great, and is easy to sharpen.

12C27 Sandvik – A steel alloy. Contains: 0.6% Carbon, 13.5% Chromium; 0.4% Maganese, .03% Phosphorus, 0.01% Sulfur, and 0.4% Silcon.
13C26 Sandvik – This steel is similar in composition to the 12c27 steel but with a bit more Carbon and less Chromium. This change would give an EDC knife better edge retention.
14C28 Sandvik – More Chromium for better corrosion resistance. Does not have as much Carbon as 13c26 but the added Nitrogen (.11%) increases corrosion resistance and hardness to provide exceptional edge retention for the best EDC knife from the Sandvik alloys.

154-CM – High quality stainless steel alloy. High carbon content of 1.05%. Holds an edge well and is a hard steel. It maintains a good balance of toughness for its hardness. It is a better EDC knife steel than 440C. This steel is similar to ATS-34. Some of the best EDC knives that are mid priced utilize this steel.

4116 Krupp – Similar in composition to 420HC, but it may hold an edge a bit longer. Contains: 0.45%-0.55% Carbon; 14%-15% Chromium; 0.5%-0.8% Molybdenum; 0.1%-0.2% Vanadium.
420 – Steel alloy with .38% carbon content. The low carbon content is not the best for an EDC knife because this steel is very soft, and doesn’t hold an edge under use. It is low quality, low cost material. A very inexpensive EDC knife may use this steel because of its low cost. An EDC knife made from this material would need to be sharpened frequently. One good thing is that 420 stainless steel is extremely rust resistant. One of the best EDC knife uses for this material is to make an EDC knife that is used in a marine enviornment or during diving. 420J is the lowest quality 420 steel, but is also the extremely rust resistant.
420HC – Used extensively in Buck EDC knives. It works well for the cost and has a higher Carbon content than other 420 steels. Contains: 0.46% Carbon; 0.3% Vanadium; 13% Chromium; 0.4% Manganese; 0.4% Silicon.
425M – An alloy similar to the 400 series that has .5% carbon and is used to make inexpensive EDC knives.
440 – There are three different types of 440 steel, ranked A-C, C making the best EDC knife material of the 440 steels.

5160 – Plain carbon steel (1060) that has been mixed with chromium. There is not enough chromium to make it a stainless steel, but the chromium has been adds strength. This type of steel is known for its toughness.
52100 – High carbon tool steel. It typically has .98-1.10% carbon. This steel is harder than many others, and it holds an edge well. This is one of the best steels to use your EDC knife needs to hold an edge for a long time.

8Cr13MoV – A steel alloy with .80% carbon with a good hardness. It also contains 13.00% Chromium, which makes it a stainless steel. This is a Chinese steel
8Cr14MoV – An alloy that is similar to AUS-8. It is Chinese and has about .75% carbon content. This steel is found in some of the best EDC knives that are value priced.
9Cr13CoMoV – 440 steel with extra cobalt mixed in to strengthen the blade. It contains .85% carbon.

ATS-34 – A very high carbon, chromium stainless steel with some molybdenum. This Japanese steel has good edge holding properties and high corossion resistance, but is more difficult to resharpen than lower chromium steels. It may be used in a mid quality EDC knife.

M390 – A premium blade steel with superior cutting ability and wear resistance due to its high concentration of vanadium and chromium carbides. Its unique powder metallurgical process also promotes a uniform carbide distribution and clean steel properties. M390 is a popular steel used in surgical cutting instruments. As one of the best EDC knife blade material it offers excellent corrosion resistance due to its high concentration of Chromium.

CPM-M4 – A premium powdered metal EDC knife steel with a combination of high Carbon, Moly, Vanadium and Tungsten for excellent wear resistance and toughness. A non stainless steel. Since this steel is not stainless, an EDC knife with this material would need to be oiled to avoid corrosion.

CPM-S30V – An American made and developed premium grade stainless EDC knife steel. It is a powder made steel with a uniform carbide distribution and clean steel properties. As a EDC knife blade material it offers excellent corrosion resistance and superb edge qualities.

CPM-S90V – A unique tool steel, CPM-S90V is a martensitic stainless steel to which vanadium and carbon have been added for superior wear resistance. CPM-S90V offers substantial improvements in wear resistance over 440C and D2 for an EDC knife. With corrosion resistance equal to or better than 440C.

DAMASCUS: A specially forged, layered steel made up of a variety of steels, It offers remarkable toughness and edge quality. For finishing, the surface layers or lines are exposed through an acid etch, which creates a very unique visual effect. Used in special applications due to its inherent high cost and artistic nature. The best EDC knife material for those more concerned with style.

D2 – An air-hardened tool steel, which offers good corrosion resistance and excellent wear resistance. This steel is one of the best choices for an EDC knife that will be subjected to hard use applications.

N680 – A chromium-molybdenum conventionally produced stainless steel with the addition of vanadium and nitrogen. Excellent corrosion resistance properties, especially in salt water. Good hardenability and high obtainable hardness. High wear resistance and ability to preserve keenness. This would make the best EDC knife for use in a marine environment.

The Best EDC Knife Handle Materials

Carbon Fiber – A modern, premium composite of thin strands of carbon tightly woven into various weave patterns, fused in resin, which is most commonly clear but can be color tinted. It offers on of the best appearances for your EDC knife and is exceptionally strong for its minimal weight.

6061 T-6 Aluminum – A nonferrous metal originally developed as a premium aircraft grade aluminum, it gives a solid handle form and function at a moderate weight.

G-10 – An extremely durable makeup of layers of fiberglass soaked in resin, then highly compressed and baked. It was originally developed for electronic circuit boards. Impervious to moisture or liquid and physically stable under many conditions. Most commonly black, but is available in various colors, and may be machined to give better grip. This material is often the best EDC knife handle material due to its versatility, light weight and grip.

ZYTEL – A lightweight glass filled nylon engineered for strength and durability. Widely used throughout the auto industry in engine related components. Molded to form.

KYDEX – A mixture of acrylic and PVC, which offers outstanding impact and chemical resistance as well as fire resistance. Widely used in the auto and aerospace industry. Molded or thermoformed.

DELRIN – A lightweight and durable engineered polymer with low wear properties. Used throughout the auto industry. Molded to form.

VALOX – A reinforced resin with excellent stiffness, strength and dimensional stability. Molded to form.

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