For heavy-duty using large knives, machetes and swords there is a requirement for steel that will be able to resist breaking and chipping. These sorts of cutting tools need to tolerate heavy impact more than regular-sized knives.


For the manufacturing of such tools, there is a requirement for hard steels but these hard steels tend to be less tough and more vulnerable to breaking and chipping. For such issues, 5160 steel is the one you are looking for. We have listed down details about the chemical composition and properties of the steel.


What is 5160 Steel?


5160 is both a low alloy spring steel and carbon steel. The meaning spring steel is to have a low alloy consisting of manganese and a high or medium amount of carbon. Low alloy steel has the capacity of taking back the original structure after banding. The numerals in 5160 steel represent various facts.


The ‘5’ digit represents that chromium is the major element in the steel that is being used for alloying. The second digit of the steel represents the concentration of chromium by mass of the steel. Hence, ‘1’ is the concentration percentage of chromium. The last two numerals of the steel show the percentage of carbon concentration present in the alloy. Hence, in 5160, 0.60% of carbon is presently making the steel a high to medium carbon steel.


As 5160 is spring steel, you can use it for the manufacturing of knives that requires flexibility. The steel can easily get back to its actual shape when stress or impact is put on it. The spring steel is made for tools like camping knives, machetes, modern swords, survival knives, springs, and tomahawks.


Chemical Composition: 

5160 is a spring alloy consisting of a blend of elements which are chromium, carbon and manganese. We have listed down below details regarding these elements.

  • 0.56 – 0.64% of Carbon: Increases hardness and capacity of the steel to resist corrosion and wear.
  • 0.7-0.9% of Chromium: Improves corrosion resistance, edge retention, hardness level, toughness level and wear resistance.
  • 0.75-1% of Manganese: Works for enhancing hardenability, forge ability, tensile strength and wear resistance.
  • <0.15-0.3% of Silicon: Adds more strength to the steel.
  • <0.04% of Sulphur: Improves machinability of the steel.
  • 0.035% of Phosphorus: Boosts machinability and tensile strength.


Steel Hardness: 

According to the Rockwell C scale, the hardness rating of the steel ranges between 57 to 58 HRC. You can say the steel has moderate hardness but it is not very hard since the rating did not cross the threshold of 61 HRC. The hardness level is lower than well-known carbon steels in the market.


You can harden the steel to the minimum rating, which is 57 HRC for getting the maximum toughness that you will need for manufacturing swords. You can also harden the to the maximum rating using heat, which is about 60 HRC for the steel to have increased edge retention.


The increasing toughness of the steel allows you to manufacture things like knives and swords meant for heavy-duty needed for chores during camping and survival. Even if the steel gets tough it has the capacity of enduring impact.


Steel Properties: 

  • Great Toughness: 5160 is famous in the market for having great toughness. The steel has a low amount of carbides on the surface that boosts the toughness level. This means the steel can be used for knives that will be required for wood chopping and batoning.
  • Decent Wear Resistance: Even though the carbon content is low which works for increasing the toughness of the steel, you will witness the steel having some capacity in wear resistance that is decent enough to resist abrasion. The durability of 5160 is good enough for regular usage and wear and tear compared to other soft steels present in the market.
  • Ease of Sharpening: 5160 steel consists of low chromium carbides on the surface which makes sharpening the steel very easy. With a simple sharpening tool, you will be able to give the steel a razor-sharp edge that is perfect for smooth cutting.
  • Fair Edge Retention: Due to the low percentage of carbon in the chemical composition of 5160 steel, there is a low amount of carbon carbides present. This results in the capability of the steel to retain the edge for a long time. You will need to frequently sharpen the edge of the steel.
  • Poor Corrosion Resistance: Due to the very low percentage of chromium, the 5160 steel is very prone to get rusted if proper care and maintenance are not done. You need to dry the steel properly after use and also lubricate it with oil for keeping moisture away.


Comparison With Other Knife Steel Options: 

5160 vs 1095

Both of these are carbon steels. But 1095 is a popular choice amongst manufacturers as it is convenient to work with. 1095 has better edge retention than 5160 due to the presence of a higher carbon percentage. Both of the steels are prone to getting rust and corrosion. But 1095 has better capacity in corrosion resistance. Both of the steels are easy to sharpen.


5160 vs 4140 V

5160 is spring steel and has a better hardness level compared to 4140 V. This is because the carbon percentage in 5160 is more than 4140 V.


5160 vs 9260

Both of these are sword-making steels. But in terms of flexibility, 9260 wins as you can easily bend it to a 90-degree angle and yet it will get back to its original shape. 9260 is a pricey steel compared to 5160.


So, is 5160 Steel Good?

Yes, 5160 is indeed a good choice If you are looking for steel that has immense toughness. You can manufacture tools required for bushcraft, survival, and wilderness. The steel has features like durability and flexibility that make  adequate for manufacturing large blades and swords.





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