Often referred to as German steel, 1.4116 isn’t your typical steel alloy. Over the years, this steel has become a popular choice for its unique chemical composition that gives it an array of exceptional properties.
The 1.4116 steel is a stainless steel known for its high corrosion resistance, strength, and good mechanical properties. Best known for the manufacture of Swiss Army Knives, the 1.4116 steel is also widely used in cutlery, kitchen knives, and other precision cutting tools such as scalpels.
As you read on, you’ll learn more about the properties, composition, and uses of 1.4116 steel. We’ll also discuss how to sharpen and care for this steel.
Table of contents
What is 1.4116 steel?
1.4116 steel is a stainless steel with a martensitic microstructure. Also referred to as the X50CrMoV steel, the 1.4116 is a steel type produced in German factories. While most people know it for its corrosion and wear resistance, the 1.4116 steel is also characterized by its ease of sharpening and not-so-good edge retention.
Swiss Army Knives are worldwide famous; however, most people never realize that the knives are made from the 1.4116. It’s also the favorite steel among high-end German kitchen knife manufacturers like Wüsthof and Zwilling J.A. Henckels.
The DIN naming system identifies 1.4116 steel material as X50CrMoV15. The X indicates the stainless steel alloy, and the CrMoV references the chemical composition of chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium. We can compare its performance to AUS-8 steel but with slightly better corrosion resistance.
1.4116 steel composition
The table below lists the chemical composition of 1.4116 steel:
The main building block of 1.4116 steel is iron (Fe), along with carbon and other trace elements like chromium, vanadium, molybdenum, phosphorus, manganese, and silicon. The 0.55% carbon content increases tensile strength and improves its resistance to abrasion.
The 15% chromium gives the steel corrosion resistance, while the vanadium enhances strength and toughness. Molybdenum enhances the steel’s toughness and wear resistance.
Phosphorus and sulfur are known impurities but are present in small quantities to increase machinability. The addition of manganese during heat treatment improves the hardenability of the steel.
1.4116 steel properties: How is it as a kitchen knife material?
When choosing the perfect kitchen knife material, a balance of properties is desired. The 1.4116 steel is favored for its high corrosion resistance, easy sharpening ability, and toughness.
Below is how 1.4116 steel performs in each of these properties:
The Rockwell hardness of the 1.4116 steel is 54–57 HRC, ranking it as low hardness steel. The low carbon content is the main reason for this hardness.
German kitchen knives are relatively soft, with a hardness level of about 54 HRC for larger blades like cleavers and 56 HRC for smaller knives like chef knives. Smaller knives need better edge retention, so harder 1.4116 steels are used.
The 1.4116 steel contains 15% chromium, giving it good corrosion resistance. The high corrosion resistance means the steel is food safe and can be used in professional kitchens. German kitchen knives are designed for heavy use and need to withstand exposure to moisture, acids, and other harsh chemicals. The 1.4116 steel is also easy to maintain because of its resistance to rust and stains.
The mid-level carbon content means the steel isn’t as hard as other high carbon steel and doesn’t hold an edge as well as other steel types. While it won’t dull very fast, you’ll need to sharpen the knife more often.
1.4116 steel isn’t the toughest steel available, but it’s tough enough for most kitchen tasks. The steel is resistant to chipping and breaking, making it a good choice for general use kitchen knives. It balances hardness and toughness giving off a pretty much ideal kitchen knife.
The intermediate carbide contents available in 1.4116 also promote toughness. The carbides aren’t too large to make the steel brittle, and neither are they too small to significantly increase the hardness (HRC).
Wear resistance is an essential property for knives as a damaged edge can lead to chipping. The 1.4116 steel has molybdenum in its composition, which increases wear resistance.
It doesn’t wear out faster than other steel types, but it’s important to keep the knife balanced and avoid heavy-duty use.
For instance, avoid grinding with hard abrasives like diamond and hard steel. Also, always use a ceramic honing rod to keep the edge sharp without grinding away steel.
1.4116 steel equivalent
Below is how the 1.4116 steel compares to other steels:
1.4116 steel vs. D2 Steel
D2 contains 1.40 to 1.60 percents of carbon. The high carbon content gives it high hardness properties, meaning the steel has better wear resistance. It also ensures the steel maintains its edge longer than the 1.4116 steel.
D2 doesn’t have enough chromium content to make it stainless steel. As such, it lacks corrosion resistance properties present in 1.4116 steel. However, it’s more expensive than 1.4116 steel and is mainly used in industrial applications like cutting tools and drills.
1.4116 steel vs. 440C stainless steel
440C steel is stainless steel with 17% to 18% chromium content. It has higher carbon content at 1.1% compared to the 1.4116 steel’s 0.55%. This carbon gives it higher hardness and wear resistance while enhancing its edge retention properties. 440C steel is more expensive than 1.4116 steel, and both steel are pretty easy to sharpen.
1.4116 steel vs. 7Cr17MoV steel
7Cr17MoV steel is a Chinese stainless steel that contains about 0.7% carbon and 17% to 18% chromium. The high chromium content gives it excellent corrosion resistance, while the carbon gives it hardness properties.
7Cr17MoV is a popular steel in the manufacture of survival knives because it’s tougher and retains an edge better than 1.4116 steel.
How to sharpen a 1.4116 steel knife
1.4116 isn’t a hard steel, so it’s easy to sharpen. However, it’s important to use the right sharpening tools and techniques to avoid damaging the blade.
Follow these steps to sharpen your 1.4116 steel knife:
- Firstly, make sure the sharpening stone is clean and free from debris. Rub a light coat of oil on the surface to help the sharpening process.
- Hold your knife at an angle of about 20 degrees as you sharpen. Apply pressure slowly and steadily, moving back and forth while maintaining a consistent angle.
- Start with a coarse grit stone and move to a finer grit as you progress.
- Finish up with a honing rod or leather strop to remove any burrs and help straighten the edge.
1.4116 steel requires frequent sharpening to maintain its edge. However, it’s a relatively easy steel to sharpen that you can do at home.
If you find it difficult to sharpen a 1.4116 steel knife, you can opt for professional sharpening services. Many knife repair shops offer this service at a reasonable price and will do a good job restoring the blade to its original sharpness.
1.4116 steel FAQs
1.4116 is a popular stainless steel for knives because it’s easy to sharpen and has excellent corrosion resistance. It’s not as hard as some other knife steels, so it doesn’t have the best edge retention. However, it’s still a good choice for kitchen knives and other cutting tools.