The Blades Being Tested

Iíve tried to include the most commonly used premium blades by well-known manufacturers, such as the Lie-Nielsen A2 blade and the Clifton high carbon blade. Iíve also included blades made by small manufacturers out of less commonly used alloys.

Note: My original intention was to test all of these blades and it seems that I may never complete this project. The partial results are presented in the hope they may be helpful.

              --Steve Elliott, May 2008

Carbon Steel Blades:

Clifton High Carbon Steel Blade: The advertising copy for this blade describes it as ďhand-forged,Ē but beyond that I donít know what type of steel it is made from.

Sharpening: This blade hones more slowly than the other carbon steel blades. I prefer diamond for this one for its greater cutting speed.

Hock High Carbon Blade: This infill blade made by Ron Hock has carbon content of .95% and chromium and vanadium at .5% each. Its hardness is Rc62.

Sharpening: This blade takes a good edge with all of the honing abrasives. Iíd consider this blade ďtypicalĒ in the sense of not showing any unusual characteristics or problems while being honed.

Stanley Laminated Blade: The blades made by Stanley before the Second World War have a body of mild steel with a cutting edge of harder steel, and are considered by many to be superior to blades of more recent manufacture. The blade Iím testing has the V-shaped logo and was made between 1912 and 1918.

Sharpening: Of all the blades, this one forms the most tenacious wire edge. Repeated alternate honing of the bevel and the back is necessary to remove it. For work that doesnít require the best possible edge, I wouldnít take the trouble to remove the wire edge completely.

Ulmia Laminated Blade: This is the blade I used for twenty years in my favorite smoothing plane, a wood-bodied Ulmia. I bought this blade in the early 1980s as an upgrade to the one that came with the plane, and itís the only laminated blade by Ulmia Iíve ever seen. I believe the cutting edge is W1 or a similar water-hardening steel at a hardness of Rc62 or so, based on its sharpening and planing properties.

Sharpening: Like the Hock blade, this one shows no unusual characteristics or problems.


A2 Blades:

Lie-Nielsen A2 Blade: Because this blade is so widely used, Iíve included it as a benchmark so that other woodworkers can see how their blades compare to the less common blades. It was cryogenically treated and double tempered. Its hardness is Rc60-62.

Hock A2 Blade: This infill blade was also cryogenically treated.

Holtey A2 Blade: This is a 2¼Ē infill blade. Iíve included it to see if Karl Holteyís exacting standards produce a blade that performs better than A2 blades made by larger-scale manufacturers.

Sharpening the A2 Blades: A good edge is produced on the A2 blades by all of the honing abrasives I have tried. The edge produced using 1/2 micron diamond paste tests somewhat sharper than the edges from the 8000x stones, and the edge produced by .5 micron CrO paper is even sharper than the diamond edge.


High Alloy Blades:

Holtey E Series Blade: Since Karl Holtey doesnít disclose proprietary information about his products, I donít know what kind of steel was used for this blade. At the time of this writing the blades are no longer in production but they may still be in stock.

Sharpening: This blade hones more slowly than the carbon steel blades, so Iím including it in the high alloy category.

Academy Saw Works M2 Blade: This high-speed steel blade is made by a small Australian manufacturer, and has performed well in edge retention tests on abrasive Australian hardwoods (see the Links and References page). It was deep cryo treated and has hardness of about Rc62.

Sharpening: The abrasion resistance of this alloy makes it slow to grind, and the grinding wheel on my Tormek tends to glaze. Dressing with a diamond stylus makes the wheel cut well again. Diamond produces a significantly sharper edge than waterstones or the Shapton ceramic stone.

CPM 3V Blade: I made these blades myself. They were professionally heat treated using a schedule that includes triple tempering at 950º F and cryogenic treatment. The hardness is Rc61.

Sharpening: This blade grinds more quickly than the M2 and has less tendency to glaze the grinding wheel. Because honing is slow even with diamond, I grind frequently to about 1/32Ē or less behind the old cutting edge so that only a very narrow secondary bevel needs to be honed with fine diamond. The edge produced by 1/4 micron diamond is significantly sharper than the edges produced by waterstones. Chromium oxide is hard enough to cut vanadium carbide, and 0.5 micron CrO microabrasive paper produces an edge at least as sharp as one honed with 1/2 micron diamond. Because the CrO cuts much more slowly, itís helpful to hone a bevel at least 2º more acute than the desired final bevel, and then add a microbevel using the CrO paper.

Holtey S53 Blade: This is Karl Holteyís premium blade, with a hardness of Rc64.  It was cryogenically treated and triple tempered.

Sharpening: The abrasion resistance of this blade is so high that grinding takes a long time. Honing must be done with diamond.


[Home] [Summary of Results] [Testing Procedure] [The Blades] [Sharpening] [Planing] [The Microscope] [Testing Sharpness] [The Results] [Steel and Sharpness] [Links & References] [Contact] [Site Map] [About Me]