AEB-L steel, pro's/con's

thomster

Member
I'm looking to buy some steel for some projects and I've heard AEB l steel mentioned in some video ive watched. It's for sale on the USA knifemakers side of this site, it seems to be a bit cheaper per foot than other stock. A few google searches have been mostly positive. Is anyone using AEB L for blades? Is it heat treated the same way as 440C? I'm planning using the steel for 2 hunting knives, should I stick with 440C?
Pros and Cons?
 

jmforge

Well-Known Member
MUCH tougher than 440C with very fine edge stability, but with less abrasion resistance. There is quite a bit of discussion on the forums about AEB-L. It is very popular for use in kitchen knives.
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
I use AEB-L for everything. Kitchen knives, hunters, and pocket knives. I love the stuff and my customers love it.

440C is a great steel particularly for salt water environments, but AEBL makes a better slicer that is easier to sharpen. AEBL will get rust spots if left wet. That is where 440C shines.
 

KenH

Well-Known Member
440C has more abrasion resistance than AEB-L due to the large carbides it has. AEB-L has very small carbides allowing for easy sharpening. Just a darn good steel for most anything. I suspect it's about the best "bang for buck" of the knife steels around. About the ONLY con I've read about is problems with warp on thin blades. For the best HT'ing, either LN or dry ice is needed. Some benefit is found with just a home freezer at around -5F. Like 440C SS foil and HT oven is needed.
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
About the ONLY con I've read about is problems with warp on thin blades.
Great point. Warp is a real thing on AEB-L and you'll have to deal with it on anything thinner than 1/8. It's just part of it when you're dealing with AEBL. You'll get very good at warp mitigation and correction, because sometimes it just wants to warp no matter what you do.

Another issue with AEBL is that it grinds much better when it's hard. It is rather gummy in the annealed state but grinds like a dream when hard. I use it up to .165 and grind after heat treat. I think it's the wrong steel for a big, heavy camp chopper since it performs best at about 61-62 Rc. So I've never used it for anything real thick. Maybe somebody else here has and can speak to how thick you want to go before it becomes prudent to grind pre-heat treat.

AEBL takes beautiful satin finish, but it's not the best for a mirror finish if you want to do that. 440C takes a super nice mirror finish.
 

jmforge

Well-Known Member
Great point. Warp is a real thing on AEB-L and you'll have to deal with it on anything thinner than 1/8. It's just part of it when you're dealing with AEBL. You'll get very good at warp mitigation and correction, because sometimes it just wants to warp no matter what you do.

Another issue with AEBL is that it grinds much better when it's hard. It is rather gummy in the annealed state but grinds like a dream when hard. I use it up to .165 and grind after heat treat. I think it's the wrong steel for a big, heavy camp chopper since it performs best at about 61-62 Rc. So I've never used it for anything real thick. Maybe somebody else here has and can speak to how thick you want to go before it becomes prudent to grind pre-heat treat.

AEBL takes beautiful satin finish, but it's not the best for a mirror finish if you want to do that. 440C takes a super nice mirror finish.
Why would you not use AEB-L for a chopper? It is tougher and more abrasion resistant than 52100 or 80 CrV2. That assumes the 61-62 Rc hardness. The problem in the past was that AEB-L was no available in thicker stock. That is no longer the case. Alpha has .250 stock and a chunk suitable for a chopper would probably cost like $30. The problem with Alpha is that you get length of stock that they want to sell you, either 11.75 or 23.5 inches, so you will end up with some waste on a 5 inch OAL chopper.
 

CDHumiston

Well-Known Member
I have been using AEB-L and some 440C for kitchen knives. My wife loves the knives made from AEB-L and I'm using a lot of it.

Here's the big Veggie Cleaver I made my wife and some works in progress. These are all AEB-L. Most are .082 thickness to start pre-grinding.

I just bought a piece of .062 to try out. It's pretty thin from the get-go.

No cons for me so far. Price is right, grinds easy, tough after heat treat and holds an edge well. I got it to 62HRC with no issues and that's without Cryo or even dry ice. I put the blades in the freezer for one hour post heat treat.

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Edwardshandmadeknives

Well-Known Member
It makes a decent blade. Only real problems I had with it is the tendency to warp. It can be pretty bad in thin stock. I don’t use it anymore because of that. Easy to work with. Grind it after heat treat so you can clean up any warps.
 

CDHumiston

Well-Known Member
It makes a decent blade. Only real problems I had with it is the tendency to warp. It can be pretty bad in thin stock. I don’t use it anymore because of that. Easy to work with. Grind it after heat treat so you can clean up any warps.

When are you getting the warps and what thickness?

I go right out of the kiln into aluminum plates and I've yet to have a warp.
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
When are you getting the warps and what thickness?

I go right out of the kiln into aluminum plates and I've yet to have a warp.
When mine warp it’s usually in cryo. Everything comes out of the quench plates perfectly flat. Once in the cryo is when it slowly gains a warp.

I don’t mean to imply that they all do. I’ve probably done 200 long kitchen blades had 15% - 20% of them warp but it’s easily corrected. If i’m doing a single blade at once the easy button is to clamp the blade to a piece of bar stock from the time it goes into cryo all the way through temper.

It seems to be on blades that are very long for their thickness, like fillet, slicers, and chef knives that range from .070 - .110 and are about 13” overall.
 

jmforge

Well-Known Member
When mine warp it’s usually in cryo. Everything comes out of the quench plates perfectly flat. Once in the cryo is when it slowly gains a warp.

I don’t mean to imply that they all do. I’ve probably done 200 long kitchen blades had 15% - 20% of them warp but it’s easily corrected. If i’m doing a single blade at once the easy button is to clamp the blade to a piece of bar stock from the time it goes into cryo all the way through temper.

It seems to be on blades that are very long for their thickness, like fillet, slicers, and chef knives that range from .070 - .110 and are about 13” overall.
I recall Chuck Bybee saying that the AEB-L he was getting should be less wavy because none of it was ever on a roll.
 

CDHumiston

Well-Known Member
I just bought a Dewar, and I should be getting some LN2 on Tuesday. We'' see what happens when I cryo. If my blades warp and I don't get a substantial increase in hardness I'll just go back to an hour in the freezer for AEB-L
 

Taz575

Well-Known Member
AEB-L is inexpensive, available in a variety of sizes and easy to grind after heat treating. It is a very fine grained steel and has been compared to a stainless O-1 or 1095. Edge holding is OK, but easy to sharpen back up quickly and will take a wicked edge. It is very tough for a stainless as well. Nitro V is another good, inexpensive stainless steel with good toughness, fine grain structure and wicked edge taking.

From what I read a while back, most of the AEB-L is rolled in a coil at some point instead of in plate/sheet form, which is why it is so warpy for many.
 

Edwardshandmadeknives

Well-Known Member
I just bought a Dewar, and I should be getting some LN2 on Tuesday. We'' see what happens when I cryo. If my blades warp and I don't get a substantial increase in hardness I'll just go back to an hour in the freezer for AEB-L
If your blades warp, that means that you should be doing cryo. That is telling me that there would be sufficient RA being converted to induce a warp. If it’s not doing that with a freezer, it’s probably because the freezer isn’t doing anything at all.
 

Coop

Active Member
The problem with Alpha is that you get length of stock that they want to sell you, either 11.75 or 23.5 inches, so you will end up with some waste on a 5 inch OAL chopper.
Yeap I hate those lengths as I always end up with waste. But otherwise great service from Alpha. I really like knife steel sold in 18" or 36". Then if you don't want to pay freight on 36" you could request it cut that would best suit your knife with less waste. I'm sure it was time consuming and was willing to pay a cut price to save waste.
 

jmforge

Well-Known Member
I think Alpha chose the 11.5" and 23" lengths to provide cheaper shipping - fitting in a flat rate package.
That is my understanding. But I would be willing to pay extra for shipping so that I done have to waste steel. A 240 gyuto or 270 suji require 14-15 or so inches of barstock, not 11.5. And sure, you say that I have an extra 8 or so inches left for a smaller paring knife, but a knife that size does not require .100-.110 or so stock. So I have to waster belts thinning it out. (been there done that,) 30%+ waste is not good no matter how cheap the steel. And it is not a cheap as it used to be.
 

Brad Anderson

Well-Known Member
I'm pretty sure if you call Alpha they will cut you what ever you want if you order a sufficient quantity of it. I've ordered three 16" x 24" sheets of 154CM from Chuck before.
 
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