It’s always fascinating for those new to knives to discover information regarding the various steels used for knives. Each particular steel alloy comes with its own chemical composition, bring its own particular sets of pros and cons.
Some steel alloys are good for knives, and some aren’t. But it’s not really that simple, and the 1055 steel is a good example of that point. It has a particular combination of hardness and toughness that can work for some knives, but not for others.
With this guide, you will find out everything you ought to know about 1055 steel. That way, you’d know what to expect from your knife or sword if they’re made with 1055 steel.
What is 1055 carbon steel?
The 1055 steel is part of the 10xx series of steels. It’s often regarded as a type of tool steel, as it’s typically used for various tools and industrial components. The 10xx steel series is notable for its significant carbon content. The most famous of these steels is the 1095 steel, which is a popular option for many budget knives. It has a carbon content of 0.95% to 1%.
The 1055, as its name indicates, has an average carbon content of about 0.55% carbon. That makes it a softer steel than 1095. Still, it offers decent hardness compared to non-carbon steel. the lower carbon content also makes it a true budget option.
Its lower carbon content also makes it more suitable for cutting tools that you’d expect to encounter impact, such as machetes, axes, and even larger bushcraft knives.
Common Uses of 1055 steel
You’d find the 1055 steel used more often when you require a certain level of hardness and toughness with your implement. You can find the 1055 steel used for the following:
- Larger bushcraft knives
- Throwing knives
- Piston racks
- Gear racks
- Clutch members
- Pressed and punched parts
1055 Steel Chemical Composition
- Carbon, 0.50% to 0.60%
- Manganese, 0.60% to 0.90%
- Sulfur, 0.05% at the most
- Phosphorus, 0.04% at the most
Carbon, 0.50% to 0.60%: Its average of 0.55% carbon makes it hard enough for knives and swords, but there’s still not much carbon here. That’s why it doesn’t have a lot of edge retention to offer, and why it’s also so tough.
Manganese, 0.60% to 0.90%: The manganese is next only to carbon when you’re ranking the most important alloying elements. Its effects are very similar to carbon, as it boosts the tensile strength and hardenability of the steel. It also acts as a deoxidizer, taking out oxygen and sulfur from the steel. It also counteracts the embrittling effect of sulfur that may remain in the steel.
Sulfur, 0.05% at the most: You’ll want to minimize the sulfur at this low level, because more than this amount can lead to brittle steel. But at this level, it helps with machinability.
Phosphorus, 0.04% at the most: This is another impurity you’ll want to remove, as it also makes the steel brittle. But this tiny amount of phosphorus can help with machinability and tensile strength.
1055 Steel Hardness
With the cold drawn steel, the HRC rating is rather low at first, at maybe 13 HRC. But you can subject this to heat treatment to get the hardness up, and it can then get to much more respectable levels. Still, the HRC can maybe reach around 50 HRC only, and the average knives these days have at least 52 HRC for hardness.
That means you get rather poor edge retention, but you end up with a tough knife to compensate. Also, the relatively softness means you’ll need to sharpen the blade often, but at least it will be very easy and quick.
Does 1055 Steel Rust?
With its poor corrosion resistance, it certainly will. This is why you don’t normally see 1055 steel in kitchen and table knives. The moisture from the food ingredients will end up staining the steel rather quickly.
Normally, when used for knives and machetes the steel comes with a coating or a finish to help with corrosion resistance. You’ll still need to oil the blade regularly, to keep the rust at bay.
Properties of 1055 steel
Relatively Low Hardness
This means that you don’t really end up with an edge that holds its sharpness for long. You may even end up sharpening the blade daily (or even more frequently than that). It’s not really great with tough targets.
But that’s not all bad. Low hardness means easy to sharpen, so it doesn’t take long (or that much effort) to get the blade sharp again.
This is the other side of the coin when you have low hardness. You get excellent toughness in return, and the 1055 steel is renowned for its terrific impact resistance. That’s why it’s great for machetes. It won’t just chip off easily.
Low Corrosion Resistance
It doesn’t have much corrosion resistance at all, so you’ll need to take care of the blade properly to keep rust at bay. That means constant oiling of the blade.
You don’t really have to spend much on a knife (or a sword, for that matter) when it’s made with 1055 steel. That way, you get good value for money.
1055 Equivalent Steels or Alternative
Here’s how the 1055 steel compares with other steels that are low in carbon and corrosion resistance but great with toughness.
1055 Steel vs 440
Quite a few people might describe these 2 steels with the same words. They don’t really have a lot of carbon, so they’re both not all that good with edge retention but they’re both tough and easy to sharpen. Also, these 2 steels don’t really have strong corrosion resistance.
But the 1055 steel doesn’t have as much carbon, so the 440 steel has better edge retention but may be somewhat harder to sharpen. The 440 steel also has significantly better corrosion resistance than 1055 steel.
1055 Steel vs 5160
The 5160 steel has slightly higher carbon content (0.60% vs 0.55%), but these 2 steels are again not so good with edge retention and corrosion resistance, but great with toughness and ease of sharpening. The properties of 5160 steel isn’t really suited for knives, however. But it’s great for springs, which is the component it’s mainly used for.
1055 Steel vs 1095
Many consider the 1095 the best of the 10xx series, mainly because it contains the most carbon while retaining its ease of sharpening and toughness. The 1095 can be used for smaller pocket knives, while the 1055 isn’t all that good for the purpose. The 1095 is also highly regarded when used for swords, because of its toughness.
But if you’re looking for a machete, then you’re probably safer with the 1055—its toughness makes it even less brittle than 1095.
Is 1055 Steel Good for Knives?
This depends on what type of knife you’re looking for? In most cases, it can work with knives—but there are lots of other better steels out there even in the same price range. The main issue with 1055 steel is its relatively low carbon content. It doesn’t give you a lot of edge retention to work with. It can be frustrating having to sharpen a blade several times a day if you use it constantly.
But for knives that you’ll use for hacking (like bushcraft knives), then the 1055 works out nicely. It’s very tough, and it can handle the impact better without shattering or chipping than other steels out there.
The corrosion resistance is an issue, as it’s quite low. So you’ll need to oil the blade, and you should keep it dry as best you can.
Is 1055 Steel Good for Swords?
Yes, especially if you’re actually going to use the sword every now and then. It’s not recommended for swords that you’re going to use a lot in tough targets, as its comparatively soft edge won’t hold out for long. But its toughness won’t let you down, and you’re less likely to end with a broken sword.
Pros & Cons of 1055 steel
Best 1055 Steel Knives
The 1055 steel is generally considered suitable for larger cutting tools and weapons, and the Cold Steel brand uses 1055 steel for a lot of their offerings. The Cold Steel brand is actually famous, as for more than 30 years they’ve been around offering excellent knives and tools, along with various innovations.
They’ve introduced brand new designs for blades and handles, revolutionary locking mechanisms, and even new types of steels. Their range of products is quite vast, including EDC knives and tools, cutlery, machetes, swords, and even tomahawks. The high quality of their weapons has made Cold Steel a long-time favorite among both collectors, outdoor enthusiasts, and even military and law enforcement professionals.
#1: Cold Steel 88WGS, Two Handed Great Sword
- Blade Thickness: 7/32″
- Blade Length: 39 7/8″
- Overall Length: 55 1/4″
- Blade Thick: 7/32″
- Blade Length: 39-7/8″
- Handle: 15-3/8″
- Steel: 1055 Carbon
Put this up on your wall, and it will surely get some attention from your friends and visitors. The great sword design has long been a point of contention among amateur military historians, as they will debate how these huge weapons were actually used.
Here, you get a huge great sword that measures an astounding 55¼ inches. That’s only a few inches short of 5 feet! The blade itself is 39⅞ inches long with a thickness of about 7/32 of an inch, while the handle is 15⅜ long.
Obviously, the warriors of long ago didn’t carry this hanging from their belts, which is why it doesn’t come with a scabbard at all. Show this off with the blade exposed, to remind people that this is a real weapon. It even comes with integrated parrying hooks to “shorten” the blade, so that you can grasp it above the hilt for close combat.
It’s massive and solid, but for larger guys the 109.5-ounce (6.84-pound) weight feels very reassuring. The handle is wooden wrapped in leather, with a steel pommel to give you the weight balance you need to wield this weapon.
As for the blade itself, it’s sharp but not razor-sharp. This isn’t used for shaving—it’s for bashing and piercing your enemies in medieval combat. But for modern owners, it’s a fine weapon you can display to signify your interest in older weapons (and in sword and fantasy entertainment).
#2: Cold Steel MAA Italian Long Sword
- Handle Length: 11-1/2″
- Overall Length: 47″
- Weight: 49oz
- Blade Thickness: 1/4″
- Blade Length: 35-1/2″
- Blade Steel: 1090 High Carbon
If the great sword reminds you of Ice, the ancestral sword of House Stark in Game of Thrones (or the sword used by the beastly Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane), then this one may get you thinking of the mythic Dark Sister of House Targaryen. It’s a longsword with a decidedly slimmer blade that someone like Visenya Targaryen could have wielded. But it’s not just for the ladies, as the formidable Bloodraven used it too.
The whole thing is black, which makes it look really deadly. You really don’t want to play with this when there are kids around, or when you’ve been drinking. The sharpness of the blade is very real, and it only needs a single stroke to cut green wood that measures an inch across.
It comes with a full tang design, with a nut securing the pommel to the tang. The cutting power is tremendous, even though this type of sword would have been used more for thrusting against armored opponents.
It’s not as heavy as you might think, as it weighs only about 3 pounds or so. You can use this practice your sword movements and forms. The weight balance is terrific, while the handle offers your hand a very natural grip.
It’s best, though, if you just use this for display. It’s just too “pretty” to be used for cutting tree branches in your backyard, or even for actual HEMA fights. It comes with a scabbard using fake leather.
#3: Cold Steel MAA Grosse Messer
- Weight: 72.4oz
- Blade Thickness: 1.4″
- Blade Length: 32″
- Blade Steel: 1055 Carbon
- Handle Length: 10-1/4″
- Overall Length: 42-1/4″
While the first 2 swords on this list were designed for lords and knights, this one is expressly designed for men at arms (hence, the “MAA” in the name). The Grosse Messer design offers a single-edged weapon, with a hilt design that’s similar to what you find in knives. The name translates loosely to “Large Knife”, and this is basically how warriors of long ago would use this.
This is also dark in color, with a dark blue hue to the blade to go with the rosewood scales. It handles bigger than you might think, but the weight balance is nice and offers great control. This is meant for 2-handed use, but if you’re strong enough then you can maybe use this with one hand—especially if you’re on horseback!
Out of the box, you first have to remove the grease (which is there to prevent any rusting during the transport). It’s easy enough to clean out, then you can oil the blade again. The blade edge is somewhat sharp, but not too sharp to avoid any accidental cuts you might make. At least you won’t have any trouble sharpening 1055 steel.
The scabbard (or sheath) is nothing special, but it works fine enough. It’s supple and fits nicely with the sword. There’s no sliding when you pick up the sword, but when you take out the sword from the scabbard then it’s not a problem.
#4: Cold Steel 88CSAB 1917 Frontier Bowie
- Weight: 23.8oz
- Blade Thickness: 1/4″
- Blade Length: 12-1/4″
- Blade Steel: 1085 High Carbon
- Handle Length: 5-3/8″
- Handle Material: Rosewood
- Overall Length: 17-5/8″
Now let’s switch to something you can still show off on your wall, but which you can also use often if you’re an avid outdoorsman. This Frontier Bowie knife offers a blade that’s nicely wide and sharp, along with a fuller (that groove along the length of the blade). This is also blued, to really make it look great on your wall.
This comes with a rather unique “S” knife guard design. For the handle, you have slim and flat profile of the modified pistol grip handle. It’s built to keep your hand from twisting when you’re using the knife, and to keep your edge alignment straight.
The whole thing doesn’t weigh much at 23.8 ounces (or about 1.5 pounds) while the overall length is at 17⅝ inches. Yes, this sure isn’t a toy, but a knife that Crocodile Dundee might approve of. The blade itself is 12¼ inches long, with ¼ of an inch for thickness. The handle is made with rosewood and measures 5⅜ inches.
The knife also comes with a nice leather sheath, with a blued steel throat and chape. The quality of the sheath alone is so high that by itself, it’s already worth the price you paid. It’s a truly intimidating knife for self-defense, and it’s almost like a sword in that respect!
#5: Cold Steel Chinese Sword Machete
- Weight: 41.2oz
- Blade Thickness: 0.12in
- Blade Length: 24in
- Blade Steel: 1055 Carbon Steel
- Handle Length: 14in
- Overall Length: 38in
For fans of Chinese-setting movies (like Crouching Tiger or even Mulan), this should be a great hit. It looks like the swords you’d expect the Mongol horde to wield on horseback, until they’re buried by an avalanche. Then you can find it easil y after a bit of digging, since the whole sword is black. The black baked-on matte finish is there for added rust protection.
Cold Steel made this weapon starting with 1055 steel that they’ve heated carefully, and then cut it with plasma. Then they ground the steel by hand, and sharpened it in their US facilities. They also used molded polypropylene for the handle, and then topped everything off with a Cor-Ex back sheath.
While this is great for display, it can be used for actual combat. In fact, it’s so good that it will be better for combat than the majority of commercial swords out there. It features a 1-piece construction with a full-tang design.
With the blade itself at exactly 2 feet in length and an overall length of 38 inches, this weapon can get even brave men scurrying. It weighs about 41.2 ounces (a little over 2.5 pounds), so it’s not really all that heavy. You can use it a bit for yard work, but it’s a reassuring weapon in case of a zombie apocalypse.
The 1055 steel is great when you don’t have much of a budget. It doesn’t really compare to a lot of other steels out there, but for its price range it holds its own nicely. Sure, it doesn’t hold an edge for long, but at least it’s easy enough to sharpen.
What’s more, it’s absolutely tough. If you’re using a machete, then the 1055 steel is a good choice—and you don’t have to spend a lot for it!