What is AUS 6 Steel?


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Penknife with a blade from AUS 6 Steel with a petrol lighterIt’s a fact that many knife aficionados can be very picky when it comes to steel. This is why lots of low-end options can get very divided opinions. Some, especially those who prefer high performing steel grades will knock back cheaper options while others who tend to be more practical will say that it’s not about the steel grade but the heat treatment.

This is the very case with the AUS 6 steel. Being in the cheaper range, people have different opinions about it. This can be quite confusing for those who are just starting out in learning about steels.

So to better establish what this stainless steel grade is all about, here’s an AUS 6 steel review.

What is AUS 6 Steel?

The AUS 6 steel is a basic stainless steel grade that is on the more affordable end of the scale. Like the other AUS steel grades, it hails from Japan. It’s also one of the older options in the market which is why it shouldn’t be surprising to find it used in a lot of Japanese kitchen knives.

Manufactured through the ingot technology, the AUS 6 is not fancy or technologically advanced. However, like with other basic steels, a good heat treatment tends to make a difference in its performance.

Known for its corrosion resistance and good toughness, using AUS 6 steel for knife making is definitely possible. It may not offer the same performance as premium blade steels but it can still be adequate for a wide range of applications.

Common Uses of AUS 6 Steel

The AUS 6 steel is best known for being used in making kitchen knives. However, since it’s an affordable stainless steel, it might also be used for a wider range of applications.

AUS 6 Steel Chemical Composition

Like with other steel grades, the AUS 6 have hints on its name as to what its contents are. Its key element is carbon and chromium but it also has some great add-ons like vanadium and nickel.

  • Carbon, 0.55 – 0.65%
  • Chromium, 13 – 14.5%
  • Vanadium, 0.10 – 0.25%
  • Nickel, 0.49%
  • Manganese, 1%
  • Silicon, 1%
  • Phosphorus, 0.04%
  • Sulfur, 0.03%

 Carbon, 0.55 – 0.65%: AUS 6 has a medium-high carbon content that gives it a good dose of hardness. This level also gives it a good dose of toughness.

Chromium, 13 – 14.5%: With its high chromium content, the AUS 6 steel is classified as stainless steel. This makes it resistant to corrosion and rust. It also enhances the hardness of the steel.

Vanadium, 0.10 – 0.25%: Despite its low amount of vanadium, this component adds some hardenability and tempering stability to the steel. It also toughens the AUS 6 and refines its grains to a certain degree to improve its soundness.

Nickel, 0.49%: Nickel is a good component to add to make steel more balanced. It enhances the toughness and ductility in the blend while also increasing its hardness and strength. In most cases, elements that enhance hardness can lower toughness and vice versa. This isn’t the case for nickel, making it a handy addition to steel blends.

Manganese, 1%: Manganese serves as an essential ingredient in turning iron to steel. It’s also a  deoxidizer to refine the quality of the blend. In most cases, it also enhances toughness and reduces brittleness in steels.

Silicon, 1%: Same with manganese, silicon also helps deoxidize steel while adding tensile strength and hardness. It’s not as effective as manganese but it still proves to be a useful addition to most steels.

Phosphorus, 0.04%: This element improves the machinability of the AUS 6 and enhances its corrosion resistance.

Sulfur, 0.03%: Normally classified as an impurity, sulfur is still a pretty good addition to steel blends in very small amounts. It helps enhance their machinability.

AUS 6 Steel Hardness

One of the debated points about the AUS 6 steel is its hardness. Some don’t find it to be hard enough for hard use which is quite true since it’s rated at 55-58 HRc. However, this rating is already more than adequate for inexpensive kitchen knives.

Does AUS 6 Steel Rust?

As mentioned above, the AUS 6, like the other AUS steels, is stainless steel. It has a high amount of chromium that makes it effectively capable of resisting corrosion and rust. This is one of the reasons why it’s popularly used for kitchen knives since it can withstand exposure to wet conditions.

Properties of AUS 6 Steel

What makes the AUS 6 steel suitable for knife making? Here are its top attributes that make it a good choice as a blade steel.

Corrosion resistance

Again, as mentioned a few times above, the AUS 6 steel is stainless steel so it’s not susceptible to corrosion and rust. It has high chromium content so it won’t rust and corrode easily. And the addition of other components further enhances this feature.

This is beneficial for knifemaking because it can withstand wet and humid conditions. This is why it can function well as a kitchen knife as it can be exposed to moisture for long periods without worrying about staining and rusting later on. This also makes it a fuss-free blade steel as it won’t require heavy maintenance.

Hardness

With an HRc of 55-58, the AUS 6 steel is already quite hard. It’s not as hard as many modern premium steel grades but it can already do a lot. Excellent heat treatment could further improve its performance without adding a lot to its cost.

A hard knife is a reliable knife as it won’t easily get dull or break in the middle of use. High hardness steels tend to be a bit brittle but since the AUS 6 is in the middle ground, it doesn’t have that issue.

Edge retention

This refers to how well the knife can hold an edge or its sharpness. And with its good hardness level also comes a reliable edge retention. With proper use, it can hold its edge for quite a while.

The AUS 6 steel can also get a very good edge. Its vanadium content helps in this area since it creates finer carbides during the manufacturing process.

Sharpening AUS 6 steel knives is also not that hard to do. Since the steel itself isn’t too hard, getting a nice edge isn’t too difficult. Those with good sharpening skills are able to get the sharpness they want without too much effort with this blade steel.

Toughness

With its medium-high carbon content, the AUS 6 steel manages to have a good amount of toughness. Since it’s also not too hard, it’s not brittle. In fact, the AUS 6 steel is considered to be tougher than the other AUS steel grades with higher carbon content.

AUS 6 Equivalent Steels or Alternative

One way to better explain what the AUS 6 steel is like, here are some side by side comparisons of the said steel to other well-known steel grades:

AUS 6 Steel vs VG10 Steel

The VG10 steel is possibly one of the most popular Japanese steel grades. As a modern, premium steel, it was created to cater to the needs of Japanese chefs as it functions like a high-carbon steel and stainless steel at the same time.

Lots of knife nuts compare every other Japanese steel to the VG10 since it is the “gold quality” steel, as its name suggests. Its performance also makes it quite an appealing option for many.

With a hardness level of 60 HRc, the VG10 is harder than the AUS 6 so it can suit rougher use. However, in terms of price, the AUS 6 is a winner since the VG10 is quite pricey.

AUS 6 Steel vs D2 Steel

The D2 is another popular choice for forging blades since it has high hardenability, great toughness, and excellent edge retention. It’s a top choice by many famous custom knife makers so it gets an edge over the competition.

Since the D2 is also very affordable, it’s also a popular pick by lots of knife aficionados. Never mind that this steel grade is quite old, it still delivers good results.

Compared to the AUS 6, it can be more versatile and suitable for a wider range of uses.

AUS 6 Steel vs AUS 8 Steel

From the same range of steel series is the AUS 8 steel. As its name suggests, this steel grade has a slightly higher carbon content at around 0.75%. This makes it harder than the AUS 6, rated at 59 HRc. It’s favored by many knife makers since it also has high corrosion resistance.

In terms of toughness, however, the AUS 6 steel is better than the AUS 8. This is why some knife makers still prefer the AUS 6 over it for certain purposes.

AUS 6 Steel vs 1055 Steel

Like the AUS 6, the 1055 is a medium-high carbon steel that is widely used for manufacturing different kinds of knives, hand tools, and even machine parts. It’s very tough and with great shock and impact resistance.

Despite its high performance, however, the 1055 is not stainless steel so it’s susceptible to corrosion. This is why the AUS 6 can be its alternative as it offers additional rust resistance to the mix.

Is AUS 6 Steel Good for Knives?

The AUS 6 is already widely used for making knives and there are many high-performing options made with this blade steel. With this, it can be said that the AUS 6 can be good for manufacturing knives. With its ample toughness, hardness, and edge retention paired with good corrosion resistance, it can make a convenient and practical knife option.

Pros & Cons of AUS 6 Steel

Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Stainless steel so it won’t easily rust or corrode
  • Can get very sharp
  • Relatively easy to sharpen
  • Tried and tested steel grade
  • Offered by well renowned brands like Spyderco
Cons
  • Dulls faster than higher end steel grades
  • Quality depends on the manufacturer’s heat treatment

Best AUS 6 Steel Knives

What are the best AUS 6 steel knives that are worth looking into? Here’s an example:

#1: RUKO K2000A AUS-6 Stainless Steel Hawker Knife

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Quick Specification
  • Blade: 2. 50 Inches
  • Closed: 5. 25 Inches
  • Item Weight: 0.1 Pounds
  • Blade Material: Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: Stainless Steel
  • Blade Shape: Clip Point
  • AUS-6 Stainless Steel Handle

The Ruko K2000A AUS-6 Stainless Steel Hawker Knife is a charming survival boot knife that is meant to be able to do everything. It’s small design makes it easy to carry and conceal and its Zytel self-locking boot clip sheath can be attached in two positions.

Its details easily set it apart from other kinds of knives. It has a serrated blade so it promises to cut through just about anything. It also has a paracord-wrapped handle to keep it lightweight but still comfortable and secure to hold.

Pros
  • Affordable price tag
  • Compact and easy to carry
  • Solid build
  • Durable
  • Versatile and can handle various tasks
Cons
  • Some find it too small
  • Sheath fit can be improved

Conclusion

Like with just about any other blade steel, it’s a matter of matching the right knife for the right task. Some knives are crafted and built to handle hard use while others will prove to be sufficient for casual everyday tasks. The AUS 6 steel shines in the latter category, so expecting so much more from it might not be ideal.

Got something else to add in this AUS 6 steel review? Don’t be shy! Share them in the comments.

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