Carbon steel has one distinct advantage over stainless steel and that is its high hardness. Stainless steel cannot compete with the hardness of carbon steel which is why in comparing a simple tool like a knife, the knife made from carbon steel is preferred by many. While knives made from carbon steel are easier to sharpen, they have a disadvantage of corroding faster.
Again, when choosing a tool like knives, you cannot expect a large stainless steel knife to be stronger than a carbon steel large knife. The same rule applies to other tools and equipment. In Japan, cutlery brands boast of their harder carbides and are chosen by professionals over stainless steel cutlery. Brands like Aogami and Shirogami, also known as white paper and blue paper.
To tell if a tool is made of carbon steel or stainless steel is something that is not always easy. A simple sign would be the shine since stainless steel has that polished look compared to carbon steel. Try using the steel to catch your reflection and if you see yourself on the material, then it’s probably stainless steel. In fact, carbon steel is often referred to as unpolished steel. However, there are certain stainless steel tools that do not have a polished sheen because they are brushed stainless steel.
One odd way of testing the steel would be to try to create sparks. With carbon steel, you can actually ignite sparks to make a fire which is why carbon steel is used for survival knives. It’s similar to flint and it doesn’t even have to be high carbon steel.
Carbon steel also rust easily especially when exposed to saltwater environments. You cannot use it close to the ocean or on board boats. That is unless you take exceptional care of the carbon steel and protect it with leather or tannin from a tree. It will need intense maintenance like cleaning and oiling after every use.
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