A2 vs. O1

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Forum topic by BubbaIBA posted 03-19-2012 05:03 PM 2448 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View BubbaIBA's profile


383 posts in 1800 days

03-19-2012 05:03 PM

If given a choice I will pick O1 steel for my blades. Last night was an example of why.

I have a newer Stanley Sweetheart block plane with, I would guess, A2 steel, I haven’t used it much but I needed to plane some end grain Ash. Figured it would need a touch of honing before hand….it did but…..after rubbing on the translucent Arkansas for 5 or so minutes and seeing no sign the steel had touched stone I went to the soft Arkansas and it wasn’t much better. What a bunch of hooey, I don’t care how hard the steel is it will need sharpening sooner or later and when it does I had much rather sharpen a little more often and be able to do it quickly. I guess a call to Hock for one of their O1 block plane blades is next.

I could be wrong, wouldn’t be the first time, but I think we’ve been sold a bill of goods with this harder is better shineola….give me steel that is hard enough but will sharpen with reasonable effort. YMMV.

7 replies so far

View fissionchips's profile


99 posts in 1882 days

#1 posted 03-19-2012 05:46 PM

Harder steels certainly call for stones to match, and the stones don’t come cheap. Everyone has to strike their own balance between patience, skill, cost, and performance. Clearly some are willing to put in the extra money and time with these tough steels, because they can create and hold a finer edge.

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3072 days

#2 posted 03-19-2012 05:55 PM

I have o1 steel for all my blades. never saw the need to use A1 as it wouldn’t really hold that edge THAT much longer or won’t need honing that it would make it beneficial for me (others might feel differently).

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2078 days

#3 posted 03-19-2012 07:01 PM

I have a mixed bag of A2, O1, D2…it all works. I think the temper is more important than the type of steel, but that is just me.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Brandon's profile


4151 posts in 2375 days

#4 posted 03-19-2012 07:32 PM

Sharon, I think A1 is a type of steak sauce. ;-)

I’ve used A2 from Lie-Nielsen and haven’t had too much trouble with them using Japanese water stones. Also bought a Hock iron recently, but I don’t know if it’s A2 or 01—we’ll see when I sharpen it.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Viktor's profile


456 posts in 2842 days

#5 posted 03-19-2012 08:52 PM

If it takes twice as long to sharpening one blade than the other, it means it is two times more wear resistant. Does it mean that the edge will also last twice as long when in your plane? There must be some kind of relationship between these. Since large part of sharpening is assembly, disassembly and setup, in the long run you’ll save time by going with the harder blade.

View fissionchips's profile


99 posts in 1882 days

#6 posted 03-19-2012 09:08 PM

Viktor, you’re right in that longevity is precisely what these steels were engineered for. At the extreme end of hand tools, a few Japanese plane blade makers have welded on an HSS cutting surface, which requires a specially formulated ceramic stone to hand sharpen.

The relationship between time spent sharpening and time to wear down is of course dependent on many factors.

View BubbaIBA's profile


383 posts in 1800 days

#7 posted 03-20-2012 04:57 AM

fissionchips, O1 steel will take a keener edge than A2, granted A2 will hold its edge longer but ceteris paribus O1 will start out sharper. A quote from Ron Hock ”...With an alloy as simple as O1, containing so few alloying elements, the hardened grain structure is as fine as possible which allows honing to the sharpest possible edge…A2 is a great steel that offers a real improvement in edge retention. O1, on the other hand, is still preferred by many for its relative ease of sharpening and its ability to get sharper”.

Nothing wrong with A2, I just think for my use O1 is better. I do think the tool sellers are selling the sizzle when touting high Rc. What’s more important to know is how fine is the grain structure, how sharp can the steel be sharpened and how well it holds its edge….Rc only tells you how hard it is to sharpen, not how sharp it will get.

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