If you’re researching up on the ideal steels that you can use for knives, then it’s not surprising that you may wander about online and stumble upon information regarding the ideal steels that you can also use for swords. That means you may happen upon the 1045 steel.
So, is it good for swords and knives? What’s 1045 steel actually good for? This guide will answer all these questions (and a lot more). It will check out the properties of 1045 steel, determine its advantages and drawbacks, and even get a closer look at its chemical composition.
Then you’ll even find a nice list of excellent katana sword options that use 1045 steel!
What is 1045 Carbon steel?
As the term “carbon steel” suggests, the 1045 carbon steel is a type of steel that contains significantly higher carbon levels than non-carbon steel. Most steel alloys do contain carbon, but usually the level is limited to within 0.05% to 0.30%. But carbon steel alloys contain higher amounts—with some going to 2.5%.
The carbon is the main element that determines the hardness of the steel. With the 1045 steel, it means the carbon level is generally around 0.45%. It can be bought as cold drawn or hot rolled steel, either in plate or bar form.
Because it only contains medium levels of carbon, it’s strong yet also reasonably tough. That means the steel doesn’t easily chip off like most extremely hard yet brittle steel alloys. It’s a versatile type of steel that also comes with a reasonable price.
Common Uses of 1045 steel
The 1045 steel is widely used in many industries, especially for components which require a bit more strength and wear resistance that you’d get from low carbon steel. You can find the 1045 steel used for the following parts:
- Connecting rods
- Guide rods
- Hydraulic clamps
- Light gears
- Torsion bars
1045 steel Chemical Composition
- Carbon, 0.43% to 0.50% at the most
- Manganese, 0.60% to 0.90%
- Sulfur, 0.50% at the most.
- Phosphorus, 0.40% at the most.
Carbon, 0.43% to 0.50% at the most: This makes it harder than mild steel with lower carbon content, so you get comparatively greater yield strength and tensile strength for various industrial components. But it doesn’t seem to be enough for knives, as it’s too soft compared to even the cheapest knife steels.
Manganese, 0.60% to 0.90%: It’s the 2nd-most important component for steel, as like carbon it boosts the hardenability and tensile strength of the steel. You don’t want too much manganese, though, as that can make the steel brittle.
Sulfur, 0.50% at the most: This is usually not something you want in steel, as it can have a bad effect on its impact strength. But the manganese counteracts these effects, and there isn’t a lot of sulfur anyway. At this level, it helps with machinability.
Phosphorus, 0.40% at the most: This is another unwanted element in most cases, because too much of it can lead to brittle steel. But in small amounts, it can boost the strength and even the corrosion resistance.
1045 Steel Hardness
In an average knife blade, you’ll probably find the HRC hardness rating of the steel at about 52 HRC. The very best super steels can get that hardness up to 58 HRC without the drastic reduction to toughness that usually results with high HRC ratings.
But with 1045, the hardness rating doesn’t compare to the average knife blade steel. It only scores about 28 to 34 HRC, which clearly doesn’t offer enough hardness.
That’s why it’s usually used for swords instead of knives. With swords, too much hardness leads to brittle steel and broken swords. You need sword blades that bend, and that means lower hardness and increased toughness instead.
Properties of 1045 steel
You can use a lot of 1045 steel for large scale industrial and construction applications, because it’s not expensive at all.
Easy to Work With
Machining the 1045 steel isn’t all that difficult, as you can do various operations with it like tapping, milling, broaching, drilling, turning and sawing. Welding isn’t a problem either, though you need to make sure you do the correct procedure.
As for heat treatment, you can perform processes such as forging, annealing, normalizing, stress-relieving, hardening and tempering. Again, you’ll need to make sure you do the processes correctly.
Greater Strength and Wear Resistance
This is a very noticeable advantage, especially when you compare the 1045 steel with other steels in its price range. It gives you the reassuring strength and durability you need.
Not Good for Knives, But Can Work for Swords
You’ll rarely, if ever, find a commercial knife that uses 1045 steel, because it’s too soft. It won’t give you any tolerable edge retention.
But its toughness makes it more suitable for affordable swords (especially katanas). It can cut through light targets, and it’s super-easy to sharpen.
1045 Equivalent Steels or Alternative
Let’s compare the 1045 steel directly with some somewhat similar steel alloys to give us a clearer idea of its capabilities.
1045 Steel vs 4140
These are logical to compare side by side, as they contain the same elements (iron, carbon, manganese, phosphorus, and sulfur) in similar amounts. The 1045 contains a little bit more carbon (0.45% to 0.40%) but the 4140 contains more manganese. The 4140 also contains chromium, silicon, and molybdenum
The 4150 does offer a good combination of toughness, fatigue strength, and impact resistance. But it’s more expensive.
1045 Steel vs 1060
As the numbers indicate, the 1060 has more carbon so it’s harder. But the 1045 is easier to work with. It’s more difficult to forge and shape the 1060 steel, and you’ll need more time for polishing.
1045 Steel vs a36
The A36 isn’t as hard, since it only contains up to 0.26% carbon. The A36 doesn’t have any manganese, either. In fact, the A36 is more commonly compared to the 1018 steel instead. Because the A36 is mild steel, you can use this in larger industrial parts such as support beams, or for parts that don’t require much strength. It’s probably even more affordable and easier to use than the 1045 steel.
1045 Steel vs 1018
Again, you have much more carbon in the 1045 steel than in the 1018 steel. That gives you greater tensile strength in the 1045. But the higher carbon content means that it’s not as easy to weld as 1018 steel. You’ll need to go with 1045 steel instead of 1018 steel if you need to use it for parts that require more strength. But you should go with 1018 steel if you don’t need the extra yield strength and tensile strength, or if you’re going to do some welding.
Pros & Cons of 1045 steel
- Very affordable
- Extremely versatile and can be used across many industries
- Easy to machine and weld
- Nice toughness to go with its strength and wear-resistance
- Can work nicely in beginner-level swords
- Can be used for practice by newbie bladesmiths
- Doesn’t work for knives, as it’s too soft for cutting (it’s better for slashing)
- Even for swords, there are plenty of better (but more expensive) steels
- Not really corrosion-resistant
Best 1045 steel sword/katana
We’ve listed several excellent katanas here that use 1045 steel for their blades. If you can travel back in time to medieval Japan with any of these swords, you’d have perhaps the best sword around. These modern Japanese swords may be terrific for display, but the 1045 makes them actual swords that can be used for defense.
#1: Onikiri K-580-CR 1045 Handmade Katana
- Product Dimensions: 41.5 x 5 x 2 inches
- Item Weight: 3.69 pounds
- 1045 carbon steel handmade blade
- White inster handle with 2 pin and wrapped black cord
- 1045 Carbon Steel blade
- Includes Sword Bag and Scabbard
The design of this Onikiri sword isn’t as intricate as the others on this list. But it’s quite intimidating to look at, with its black scabbard that also comes with a sword bag for easier transport. The handle is wrapped with black cord, accentuated by diamond inserts. Draw the sword, and even the blade is black.
You better draw this carefully, since in all likelihood the sword will have a nasty sharp edge. Sure, some buyers have complained that the edge wasn’t quite sharp right out of the box. But that may be a good thing, because with the sharp edge and 41-inch overall length, this thing can be absolutely lethal.
The price is ridiculously low, and it works and feels better compared to a lot of more expensive modern swords out there. You get a nice weight balance, with the center of gravity close to the hilt. You can swing this quickly, and it can work if you somehow encounter a home invader.
It’s still an entry-level sword, as the handle is mostly made with plastic. The design is clean and simple, but its lethal purpose sure is eye-catching in itself. Don’t be tempted to let your kids play with it—with its sharp edge, this is like a loaded gun.
- It generally comes with a sharp edge
- Intimidating all-black look
- Comes with a scabbard and even a sword bag
- Very affordable
- Nice weight balance
- Somewhat simplistic design
- The handle is mostly plastic
#2: Handmade Sword – Samurai Katana Sword
- Blade Length: 29″
- Handle Length: 11″
- Saya Length: 29.6″
- Overall Length (with Saya): 41.25″
- Weight(with Saya): 2.9 lbs
- Weight(without Saya): 2.4 lbs
- Package weight: 5 lbs
Yes, “Handmade Sword” is somehow the brand name. The generic brand name is ironic, as the available designs here are excellent and definitely artistic.
You actually have 33 different designs for the tsuba, which is the handguard of the word. The designs represent the traditional mystic and historical symbols, like the crane, the warrior, bamboo, and crests.
We picked the portrait of Oda Nobunaga for the tsuba, and it is no generic depiction either. It shows a stern man wearing a topknot, with his katana slung over the shoulder while he’s grasping the scabbard.
The craftmanship is amazing, with the wooden handed and its black piano lacquer. It’s wrapped with ray skin and red cotton cord, and underneath you have the traditional Menuki, which refers to the decorative metal ornaments woven under the handle wrapping. You also have to classic Sageo, which is the traditional cord that secures the scabbard to the Japanese obi belt.
While the design is terrific, this is still a functional sword. You get the full tang design with the sharp edge. It’s 41.25 inches long, with the blade measuring about 29 inches. The handle is 11 inches long, which gives you enough room to hold the sword with both hands.
- Terrific craftmanship
- Nice attention to small details
- Numerous available designs for the handguard
- Great for display with its real hamon design on the blade
- Full tang and sharp edges make it a useful sword
- Comes with katana bag too
- Occasional quality control issues (like loose components)
- Twice as expensive as the Onikiri
#3: Musha Handmade Samurai Sword Katana
- Maru-Kitae Forged Method
- Fully disassemble to swap out any parts on demand
- Musha Crest of Hijikata Toshizo Hand Forged Samurai Sword, Handmade Katana
- 41″ Hand Forged Samurai Sword
- Maru Gata style Zinc Tsuba With Metal Fuchi and Kashira
This sword can be fully disassembled, so that in the future, you can swap parts that you want to change. But that should take a long while, as you already have 5 hand guard (tsuba) options to pick from right at the start.
The whole sword measures 39.5 inches long, and with the scabbard (saya) that extends to 40.5 inches. The saya comes in a nice high gloss finish in black, and it sure looks impressive when I hang this up on the wall.
The blade is about 27 inches of lethal steel, while the 11-inch handle allows you to grasp it with both your hands. You can use this for cutting practice, as it comes out razor-sharp right out of the box. In fact, some people have claimed to use this for self-defense, against home invaders. It sure did serious damage.
That makes this unsuitable for kids, and in fact you have to be 18 years old to buy this. But it’s great value for the money, as it doesn’t take long to give it back its keen edge. Some people also use this for beginner Iaido swordsmanship training, because it was recommended by their teachers.
- Cuts very smoothly
- Deadly and useful for self-defense
- Looks great
- Can be disassembled for replacement parts
- Great value for money
- You’ll need to sharpen the edge regularly when used for cutting practice
- Doesn’t hold up to medium-heavy cutting targets
It’s true that the 1045 steel is mainly used for industrial applications. For regular consumers, the 1045 steel isn’t much good for knives, either.
But it’s terrific for swords, especially when you’re a newbie looking for a katana. It’s very affordable, and the steel can actually work for cutting practice—or for home invaders!
Frequently Asked Questions
Does 1045 steel rust?
Yes, it does. Most steel alloys rust without proper maintenance, and these steels include the vaunted stainless steels. And with its notable lack of elements that boost corrosion resistance (like chromium and nickel), the 1045 steel rusts quite easily.
Is 1045 steel good for Swords?
Yes, it’s quite good for swords. It’s definitely a steel alloy that you can use for swords that you only intend to display.
But even if you somehow use the sword for real, you’ll find that the 1045 steel works nicely for the sword. In fact, it’s better than the steel you’d actually find in the historical swords. If you somehow find yourself time-travelling to medieval Japan with a katana made with 1045 steel, your katana will be regarded as the best in the whole country.
Of course, there are plenty of other steels that are probably better for swords than 1045 steel. Some might even say that it barely meets the standards for sword steels. But it works just fine for swords.
Is 1045 Steel Good for Knives?
Technically, you can use 1045 steel for knives. But its carbon content and resulting hardness is so low that you’d have a bad time using it. It won’t cut easily, and it simply can’t hold its sharp edge for long. You’ll end up having to sharpen the blade several times a day, which is just annoying.
What grade is 1045 steel?
This is a medium carbon, medium tensile steel. It offers a nice balance between reasonable strength and toughness, especially when used for industrial parts and even swords.
Can 1045 steel be hardened?
Yes, it can. You can use flame and induction hardening methods, then quenching in oil or water. This then is followed by a tempering treatment at 300 to 400 degrees F. After all that, you can end up with 58 HRC.