What Is Rockwell Hardness (a.ka. HRC) and Why Is It Important?
Quality knives are rated for how hard they are with what is called the Rockwell rating (HRC) or measurement of the steel. You may wonder what this rating is and what number is a “good” number for hardness of the knife you want to buy.
Understanding How The Measurement Works
When discussing how hard something is it can be difficult to be precise about it – unless you have a measurement. So to get a an accurate measurement a scale was created to let us know how hard something is, hence the Rockwell hardness scale.HRC is clever in its simplicity. The short easy version is HRC measures how much of a dent/mark a diamond point can make in the metal with a measured amount of weight. The smaller the mark the harder the steel.
Ranges of HRC
For a point of reference Japanese kitchen knives will likely see ratings from 60-66HRC, an axe would be about 50HRC, western style knives are 56-59HRC.
The higher the rating, the harder the material so the thinner/finer the cutting edge can be. Which is why you see higher ratings on our knives as they are hammered to be sharper.
So you might be thinking “higher is better” and as a rule of thumb it is, but as ever there are trade offs. The harder the steel the more fragile it can be so high steel knives are more likely to chip if misused. This can be countered somewhat by the choice of steel; powder steels can have a very high HRC rating.
The other point worth noting is that the harder a steel is, the longer they can take to sharpen. On the good side, they stay sharper for longer. This is one of the whole points of getting a good knife for life. More time spent cooking rather than sharpening and maintaining it properly. If you are unsure what knife you need for your purpose, give us a shout. We are always happy to help!