Knife Steel

Premium Steels

  • CPM-20CV (Crucible Industries)
  • CPM-S110V (Crucible Industries)
  • CPM-S90V (Crucible Industries)
  • CPM-M4
  • Elmax (Uddeholm)
  • M390 (Bohler)
  • CTS-204P
  • ZDP-189 (Hitachi)

High-End Steels

  • CPM-154
  • CPM-3V
  • CPM-4V
  • CPM-M4 (Crucible Industries)
  • CPM-S30V (Crucible Industries)
  • CPM-S35VN (Crucible Industries)
  • CTS-XHP (Carpenter)
  • LC200N

Mid-Range Steels

  • 1095
  • 154CM (Crucible Industries)
  • A2
  • ATS-34 (Hitachi)
  • D2 (Generic)
  • H1 (Myodo Metal)
  • O1
  • M680 (Bohler)
  • N690
  • VG-10 (Takefu)

Lower Mid-Range Steels

  • 14C28N (Sandvik)
  • 400 Series
  • 440C (Aichi Steel)
  • 8Cr13MoV (Ahonest)
  • AUS-8
  • CTS-BD1 (Carpenter)
  • Sandvik Series
  • VG-1

Budget Steels

  • 440A (Generic)
  • 420HC (Latrobe)
  • 13C26 (Sandvik)
  • 1095 (Generic)

Low-End Steel

  • 420J (Generic)
  • AUS-6 (Aichi Steel)
1095 1095 is an American high-carbon steel (NOT stainless steel) used for over a century. It is strong, tough, takes a beating, but it stains easily, and can also chip easily. 1095 requires more maintenance due to its poor corrosion resistance and poor edge retention. The ESEE and Ka-Bar formulas for 1095 produce some very nice knives.
154CM 154CM is an American premium-grade stainless steel with a good balance of toughness, corrosion resistance, and edge quality.
420 420 is a low-end steel that has been around for a very long time. Its low carbon content results in a soft steel.
440C 440C is a American stainless steel originally designed for ball bearings, valves, and gears. This steel is widely used for knives because it is durable, takes a fine edge, and is an excellent value priced steel for its performance.
420HC 420HC (HC for “High Carbon”) is a upgrade to the old 420 that contains more carbon than 420. 420HC is relatively stain resistant, relatively tough, easy to sharpen, but it does not hold an edge well.
420HC Buck Buck has a proprietary heat treating process that makes their 420HC steel work very well. The Buck 420HC steel is low-cost and performs more like a mid-priced steel.
AUS-8 AUS-8 is commonly available, good all-around stainless steel that is tough, hard, stain resistant, and holds a decent edge.
CPM-20CV (premium) CPM-20CV is a premium American, powered metal (PM), stainless steel. It has very good edge retention while being highly corrosion resistant.
CPM-M4 (High-End) CPM-M4, by Crucible, is a high-end American, powered metal, non-stainless steel that is tough, and holds an edge better than other carbon steels. It hardens to about 62-64 HRC and contains a combination of high carbon, moly, vanadium, and tungsten for excellent wear resistance and toughness. It is not stainless due to its lower chromium content and may require additional care to protect against corrosion. It can be difficult to sharpen
CPM S110V (premium) S110V is a super premium steel with superior edge retention and wear resistance. It is very similar to S90V and it is very difficult to sharpen.
CPM-S30V (high-end) Premium American, powered metal, stainless steel designed specifically for knives. It is corrosion resistant, good edge retention, and 58-60 Rockwell hardness. This steel is good for everyday use or for outdoor activities.
CPM S35VN (High-End) CPM S35VN by Crucible is a slight upgrade to S30V. It has a very fine grain structure and the added niobium makes this steel tougher. X35VN offers excellent edge retention, toughness, and good stain resistance.
CPM-S90V (premium) Premium American, powered metal, stainless steel with extremely high carbon and vanadium content. It has superior edge retention and wear resistance but is difficult to sharpen.
CTS-XHP (High-End) CTS-XHP is an American powder metallurgy steel from Carpenter. This fine grain steel hardens to about 61 HRC and offers very good edge retention (slightly better than S30V), takes a little more effort to sharpen, and can be a bit brittle. CTS-XHP is similar to D2 with better corrosion resistance and better edge retention.
D2 D2 is an American, high carbon, high chrome, air-hardened, semi-stainless steel that is extremely tough and has better edge retention than 440C and 154CM but has less toughness. This type of steel requires more care than pure stainless steel.
Damasteel Damasteel is a Swedish, powder metal, Damascus stainless steel composed of alternating layers of RWL34 and RPMC27. This steel has superior strength with edge retention comparable to 440C. It is often used on custom and top quality knives due to its high cost and attractive appearance.
Elmax (premium) Elmaxis a high chromium, vanadium, and molybdenum stainless steel. It has excellent edge retention and is easier to sharpen than most of the other super steels.
M390 (premium) M390 is an Australian powdered metal, stainless steel manufactured by Bohler-Uddeholm. It is often used in surgical cutting instruments that require a very fine finish. It is extremely corrosion resistant, very hard, and it offers excellent wear resistance due to it formatulation of chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, and tungsten. M390 is relatively difficult to sharpen but easier to sharpen than S90V
N680 N680 is an Australian stainless steel designed for extreme environments. The high nitrogen content gives this steel a 57-59 Rockwell rating and also makes it extremely corrosion resistant. Edge retention is between 420 high-carbon and 440C.
VG-1 VG-1, manufactored by Takefu, is a good all-around steel that is corrosion resistant
ZDP-189 (premium) ZDP-189 by Hitachiis a super hard steel that contains high levels of carbon and chromium. ZDP has extremely good edge retention and is difficult to sharpen. The carbon and chronium somewhat nullify the resistance to corrosion so it is less corrosion resistant than S30V.


Knife Informer
Blade HQ


Crucible Particle Metallurgy (CPM) tool steels are produced by Crucible Industries and use a powder metal forge process.

PM – Powder Metallurgy.

Stainless steel is generally considered to be a steel with 13% or more of chromium.


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