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Saturday, July 2, 2011

CPM-S30V stainless steel, not the popular kid at the party, but the one holding the party.

National Knives stocks a variety of different styles of knives, from folding pocket knives to kitchen knives.
These knives are manufactured with a wide variety of materials, with specific focus on the blade, they can be made with stone (obsidian), ceramic, steel and other materials and the end results (and usability) determine not just on what material is used, but how it was produced, the ingredients that were used and the manufacturers ability to treat/temper/grind/etc. that material into a functioning knife blade.

Knife steels are constantly evolving and getting upgrades to their performance levels.  In the higher end knives, CPM-S30V, a US made steel produced by Crucible Industries, S30V is a high performing powdered steel that features a very fine grain with the typical end results being good edge retention and good toughness that will help minimize edge chipping and tip breakage.  With that said, my every day carry (EDC) knife is currently a Spyderco Native with a S30V blade and I managed to chip the edge on it AND break the tip off, however, I was using the knife as a prying tool when the tip broke off, something that most knives are not meant to be used as.

S30V edge retention is significantly improved over still current knife industry standards steels like 440C and 154CM.  According to Crucible Industries website (link takes you to PDF Data Sheet), S30V outperforms both of these steels in edge retention tests and corrosion resistance. 

When a knife manufacturer receives a shipment of steel, the steel hasn't been heat treated yet.  Heat treating is important to knife steels as it allows the manufacturer control over how hard or soft the steel will be when the end user receives the knife.  A knife steel that is too hard, will be difficult to sharpen, but would stay sharp longer, the edge would chip easy and is essentially a brittle knife, good for slicing relatively soft objects.  A knife steel that is too soft would not stay sharp for very long, but would be easy to sharpen when needed.  Ideally, S30V would be hardened to HRC 58-61 (see above link for reference) and would provide a workable knife that is neither too hard nor too soft giving the end user a blade that will stay relatively sharp and resistant to chipping/breakage.

What makes a good knife steel is a subjective topic, not only among the end users, but amongst the manufacturers and custom knife makers too.  Most manufacturers use a variety of steels and are always testing and trying new steels so they can stay on the cutting edge (pun intended).  What's the best steel for you?  Ask yourself what you are going to be using it for and then do some research.  In the future, I will be blogging about different types of steels and their advantages and disadvantages.  So far, I have covered H1 and with this blog S30V and there will more to come.  You can also feel free to sent me an email.


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