What is CPM-S35VN Steel?

CPM S35VN Steel Review

Chris Reeve Knives Pacific

Chris Reeve Knives Pacific

When Crucible Industries introduced its CPM S30V steel, blade-smiths and knife-lovers alike fell in love with it; the quality wear resistance, toughness, and machinability offered by the steel was equal to none other. People were calling it, “the best knife steel available,” and indeed, it might have been. Until Crucible Industries announced that they were coming out with a newer, improved version of their premium grade knife steel- CPM S35VN, which would have an increased toughness and ease of sharpening over its predecessor. Soon it became clear that S35VN steel was a top-grade steel to rival the best in its class.

What is S35VN steel and how does it differ from S30V?

CPM S35VN is a quality stainless steel that is part of Crucible Industries’ “SxxV series”. “CPM” identifies the steel as having been made through Crucible Industries’ CPM process, offering an improved outcome over that of conventional melting practices. The letters “S,” “V,” and “N” refer to the terms “stainless,” vanadium,” and “niobium,” respectively. The number thirty-five has no significance other than to differentiate between S30V steel.

S35VN steel is composed of 1.4 percent carbon, 14 percent chromium, 3 percent vanadium, 2 percent molybdenum, and .5 percent niobium. Carbon is the most essential element in the hardness of steel; the higher the carbon content, the harder the knife is. When combined with other alloys including chromium and vanadium, carbides are formed which are harder than just the carbon alone. This carbon content is very similar to that of the S30V type, which contains 1.45 percent carbon.

With the newer steel, however, a small bit of a carbide called niobium was introduced in the place of some of the steel’s vanadium content, an innovative and critically altering change that sets S35VN steel apart from its predecessor and many other steels. The niobium, combined with the carbon, makes this steel 15 to 20 percent tougher than S30V.

Despite the high level of toughness in this steel, which usually diminishes a steel’s wear resistance, this steel does not lose out on a superior resistance to wear and chipping. Combined with carbon, the niobium carbides make the steel more effective in providing resistance to wear and edge chipping than if it were more dependent on chromium, which is the case with many other steels. The resulting edge holding ability of this steel is remarkable, ensuring S35VN steel to be a long lasting one.

Vanadium, as well, is essential to balance S35VN’s toughness with its wear resistance. Not only does it increase strength and toughness, but it also promotes fine grain structure and forms hard carbides that dramatically intensify edge holding. Molybdenum is yet another key component of this steel’s wear resistance, as the harder the steel is, the stiffer it becomes. Molybdenum combines with carbon to make hard carbides that take that problem out of the equation. For these reasons, S35VN steel offers a superior edge retention over conventional high chromium steels such as 440C and D2 steels.

Despite being less reliant on chromium, the carbide is still crucial for the high quality performance of the steel. Chromium is a critical ingredient to increase a steel’s stain resistance, and despite not being on par with niobium and vanadium in terms of wear resistance, chromium still helps add to a steel’s wear resistance, and is still every bit as important as S35VN’s other ingredients.

This composition allows for S35VN steel to be an incredibly hard, high quality steel offering superior dimensional stability, grindability, and toughness that together make this a top grade steel at the top of its class.

What is the CPM process?

Crucible Industries’ famous CPM process is one that is used to make various types of high quality steel, with its users claiming its methods to be far superior to those of conventional melting practices. The CPM process creates a steel powder using a process called gas atomization, where molten steel is atomized (separated into atoms) by inert gas jets, and then cools down to perfectly spherical shaped powder particles with a high cleanliness level. The powder is then combined through the HIP process into 100 percent dense compacts. These compacts are then processed into bars through a mill.

The properties received by steels that are produced through this process are said to be far greater than those of conventionally melted steels, offering improved wear and corrosion resistance, toughness, and machinability. In addition, this method allows for the manufacturing of alloys with unique or enhanced properties that cannot be made with traditional steelmaking methods.

Knives made with S35VN steel can be used for various purposes. Thanks to its high grade toughness and ability to become razor sharp, it is ideal for use in hunting and bushcraft knives, where toughness and wear-resistance are key. Knives using this steel will surely perform even under the often less-than-ideal conditions found outdoors. For avid woodsmen, campers, and hunters, you will want a knife that provides an impressive, quality knife experience but also will not let you down where knives with other steels might. If you are frequently found outdoors in rainy, muddy, and otherwise dangerous conditions, than so will your knife. The rugged dependability offered by S35VN steel in less-than-ideal conditions makes it quite obvious why one would want it in their knives.

Moreover, this type of steel can be found in cutlery and chef’s knives, for even in the kitchen, where despite situations being less dangerous, quality in a knife is certainly never a bad thing, and as far as kitchen knives are concerned, S35VN is the steel to use.

How did it score?

The Charpy V-Notch test measures the foot-pounds required to break samples of specific steels at given temperatures and predetermined hardness. At a Rockwell RC hardness level of 58, it took 32 foot pounds of force to break the S35VN sample, higher than all of the other steels tested, including CPM S30V (at 58 HRC), S60V (at 56 HRC), S90V (at 58HRC), and 154 (at 60HRC), 420HC (at 58 HRC), and M390 (at 60 HRC) steels. This test measured each steel’s longitudinal toughness.

In regard to transversetoughness, a Charpy C-Notch Test study revealed both CPM steels- S35VN and S30V- to be far superior to the other knife steels tested. S35VN holds a transversal resistance of up to an impact energy of 12 pounds, with S30V two pounds down at 10 pounds. The other steels tested, 145CM and 440C grade steels, scored almost 5 times lower than S35VN, both at just 2.5 pounds of resistance. These results indicate that the CPM steels are much more resistant to chipping and breaking when used for jobs which require side loading. This makes these steels especially good for use in bigger blades.

The results of a CATRA (Cutlery Allied Trades Research Association) edge retention test put this steel at Rockwell RC hardness levels on par with top grade steels such as Bohler’s M390 and N690, Uddenholm’s ELMAX, and Peachey’s A2 steel. On CATRA’s TCC (total cut cards) test, where the number of impregnated silicon cards cut by blades with each steel type are measured, S35VN scored a 707, higher than many steels including N690, A2, and 3V, while lower than others including ELMAX and M390.

In addition to tests, S35VN steel used in various knives has won those knives numerous awards. Chris Reeves’s Galvin and Hawk designed TI-LOCK knife won the “Overall Knife of the Year” award in 2010, using none other than S35VN steel.

Blade Magazine’s 2012 “American Made Knife of the Year” award went to Microtech’s Socom Delta, a superb, quality knife made of S35VN steel.

The test results and awards won by S35VN and knives using it confirm, or at least give a certain amount of validity to, the claims praising S35VN to be the “the best blade steel available,” and “the ultimate cutlery steel.” Before all of the comparisons and the questions of “which is better”, the facts clearly show that S35VN steel is truly a top-tier, high-quality knife steel offering superior toughness, wear resistance, edge retention, and machinability to please and impress both knife lovers and knife makers. Whether used for hunting, camping, or cooking, this steel will ensure not only performance to the highest standards of toughness and durability, but also a pleasing knife experience offered by only the best steels around.

How does it compare with other high-grade knife steels?

Questions like these are frequently asked regarding every type of steel: “which one is the best?” “Is steel A better than steel B?” “Should I choose this knife over the other because of its steel content?” Similarly, with S35VN, questions have been raised regarding how it stacks up against the other steels in its class.

CPM 154 Steel

CPM 154 steel is a high chromium stainless steel knife, boasting a hardness, corrosion resistance, and edge retention superior to that of other steels such as 440C and D2 steels. When made with the Crucible Industries’ CPM process, it offers an even more improved toughness, machinability, and tool performance. However, when pitted against S35VN steel, its results are less impressive. S35VN is a more advanced steel, with vanadium and niobium carbides to improve its toughness and wear resistance. The simpler 154 steel is composed of only carbon, molybdenum, and chromium, and therefore cannot offer an equal extent of the toughness and wear resistance provided by these innovative carbides. For these reasons, knives using CPM 154 or 154 CM steel will not be as expensive as those with S35VN steel.


There has been a lot of hype recently about ELMAX steel. The claims stating it to be a superior “super-steel,” are more than true, as ELMAX steel continues to impress all who use it. Many of those who use it will say that it is far superior to S35VN steel. ELMAX steel has a sophisticated composition, containing carbon, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, silicon, and vanadium. This composition allows for it to have an incredibly high wear and corrosion resistance, as well as hardness and a remarkable dimensional stability.

ELMAX does not contain niobium, a key ingredient to S35VN, but displays a superior dependability at a high HRC than S35VN, with a better high corrosion resistance all while retaining its toughness. ELMAX is produced using a particle-metallurgy process, similar to CPM, but many will argue that CPM yields better results, giving its steels the edge of an improved wear-resistance and grindability. Powder-metallurgy and other conventional steel making processes are prone to segregation, where non-uniform clusters of a steel’s carbides persevere as remnants of the as-cast microstructure. This segregation of alloys can negatively affect the steel’s production and performance. The CPM process, however, creates a uniform distribution of carbide clusters, and completely removes the threat of segregation.

Knives containing both of these steels are far from inexpensive, with folding knives in the price range of 130-200 and over.

M390 Steel

Bohler’s M390 is not very different from ELMAX; it is extremely anti-corrosive, very finely grained, and very pure. Like ELMAX, it is just as tough as, if not tougher than, S35VN, and can hold an extremely strong and sharp edge. ON CATRA’s TCC test, M390 scored higher than S35VN, at 959, whereas S35Vn scored a 707. Yet on Charpy’s C-Notch test, S35VN resisted up to an impressive 32 foot pounds, with M390 falling significantly shorter at just 22 foot pounds. In addition, welders may note that M390 is considerably harder to temper than S35VN, which can affect its machinability. In addition, the latter steel can offer a superior damage resistance, a very desirable trait in a knife.

M390 steel is also slightly more expensive than S35VN, with the price for an average folding knife hovering around the 200 dollar range, whereas one can find a good S35VN folding knife for as low as 130 dollars, although its price can go up to 200 dollars or more.

Notable knives with the S35VN

S35VN steel has been used in myriads of different knives serving numerous different purposes. As far as the common folding knife is concerned, we have chosen a few notable knives containing this high-grade stainless steel.

Zero Tolerance ZT 0550

This US made, Kershaw Zero Tolerance folding knife is popular for many reasons, one of which being the use of S35VN steel for its blade. This folding knife, designed by Rick Hinderer, is 8.125 inches when fully extended, with a closed length of 4.63 inches and a blade length of 3.5 inches. Its handle is an ergonomic one of textured G-10 material and there is a convenient loop for carrying convenience. It is slightly heavy for its size, at 5.8 ounces, but will serve its purpose well, with the quality features offered by its steel, features which speak for themselves. The knife is on the medium to more expensive side at 172 dollars, but if you are looking for the quality offered by the knife, and it is in your price range, then this knife is ideal for you. Simple but powerful in an elegant way, this knife will serve its purposes to the highest degree, and will please you with its quality results.

Spyderco Paramiltary II

Spyderco’s limited edition S35VN Paramilitary model is convenient as well as it is tough, with an ergonomic, G-10 handle, a lanyard hole, and a 4-way, reversible pocket clip to sit comfortably in your pocket. The entire knife is 8.28 inches, with a blade length of 3.44 inches and a closed length of 4.81 inches. In addition, the blade is very light, at a mere 3.75 ounces. At a price of 180 dollars, you are definitely paying for the superior quality and features that come with any knife of S35VN.


Many high end knife makers use CPM-S35VN.  The list includes luminaries such as Benchmade, Chris Reeve Knives, Spyderco, ProTech Knives, and Boker to name a few.  Whether you are looking to buy a knife with S35VN steel or looking to make one, it is quite obvious that this high-end grade steel will perform to the highest quality in regard to toughness, wear-resistance, and machinability, providing a pleasant and outstanding experience for both knife makers and knife users.

Posted in Knife Steels | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Airsoft and My Cold Steel Leatherneck, by M.A.


Airsoft is some kind of joke for any serious military or firearms enthusiast, and for many good reasons. Airsoft ‘guns’ – even the most expensive ones – are nothing more than toys for kids, or movie props at best: unreliable, lightweight replicas, very cool to grab and shoot, but without any value for any serious shooting-range enthusiast. Airsoft ammunitions also lacks any marking system, so airsoft skirmishing should never be considered a real sport, but a game for ‘old aged kids’ trying to feel ‘inside movies’ or – in the worst ‘human cases’ – inside computer games.


Despite that sad basic truths, Italy got crazy for airsoft and in a few years we found ‘our’ way to transform it in something REALLY serious. The most doesn’t know but here in Italy there is a well established (around 20 years) italian airsoft championship that solved the problem of the marking system using only one very smart rule.  Teams DON’T play against each other (as in football, soccer, Formula One, etc) but fight against arbitrators. In simple words, arbitrators act as the ‘bad guys’ and set up the very same mission for every playing team, and the one that accomplish this very same mission better than any other, is the final winner of that event.

Each championship run is made by five events in two years and I personally play my region’s championship from more years than I want to admit to myself (fifteen…. Yep).
In the nineties – when the championship was still ‘young’ – the events were short and simple, they weren’t physical demanding and didn’t required any land navigation skill.
But year after year, the championship always got harder and harder, to the point that nowadays the average difficulty sounds crazy to the most.
The hardest events usually require players to march up to 60 kilometers in 30 hours, without any real pause to sleep and under ANY weather (rain, snow, etc).
No matter how tired, cold, wet, sleepy you are… You have to never give up with both mind and body, because when you are too tired/wet/cold/sleep, fighting well is much more difficult.
My team’s best result ever, was 28th on 260 teams from all Italy in 2009.


Cold Steel Tanto Leatherneck

Cold Steel Tanto Leatherneck

What I am going to tell you didn’t happen during one of those hardcore championship events, but during a ‘movie inspired’ non-sporting event, mostly made to entertain people and without any final classification at all. Anyway, most players were coming from the local championship, and I finally had the pleasure to have the italian champions right on my side during a couple of missions (the ‘Blackhawks’ of Pastrengo, really funny guys I am a friend of from a long time).

Most of the fun of the event came from the fact that every player had his own fictional character and had to act accordingly, so to create a fictional, movie-like world.. So, here’s what happened.

My four men patrol was radio-ordered from headquarter to go on certain coordinates on the field, to check some ‘unknown movements’.

It was night, and when we reached the place, we found two relaxed, armed guardsmen talking aloud, as if they had nothing to do. Thinking they weren’t enemies and dangerous neither, we didn’t opened up fire and approached them peacefully, saying we were army regulars. They told us that they were guards of a nearby bank and that we kindly had to ‘back off’, which we did. We then hide back in the woods and radioed our headquarter who the guys were, and what they were doing.

“Stay in place, team 7” was the reply.
“We are going to give you a mission”

After a couple of minutes the orders arrived: we had to conquer the bank with ‘extreme prejudice’, but first we had to try to convince the two guards to simply go away.
Then I had an idea, so I offered myself to my team to talk again with the guards.

I pulled out my Cold Steel ‘leatherneck’ training (hard rubber) knife from its sheath, then I reverse gripped it, covering it with my wrist and forearm.  Since the pockets of my woodland-BDU pants are very large, I also put half of it inside my pocket.
From the front point of view, it was invisible. My plan was to put my rifle on the ground and go to talk with the guards, but with the hidden knife at the ready. Then, I realized I was making a bad mistake.

My rifle has a three points sling and I was wearing it around my neck, so there was no way I could put my rifle down on the ground using one hand only. And using two, I would have surely exposed the knife in the pocket. So I took the sling out from my neck and hold the rifle with one hand only. When I was ready, my team mates hide themselves in the woods while I stayed in plain sight, waiting for the guards to return.

A couple of minutes later, they were back in place. This time they were silent and their rifle were at the ready. Anyway, seeing me on the open and right in front of them with the rifle pointed muzzle down, they thought I had no bad intentions.

“Can I talk with you again?” I said but they didn’t reply.
So I added: “I put my rifle down on the ground. You see? I leave it here and come to you”
“Okay then. Come here”

Seeing I left the rifle far away, the two guards relaxed a lot, and lowered their weapons from at-the-ready to down on their slings. I walked to them than I started to talk:

“The army told me to stay on guard in this sector but they didn’t talk me about any bank”
“Anyway, here there’s a bank for sure, and it’s our duty to watch it. Regular army or not, you can’t stay here”
“It probably is just a map misunderstanding, but we have a job to do. Can you please simply get away?”
“Of course we can’t. That’s a problem of yours, not ours”
“I don’t know how to say that to you guys. So I will put it plain and simple: you should really get the XXX away from here”
“We are not going anyway you stupid –

With a single movement, I slid my rubber knife under both the necks in front of me.
Cold Steel’s training rubber is quite hard, so for safety reasons I slid it a little lower than the real throats were and before the talking guard could end his phrase, everything was already over. A little while of silence followed up.

“I just slit both of your throats” I said.
“You did it for sure” said one guard.
“I don’t know if rubber knives are covered in our rules” said the other.
“As you wish – I said – but my team is hidden right behind you. You see? And they are ready to fire”

The guards turned themselves and saw the rest of my team coming out from the darkness of the nearby trees.

“It doesn’t matter – said one guard to the other -, I liked the way he did it and his acting too. Go on with your mission right now, guys. Time is clicking”

Me just a few minutes before the events told here.
I wear a woodland BDU with an english ARKTIS ‘long range’ chest.
My airsoft weapons weapons were:
+ a PANTHER ARMS short barrel version of the M4
+ a WILSON COMBAT CQB (1911 clone in the inner holster of the ARKTIS, not visible)
+ a Cold Steel Leatherneck training knife (near the neck, barely visible)
+ an ATN NVM-14 night vision monocular

Posted in BladeOps, Blog Contest, cold steel, cold steel knife, cold steel knives, Contest | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Picking the Perfect Knife for You, by B.A.

Picking the perfect knife for you

contest-pickingA lot of times, when I’m deciding on my next knife, I spend as much time researching and comparing as I did helping plan my own wedding. (I’m talking about napkins and crap, not my wife.) There are a lot of things to consider and narrowing it down can be a grueling job if you over-think it like I do. Here are some things that have helped me figure out exactly what I want in a knife:
1. USE: The most important thing you will want to consider is what you will be using it for. Is it a tool, for self defense, survival, hunting, or a time consumer like a butterfly knife? When you know exactly what it is you intend to use it for, it makes it much easier to select the category to start and this will get you pointed in the right direction. (No pun intended.) It is vital however, that no matter what you plan to do with it, you know how. Study up on how to properly handle it. This could be knowing how to efficiently gut an animal or resorting to it as a line of defense. Taking it out and not being trained in how to employ it could result in more trouble than it was worth in the beginning. Knives are to be respected as the weapon they are. Many knives can be multipurpose and cover a couple of these categories. My suggestion is that you utilize it for the purpose it was created but know its limits. A folder knife doesn’t really make a great hunting knife because they aren’t fun to clean and aren’t as reliable as a full tang (blade goes the entire length of the handle) which can also be used in a survival situation to chop wood or throw with less chance of breaking. However, walking around with a machete hanging off your waste tends to give people a bad impression of you. And I’m sure you’re a real decent person.
2. BLADE: As I said before, a full tang blade is much more reliable and will hold up through whatever you throw at it. On the other hand, a good folder can tuck comfortably in your pocket and give you a subtle extra hand in almost any situation. Be sure to check local laws if you plan to carry a knife concealed on your person. In most cases, the blade must be shorter than 4 inches and have a pocket clip to remain visible. I know this is especially true in California where all their laws are whack but in Utah, where I live, I have talked to several authorities and the general consensus here is that as long as you can justify it as a useful tool and that you aren’t just carrying it with intent to do harm then it is alright. The guy who did my concealed carry class told me that the permit does not cover knives and that I would have to research that separate. I still haven’t found anything saying otherwise so don’t quote me on it, but that’s all I know.
A few things to consider are the type of steel, the type of blade, number of blades, and length. Most common knives you find have a standard stainless steel or 440. There are 3 types of 440 steel. 440A, 440B and, you guessed it, 440C. C is the best and also the most expensive. If it isn’t specified which, you can assume that it is A. Any of these metals will work for day to day functions but can be considered essentially base grade. If you really want to invest, you can look into more upscale metals like s30v or v10. Those are just some more common types. There is also Damascus (real Damascus hasn’t been made for centuries since the recipe was lost) which is very strong, and titanium which is weaker but won’t rust making it great for diving knives. You may want to go with a multi-tool if you’re looking for practicality. I’ll swear up and down on the Leatherman Wave but the Surge is a close second. A Swiss army knife is also a good alternative. This gives you multiple blade options for more specific jobs. Remember that every blade eventually goes dull. Invest in a honer and sharpener and then learn how to properly use it. Benchmade makes a great honer and Spyderco a great V design sharpener, both available at Bladeops.com. A good point here is to think about the fact that it is much harder to sharpen a serrated blade. They are practical in that they can cut tougher materials but lack the surgical precision of a straight blade. And finally, you need to think about what style you are looking for. I have a trailing point blade that I use for gutting ducks, my deer knife has a gut hook, my butterfly knife has a tanto which is more handy for day to day jobs, and my all purpose daily carry is a drop point which I find better for self defense and it better fits my personal needs. A few other types include: the clip point, pen style, needle point, spear point, and hawkbill. Each was created for its own purpose but have fairly specific jobs.
3. MECHANISM: This is where personal taste and style really come into play. If you want your knife to have panache, an assisted knife allows quick access and cool presentation. Out the Front or OTF knives are a great example. However, pig stickers like the balisong butterfly knives serve little purpose other than to impress or intimidate, if that’s your game, showoff. They require a process to access and freak most people out but are a fun talent to master and teach you a sick sort of serenity. It’s kind of like how martial arts are supposed to bring you a kind of enlightenment. I do suggest that if you go this route to pick one held together with pins rather than screws. I’ve had many a butterfly explode on me after playing with it too long. People like screws because you can adjust it to your preferred tightness tolerances but if you do go that way, use lock-tite to keep the screws in place.
A full tang knife can hang from your belt or you can carry a lock blade in your pocket. It’s all personal preference. Lock knives have a wide variety of options. Cold Steel have a very reliable lock back that they advertise with military personnel swinging from knife to knife like monkey bars. Very common is the liner locker style which can be a trick at times but I find more reliable. And then there’s the lever lock or button lock which has a switch on the side of the handle to release it. It’s all about finding your price range and knowing what you like. If you can only afford $65 then don’t play with a $300 knife. After that, everything in your range will feel like garbage. More popular brands will usually offer better quality. That’s what got their name to where it is. A few noteworthy brands are: Gerber (Don’t buy it just because Bear Grylls posted his face all over it), Benchmade, Buck, Kershaw, Shrade, Boker, Spyderco, SOG, Cold Steel, K-Bar and CRKT. Go with what looks good to you. Find what fits your hand and something that you can see owning for a long time. Who said you had to have just one? I own over 70. Granted, for some that may be excessive, but each has a function, a specific purpose, and better yet –a story.

After a long excessive trial and error period of many years, I have decided that the CRKT M21 -14SFG “Big Dog” is the pocket knife that works best for me. CRKT is a fairly new company but has already made itself an outstanding reputation with 15 patents under its belt. I was looking for a heavy duty blade that could take a beating to perform any mechanic work I may use it for and double as a personal defense. The reasons this one won out over so many others was primarily the hilt. The number one injury in a knife fight is actually your fingers slipping up onto the blade and cutting you all up. Having the hilt prevents this but it also allows me to quickdraw the knife from my pocket. When I pull it out, it catches in the corner and pulls the blade open. The only other knife I’ve seen with this option is the Emerson series by Kershaw. I had to change the position of the pocket clip to permit this but the nice thing is that it has 4 possible clip locations for left or right handed handlers. Use lock-tite on the screws when switching it. Another plus is that it is not an assisted knife, but by applying a lot of pressure with my forefinger to the hilt on the back of the closed knife and then releasing the blade with the other fingers, I am able to make it spring open as if it were. It is perfectly balanced which also gives it the potential to make a good throwing knife if it came to that, and I throw it often to get the feel down. It is a steel frame and has a 8Cr14MoV blade with nitrade coating. In English that means that it holds up better than an aluminium construction and is resistant to corrosion. From tip to bottom it is about 9.25 inches. It’s a standard crocodile Dundee. It was designed based on the requests of military procurement specialists. This is just the one that works best for me and I wanted to explain why. I hope this has all helped save some money and time in figuring out what you’re looking for. All I can say is find what satisfies your taste and needs. It’s ok to have more than one.

Posted in BladeOps, Blog Contest, Contest | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What are the benefits of ELMAX Steel?

ELMAX Steel in Knives

LionSteel TS-1 Knife

LionSteel TS-1 Knife

Choosing the right steel for a knife is not an easy thing to do. There are just so many variables to consider, such as strength, toughness, corrosion and wear-resistance, and the ability to take an edge- to be sharpened. Stainless steel is a popular steel due to its ease of maintenance as well as its stronger resistance to rust, giving stainless steel knives the ability to be used in less-than-ideal conditions without having to worry about them losing their edge. CPM S30V and 440c stainless steels are popular for these very reasons, offering quality stainless steel knife blades for superior knives.

Recently, word has been spreading about another stainless steel, a so-called “super steel,” by the name of ELMAX steel. Claims floating around declare it to be “the best all-around knife steel-” better than any other steel and ideal for use in the best knife blades. Indeed, tests done have shown ELMAX to be a truly superior knife steel.

What is ELMAX steel and why is it ideal for use in knives?

Produced by Bohler-Uddenholm, ELMAX steel is a “high chromium-vanadium-molybdenum-alloyed steel,” made of 1.7 percent carbon, 18 percent chromium, .3 percent manganese, 1 percent molybdenum, .8 percent silicon, and 3 percent vanadium. This composition allows for the metal to have a high wear resistance, high compressive strength, superior corrosion resistance, and a very good dimensional stability, or the ability to retain its size and form even after taking abuse.

Although high wear and corrosion resistance are typically hard to find together in a knife blade, this steel’s powder-metallurgy based production allows for its imperviousness to wear (sideways shifting of the metal from its original position), and corrosion (gradual destruction of metals). ELMAX is produced through a hardening and corrosion resistant mold using this powder-metallurgy process, a process that Bohler-Uddenholm uses for many of their premium stainless steels. Powder metallurgy is the method of blending fine powdered materials, pressing them into the desired shape, and then heating it to sinter, or bond, the material.

This gives the knife the desired traits of superior edge retention and an ease of sharpening, which is often the reason that people are attracted to such stainless steel knives. The steel’s “Superclean” production process combined with small sized powder and carbides guarantee trouble-free grinding and polishing. When hardened to 57-59 HRC, though the steel can actually be ground up to 62 HRC, the knife has a good edge holding ability as well as a less-commonly found impact resistance- which is much higher than other stainless steels- and grinds as easily as the 154 CM steel, which is renowned for its easy grinding ability. Therefore, ELMAX steel can take more abuse than other metals, and come out unscathed.

What many love about this steel is how although it is a stainless steel, and has the better qualities of stainless steel, it also has qualities of a carbon steel alloy. Carbon steel, unlike stainless steel, is easier to sharpen and achieve a good edge.

ELMAX is a generally new steel, and was not stocked in the United States until late in 2009. Since then, it has become very popular, and is now available in single sheets as well as cut bars from distributors. Now it can be found in myriads of knives that are produced by various companies.

How did it score?

On a CATRA (Cutlery Allied Trades Research Association) Edge Retention Test, when tested for Rockwell C Hardness, Uddenholm’s ELMAX scored higher than the other tested stainless steels, including Aisi M4, Aisi 440C, Bohler M390 Superclean, and Uddenholm Vanadis 4, at an impressive 62 HRC. In its TCC (total cards cut) test, which measures how many silica impregnated cards that a knife with each steel type can cut through at a time, ELMAX scored a 930.7, higher than most other steels, and second only to Bohler’s M390 Superclean.

In an impact toughness test, the toughness of ELMAX steel at 61 HRC is better than any competitor’s stainless blade steel even at 57 HRC, despite a lower HRC typically providing more toughness.

ELMAX steel is used in many Microtech knives, and is a popular metal choice for many Kershaw knives. This quality of this metal has led it to win several awards. It is used in the Zero Tolerance 0561, which was awarded Blade Magazine’s “Collaboration of the Year” award in 2011. It is also used in the Kershaw Speed-form model, which won Blade Magazine’s “American Made Knife of the Year” award in 2009.

ELMAX knives can be used for multitudes of purposes, and can be found in knives in a wide range of categories. This steel is ideal for survival/Bushcraft knives, with qualities that are crucial for outdoor and survival activities. When you are outdoors, camping or hiking, you need a knife that can last and perform to the highest standards of durability, toughness, high wear, and corrosion resistance. Knives used for such outdoor purposes can often be found in less-than-ideal situations such as heavy rain, situations in which it would be risky to use most knives for fear of wear or corrosion. With ELMAX, however, avid outdoorsmen can enjoy the stress-free convenience of a high-abuse taking, quality blade. In addition to survival, these metals are ideal for use in blades meant for hunting, fishing, and even kitchen work, where sharpness and robustness are critical features.

How does it compare to other knife steels?

Although ELMAX steel offers such quality features, it can be said that there are other knife steels that can out-perform it.

S30V steel is a popular stainless steel, which, like ELMAX, is a powder-made steel. It is tougher than other popular metals such as 440C and D2, as well as more wear resistant. Yet when compared to ELMAX, it does not perform as well. When ground to 62 HRC, an ELMAX blade is far more dependable than one made of S30V. ELMAX is made with considerably more chromium, which adds to its corrosion resistance, yet again pushing it ahead of S30V. Its carbon content also gives it the edge in terms of sharpening. Therefore, S30V steel knives are less expensive than those made of ELMAX, as well as more commonly used in knives.

S35VN steel is a stainless steel designed to have an improved toughness over S30V, as well as being easy to polish, and does not wear as easily. Similarly to the comparison with S30V steel, ELMAX displays superior dependability at a high HRC than S35VN, and better corrosion resistance while retaining its toughness. Despite this, S35VN steel knives are not noticeably less cheap than those made of ELMAX.

Bohler’s M390 Superclean steel, unlike the previously mentioned steels, is extremely comparable to ELMAX, and many say out-performs it. Both steels are extremely corrosive resistant, and are very finely grained, clean, and pure metals. Both steels can take an amazingly sharp edge, and last at a high HRC. Tests show that M390 steel is slightly superior to ELMAX in edge retention/wear resistance, having scored a 958.6 on the CATRA TCC test- as opposed to ELMAX’s 930.7. In terms of Rockwell C Hardness, however, ELMAX, at 62, scored higher than M390’s 61. For those making knives, M390 has been noted to be considerably harder to temper.

As opposed to most other steels, ELMAX is simply more convenient, as well as more all-around than other knife steels. Throughout numbers of tests, there were simply no flaws to be found. Other knives are prone to certain flaws and weaknesses, and where they might be strong in one aspect, they lack in another. Many knives are tough but hard to sharpen. Many are sharp, but prone to corrosion and rust. Others do not rust easily but make softer blades. With ELMAX, you get receive little or no such setbacks, as well as all around quality features.

Notable ELMAX Pocket Knives

Zero Tolerance 0770CF

The award-winning Zero Tolerance 0777 Knife was a limitedly produced ELMAX steel knife, yet was so popular among knife-lovers that they created a newer version- a smaller, streamlined version that offers the same style and performance as its predecessor. The entire knife is 7.5 inches with a 3.25 inch blade, and weighs a mere 3 ounces. The blade comes with all of the great qualities provided by ELMAX steel, as well as a stonewashed finish on the blade that hides scratches and makes maintenance easier. A carbon-fiber handle fits securely and comfortably in your hand, and opens conveniently with the SpeedSafe assisted opening and built in flipper. For an ELMAX knife, 130 dollars is a great price, and with a reversible, deep-carry clip, this knife can go anywhere with you. This quality ELMAX knife is one that you will have with you for a very long time.

Zero Tolerance 0561

The knife that won Blade Magazine’s “Collaboration of the Year” Award in 2011 is another remarkable knife. The folding knife is an overall 8.8 inches, with a blade length of 3.75 inches, with the excellent features that can be found in ELMAX blades. This knife, like the 077CF, has a stonewashed finish with a frame-lock, lanyard hole, flipper, and deep-carry pocket clip, features commonly found in Kershaw knives that make this knife convenient as well as durable and razor-sharp. A 3-D machined titanium handle will feel natural in your hand, and although the knife is on the heavier side at 5.8 ounces, it is ideal for anyone with an interest in knives. Although 195 dollars puts it on the expensive side of the spectrum, the quality which you are paying for is one that is worth the money.

Zero Tolerance 0801

The ZT 0801 is fully metal, with a razor-sharp ELMAX blade and a titanium handle that will feel cool and powerful in your hand. The blade from hilt to tip is 8.2 inches, with a 3.5 inch blade length. The knife blade has a stonewashed blade finish, and is manually opened with an easy and convenient flipper. The titanium handle features a secure frame lock, with a pocket-clip designed for deep carry, and is designed for both righties and lefties. At 160 dollars, this knife is not cheap, but at a decent price for a knife of such great features.


If you are looking to buy a quality knife, you will want one with ELMAX steel.  Zero Tolerance, LionSteel, and Microtech Knives all have produced some great knives using ELMAX.  ELMAX has been called the “best all-around knife steel,” because it is simply that- a premium and tough steel that will make a razor sharp blade to outlast and outperform its competitors and deliver the best possible knife experience. If convenience and quality, versatile features are what you are looking to get out of a knife, then ELMAX is the steel to look for.

Posted in Knife Steels | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Microtech QD Scarab OTF Knife, by P.L.

Microtech QD Scarab

Microtech QD Scarab

I chose to review the Microtech QD Scarab OTF Knife because it is one of my favorite knives that I own. It is a very high-end knife that is worth ever dollar. It is a definite must have for the serious collector. But even better, it is good for an every day carry. It is well built and extremely reliable. This OTF is great, the speed and power behind this blade is second to none. This drop point blade is my first choice for any situation whether be law enforcement, military, or zombie apocalypse.

Posted in BladeOps, Blog Contest, Contest, microtech knife, microtech knives | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Cold Steel Counter Point I Knife Review — Video Review

Find the Counter Point I here.

Posted in cold steel, cold steel knife, cold steel knives, Video Knife Review, youtube | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

DPx HEST or the ESEE Izula — Video

Posted in ESEE Knives, Video Knife Review, youtube | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Spyderco Tenacious VS ESEE Avispa Video

Posted in ESEE Knives, spyderco, spyderco knife, Video Knife Review, youtube | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Benchmade Adamas Folder Knife Review — Video Review

The Benchmade Adamas line of folders continues to stand out from the crowd.  Get one of these heavy duty folders that will last a lifetime here on our website.

Posted in benchmade, benchmade knife, Benchmade Knives, Video Knife Review, youtube | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gerber Prodigy, by J.S.

Gerber Prodigy

Gerber Prodigy

The Gerber prodigy is full tang and crafted of 420 high carbon steel. This particular one I have is the military approved digi-camo tanto point. The steel in this blade is very reliable. I have been able to use this knife without question or worry of it failing. The blade an inch long serration which has its uses. The knife is fantastic at batoning due to its nice thick spine. This knife also is very strong at chopping. The strong tanto style tip also allows for stabbing.

The handle is very grippy and very comfortable. I have used this knife with and without gloves and found it to handle well with both. This knife also has a lanyard hole with is a definite plus when chopping. The knife also has a glass breaker in the butt of the handle which works well for either a defensive situation or for its intended purpose of breaking glass… surprise.

My favorite part about this knife is the sheath. It has three ways to lock the knife in the sheath it has two reinforced plastic clips that lock the knife, a Velcro snap that secures the handle, and an elastic hood that covers the butt of the knife. These secures can be used all together or individually as per your desire. I love the versatility of this sheath. In addition, this sheath has a M.O.L.L.E. system or a belt loop with a drop leg strap. The sheath is strong and will hold up very well.

Overall I love this knife. Gerber knocked this one out of the park. The final bonus to this knife is its selling point. You can pick this knife up for around 50 bucks. All in all I have not found anything that I dislike about this knife. I give this knife 10 out of 10.

Posted in BladeOps, Blog Contest, Contest | Tagged , , | Leave a comment