Overview of Knife Blade Steels

Choosing the best knife for yourself and your task at hand can feel overwhelming when looking at all of the options that there are. You have to decide between steel types, blade shapes, and what the knife’s purpose is. To make this process easier for everyone, I have decided to do a beginner’s series. To start off with, I am going to define the different terms used in ranking knife steels and then go into the different popular types of steels and dig deep into their details to help you figure out which knife is your perfect option.


Basic Terms

For starters, there are a few different terms that I should define. First off, the Rockwell Hardness Scale, this is a scale that determines the hardness of a material by a series of tests. The lower the number of Rockwell Hardness, the softer the steel. The higher the number, the harder the steel. Often times, these numbers are paired with either “HRC” or “RC”. These terms just say that the number is on the Rockwell Hardness scale, just two different ways of saying that. With steel, the hardness is often described as the strength of the steel.

Another important aspect is toughness. Often times, hardness and toughness are used as synonyms, however there is a difference.  The toughness of a knife is referring to how much force the blade can endure before chipping, cracking, or breaking during heavy use. The thing about toughness and hardness is that the harder a knife is, the less tough it will be and vice versa.

The third main factor in steel is corrosion resistance. Corrosion resistance is how well the knife holds up to rust and other discolorations of the steel.

While hardness, toughness, and corrosion resistance are the three main factors in steel, there is another factor in choosing which steel to purchase. The edge retention of a knife’s steel. This is used when describing how long the blade will stay sharp after a period of usage.


Different Types of Steel

Now that we all understand the basic terms used to describe the steels, let’s focus on the individual types of steel that can make up a knife blade.


One of the more popular types of steel for knives is S30V steel. S30V steel is a stainless steel that is considered premium knife steel. The Rockwell Hardness level is 59.5-61. The steel has 1.45% Carbon, which is a relatively high amount of carbon in a steel. This steel was actually designed to be used in knives, specifically high-end pocket knives and kitchen knives. This type of steel has fantastic wear resistance, and based on how tough it is, it is surprisingly hard. Because of how tough and hard it is, it is considered one of the best choices for knife making. Knives made with S30V steel have great edge retention, however, this knife is harder to re-sharpen. Because of the durability and edge retention, knives with S30V steel are a great option for everyday carry knives, they last long and can take a beating to tackle the harder tasks.


Another popular steel used in knives is AUS 8 steel. This steel is also referred to as 8A steel.  The Rockwell Hardness level is 57-58. One of the biggest pros about AUS 8 steel is how well it can hold an edge. It is also extremely easy to sharpen. This type of steel has .75% carbon, so this means that it is a relatively hard knife. This is a cheaper knife and for the price, it has great corrosion resistance capacities. Overall, this type of steel has a good balance of toughness, strength, edge holding, and resistance to corrosion, especially for the price. Because of its lower price, it won’t hold up forever, but is great if you are looking for a cheaper option.


1095 steel is a great option for a cheaper cost. The Rockwell Hardness level is 56-58. This steel is very easy to sharpen and to get extremely sharp; however, it only has average edge retention. It has about 1% carbon, so it is very tough, meaning it’s extremely resistant to chipping. Because it’s so tough, it makes it an ideal candidate for survival knives and heavier duty fixed blades. Because 1095 steel is tougher than most knives, it can take more of a beating and isn’t commonly chosen for every day carry knives.

154 CM

This steel was originally designed for jet engine fan blades, but has made an appearance in the knife business because it is tough, has a good edge holding capacity, and has good corrosion resistance. This is a stainless steel with 1.05% carbon content. Surprisingly, this steel has very good toughness for how hard it is. The Rockwell Hardness level is between 58-62. It is a good option if you don’t want to pay the cost of S30V steel. 154 CM steel is fairly easy to sharpen as long as you have the right equipment. Knives made with this steel are great for general tasks, but they excel at heavy duty cutting applications.

ATS 34

ATS 34 steel has a carbon content of 1.05%. The Rockwell Hardness level is 60-61. This steel is a Japanese steel and people consider 154CM the American equivalent of it. This steel is a high quality steel that is being used in many custom knives. The edge holding properties in this steel is good, but it is moderately hard to sharpen. The steel has a high corrosion resistance, and these knives are mainly for general use.


VG-10 steel was originally used for kitchen cutlery, because it is one of the highest levels of stainless steels. This is also because this steel holds a great edge and has a fantastic anti-rust property. The carbon content in this steel is around 1%. This steel is one of the hardest steels and because of this, it can get brittle and chip. VG-10 steel contains vanadium which is what gives it the extra toughness. Because of the high quality of its stainless properties and its strength, VG-10 is sometimes known as a super steel. This steel is very similar to ATS-34 and 154CM steel. The Rockwell Hardness is 60. VG-10 steel originated in Japan and was first introduced in America by Spyderco. While the cost might seem steep when first looking at it, you get what you pay for and it is well worth the extra money.

420 HC

The “HC” in this steel stands for High Carbon, because this steel has an increased carbon content compared to regular 420 stainless steel. 420 HC steel has a carbon content around .4-.5%. This knife has a good toughness, but very good corrosion resistance; in fact, in spite of the low cost, this steel has some of the most corrosion resistance properties out of all the steels. Because this steel is so soft, it is very easy to sharpen. The Rockwell Hardness level is a 58. Knives with this steel are a great budget option and are mainly for general use.


This steel has a carbon content of around 1.15%, meaning that it has high strength and a great edge holding capacity. The Rockwell Hardness level of this steel is between a 61-62. This steel has average corrosion resistance properties. BG-42 steel is easy to sharpen. This steel is becoming more popular because custom knife makers have begun to use this steel more often. This steel has been used in the aerospace industry, so it is a high performance steel, and is great for knives that have to take a severe beating.

440 A

This steel has a carbon content of around .67%. This is a stainless steel and it is low cost. This steel is similar to 420 HC, but since it has a higher carbon content, it has better levels of edge retention and wear resistance. The Rockwell Hardness level of this steel is between a 55-57. This knife is very easy to sharpen and is used mostly for general use.  Out of all the 440 steels, it is the most rust resistant. Knives with this type of steel have a good balance of corrosion resistance, edge retention, and easy re-sharpening, making them a great option for every day carry.

440 C

440 C steel has a carbon content that ranges between .95-1.2%. It is a hard steel, with average toughness and wear resistance. 440 C steel very easy to sharpen and can get a very sharp edge. The Rockwell Hardness level on this steel is 58-60. One of the pros of having your blade made of 440 C is that it has extremely high resistance to stains. Out of all the 440 steels, it has the highest levels of carbon. This steel is considered to be a high end stainless steel. This type of steel was once considered the high end of knife steels, but recently it has been dropped down the list because of so many new types of steels that can be manufactured. Knives with 440C steel blades can be mass produced, so you can get them at a lower price than many other types of steels. These knives are mostly for general use.


D2 steel is often referred to as “semi stainless steel”, because while it does have a high chromium content, it doesn’t have enough chromium to be categorized as fully stainless steel. However, it does still have a very good amount of resistance to corrosion. This steel also has an excellent edge retention, but it is harder to sharpen than most. However, because it is harder than other stainless steels, it does hold its edge better than the other stainless steels. The Rockwell Hardness level is between a 59-60.  Knives with this type of steel are good for general use.


While Damascus steel is a popular steel, it is very different than any of the other steels that we’ve been discussing. This steel is made out of two or more layers of different types of steel and “folding” them together. Folding, is just a specific type of welding, where the different layers of steel are fused together. After these layers are fused together, the steel is etched with acid. Because the acid reacts differently to the two different types of steel, it reveals a striped pattern out. Knives with Damascus steel has a high toughness, but the process is long and the cost of production is high. This means that Damascus blades are usually just used for the aesthetic in decorative blades. Damascus is actually considered a precious metal. These knives are usually collector’s knives. The Rockwell Hardness level of Damascus steel is a little bit trickier because there are different types of steels in it, but they usually range from a 53 to 62.


M2 steel is used in cutting tools; this metal is used to cut metal. This steel has a carbon content of about .85%. This holds an edge really well, but on larger knives, it can make them brittle. But, M2 steel is hard to sharpen. The Rockwell Hardness level of this steel is a 62. This has fantastic strength, good toughness, and is extremely high in its wear resistance properties. This steel has poor corrosion resistance properties and will often be covered in a corrosion resistant coating.



When first looking at buying a new knife, the options can seem overwhelming, especially with all the different types of steels. To choose the one that is right for you, you must consider what you are using the knife for. You have to choose the right balance between strength, toughness, wear resistant, stain resistant, how well the knife retains its edge, and the price. Sometimes you have to give in an area to have a higher content in a different area. You can usually find a budget steel without giving up too much on quality.

Now that we have tackled the popular steels and what they are best used for, stay tuned for articles breaking down the different blade shapes and handle materials.



The Life and Times of Blade Steel

When choosing a knife, be it for everyday multi-purpose use or for a specific task, it helps to have an understanding of the properties of various blade steels because in many ways it’s the steel you are actually buying when selecting a knife. However, manufacturer finishing and techniques such as heat treatment will play a large role in the overall performance of any given steel. Also, to be completely fair, most steels will perform for most people in most situations. When choosing a knife based on steel, the number one consideration will be its intended purpose. But for the more technical among us, or where a specific task is best suited to a specific steel, or for the person like me who simply wants to know what they’re using and why, here is a guide to understanding steels commonly seen in the knife market.

Properties of Steel

  • Hardness: Hardness is “the ability to resist deformation”, according to Steven Roman’s book “A Primer on Folding Knives”. To “deform” is to bend.
  • Toughness: Refers to “the ability of the steel to resist chipping, cracking or fracturing” or steel’s ability to “bend without breaking”, according to Roman.
  • Edge Retention: Though somewhat abstract and therefore resistant to quantitative measurement, this refers to a steel blade’s ability to remain sharp over time despite usage.
  • Corrosion Resistance: Denotes a steel’s ability to withstand the effects of salt, humidity and moisture without the occurrence of corrosion (oxidization).
  • Wear Resistance: According to Roman, wear resistance refers to steel’s ability to “withstand abrasion due to the friction the blade encounters when it is used to cut abrasive material such as cardboard, wood or rope”.

How Steel is Made

Steel is iron ore that has had most if its impurities removed in a blast furnace and then had roughly ~1% carbon added for strength. Often, steel manufacturers will tinker with the formula of the steel, adding and subtracting different to achieve the ideal characteristics based on the steel’s intended use or purpose.

When a metallurgist is making a steel, it is often a process of balancing the above traits by adjusting the “ingredients” in the steel’s recipe to maximize its performance in one or more areas. This can often to a tricky proposition however, because increasing a steel’s performance in one category often comes at the expense of another. For example, as carbon is added to increase hardness and toughness, the steel also becomes more brittle as a result. Often it is a question of striking the correct balance or tradeoff when adjusting the formula to achieve the desired results.

As important as steel composition is, an often overlooked part of steel quality has to do with the heat treatment the steel is given. This process changes the grain structure of steel, sometimes forming new grains and modifying existing ones. The quality of this treatment has a large effect on the knife steel’s overall worth and performance. In basic terms, heat treatment involves the repeated heating and cooling of steel over varying periods of time, and the minor variances in time and temperature can have a large impact of the final outcome of the steel by affecting the grain structure. It is beneficial to know and understand some commonly seen steels in the knife market, but always bear in mind that the quality of the manufacturing process will dictate a steel’s performance perhaps as much as its composition.


Commonly Used Steels

1095 Steel– 1095 is a basic form of carbon steel commonly seen in various knife blades. Prized for its edge retention and sharpening capabilities, it can also be brittle when thin and be prone to rust.

440C Steel– A blade steel often seen in knives that is prized for its corrosion resistance

154CM Steel– A widely used production steel for knife blades, the performance of 154CM is largely favorable but will depend a great deal on the heat treatment from the manufacturer.

AUS 8 Steel– A Japanese stainless steel that competes with other mid-grade steels, the inclusion of vanadium improves the steel’s ability to hold a good edge and increase toughness and wear resistance

CPM S30V Steel- Considered a premium knife steel all-around and perhaps the ultimate steel in its class, S30V, though expensive, is prized for its combination of qualities including sharpenability, machinability, sharpness, toughness and a refined grain.

D2 Steel- This steel is highly sensitive to heat treatment and is highly resistant to abrasion/wear but is not as tough as other alloy steels

Elmax Steel- Produced using a powder-metallurgy process, Elmax steel its ideal combination of strengths including superior corrosion resistance, high wear resistance, and good dimensional and compressive strength.  Elmax steel’s unique composition lends it many of the qualities that are often elusive in a single steel.

H1- A precipitation hardened steel known for its ability to hold an edge as well as other premium steels but without any susceptibility to pitting, rust and/or corrosion. Due to this attribute, H1 steel is popular in knives to be used around (salt) water or any wet conditions where corrosion is a consideration.

VG-10 Steel- Another high-end stainless steel which contains vanadium for increased toughness, VG-10 is renowned for its ability to retain an edge and resist corrosion.

Review of AUS 8 Stainless Steel

AUS 8 Steel

SOG Flashback Assist with AUS8
SOG Flashback Assist with AUS 8

The single most important component of a good knife is the steel used to make it. A tough, versatile, damage-resistant steel can make or break a knife’s performance, as well as give them their high-quality standards. Stainless steel is a popular alloy type because of its unparalleled resistance to rust, as well as its convenient and stress-free ease of maintenance. The high chromium, Japanese-made AUS 8 stainless steel is an extremely hard, rust-resistant metal capable of acquiring a razor-sharp edge to satisfy any knife-maker or lover. The exceptional balance of qualities offered by the steel sets AUS 8 aside from many other high-grade steels in its class, giving it countless reasons why you should look for it in a knife.

What is AUS 8 steel?

The Japanese-made AUS 8 steel is often considered an upper-range steel, comparable if not better than steels such as 440C, CM-154, and D2 steels. Given a proper heat treatment and hardened to the right level, which is usually around 58 to 59 HRC, it will perform satisfyingly and meet the standards of a true quality stainless steel. A well-rounded composition allows for this steel grade to reach high levels of hardness, toughness, wear (the sideways shifting of the metal from its original position) and corrosion (the gradual destruction of metals) resistance, as well as edge retention (the ability to retain its sharp edge).


Material %
Carbon .75
  1. 5
Manganese .5
Molybdenum .3
Nickel .49
Silicon 1
Vanadium .26

This is a carefully balanced composition to ensure not just a great hardness, toughness, and harden-ability, but also the critically important qualities of wear, abrasion, and corrosion resistance that are vital in any good knife steel. Each of the above listed components in AUS 8 steel serve different and equally important purposes which, together, make it a quality steel superior to so many of the other steels in its class.

Carbon content in a steel will give it the hard-to-achieve quality of an increased edge retention, which cannot be attained through the use of other popular elements in stainless steels. Edge retention in a blade is so critical because it helps give the steel the attribute of keeping its edge for long periods of time, ensuring any blade made with it to be a dependable, steadfast knife that will not let you down.

In order to be classified as a stainless steel, a metal must have a chromium content of at least 10.5 percent- AUS 8 steel has a 14.5 percent chromium content. The benefits of the use of chromium include a significantly increased hardness and toughness, as well as a strong tensile strength (the ability to withstand maximum stress), wear, abrasion, rust and corrosion resistance. Chromium is one of the most beneficial components of a stainless steel due to these reasons, which add to its dependability as well as its ability to attain a razor sharp edge and last for very long periods of time.

In addition to adding to a steel’s tensile strength and corrosion resistance, manganese also contributes to AUS 8’s commendable grind-ability and harden-ability. Steels that are easy for welders to fashion make for better blades, and make them easier to sharpen when they get dull.

When added to steel and cast irons, molybdenum contributes to the steel’s weld-ability and corrosion and wear resistance. By increasing the steel’s lattice strain, the energy required to ruin the blade is augmented, making the steel significantly stronger and less susceptible to such damages. This ingredient is not commonly found in stainless steels, but is becoming more commonly used due to its low density and more cost-effective price, and has begun to replace the now less common ingredient of tungsten.

Another unique component of AUS 8 is nickel. When nickel is added to a stainless steel, the austenite structure of the iron is steadied. Although manganese does similar things to nickel, and nickel is generally more expensive, sufficient nickel content will weaken a steel’s corrosion resistance no matter how much manganese it has. Nickel also contributes to AUS 8’s laudable weld-ability, another reason why knife makers like it so much and prefer it over other high-grade steels.

Silicon is commonly found in stainless steels, offering an increased tensile strength to give those steels a greater maximum stress resistance. Consequently, knives using the silicon-rich AUS 8 will be rugged and dependable- able to go anywhere with you.

Vanadium, a new and innovative additive to quality stainless steels, not only dramatically increases AUS 8’s tensile strength, but enhances what few other elements can offer by adding to the steel’s impact strength, a key component in ensuring a knife’s ruggedness and adding a pure dependability that will give you an unquestionable confidence in the steel’s ability to take abuse and come out unscathed. Such imperviousness to damages makes AUS 8 steel such a great candidate for use in even the most rugged survival/bushcraft knives. Vanadium is also reported to make steels easier to sharpen.

Despite the quality of AUS 8 steel, it should not be thought to be a premium grade steel, such as S35VN, ELMAX, and M390 steels. AUS 8 is a high-grade metal that is in the ranks of steels such as 440C and 8Cr13MoV grade steels. Therefore, knives with AUS 8 steel will typically be more in the 30 to 150 dollar range depending on other factors included with the knife such as mechanisms and handle materials as well as overall workmanship, whereas knives with premium grade steels will fall more typically in the 150 to 500 range. These types of knives are ideal for outdoorsmen, hunters, and other knife-users who are looking for a quality blade in an affordable price range that will be dependable and serve its purposes well.
Why is AUS 8 steel so popular, who uses it, and for what purposes is it used?

Because of its superior composition, which allows for it to be so versatile and strong, AUS 8 has become popular among knife makers and knife companies, who use it to make many different types of blades.

Among the many knife companies which use AUS 8 steel in their knives, SOG uses the steel for many of their specialty knives, creating easy-to-handle knives which will be able to withstand significant abuse and perform satisfyingly. Ontario is another company that utilizes AUS 8 steel in its knives, having realized the metal’s potential for a worthy service to a knife. Cold Steel, a company that produces a wide variety of blades including, knives, machetes, and swords, is known to have often utilized AUS 8 steel in their tools and weapons in order to obtain the quality features that AUS 8 has been known to offer.

These knife makers and many more prefer this steel to others in its class for the reason that it can be “stamped,” as opposed to “forged.” Stamped knives are made from large sheets of stainless steel, able to be mass produced by a machine that stamps out the metal in the shape of a knife. Afterwards, the handle is added and the knife is sharpened and polished. This process makes knife-producing significantly more convenient and inexpensive than “forged” knives, which are created in a process where the raw metal is melted and shaped to the right size, then sharpened and polished- a longer and more expensive process.

AUS 8 steel is also very popular for use in machetes, with its tough and dependable qualities matching to what is looked for in a good machete. Ontario and United Cutlery are two companies which utilize AUS 8 steel in the blades of their machetes.

How does it score?

There are a myriad of tests done to determine the success of various steels; these tests measure everything from toughness to corrosion resistance to tensile strength. AUS 8’s results on such tests are probably a reason why the steel is so popular. When it comes to knives using the high-grade alloy, it did not take long for knife critics to realize the quality of AUS 8 steel, leading to many awards won by knives made of the high-grade metal.

Awards won by AUS 8 knives

  • Outdoor Life’s 2010 Editor’s Choice for Survival Knives
SOG Seal Pup Elite
SOG Seal Pup Elite

o This award was won by SOG’s tactical “Seal Pup Elite” model, a serious tactical knife which claims to be supplied to many of the world’s elite military forces. Outdoor Life gave it an A+ in performance and design as well as an A in price and value. The thick, well balanced blade had an ergonomic, easy-to-grip handle that makes for a simple knife with all of the high-tech aspects found in modern knives, they said. The success of the knife “lies in its usefulness,” they claimed, and with AUS 8 steel used to make its blade, the knife is sure to perform to the rigorous standards set by Outdoor Life’s award.

  • NTOA Tested and Approved, 2007

o This award was won as well by SOG’s “Seal Pup Elite,” and was given a 3.85 out of 5 overall score by the National Tactical Officers Association in a review that was published in the Tactical Edge journal. The tester said that “the blade is very sharp,” and was impressed at how it “retained its sharpness after abuse,” and even after jabbing the knife repeatedly into a dead tree, the point held up “without any damage or dulling.” Reportedly, the spine rasp cut through wood like a saw.

SOG Trident Assist
SOG Trident Assist

o This award was also won by SOG’s “Trident” model, which scored a 4.51 out of 5 as an overall score in a review that was also published in the Tactical Edge. The tester was incredibly positive in his review, making statements such as “this knife is flat-out awesome,” and said that he would recommend the knife to anyone as it is “one of the best I have seen.” With the Trident, he said, cutting was a breeze- with AUS 8 steel in its blade, it’s not very hard to see why!

  • Gear Patrol’s Best Gear on Earth Award 2013

o This prestigious award was given to SOG’s “Flashback” model, a tactical knife claiming to be the “fastest assisted-opening blade available,” with the excellent edge retention, rust resistance, and sharpen-ability that can be found in many AUS 8 knives.

  • Blade Show’s 2007 Collaboration of the Year Award

o The AUS 8 knife to win this award is called the “Kiku,” manufactured by none other than SOG, and is an official production collaboration between SOG and the Japanese knife company “Kiku Matsuda,” which is fitting because AUS 8 is a Japanese steel. Rugged and easy to handle, the Kiku is a true quality knife thanks to AUS 8.
How AUS 8 steel scored on tests

On an edge-testing test done by cliffstamp.com, AUS 8 steel scored very positively when tested for sharpen-ability. Spyderco’s AUS 8 Calypso Jr. model needed ten hard strikes into a butcher’s steel and five strikes on a ceramic rod to be fully sharpened, faster than the high-end VG-10 steel, and on par with another high-end steel that was tested- D2 steel.

On another edge-retention test, at a hardness of 58 HRC, AUS 8 was reported to have easily outperformed steels such as 400C, 154-CM, and VG-10 steels when they were at HRC’s of 58 and 59.
How does it compare with the other steels in its class?

In the class of mid-higher grade steels, AUS 8 is definitely up there with the best; the question is, how good is it really, and can it compare with some of the other steels accompanying it in its class.


This steel is made by the same company which manufactures AUS 8 and definitely shares many of its characteristics. A couple of differences, however, set AUS 8 aside from its counterpart. To begin, AUS 4 is much lower than 8 in its carbon content, therefore losing out on much of the edge retention offered by the critical ingredient. AUS 4 lacks the element of molybdenum, which is a key component to most of AUS 8’s features including its hardness, harden-ability, toughness, tensile strength, and resistance to wear, corrosion, and abrasion. The lack of this element significantly detriments AUS 4 and its ability to perform to the standards necessary in order to be on par with other high grade steels. Vanadium, as well, is found in AUS 8, but not in 4- vanadium being one of the few ways to truly increase the impact strength of a stainless steel. These ingredients give AUS 8 a certain ruggedness and dependability which simply cannot be found in its counterpart.

8Cr13MoV (of the MoV series)

This Chinese steel is often said to be very similar to AUS 8. It has a great value and is used by respectable knife manufacturers such as Spyderco and Kershaw, who have mastered the complicated heat treatment process to bring the steel to its full potential. When compared to AUS 8, it puts up a similar carbon content, at .8 percent vs. the AUS 8’s .75 percent. In regard to chromium and manganese, two important elements in stainless steel, both steels have similar contents, with AUS 8 pulling ahead ever-so slightly with 14.5 and .5 percent vs 8Cr13MoV’s 13 and .4 percent. The Chinese steel also contains slightly less silicon and vanadium than AUS 8, components which significantly contribute to a steel’s tensile and impact strength. Although these differences individually seem trivial, together they form a more distinct differentiation between the two steels.

Top AUS 8 folding knives

Although AUS 8 is used in many types of blades, survival/bushcraft knives are probably its main use. Below are two notable AUS 8 knives that will prove the quality of the high-grade metal alloy with their award-winning features and superior qualities.
SOG AE-04 Aegis

SOG Aegis 04
SOG Aegis 04

The name “Aegis” is a Greek word meaning shield, and with the features offered by the knife, it certainly lives up to its name. The blade itself is half-serrated at 3.5 inches of AUS 8 steel with a black “TiNi” finish to offer improved durability. When opened, the knife is 8.25 inches. Thanks to SOG’s unique cryogenic heat treatment, combined with AUS 8 steel, the knife has an incredible toughness and wear resistance, and is capable of taking a razor sharp edge. The blade’s handle is made of glass-reinforced nylon with a black finish, and is made to fit with ergonomic precision in your hand.

SOG’s “Assisted Technology” allows for fast and easy opening, offering a convenience that is only added to by a blade lock, anti-slip inserts, and SOG’s trademarked bayonet clip, which allows for the knife to rest securely in your pocket when not in use. The knife is 58 dollars, sitting in the middle of the pack price-wise for AUS 8 knives, making the knife both great quality-wise and cost-effective for avid outdoorsmen looking to get a great knife for a decent price.
SOG TF-7 Trident

The award-winning “Trident,” which scored a commendable 4.51 out of 5 on NTOA’s Member Tested and Recommended test, has a great design and the quality features that one would expect to find in a blade made of AUS 8 steel. The straight, 3.75 inch blade has a “tanto” shape with a hardcase black “TiNi” finish, and has the superior strength, wear, corrosion, and abrasion resistance that is so commonly found in knives with AUS 8 steel- the very reason that SOG so proudly uses it in so many of their knife models. The knife’s cutting groove will cut through anything from seat-belts to para-cord without having to open the blade.

Similarly to the Aegis, convenience was taken into account during the design phase of this knife, giving it features such as a reliable locking system, finger grips, a lanyard hole, a safety latch, and the knife’s unparalleled “Assisted Technology” opening system, which practically opens the knife for you once you begin the motion. The remarkable safety features offered by the Trident will balance eliminating the fear of unexpected opening with the ability for split-second, quick deployment that will give you confidence to bring this knife anywhere with you, and can be yours for just 60 dollars.

So for knife lovers and avid outdoorsmen, campers, and pretty much everyone else from military figures to fishermen- if you are looking for a rugged, quality knife at an affordable price, AUS 8 is the way to go. With all of the superior and convenient features that are offered by the metal, you can confidently buy your next AUS 8 knife with the absolute confidence that it will meet your every expectation and perform to the standards which can be expected of a true, high-quality stainless steel.

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.

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.

Advantages of CPM-S30V Stainless Steel

CPM-S30V has become one of the most used premium steels on the market among knife manufacturers.  Originally developed by both Chris Reeve (a world renowned knife maker) and Dick Barber of Crucible Industries, S30V is a martensitic powder-made stainless steel.

Martensitic is a specific type of stainless steel alloy. There are three main classifications of stainless steels if you want to classify them by their crystalline structure.  They are, austenitic, ferritic and martensitic.  Martensitic steels are carbon steels that are usually tempered and hardened.  This tempering gives the steel good hardness and high toughness.

S30V lands directly in the Martensitic camp.  It is also a powder made, sintered stainless steel.  Sintering is the process of making a solid by using heat and/or pressure without actually taking the substance to the liquid state.  Sintering is often used with materials that have an extremely high melt point, such as molybdenum.  CPM-S30V contains a 1.45% Carbon, 14.00% Chromium, 4.00% Vanadium and 2.00% Molybdenum.  Since it has a small but significant presence of Molybdenum, this high end stainless steel is produced by mixing tiny “ball bearing” bits of each of the appropriate ingredients.  After being thoroughly mixed, the entire batch is sintered or fused with heat and/or pressure.  This allows the atoms in the various materials to fuse together into one solid piece of stainless steel.

The vanadium carbides in S30V give the steel an extremely refined grain.  The uniform grain structure created during the process of making CPM-S30V gives the blade uniform wear and strength across the entire blade.  This means there are no weak points like can occur in many other stainless steels.

If you are looking for a high end stainless steel knife that will keep an edge, that will be durable, and will resist corrosion–definitely consider one made with a CPM-S30V blade.

According to Wikipedia, “CPM-S30V is considered a premium grade knife steel. It is so expensive that it strongly affects the price of the knife, and is largely used in higher-end production and custom knives.”  

Because of its high durability, high corrosion resistance and edge retention, Benchmade Knives entire new line of premium hunting knives, appropriately called the HUNT series, are all made with CPM-S30V.  Many other knife makers use it extensively as well including Spyderco Knives, Piranha Knives, Zero Tolerance and Microtech Knives just to name a few.

What is D2 Tool Steel and How Does It Compare?

Benchmade 2750BKSN Adamas Auto AXIS
Benchmade 2750BKSN Adamas Auto AXIS


Wikipedia describes tool steel as a “variety of carbon and alloy steels that are particularly well-suited to be made into tools”.    The Benchmade website describes D2 as “An air-hardened tool steel, which offers good corrosion resistance and excellent mileage in wear resistance. A good choice for hard use applications.”  The Spyderco website describes D2 as a mix of the following,  Carbon (1.55), Chromium (11.50), Molybdenum (.90), Manganese (.35), Silicon (.45), and Vanadium (.80).    Wiki Answers describes D2 as a steel that is “difficult…to machine and requires a special wheel for surface grinding….It also hardly moves during the treatment process….”  It also mentions that since D2 has a high chromium content, that it does have some stainless steel properties although it cannot and is not classified as a stainless steel.


In layman’s terms, what does all of this technical info mean.    What it means is that D2 is an incredibly hard steel that is specifically designed for high impact and heavy use tools.  Since it is so hard, it works fantastic for knife blades that are going to see heavy use.  Think heavy wilderness, desert sand, high mountains, or any other inhospitable and wild place.  D2 works well in these environments because it is built for hard use and heavy applications.

For instance, the new 2750 Adamas Auto AXIS knives use D2.  Because these knives are built as heavy duty, all purpose, automatic combat knives that could potentially see heavy use in very hostile conditions, the choice of D2 steel makes sense.  It means the blade will stand up to extensive use without dulling quickly and will offer some corrosion resistance–which is critical for a heavy duty knife.  Many of the Benchmade Bone Collector knives also feature D2 tool steel.  Although the use of D2 tool steel increases the cost of the knife–it is well worth it to the knife user who relies on his knife as a tool that will perform when it counts most.

A knife with a D2 Tool Steel blade is going to do the following for you:  it will maintain a good edge, it will stand up to heavy duty as well as hard use, it will provide some corrosion resistance.


154 CM Steel: A Popular Choice for Knives

There are a lot of things that go into the design of a good knife. Blade shape, handle geometry and grip materials contribute to the overall functionality of a knife. At the heart of every knife, however, is the steel used in its construction.

154 CM steel is a popular steel used in many modern blade designs. Originally designed for heavy industrial applications, knife makers quickly realized its potential as a blade material. It first caught on in the early 1990s and has become a popular go to material for affordable and tough knives.

The Science Behind the Steel

Before diving into why it’s so popular, a moment should be taken to look at the science behind this particular steel. Steel, in its purest form, is an alloy most commonly created by combining iron and carbon. However, steel has come a long way since its discovery, and there are now many variations of steel alloy available depending upon the application.

In this case, manufacturers added chromium and molybdenum to produce a tough steel while maintaining anti-corrosive properties. This new steel also held a good edge making it an ideal material for knife blades.

A Popular Choice

Since its introduction, 154 CM steel has become more affordable making it the premium steel of choice for many knife manufacturers. Already knowing a bit about the science behind the steel, it’s easy to see why. However, here is a more detailed breakdown of the reasons why this steel is so popular.

Corrosion Resistance

Creating a corrosion resistant steel is a balancing act between toughness and rust resistance. This steel contains more carbon and less chromium than stainless steel. This means it isn’t as rust resistant as say 440 steel, but it is tougher.

Holds an Edge

Again, because of the greater carbon content of this steel, it is able to hold an edge better than many other steel alloys. Granted, it’s not better than a carbon steel blade, but you also don’t get the same level of corrosion resistance with carbon steels.

It’s Affordable

Due to improvements in manufacturing, and its wide spread popularity, it’s now an affordable steel with many of the same properties as more expensive alloys. This is why it has become a staple of the sport knife industry.