Knife Steel

How Well Does Spyderco’s CPM SP27 Steel Perform?

How Good Does Spyderco’s CPM SP27 Steel Perform

CPM SPY27 is an exclusive powder metallurgy steel developed by Crucible Industries for Spyderco. The steel was introduced around 2020 and named after Spyderco. According to KnifeSteelNerds, the number 27 represents the atomic number of Cobalt, an element within the steel. 

Being a trademarked steel means knifemakers outside of Spyderco cannot access it, including LeeKnives. If you’ve had great experiences with SPY27 knives and want to sell them yourself, it’s better to explore alternatives now. Nevertheless, we’ll summarize the properties of CPM SPY27 steel and provide an overview of its characteristics. As it’s an overall pretty strong steel.

Overview of CPM SPY27 steel

As we’ve mentioned, CPM SPY27 is a proprietary steel designed by Crucible Industries specifically for Spyderco. It offers a balanced mix of corrosion resistance, toughness, and edge retention. 

The CPM (Crucible Particle Metallurgy) process used to create SPY27 involves powdered steel formed through atomization, pressed into a dense mass, and then heated to fuse the particles without fully melting. This results in steel with a fine, uniform carbide distribution, which translates to enhanced properties for your knife’s blade.

The uniform structure of CPM SPY27 means you’ll experience a consistent performance along the entire edge of your Spyderco knife—vital for precision tasks where variability in steel can be a hindrance.

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Chemical composition

Chemical composition of CPM SPY27 steel

The CPM SPY27 steel is enriched with a variety of elements that contribute to its performance characteristics. Each element in the alloy’s matrix plays a significant role in defining the steel’s hardness, toughness, and corrosion resistance.

  • Carbon (C): 1.25%
  • Chromium (Cr): 14.00%
  • Molybdenum (Mo): 2.00%
  • Vanadium (V): 2.00%
  • Niobium (Nb): 1.00%
  • Nitrogen (N): 0.10%
  • Cobalt (Co): 1.50%
  • Manganese (Mn): 0.50%
  • Silicon (Si): 0.50%

SPY27 contains several unconventional chemical elements. Including Nitrogen, Niobium, and Cobalt. 

Nitrogen can increase the hardness of the steel if it exists in small amounts. Some of the notable steels that utilize this element include 14C28N, with Nitrogen in their names to emphasize its importance. 

Niobium forms niobium carbide after heat treatment, which helps with wear resistance. According to KnifeSteelNerds, Niobium is similar to vanadium in its ability to increase wear resistance. But differs within stainless steel in that it doesn’t combine with chromium carbides. This ultimately increases the hardness, rust resistance, and toughness of the steel. Notable steel with high Niobium includes S110V. Which was also developed by Crucible back in 2005.

CPM SPY27 steel performance

LeeKnives haven’t had the luck to work with SPY27 steel in manufacturing. Understandably, it’s a patented steel. But judging by what it is made of and user feedback on knives made from SPY27, we can roughly examine the properties of the steel:

Hardness and toughness balance

Similar to many Crucible steels, CPM SPY27 is typically heat-treated to around 60 HRC, although it’s possible to achieve a higher hardness of up to 64. However, this would reduce the blade’s toughness. At 60 HRC, CPM SPY27 exhibits excellent toughness comparable to S30V and S35VN. It’s ideal for crafting durable survival knives that endure without breaking.

Wear resistance

Wear resistance is primarily linked to the hardness of the steel. The higher the hardness, the less wear the steel experiences. SPY27 boasts excellent wear resistance, a characteristic shared by all CPM steels. It can endure for a significant duration.

Corrosion resistance

Living in a humid climate or working in a wet environment requires tools that won’t succumb to rust. CPM SPY27 steel provides corrosion resistance properties comparable to some of the best stainless steels. Meaning it will maintain its integrity even when exposed to moisture or corrosives.

Edge retention

A blade that dulls quickly is a burden. Fortunately, thanks to the wear resistance and hardness of CPM SPY27, you’ll find its edge retention is a step above many. The edge will stay sharp through extended use, reducing the time you spend resharpening.


The steel is relatively easy to sharpen compared to other powder metallurgy steels. With fewer chromium carbides, CPM SPY27 may be easier to sharpen than S30V. However, it’s not as effortless to sharpen SPY27 back to its factory edge as steels like 420 or 1095.

Comparison with other steels

CPM SPY27 Comparison with other steels

When comparing CPM SPY27 steel to other popular knife steels, it is important to recognize its position relative to its cousins in the steel family. Your understanding of its traits versus those of closely related steels, such as CPM S30V and S35VN, will elucidate why each material might be preferred for different types of knives and applications.

CPM S30V, S35VN, M390 and Elmax

CPM S30V is well-known for offering a good balance of edge retention, corrosion resistance, and toughness. It is a popular choice in the production of quality pocket knives and is often used by enthusiasts and professionals alike. With a typical Rockwell hardness of around 59-61 HRC, CPM S30V is considered to be a premium grade steel.

CPM S35VN builds on the success of S30V by adding niobium to the alloy mix, which significantly improves toughness and the ability to sharpen the steel. It strikes a fine balance with a similar Rockwell hardness, yet it manages to offer increased durability without compromising the knife’s performance. It is typically a bit easier to machine and polish than S30V, making it a preferred choice in higher-end knives.

Given that CPM SPY27 was introduced by Spyderco with an intention to provide a unique steel composition, it is anticipated to have characteristics catering specifically to their knife designs. It aims to offer similar or potentially superior sharpening ease and toughness when compared to S30V and S35VN, providing an enticing option for knife enthusiasts. As with many specialty steels, the proof of capability is often evidenced in the specifics of task-oriented performance.

Moving beyond the direct family, when you look at other premium steels like M390 and Elmax, you are looking at steels that are often celebrated for their high wear resistance and ability to take on a fine edge. M390, a powder metallurgy stainless steel, is known for exceptional purity and cleanliness, while Elmax has comparable characteristics with an added emphasis on high corrosion resistance.

Applications in knife making

CPM SPY27 steel’s exceptional toughness, wear resistance, and relatively easy sharpening make it ideal for manufacturing a variety of knives tailored for different purposes. Its toughness allows for the crafting of robust survival knives capable of enduring harsh conditions without succumbing to breakage. Additionally, its excellent wear resistance ensures longevity, making it suitable for everyday carry knives that withstand repeated use without significant wear. Furthermore, the ease of sharpening, compared to other powder metallurgy steels, makes CPM SPY27 a favorable choice for kitchen knives, where frequent sharpening is necessary to maintain peak performance. Whether crafting outdoor, tactical, or culinary knives, CPM SPY27 offers versatility and reliability, catering to the diverse needs of knife enthusiasts.

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Popular knife models using CPM SPY27

The past two years have seen a notable emergence of knives crafted from CPM SPY27 steel, with popular models such as Spyderco’s PARA® lineup, NATIVE® 5, and MULE TEAM™. Despite its merits, it hasn’t gained widespread popularity. One plausible explanation could be its relative newness in the market, leading to a lack of familiarity and trust in its performance among consumers. However, SPY27’s exceptional qualities categorize it as a higher-end steel deserving of recognition. With time and increased exposure, it’s likely that its reputation will grow, affirming its position as a formidable choice for knife enthusiasts.

Wrapping up CPM SPY27

CPM SPY27 is a great steel. And since it’s exclusive to Spyderco, we can’t comment much in terms of how it’s priced and should you invest in this steel.

However, if you wish to make knives with steel of the same caliber, some of the other CPM steels by Crucible are great contenders. Including S30V and S35VN.

If you are looking for someone to manufacture your line of knives, contact LeeKnives. We have extensive experience in customizing, manufacturing, and even distributing knives. Fill out this form and we’ll get back to you soon!


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