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S30V Steel vs S90V Steel: How Do They Compare?

S30V Steel vs S90V Steel How Do They Compare

Crucible Industries is one of the leading steel manufacturers in the United States. The company produces many types of steel used for forging knives. S30V and S90V are two popular options manufactured by Crucible that countless brands use for their blades, from Spyderco to Benchmade.

It’s mostly everyday carry knives that use an S30V or S90V blade. Both make good knives that most users favor, but one certainly has the potential to be a better pick for your store than the other. This article will shed light on that by comparing S30V and S90V. Continue reading to discover what makes them different.

What’s S30V steel?

S30V is a powder metallurgy steel. It’s also referred to as CPM-S30V for branding purposes that showcase its manufacturing process, Crucible Particle Metallurgy.

S30V is a popular knife steel Crucible designed to have balanced properties across edge retention, toughness, corrosion resistance, and the ability to refine blade edge. The harmony between these properties makes S30V an all-rounder blade material.

What’s S90V steel?

S30V, or CPM-S90V, is a highly wear-resistant steel. Crucible designed S90V for high wear applications such as injection molding and industrial cutting. 

CPM-S90V stands out with its high wear resistance without losing toughness or corrosion resistance. For knives, this translates to a sturdy blade that holds an edge for a long time.

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S30V vs. S90V: chemical composition

Alloying ElementS30VS90V
Carbon1.45%2.30%
Chromium14.00%14.00%
Vanadium4.00%9.00%
Molybdenum2.00%1.00%

S30V vs. S90V: steel properties

S30V vs. S90V steel properties

As you can see, the chemical composition of S30V and S90V are similar, but the amounts that make up these steels are vastly different besides the 14% chromium. Naturally, S30V and S90V have ranging properties. The following is an overview of how they compare.

Hardness

The hardness of S30V steel is 58 to 64 HRc. Although broad, knifemakers typically heat treat S30V steel blades between 58 and 61 HRc. Despite having a higher carbon content, S90V is softer than S30V at 56 to 59 HRc. This is also the optimal hardness recommended by Crucible.

If you know one or two things about knife steel, it would first come to mind that the S30V is more wear-resistant and the S90V is tougher. While this contrast in hardness applies to most steels, S30V and S90V are a different discussion.

Edge retention

S90V has better edge retention than S30V – hands down. It has a higher amount of vanadium that vastly improves wear resistance.

This gives S90V knives excellent edge retention, surpassing their S30V counterparts. Furthermore, S90V has better edge retention than most steels in the market. It keeps a sharp edge longer than notable names like Elmax, K390, and ZDP-189.

Nonetheless, the S30V doesn’t fall too far behind. CPM-S30V still has great edge retention, especially for recreational uses. It won’t wear down as quickly as mid-range steels. The higher hardness and moderate vanadium content bring S30V steel’s edge retention closer. 

Toughness

Toughness is crucial for the steel to resist damages caused by impact. Considering the countless uses of EDC knives, durability is at the forefront of decision-making for many buyers. 

S30V and S90V are two steels that don’t disappoint in this aspect. Both are highly durable steels that can take a beating. As for the tougher steel, S30V takes the lead, but only to the slightest degree. S30V steel’s toughness is measured at around six ft-lbs, whereas S90V rates five ft-lbs. The difference is minor – you can expect equal toughness from S30V and S90V.

Corrosion resistance

S30V and S90V share the same amount of chromium in their chemical composition. Even though the chromium content is proportionate to the carbon impact corrosion resistance, there isn’t a difference between S30V and S90V’s rust resistance. They are equal in this and are stainless steel with high corrosion resistance.

Your customers can use knives made from either steel outdoors without the fear of rust. Both hold up well to moisture, acidic substances, and humidity.

Sharpening difficulty

sharpening difficulty between s30v and s90v steel

S30V and S90V have good edge retention, so sharpening isn’t a repeated task. Nonetheless, the S30V will require sharpening more often since it has lesser edge retention capabilities.

During sharpening, the S30V requires less time and effort as it’s easy to sharpen. It won’t take your buyers a long while or special sharpening equipment to give an S30V blade a refined edge.

With S90V knives, it’s the opposite. The excellent wear resistance also means S90V blades are difficult to sharpen. S90V knives take time and may require abrasive sharpening tools like low-grit water stones or diamond stones.

S30V vs. S90V vs. other CPM steels

S30V and S90V are just a few of the CPM steels – there are many others. Here’s how S30V and S90V stand up against other notable CPM steels.

  • vs. S110V: S110V is another super steel with excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance. The downside to it is toughness, which is below both S30V and S90V. S110V is a good alternative to other CPM steels for users that value sharpness more than durability.
  • vs. S35VN: S35VN is tougher than S30V and S90V with similar corrosion resistance. It holds a sharp edge for adequate periods but not as good as S30V or S90V. S35VN is the best alternative to these steels for users that need an all-rounder knife with better toughness. 
  • vs. S125V: S125V has one of the best edge retention potential in the industry. It’s far more wear-resistant than the S30V and S90V. However, this comes at the expense of reduced toughness, though S125V has similar corrosion resistance. If the edge retention of S90V or S110V doesn’t cut it, S125V is the best alternative.
  • vs. CPM-154: CPM-154 (not to be mistaken with 154CM) is a versatile steel that gives good results with proper heat treatment. It’s tougher than S30V and S90V, with equal corrosion resistance. Although it has subordinate edge retention to all the CPM steels mentioned so far, it has a perfect balance across its properties.

Comparison table

HardnessEdge RetentionToughnessCorrosion resistanceSharpening
CPM-S30V58-64 HRc6/105/108/106/10
CPM-S90V56-59 HRc7/104/108/105/10
CPM-15455-62 HRc4/106/108/107/10
CPM-S35VN58-61 HRc5/106/108/107/10
CPM-S110V58-61 HRc8/104/109/105/10
CPM-S125V63-66 HRc9/103/108/104/10

Which one should you choose for your knife store?

Which one should you choose for your knife store

To summarize everything we’ve discussed in this article, S30V and S90V have equal corrosion and toughness. S30V is easier to sharpen but can’t keep a sharp edge for as long as S90V. In terms of price, the S30V is more affordable with higher availability.

These traits make S30V an ideal choice for recreational users, while S90V suits more to professionals looking for a work blade. 

The higher edge retention with equal toughness and corrosion resistance is something everyday users are willing to pay for. For a camper or a hunter needing a knife occasionally, S90V might be disproportionately too good and pricey.

That said, S30V is a better choice for stores selling knives to the average consumer. S90V is more suited for stores with a customer base buying knives for work purposes to use every day.

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