Is CPM 20CV steel good for knives?

How does CPM 20CV knife steel perform? Is 20cv steel any good for edge retention and easy sharpening? What are 20CV steel pros and cons? Does it make good knives with great toughness? Will 20cv steel rust? How does it compare to top steels likes30v, m4, Elmax, m390, etc.?

If you have never used a 20cv knife before, your mind could be ringing with all these questions about cpm20cv steel. We have found many other knife consumers enquiring a lot about this knife steel, so we decided to research it and offer you this complete piece of information about it.

This review offers you a complete guide that encompasses everything about 20CV steel from its composition to key features, equivalent grades, comparison with other steels. And as a bonus, we have featured some of the notable knives with this cpm20cv steel.

What is CPM 20CV steel?

CPM 20CV is a martensitic, ultra-premium stainless steel made by USA’s Crucible Industries LL using their trademark CPM (Crucible Powder Metallurgy) process. This unique process gives the steel a finer, more even carbide distribution than in steels produced using standard methods. The technology improves the toughness and grindability of this steel.

The super steel boasts its rank as having the highest chromium amounts of all the stainless steels available—translating to outstanding corrosion resistance. CPM-20cv stainless steel also features high concentrations of vanadium carbides, significantly increasing its wear resistance.

What is CPM 20CV steel

The most common applications for cpm 20cv steel include plastic injection feed screws, screw tips, barrel liners, and mold cavities.

Since the steel offering outstanding wear/abrasion resistance and corrosion resistance, it’s highly usable in the knife industry to produce knives with exceptional performance. Some of the top brands that use this steel include Benchmade, Zero Tolerance, and Kershaw.

cpm 20cv steel composition

As we have just mentioned, this super knife steel features high volumes of chromium (up to 20%, the highest in all the stainless steel grades), which gives it superb anti-corrosion performance.

But it also features additional alloying elements that we have outlined below:

Element

Percentage composition (%)

Carbon (C)

1.90

Chromium (Cr)

20.00

Molybdenum (Mo)

1.00

Vanadium (V)

4.00

Tungsten (W)

0.60

 

1.90% high carbon content in 20CV helps raise tensile strength. It also increases hardness and wear resistance.

20.00% Chromium makes cpm-20cv stainless steel (it surpasses the 12% qualifying mark for stainless steels) and increases the steel corrosion resistance. It also enhances tensile strength, wear resistance, edge retention, and toughness.

1.00% Molybdenum increases the steel strength, hardenability, hardness, and toughness. It also improves the steel corrosion resistance and machinability.

4.00% Vanadium helps increases strength, wear/abrasion resistance, and toughness. The element also facilitates corrosion resistance by contributing to the formation of an oxide coating.

0.60% Tungsten improves the steel hardenability while increasing its toughness. Tungsten also improves corrosion resistance and retains the steel hardness at elevated temperatures.

cpm-20cv steel hardness

The hardness of CPM 20CV on the Rockwell “C” scale is 58-61 HRC. The slight variation is due to varying heat treatments. Nonetheless, 58-61 is a “Sweet Spot” for high-quality knives and is the same range you get for other super steels used in the knife production.

cpm 20cv steel properties

Now that we have discussed the chemical composition and hardness of this ultra-premium steel, we can now comfortably discuss the KEY attributes the cpm-20cv knives will offer you.

cpm 20cv steel properties

CPM-20CV Wear resistance

The Crucible 20CV steel performs exemplary well in this category and offers you extremely high wear resistance. What’s the secret? Well, this steel features larger volumes of vanadium carbides which are extremely harder compared to chromium carbides found in most steels.

The result is that this steel offers high resistance against abrasion and wear and tear when it comes into contact with hard surfaces.

Due to this exceptional performance, a 20cv knife tends to keep its original shape as you continue using it for hard tasks and it has a longer lifespan than steels with low wear resistance.

20cv steel Edge retention

CPM-20CV is also among the best knife steels at retaining its sharpness for the long-term. As we saw in the 20cv chemistry, this steel contains a high percentage of vanadium which results in a fine grain structure to help it holds its edge better. Additional elements used in the steel composition n like molybdenum and tungsten further enable the steel to keep its edge.

20cv steel Corrosion resistance

CPM-20cv Stainless steel features unmatched corrosion resistance. The high chromium volume plus molybdenum enables this steel to offer extreme resistance against corrosion and rusting. The high chromium helps the steel form a protective chromium oxide film that repels rust and staining. And the molybdenum gives the steel more strength, enabling it to easily resists pitting. The result is highly corrosion-resistant knife steel that can withstand the harshest of elements.

CPM 20cv steel toughness

Although this is high hardness steel, it also offers you great toughness. In the steel world, most steel featuring high hardness and excellent corrosion resistance tend to sacrifice toughness.

But 20CV is a different case and offers great resistance to chipping and breaking in the event of an impact, though not the toughest steel out there. However, the steel offers great toughness ideal for a small blade folder for everyday applications

The steel's ability to balance all these attributes explains why it’s considered ultra-premium steel (or super steel!)

20cv steel Ease of sharpening

The steel’s ability to hold an edge for extremely long comes at a sacrifice; the steel is a challenge to sharpen. The knife excels in high wear resistance and sharpening its edge to make it feel sharp takes time.

20cv steel Ease of sharpening

Luckily, the steel holds its edge for extremely long and it will take you even months before you can think of resharpening it.

cpm 20cv steel equivalent

CPM 20CV is Crucible’s version of Bohler-Uddeholm M390 stainless steel. The steel is also similar to the Carpenter’s CTS 204P, another US version of the M390 stainless steel.

The steels share a very close chemical composition. They also have a similar performance trend comprising superb edge retention, outstanding corrosion resistance, extreme wear resistance, great toughness, and a similar Rockwell hardness.

All these steels also appear in the rank of super-steels in the knife steels scale and are used for high-end knives with premium price tags.

CPM 20CV Steel comparison

Now is time to see how 20CV compares with other premium steels for knives like s30v, m390, s90v, Elmax, cts-xhp, and more.

CPM 20CV Steel comparison

20cv steel vs s30v

s30v is premium steel while 20cv is ultra-premium steel, meaning the latter is generally better than the former. When the two are compared, 20cv offers better edge retention and corrosion resistance. Sharpening s30v is easier compared to cpm 20cv. However, the two deliver the same great toughness levels.

20cv steel vs m390

Both m390 and 20cv are super steels. And 20cv is the Crucible version of m390. The two steels are produced using the PM (powder metallurgy) process and offer similar edge retention, corrosion resistance characteristics. They also offer the same level of sharpenability. However, the M390 tends to show slightly better toughness properties than 20CV.

cpm 20cv vs s90v

Crucible’s s90v sits on the super steel end of the steels scale, same as the cpm 20cv. Both steels deliver extreme edge retention. S90V, however, features higher wear resistance, and sharpening it is more challenging than 20cv. 20cv will outperform s90v when it comes to corrosion resistance.

cpm 20cv vs s90v

cpm-20cv vs 154cm

154CM is high-end steel developed by Crucible Industries. it’s considered an upgraded version of 440C, with added molybdenum. In comparison with 20CV, 154CM features lower edge retention, corrosion resistance, and toughness. Both steels will present you with the same level of difficulty for the hardening part.

cpm 20cv vs s35vn

S35VN is premium steel from Crucible Industries and is considered an upgraded version of s30v. That said, the edge retention and corrosion resistance in CPM-20CV are still better than that of S35VN. But they have the same chipping and breaking resistance performance. The only area where s35vn has an edge over 20cv is the ease of sharpening.

cpm 20cv vs Elmax

Elmax is high chromium-vanadium-molybdenum alloy proudly by Bohler-Uddeholm and boasts extremely high wear resistance and corrosion resistance. It appears in the category of super steels. Interestingly, 20CV beats Elmax with better edge retention and corrosion resistance. Sharpening Elmax is a bit harder than 20cv. However, both steels offer a close toughness score.

20cv steel vs cts xhp

cts-xhp is proudly produced in the USA by Carpenter and has a hardness of around 61 HRC. The steel has lower edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance compared to cpm 20cv. Carpenter’s XHP is slightly harder to sharpen than 20cv.

How good is CPM 20CV for knives?

20CV has the performance of a SUPER STEEL, and these steels are regarded as the crème de la crème for knife steels. A well-made CPM 20CV knife offers you superb edge retention, excellent corrosion resistance, and high toughness. It’s hard to find steel that balances these three attributes, making 20cv a perfect steel for knives.

How good is CPM 20CV for knives

Due to high wear resistance scores, however, 20cv might become a bit challenging to sharpen. But with proper sharpening equipment, you’ll eventually achieve a crazy sharp edge.

Though fairly new to the market, top manufacturers like Benchmade and Zero Tolerance have already warmed up to it and offer you a variety of their knives in this steel.

Best CPM 20cv steel knife

Here are some notable knives with CPM-20cv stainless steel:

1. Kershaw Link Pocket Knife

Kershaw Link Pocket Knife

The Kershaw Link is designed to be a sleek and friendly EDC knife. 100% made in the USA, this medium folder features a flipper plus SpeedSafe assist to enable you to smoothly and quickly deploy its blade.

Kershaw uses CPM 20cv stainless steel for this knife’s 3.25-inch blade, giving it superior wear resistance, high corrosion resistance, high toughness, and extreme sharpness retention. The blade has a stonewash finish to give it a rugged look while hiding scratches, fingerprints, and even dirt.

It presents you with a lightweight aluminum handle in attractive olive green. The handle features a machined pattern to gives it a unique look while offering you a secure and comfortable grip.

Because it comes with SpeedSafe technology, this knife is quick and easy to open with just one hand. The included liner lock securely locks the blade in place during use to prevent accidental closure.

A reversible pocket clip is attached to the handle to enable you to easily carry this knife on either left or right-hand side.

Highlighted Features:

  • 3.25-inch CPM-20CV steel blade
  • 4.4-inch closed length
  • Lightweight aluminum handle
  • Reversible pocket clip
  • SpeedSafe assisted opening

2. Benchmade - Mini Griptilian 556 Knife

Benchmade - Mini Griptilian 556 Knife

The Mini Griptilian represents a small but mighty folder for rugged, everyday carry. Despite featuring premium materials construction, it comes at a fair cost and will give you the bang for your back.

The knife comes in an incredibly small design while still delivering the reliability you expect from Benchmade. Its blade is composed of CPM 20CV, the American super steel boasting extreme wear resistance, sharpness retention, and corrosion resistance.

The blade measures 2.91 inches only, enabling you to efficiently carry day-to-day tasks while giving the knife a mini design.

You’ll be pleased to know that this knife features a G10 handle whose high durability, ability to withstand high temperatures, and moisture impervious attributes make it suitable for use in various conditions. The scales on this handle make it grippy and comfortable in your hands.

Opening the knife is as simple as pushing the thumb stud openers. The knife features the well-known axis lock that firmly keeps the blade locked in place during use for your own safety. A reversible pocket clip and lanyard hole are also included for versatile, convenient carry options.

Highlighted Features:

  • 2.91-inch 20cv stainless steel blade
  • Durable and comfortable G10 handle
  • Strong, ambidextrous axis lock
  • Lightweight design (2.81oz only)
  • Includes a reversible pocket clip

3. Zero Tolerance 0357 Folding Knife

Zero Tolerance 0357 Folding Knife

If you’re looking to add a new folding knife to your EDC collection, consider this ZT 0357 flipper. The rock-solid EDC knife weighs just 4.3oz, but it’s a beast when it comes to getting the job done. It’s 100% made in the USA and comes at fair pricing considering that it’s made of high-quality materials.

The flipper has an overall length of 7.7 inches. It boasts the SpeedSafe deployment system, which lets you open the knife with a single hand when in a hurry.

Its stonewashed 3.25-inch blade is made from 20CV super steel which brings together chromium and vanadium alloys to offer exceptional edge retention and outstanding corrosion resistance. With the steel’s great toughness, this knife can withstand daily punishments without chipping or fracturing.

A minor jimping on the back of this knife gives you significantly greater control over the knife as you take on any cutting task. The G10 sculpted handle gives you a sure grip in a variety of conditions, including wet and dry, while reducing the knife weight.

Don’t forget that this knife features a liner lock mechanism that keeps your blade securely fixed in the open position to keep it from accidentally closing on your fingers. You’ll also get a lanyard hole with this knife for alternative carrying options.

Highlighted Features:

  • 100% made in the USA
  • 3.25-inch cpm-20cv stainless steel blade
  • Reversible deep carry pocket clip
  • SpeedSafe assisted opening
  • Black G10 handle

Final verdict

That’s all about sCPM 20cv stainless steel from US Crucible Industries. In this 20cv steel review, we have discovered that the steel features high chromium and vanadium elements which enable it to deliver extreme wear resistance, edge retention, and corrosion resistance. A knife made with this steel offers a good balance between high hardness, corrosion resistance, and toughness, making it one of the perfect steels for knives. For highly reliable everyday carry (EDC) knives, we strongly recommend 20CV steel knives.

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