Is S30V a Good Knife Steel? Expert Opinion & Product Suggestions
On the market for a knife made with premium steel? If yes, you’re sure to close paths with CPM S30V steel knives. You’ll find this steel receiving overwhelming praises from knife enthusiasts all over. And you’ll probably start asking yourself all manner of questions like how special is S30V stainless steel? Is S30V the best knife steel? What are the S30V steel pros and cons? Will it match your requirements?
This S30V steel review contains intimate details about S30V blade steel. You’ll discover lots of helpful info about CPM-S30V stainless steel like its full chemistry, performance in areas like hardness, edge holding, corrosion resistance, durability, and how it competes with other popular knife steels. And ultimately, you’ll get the answer as to whether it is a good steel for your knife.
What is S30V stainless steel?
CPM S30V is a premium, martensitic stainless steel proudly made by the US Crucible Industries. This steel was specially engineered to deliver the perfect combination of wear resistance, toughness, and corrosion resistance. It appears in the SxxV series family which features other steels like s35vn, s60v, s90v, s110v, and s125v.
Like all the other steels in this family, this steel is made following the Crucible CPM process (Crucible). The CPM process produces high-quality steel with exceptional dimensional stability, toughness, and grindability compared to steels produced under standard methods.
Though CPM S30V is on the low end of the SxxV family, it still delivers outstanding performance and is considered a high-end steel choice for knife making among knife manufacturers. Zero Tolerance Knives is one particular respected brand that extensively uses this steel for its high-end knives.
As expected, this premium-grade knife steel sits on the higher end of the price spectrum, and this directly affects the cost of CPM S30V knives. The high cost makes it find favor in the premium kitchen cutlery, scout knives, high-end pocket knives, and custom knives.
S30V steel composition
The Crucible CPM-S30V stainless steel alloy is high in Carbon, Chromium, Molybdenum, and Vanadium elements—a combination that gives it great properties and qualifies it as one of the high-end steel grades available today.
The following table outline the full S30V stainless steel chemical composition:
Percentage composition (%)
1.45% Carbon improves the hardness, wear resistance, and edge holding capability of this steel. it also enhances its tensile strength. But increases carbon content can lead to decreased steel ductility.
14.00% Chromium directly means that S30V is stainless steel since it’s more than the 12% chromium needed to make any steel stainless. The high chromium content increases the corrosion resistance of this steel. It also increases hardness, tensile strength, and toughness.
2.00% Molybdenum increases the steel hardness, strength, and toughness. The metal also adds to the steel machinability and corrosion resistance.
4.00% Vanadium increases the steel strength, resistance to wear and abrasion, and toughness.
0.50% Manganese increases tensile strength, hardenability, and wear resistance.
0.20% Nitrogen has the same functions as carbon in this steel alloy but it delivers an unusual corrosion resistance advantage.
0.50% Silicon increases strength and resistance to corrosion.
0.030% Phosphorous improves the S30V steel strength, hardness, and machinability.
0.030% Sulfur added in low quantities to enhance the steel machinability.
0.40% Tungsten improves the hardenability, strength, and toughness of the steel.
S30V steel hardness
The CPM S30V can achieve a Rockwell hardness of between 59 and 61 HRC when put through suitable heat treatment. This is a great hardness of the high 50s and low 60s, which is considered the sweet spot for the most popular blade steels. This RC makes S30V harder than most of the stainless steel grades, giving it far better edge retention and wear resistance than the competing steels.
S30V stainless steel properties
What’s does the performance of the S30V steel knife look like? Does it chip? Is it hard to sharpen? Does it rust? These are the kinds of questions we’ll answer in this section by discussing the key S30V steel properties and attributes.
S30V Edge retention
S30V is one of the top steels loved by knife users for its excellent edge retention. As we have just mentioned above, it features a high hardness (61HRC maximum hardness) which is a direct effect of its makeup containing Tungsten, vanadium, manganese, and carbon. The high hardness gives the steel a stable edge and enables it to holds its edge for extremely long.
However, you might come across some folks touting s30v steel for bad edge retention. The truth is, they might have used a knife from a manufacturer who conducts a poor heat treatment process which directly affects the edge performance.
Check the following video showing differences in the edge retention performance of two knives featuring the same s30v steel but from different manufacturers.
CPM-S30V Wear resistance
The US steel offers excellent wear resistance; greater than what you get from most of the other stainless steels. There’s a reason for s30v’s high wear resistance…the steel chemistry comes balanced in such a way that it promotes the formation of vanadium carbides which are harder than the chromium carbides found in conventional steels. This directly translates to increased hardness and wear resistance.
CPM S30V Toughness
The steel also delivers good amounts of toughness, but there are definitely tougher steels than s30v. The high hardness of this steel has a lot to do with this steel not passing its toughness test with flying colors. But the good thing that it will still offer a significant amount of toughness and will take a pretty good amount of abuse and hard use before it gives in to cracking, breaking, or chipping.
S30V steel corrosion resistance
S30V is stainless steel (with up to 14% chromium) and, therefore, offers great corrosion resistance and you can use it in wet and saltwater conditions without worries about rusting. Like all the other stainless steels, however, exposing your s30v steel knife to elements for long can cause it to rust. Simply cleaning and drying your knife before storing it will help keep it rust-free at all times.
S30V steel sharpenability
S30V is somewhat challenging to sharpen and takes effort to attain a keen edge due to the high wear resistance it delivers. You’ll need some diamonds—perfect for sharpening vanadium carbides in s30v steel—if you want to give your S30V steel knife a razor-sharp edge. But the tradeoff is that it holds a razor-sharp edge for extremely long, so you won’t be going through the sharpening it as often as it’s the case with the low-end steels.
S30V steel comparison
In this guide, we’ll discuss how S30V steel performs when put side to side with other popular knife steels. Hopefully, this will help create a good posture of what kind of steel S30V is.
S30V steel vs D2
D2 is also steel produced by Crucible and enjoys popular usage in the knife making industry. When put side to side with S30V, the D2 steel exhibits a bit lower edge retention and poor corrosion resistance. The good thing, however, is that both steels offer the same level of toughness (a decent amount of toughness) and can withstand some degree of hard use without cracking or breaking.
S30V steel vs S35VN
S35VN was engineered as an upgrade to the S30V and it will offer better performance in keeping an edge and ease of sharpening. But you should expect these two premium steel grades to deliver the same degree of corrosion resistance and toughness.
S30V steel vs S90V
S90V ranks higher than S35VN and S30V on the SxxV steels family. It offers superior performance to these two steels. But sharpening it is even more difficult than S30V. Also, s30V has better toughness than S90V. Both s30v and s90v offer the same corrosion resistance.
S30V steel vs S110V
CPM S110V will offer you superior edge retention compared to s30V stainless steel. CPM S30V hits back with higher toughness. You will, however, get the same corrosion resistance and sharpening experience for both s30v and s110v stainless steel knives.
S30V steel vs 154CM
154CM is also a product of Crucible and offers great performance when used in knife blades. 154CM steel features an even finer grain structure and delivers better edge retention than S30V. 154CM is also easier to sharpen and has better corrosion resistance due to higher chromium content than s30v. However, s30v is tougher than 154CM and would be more suitable for harder use knives.
S30V steel vs 20CV
CPM 20CV is another fantastic steel manufactured by Crucible Industries using their CPM process, and it would be interesting to see how it compares to CPM S30V. 20CV has higher carbon and chromium content than s30v and will offer you far better edge retention and corrosion resistance. But both steels will offer you the same level of sharpenability and toughness.
S30V steel vs VG10
The Japanese steel, VG10, displays an almost similar performance trend as S30V. S30v is only slightly better than vg10 in edge retention, corrosion resistance, and ease of sharpening. The two steels only greatly differ in terms of toughness, with Vg10 featuring lower toughness than s30v. Both steels are pretty good and you can trust any of them to make a reliable knife. Go for a VG10 steel knife if you’re on a budget.
S30V steel vs 420HC
S30V contains more carbon content than 420HC and will beat it (the 420hc) with better wear resistance and edge retention. Due to its high hardness, however, sharpening s30v will be more challenging than 420hc. The two steels have a close performance for toughness and corrosion resistance.
S30V steel vs 14C28N
S30V has more carbides, giving it better wear resistance and edge retention than 14C28N. The corrosion resistance is also slightly higher in s30v than in 14c28n But 14C28N is quite easy to sharpen and takes a sharper edge than s30v. It’s also easier to work with than S30V. 14C28N is a good choice for entry-level blade steel as it offers good performance at a cost lower than that of s30v steel knives.
S30V steel vs 1095
s30v offers excellent corrosion resistance than 1095 high carbon steel. s30v also offers better edge retention. However, 1095 steel outsmarts s30v with easier sharpening experience and higher toughness levels. Overall, s30v would make a great choice for a folder while 1095 will be best suited for making larger knives for use in camping, hiking, bushcraft, and so on.
How good is S30V steel for knives?
Definitely YES! S30V is good knife steel as it delivers outstanding performance characterized by fantastic edge retention, exceptional corrosion resistance, and good toughness. It’s one of the best all-around blade steels currently available.
The fact that this steel was initially developed as knife steel makes it unique from other steels that were originally made for different applications. This further solidifies the s30v steel as a good knife steel.
Top knife manufacturers warm up to this steel pretty well. Benchmade has a lifetime supply of s30v knives. Other respected brands in the US like Spyderco, Buck Knives, Zero Tolerance, etc., are also using this steel to create their high-end knives.
If s30v wasn’t good knife steel, would such respected manufacturers want it anywhere near the knives?
Best S30V Knife:
1. Kershaw Blur S30V Folding Pocket Knife
The S30V folding pocket knife is a great choice if you’re looking for a stylish-looking, premium knife for everyday carry. The Blur comes powered by a 3.4-inch long CPM S30V stainless steel blade which grants it excellent corrosion and wear resistance, long-term edge retention, and great toughness.
The blade features slight recurving which enables it to deliver exceptional piercing and slicing performance—much-needed functions for a knife intended for everyday use in almost every situation.
Because this knife comes equipped with Kershaw’s SpeedSafe assisted opening technology, it gives you a smooth, one-handed opening experience with the blade thumb stud. And the secure liner lock keeps the blade securely open during use, assuring you of your own safety.
A sleek-looking black anodized aluminum handle comes with this knife and features a Trac-Tec grip-tape to give you more gripping power in all conditions. besides, the anodizing helps give this handle excellent strength and toughness while shielding it from scratches.
Kershaw adds a reversible pocket clip to this knife handle to let you comfortably carry it in your pocket. As if that’s not enough, a pre-drilled hole sits on the handle to let you attach a lanyard for an alternative carry option.
2. Benchmade 940 EDC Folding Knife
This is also a great folding knife you can use for everyday carry. It comes with a slim design and takes pretty little space in your pocket. And at only, it’s one of the lightest pocket knives on the market today.
Despite being a small and lightweight EDC, this Benchmade features a 3.4-inch long knife which is great for performing all your day-to-day cutting tasks.
The blade is made from the American S30V stainless steel, giving it fast-rate edge retention and excellent corrosion resistance. It comes wicked sharp out of the box and its elegant clip-point shape will give you more precise, controlled cuts.
The knife opens and closes like a dream! It features Axis locking mechanism which gives you a butter-smooth blade opening and closing experience. Moreover, this system also locks the blade in place to prevent accidental closure which can compromise your safety.
With the included ultra-durable G10 handle which isn’t aggressively textured to tear up your pocket, but still offers the right mix of texture to give you a sure grip. The reversible pocket clip attacked on the handle completes the design of this EDC knife and makes it more comfortable for you to carry.
3. Zero Tolerance 0350TS Folding Pocket Knife
The Zero Tolerance folding pocket knife is also a high-performance model, skillfully crafted in the USA with premium quality materials. The easy folding pocket knife is suitable for everyday tasks ranging from survival tools, precision cutting, tactical use, and even self-defense.
This knife is powered by a 3.25-inch high-performance blade engineered from the high-end s30v stainless steel for high durability, exceptional corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and long-lasting cutting edge. The blade is then coated with tiger-striped tungsten DLC coating for additional wear and corrosion resistance, and low friction during cutting.
ZT arms this knife with SpeedSafe Assisted opening system to allow for quick, one-handed blade deploying using either the ambidextrous thumb stud or flipper. A liner lock is also integrated into this to keep the blade securely locked in the open position during use. The lock system also offers you a secure way to close your blade.
The handle comprises a black matte G-10 handle with flat scale texturing to offer you a powerful grip and extreme durability under the toughest conditions. A 4-way pocket clip is also added to this to allow for a variety of carrying options.
Now that you have read this S30V steel review, we’re hopeful you’ve learned a lot of good information about this American-made stainless steel. The excellent edge retention, high corrosion resistance, and decent toughness make CPM S30V stainless steel great knife steel. But it comes at the expense of being hard to sharpen. S30V steel knives also feature a higher price tag than standard stainless steels. By weighing the S30V steel pros and cons, you should surely be able to decide if this steel is a worthy choice for you.
In summary, if you’re looking for a high-end stainless steel knife that will hold its edge for long, resists corrosion well, and has great durability, consider the CPM S30V steel blade.