You’ve probably heard it a million times…that the steel used to make a blade directly influences the knife performance. If you’re planning to buy an s35vn steel knife, we strongly advise you to first read our complete s35vn steel review below to gain more insights into what this steel is all about and whether it is a good or bad steel for you.
After doing a lot of research about the CPM S35VN steel, we have prepared the following guide explaining what this steel is all about, how it performs in areas like hardness, toughness, wear resistance, ease of sharpening, edge retention, its equivalent, how it compares with other steel grades, and some of the top-rated s35vn knives you can find on the market today.
What is S35VN steel?
CPM S35VN is martensitic steel produced by US-based Crucible Industries as part of their “SxxV” series. CPM indicates that the steel was made following the Crucible CPM (Crucible Particle Metal) technology. And the letters “S,” “V,” and “N” refer to Stainless, Vanadium, and Niobium, in that order. The number 35 really has no significant meaning but to differentiate this steel from the lower s30v grade.
This steel was introduced in 2009 as a newer, upgraded version of the s30v with an attempt to improve its (the s30v) toughness and edge retention while keeping the corrosion resistance at a premium. (Source).
S35VN enjoys usage on a wide variety of high-end knives designed to serve different purposes, including EDC knives, tactical knives, and more. Some of the reputable knife makers that use this steel to designed these high-end knives include Benchmade, Spyderco, Boker, Chris Reeve Knives, Bark River, to name but a few.
S35VN stainless steel was created following a slight tweaking of the S30V chemical formula. This is what the CPM S35VN chemical composition looks like:
Percentage composition (%)
1.40% Carbon is a high amount of carbon and improves the steel hardness as well as wear and corrosion resistance. Too much carbon tends to decrease steel strength.
14.00% Chromium increases tensile strength and edge retention. It also enhances wear and corrosion resistance.
2.00% Molybdenum increases the strength and machinability of this steel.
3.00% Vanadium goes a long way in improving the steel’s hardenability and wear resistance.
0.30% Niobium has been added to offer increased hardness, corrosion resistance, and wear resistance.
S35VN steel hardness
The Rockwell hardness for s35vn runs from 58 to 61HRC depending on the heat treatment the blade is subjected to. This means the steel sits high on the HRC scale, making it quite hard steel. The high hardness gives it excellent durability and makes it suitable for everyday use in tough conditions.
S35VN steel properties
CPM S35VN corrosion resistance
The steel contains a high amount of chromium, 14% to be specific, which is more than what’s needed to make it stainless. As such, s35vn will not easily catch rust or stains and you can use them in humid and saltwater conditions without any worries. However, we still suggest that you give your knife some maintenance such as cleaning and drying the knife after use to maximize the steel’s corrosion resistance.
CPM S35VN edge retention
One of the key motives of coming up with s35vn was to make the edge retention better than what you get with s30v. The high carbon and vanadium content improves the steel edge retention, enabling it to keep an ultra-sharp cutting edge for a long time. Niobium carbides also boost the steel edge holding capability
The steel also delivers quality wear resistance, despite the high levels of toughness. Niobium combines with carbon to form niobium carbides that make s35vn more effective at offering resistance to wear. The high levels of vanadium also contribute to the steel’s excellent wear resistance.
Molybdenum, too, works with carbon to form hard carbide that makes the steel harder which directly increases its wear resistance. This steel offers excellent abrasion resistance and will last for years without deforming like in some steel grades.
CPM S35VN sharpening
The sharpenability goes hand in hand with hardness. Since the s35vn isn’t uber-hard, sharpening it won’t be too much of a challenge. That said, it’s not the easiest steel to sharpen and will still present challenges to some extent. but you’d be glad to know that you’ll give it a razor-sharp edge easily and quickly compared to harder steel grades.
As we have explained before, the idea behind upgrading s30v to s35vn was to increase its toughness. As such, you expect this steel to be quite tough. The CPM process the steel undergoes is known to produce tougher steels.
Also, the addition of Niobium in s35vn leads to the creation of niobium carbides which make it 15-20% tougher than s30v. This makes the s35vn deliver excellent resistance to chipping, cracks, and other damage due to impact.
Not many high-end stainless steels are easy to work with, but this s35vn will give you a smooth time working with it. Knifesmiths love this steel because it’s easy to grind, machine, and even polish. The steel requires a little power to cut and remains a favorite choice for bladesmiths who want to produce high-quality blades without wearing down the steel with heavy machining.
What is CPM S35VN steel equivalent?
A CPM S35VN equivalent would be its predecessor, the CPM S30N. The two steels have a pretty similar chemical composition, only that s35vn features niobium element which is not found in its little brother s30v. Nonetheless, both steels score well in wear resistance, corrosion resistance, toughness, and edge retention.
S35VN steel comparison
Let’s see how steel competes with other steels in edge retention, corrosion resistance, toughness, and sharpenability.
S35VN vs M390
Though not as popular as s35vn, M390 ranks a bit higher on the steel grade scale and offers you better edge retention. However, it’s quite hard to sharpen compared to s35vn. Both steels deliver the same level of corrosion resistance.
S35VN steel vs VG10
VG10 is also high-end steel and a popular choice for making a variety of knives. When put side to side with s35vn, vg10 offers slightly lower edge retention but will still deliver a good edge retention ability. The two steel offer the same corrosion resistance. VG10 is a bit easier to sharpen compared to s35vn.
S35VN steel vs D2
D2 is also high-performance steel but has sharp differences when compared to s35vn. The s35vn outshines d2 with better edge retention and corrosion resistance. But they share the same degree of toughness. Sharpening s35vn will be much easier compared to D2.
S35VN VS S90V
You’ll get better edge retention with s90v than you’d with s35vn. However, s35vn is ahead of s90v with better toughness and easier sharpening. Interestingly, the two brothers offer the same anti-corrosion properties.
s35vn vs s110v
These two brothers are also great performers, but they’re not without a few differences. s10v will offer you better edge retention but will fall far behind s35vn in terms of toughness. s35vn is also slightly easier to sharpen than s110v. As for corrosion resistance, none of these steels is superior to the other.
Elmax vs s35vn
Elmax stainless steel lies in the premium steels category and it would be interesting to see how it fares compared to s35vn. Elmax has higher wear resistance, edge retention than s35vn due to its carbon, vanadium, and molybdenum mixture which makes it more of carbon steel. though Elmax is the easiest to sharpen of all super-steels, it’s still more challenging to achieve a sharp edge than s35vn. Elmax also offers fairly good corrosion resistance, but s35vn offers better rust-resistant properties.
Is S35VN good knife steel?
CPM S35VN steel isn’t just good for making knife blades, it’s great steel! If s30v is good, then its improved version, the s35vn, is definitely better! The steel excels in delivering tremendous wear resistance, edge retention, high toughness, and offering reliable corrosion resistance. Surprisingly, it’s also moderately easy to sharpen.
And thanks to its high machinability, it’s pretty easy to work with (grind, form, and polish). Knifemakers in the house, hello?
But then again, the issue with this steel is that it’s not cheap. This is because it’s ranked as higher-end steel compared to most steel grades, so it features a higher price tag.
Best S35VN steel knives:
As we mentioned earlier, s35vn has been used to make a wide variety of knives intended for different applications. Below, we have selected some of the top-rated steel knives made of s35vn you can find on the market today.
1. Cold Steel Recon 1 Series Tactical Folding Knife
If you’re looking for a highly reliable knife for tactical and emergency applications, the Cold Steel Recon 1 is a great choice. The knife has become a favorite for law enforcement officers, military personnel, and fire and rescue crews for its high performance and reliability.
Tough as a tank and virtually indestructible, this knife can withstand abuse without chipping, cracking, or breaking. It features a blade with a Tanto shape which you can rely on for puncturing and prying jobs.
The 4-inch blade is made from premium s35vn steel and comes razor sharp out of the box and ready to use. If you like, you can always touch it up to achieve a hair-splitting sharpness. Keep in mind that this blade comes DLC-coated to reduce friction, wear, and corrosion resistance.
You’ll also like the knife’s durable G10 handle which features aggressive scales to offer you a comfortable and secure grip.
This knife comes equipped with the Tri-Ad lock which securely holds the blade in the open position during use without leaving any room for wiggle. additionally, this lock makes the knife impervious to shock.
For the weight, the knife feels incredibly light in your hands at only 5.3ounces. It measures just 5 3/8-inch when fully closed, making it easy to carry with you everywhere. A pocket clip comes with this knife to offer you comfortable carry and fast access.
2. Cold Steel AD-10 and AD-15 Tactical Folding Knife
Also proudly made by Cold Steel, this popular tactical folder also features premium s35vn steel 3 ½ inches blade that’s slightly shorter than our previous Recon 1 model. It has an overall weight of 6.50z, making it a bit heavier than its brother above.
The top-quality bade feels tough as nails and has exceptional edge holding capability. It comes super-sharp out of the box and its hollow grind delivers amazing slicing performance. Plus, it comes with a drop point blade to give you excellent piercing performance. The blade is satin finished for a smooth, unidirectional appearance.
Operating this knife is pretty easy and you can open it with just one hand. It features a gorgeous OD green G10 handle with 3D machine scales that perfectly fit your hand for a tight and secure grip. What’s more, it has precise contouring plus an integral finger guard which makes the knife snugly fit in your hands.
The tactical folder comes armed with Cold Steel’s famous TriAd lock that securely locks the blade in the open position for unrivaled protection to your fingers while offering unsurprised strength and shock resistance.
Thanks to the included dal pocket clips, you can conveniently carry this knife in your pocket to any place. likewise, deploying becomes a breeze!
3. Zero Tolerance 0450CF Folding Knife
This knife is a compact version of Zero Tolerance’s award-winning 0454 folding knife. The smaller design of this knife makes it more applicable as a great EDC and will work well for everyday tasks like opening packages, cutting cords, and even tactical/emergency situations.
It offers you a 3.25-inch s35vn steel blade which shows amazing edge chipping resistance and better edge retention. The blade comes sharp out of the box, but you can always strop it if you like to achieve a razor-sharp effect.
Since this blade comes coated with DLC, it gives you a sleek matte-black look while improving resistance to wear and corrosion.
The handle involves a carbon fiber front plus sturdy titanium back which ensures an excellent size to weight ratio while increasing strength and comfortable in-hand feel.
With the ZT’s KVT ball-bearing system, you’ll enjoy deploying the blade smoothly and quickly. It’s also armed with a frame lock that securely holds the blade in the open position during use. The knife is sent to you with a reversible pocket clip for easy carry and lightning-fast access.
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Now you’ve got all the details you need to fully understand what is s35vn steel. We have seen from this s35vn steel review that this steel delivers a good balance of key features not seen in many steel grades. It ticks the boxes for great wear resistance, toughness, edge retention, and corrosion resistance. While not the easiest to sharpen, it’s not that hard either. But don’t expect to find an s35vn knife in the budget range, as this is high-quality steel.