The pain is real when you want to know about blade steel but can’t get any good information. You scan through steel forums, blogs for hours and get loads of opinions about the steel from knife users who don’t seem to agree on everything.
The same case applies to Cruwear steel. It has countless opinions from fans and haters in equal measures. If you have no personal experience with this steel, the lack of conclusive information can make it hard for you to understand what it really is all about.
The purpose of this Cruwear steel review is to enlighten you about Cruwear steel. This guide covers everything about Cru-wear, including its chemical properties, edge retention, hardness, corrosion resistance, ease of sharpening, and more.
What is CPM CruWear?
Cruwear is air-hardening tool steel produced by US Crucible Industries. This steel is designed using the company’s CPM (Crucible Particle Metallurgy) process and acts as an upgrade to the plain Cru-Wear and D2 steels from the same manufacturer.
Thus, CPM Cruwear delivers better hardness, wear resistance, and hardness than these steels and most of the other blade steels out there. (Source).
Cruwear is also known to offer high machinability for knife smiths. It tempers better than D2 steel. This enables it to take surface treatments pretty well, including steam tempering, nitriding, and titanium nitride coating.
But keep in mind that knives featuring cru-wear steel usually lie on the higher end of the price spectrum. But as you’ll see in this guide—as we unravel the performance of CruWear—you’ll understand that the cost totally worth it.
The most common applications of this steel include laminating dies, thread rolling dies, blanking dies, coining, and producing Cruwear steel knives and shear blades.
Is CPM Cruwear stainless?
Cruwear is NOT stainless steel. For steel to qualify as stainless, it must contain at least 12% chromium. The Crucible’s Cru-Wear steel contains only 7½% of Chromium and is, therefore, not stainless. However, it’s worth noting that this steel will still offer a fair level of resistance to corrosion. Basic maintenance like keeping the blade clean and dry, and perhaps oiling it, can go a long way in keeping your Cruwear knife from catching rust.
Cruwear steel composition
CPM Cru-Wear contains high carbon content in addition to high amounts of chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, tungsten, and vanadium—resulting in a well-balanced mixture that gives it great balance in hardness, toughness, and wear resistance.
This is the full list of all the alloying elements in CruWear steel composition:
Percentage composition (%)
1.1% Carbon increases hardness while improving wear and corrosion resistance.
7.50% Chromium increases the steel tensile strength and hardenability. While this isn’t near the 12% needed to make steel stainless, it’s still good enough to deliver fair corrosion resistance.
1.60% Molybdenum increases strength, hardenability, hardness, and even toughness. It also improves machinability and corrosion resistance.
2.48% Vanadium increases strength, toughness, and wear resistance. it also adds to the steel corrosion resistance by offering an oxide coating.
1.15% Tungsten adds strength, hardenability, and toughness to this steel. It also retains the steel hardness at high temperatures.
1.20% Silicon increases strength and corrosion resistance.
0.003% Sulfur is used in very little quantity to enhance the steel machinability. The reason why sulfur is usually used in quite low amounts is that it’s seen as a contaminant and too much of it leads to reduced toughness.
CPM Cruwear steel hardness
The Cruwear HRC is 60-65 RC when put under suitable heat treatment. This is such a high hardness on the Rockwell hardness chart and more than what you get in D2 steel (62-64 HRC). Cruwear’s superior comes from the fact that it features sufficient amounts of molybdenum and tungsten to cause a secondary hardening response, which is not possible in D2 steel.
Cruwear steel properties
Now that we have discovered the chemistry and hardness of this steel, we can comfortably talk about the key attributes you’ll get from a CPM Cru-Wear knife steel.
CruWear wear resistance
One of the top benefits of using Cruwear steel is that it delivers high wear resistance—as expected of typical tool steel! As we have just seen above, it has a really high hardness which directly means a high wear resistance. The secret to this high wear resistance comes from the perfect combination of elements carbon chromium, tungsten, and magnesium.
Cruwear edge retention
Another area where Cruwear really shines is edge retention. This high-end steel takes a stupid sharp edge and holds it perfectly well. Following the CPM process, CruWear achieves finer grain size which enables a CruWear knife to get ultra-sharp and resist dullness resulting from continued use. You could literally chop down a forest before your Cruwear blade dulls down and requires re-sharpening.
CPM CruWear toughness
Cruwear tool steel is also incredibly tough. As crucible industries datasheet clearly states, this steel offers better toughness than the conventional Cruwear and D2 steels. Again, this high toughness is attributed to the owner’s PM process which facilitates even distribution in the steel toughness, enabling it to resist breakage and chipping under pressure. Cru-wear also has an overall lower carbide volume than d2, further explaining why it’s tougher steel.
Cruwear steel corrosion resistance
This steel will also offer you good corrosion resistance; not the best and not the worst. As we have seen in its chemistry, it carries 7.5% of chromium only, which falls of short what’s needed to make it stainless. This amount will, however, deliver a fair fight against rusting. For better corrosion resistance, you’ll need to accord your CruWear knife simple maintenance practices like cleaning the blade and drying it completely before storing it.
CPM Cruwear sharpening ease
High hardness. High wear resistance. Excellent toughness. With such attributes, you definitely CruWear to be one of the hardest steels to sharpen, right? You’re wrong! Cruwear is quite easy to sharpen and you can use a low-grade abrasive to give it a razor-sharp edge easily and quickly if it gets dull. You can even sharpen your knife on a stone when out in the field and it will attain a sharp, functional edge.
CruWear steel vs other steels
Comparing CruWear tool steel with other steel will help bring out an even clearer picture of how it performs in terms of edge retention, toughness, corrosion resistance, and so on.
Cruwear steel vs S30V
S30V is premium-grade steel from Crucible. In comparison to CPM cru-wear, it has a higher chromium volume, which gives it better anti-corrosion capabilities. In addition to that, S30V has higher hardness than CruWear, resulting in better wear resistance and edge retention properties. But Cru-Wear outshines s30V with more toughness and being easier to sharpen.
Cruwear steel vs 3V
3V steel is also produced by Crucible Industries following the CPM process. That said, the carbon content in 3V (0.80%) is lower than that of Cruwear and features a hardness of 60HRC. In other words, 3V won’t hold an edge well compared to CruWear. The higher molybdenum and vanadium contents in 3V make it way tougher than Cruwear. Both steels, however, contain the same chromium levels, making them semi-stainless and fairly corrosion-resistant.
Cruwear vs m4
Cruwear offers better corrosion resistance because it features higher chromium content than M4. CPM M4 has higher carbon content than cru-wear and will offer higher edge retention than CruWear. Also, CruWear is less wear-resistant than CPM M4 and will be easier to sharpen. As for the toughness, M4 will rank slightly above Cruwear as it has better resistance to impact.
Cruwear vs Maxamet
Maxamet, regarded as super steel, features more than double the amount of carbon in Cruwear steel. It offers way better edge holding capability than Maxamet. However, its chromium volume falls below that of CPM cru-wear, which means it offers lower corrosion resistance. Other than that, CruWear beats Maxamet in ease of sharpness and toughness.
Cru-wear vs Elmax
CruWear features higher hardness than Elmax, enabling it to hold an edge for longer and offer better wear resistance. However, Elmax features higher chromium content and will resist rust and corrosion better than Cru-Wear. But the high corrosion makes Elmax a less tough steel alloy compared to CPM cru-wear.
Is Cruwear steel good for knives?
Cruwear is, no doubt, suitable steel for making knives. Its popularity speaks for itself. The steel is well known for its ability to balance these key properties: hardness, toughness, edge retention, machinability, and easy sharpening.
It’s not easy to come across steel that performs this well in so many categories, so Cruwear blade steel is just good knife steel to try.
Despite being high carbon steel, and not stainless steel, CPM CruWear also offers decent corrosion resistance compared to standard high carbon blade steels available today. And with basic maintenance, you can easily increase the steel’s resistance to corrosion.
Mark you, major players in the knife industry like Spyderco and Bark River use this steel to design their knives. This is further proof of the goodness in CPM Cruwear tool steel.
That’s all about CruWear steel from US Crucible Industries. An upgrade to the standard CruWear and D2 steels, this knife steel offers a good balance for key features like hardness, toughness, and sharpenability. This makes it versatile enough to build a knife for almost any occasion. But keep in mind that Cruwear steel knives can get a bit pricey. But they’re totally worth every cent because not all steels can strike a good balance for the key properties as Cru-Wear does