The dream of every knife user is to get blade steel with a great all-around performance. And you can’t think of good steels without the American steels coming to mind. The CTS-XHP stainless steel from Carpenter is one such American steel used in a variety of high-end knives.
But before you pick a cts xhp steel knife, you will want to know all about this steel. How does it really perform in holding and keeping an edge? Does it offer good wear resistance? How much chipping resistance does it offer? Is it even corrosion-free? How about ease of sharpening?
We took a deep dive into researching more about cts-xhp to bring you firsthand information from experienced knife users and bladesmiths of this steel in this cts xhp steel review.
What is XHP steel?
CTS XHP is air-hardening high carbon, high chromium, anti-corrosion steel alloy created by US brand Carpenter. As you can easily tell from its name, this steel comes from Carpenter’s CTS series of steels.
The steel delivers high corrosion resistance and edge retention compared to other members of the CTS steels family.
The steel is also described as high hardness Type 440C stainless or corrosion-resistant D2 tool steel due to its chemistry exhibit similarity to that of 440C and D2 steels. In simpler words, Carpenter created this steel by combining the corrosion resistance of 440C and the high hardness of D2.
Some common applications for cts-xhp include high-end knives, surgery tools, and high-end cutlery.
CTS-XHP steel composition
In this section, we’ll outline the makeup of CTS XHP steel to give you a clear picture of what elements come together to create this steel and their respective content (in percentage).
CTS-XHP steel alloying element
Percentage composition (%)
1.60% Carbon increases the hardness and wear resistance of this steel.
16% Chromium qualifies cts-xhp as stainless steel and increases its corrosion resistance. It also boosts tensile strength, hardness, and toughness.
0.50% boosts hardenability, tensile strength. It also increases the cts-xhp machinability.
0.80% Molybdenum increases the steel hardness, strength, hardenability, and toughness.
0.45% Vanadium increases strength, wear resistance, and toughness. it also enhances corrosion resistance.
0.35% Nickel increases corrosion resistance and enhances the steel toughness.
0.40% Silicon boosts hardness and strength. but too much of this element can increase the steel brittleness. this explains why it has been used in small amounts.
What is CTS XHP hardness?
CTS-XHP registers a high hardness of 60 to 64 HRC on the Rockwell hardness scale, which is pretty much what you get with D2 steel. This comes from high carbon content in the mix and gives the carbon high edge retention and wear resistance. Keep in mind, though, that this hardness can vary from 60 to 64 HRC depending on the heat treatment used for cts xhp steel hardening by different knife makers.
cts xhp steel properties
In this section, we’ll get down to the key features you should expect from a knife powered by the cts xhp blade steel.
cts-xhp wear resistance
For a steel whose hardness is comparable to D2 steel, you expect it to deliver excellent wear resistance. The steel boasts great wear resistance and will stand up to everyday wear and tear without deforming. Also, this steel will stand up against abrasion that results from regular sharpening tasks.
cts xhp toughness
As high hardness steel, this American knife steel doesn’t deliver the best toughness. however, it does offer you a good amount of toughness to withstand some degree of abuse without chipping or cracking.
cts xhp edge retention
cts-xhp steel offers great edge retention, thanks to its extremely high hardness. Knives made using this high-end steel can be used to cut for months without needing to resharpens.
cts xhp corrosion resistance
The steel also offers excellent corrosion resistance. remember, we mentioned that this steel is sometimes described as corrosion resistance 440C due to its ability to deliver the same high corrosion resistant properties as the 440C steel. The great cts xhp rust resistance is mainly due to the high chromium content (16%), which not only qualifies the steel as stainless but also keeps off rust and corrosion.
cts xhp steel sharpening
With its high hardness score on the Rockwell hardness scale, this steel is difficult to sharpen. but that’s not something to worry about. there are harder steels to sharpen and we can rate the difficulty level of this particular steel as moderate. With today’s advanced sharpening systems, giving this knife a keen cutting edge will not be all that challenging.
CTS XHP steel vs other steels
To further answer how good cts-xhp is, we’ll also compare it with some other top-rated knife steels like S30V, M390, S35VN, and so on, to see how it competes with them.
cts-xhp steel vs s30v
Like CTS-XHP steel, s30v also falls in the category of premium, high-end steels, making it a suitable comparison. CTS-XHP tends to offer better edge retention than s30v. The two steels are not that easy and not that hard to sharpen. Though both of them deliver great corrosion resistance, s30v exhibits slightly better anti-rust properties. Of the two steels, s30v is more popular and readily available.
cts xhp steel vs m390
These two steels also appear in the same family of premium steels but m390 appears in the upper tier of this family. It offers better edge retention and corrosion resistance than xhp steel. However, you’ll get a lot of headaches trying to sharpen m390 as it’s quite difficult to sharpen compared to cts-xhp.
cts-xhp vs s35vn cold steel
S35VN is an upgraded version of the s30v we’ve just discussed above. Just like in the case of s30v, xhp steel beats s35vn with slightly better edge retention. In terms of corrosion resistance and toughness, s35vn takes the crown here.
cts xhp vs Maxamet
Despite being in the same category of high-end steels, Maxamet beats Carpenter’s xhp steel with better edge retention. But Maxamet is prone to rust and offers pretty low corrosion resistance than cts-xhp stainless steel. If you’re all about edge retention, get Maxamet. But if you want all-around blade steel, cts-xhp is a great choice.
Is cts-xhp steel good for knives?
CTS XHP is good knife steel because it offers you great edge retention and excellent corrosion resistance. It has high wear resistance and will not easily deform with repeated sharpening. What’s more, it offers good toughness and will not quickly give in to chipping.
Though it takes effort to sharpen, it’s not the hardest steel to sharpen and will offer you a razor sharp edge with advanced sharpening systems. Despite being hard steel, cts-xhp is not expensive. Most cts-xhp steel knives come with reasonable pricing.
Knives made from this steel can withstand use in varying applications, including wet conditions. This makes cts-xhp steel ideal for hunting, fishing, kitchen use, and everyday carry.
The fact that Spyderco and Cold Steel, some of the top knife brands in the USA, use this steel to design some of their high-end knives is solid proof that cts-xhp is a good steel for knife blades.
Best cts-xhp steel knives:
Before we sign off our cts-xhp guide, we’d like to share with you some of the notable knives with cts xhp steel you can find on the market today.
1. Spyderco Chaparral Prestige Folding Knife
Straight from Spyderco, Chaparral is a high-performance folding pocket that will instantly become your favorite EDC. With a non-threatening blade length of 2.80 inches and weight as little as 2.5 ounces, this knife comes in just the perfect design for everyday carry.
The 2.80-inch blade on this fine little knife comes ridiculously sharp and is made using CTS-XHP, high-end steel with the fantastic edge retention and will keep its keen edge under various everyday uses. The blade also offers excellent corrosion resistance and will stand up to wet conditions. Not to forget it’s tough enough to resist chipping and breaking.
You’ll like that this blade solidly locks up in place to enable you to use it with peace of mind knowing that it won’t accidentally close on your fingers.
The scales on the carbon fiber G10 handle are not only appealing to your eyes but also feel comfortable in your hands. The finger choil ensures slip-free knife use, further adding to your safety. And the jimping is non-aggressive to allow for a more comfortable thumb grip.
And on the slim handle of this knife, you’ll discover a reversible wire clip that arranges the knife deep in your pocket for convenient carry and fast access.
2. Spyderco McBee Specialty Folding Knife
Jonathan McNees, a veteran US marine and an avid outdoorsman is the mind behind this knife. Having spent a lot of his time using knives in the field and using his skills as a custom knifemaker, he came up with this Spyderco McBee—a highly compact knife that suits your everyday carry needs.
Despite its incredibly compact design, this knife delivers exceptional performance. It comes with a 1.5-inch saber-ground blade forged from CTS-XHP stainless steel. As expected, this blade comes factory sharp. The unique scalloped spine helps create a profile that offers scalpel-like precision while yielding impressive cutting power.
You’ll also have an easy time deploying this knife’s blade with just one hand, despite the compact nature of the knife. The Spyderco trademark Round Hole on the blade makes this operation super-easy and fast!
For the handle, Spyderco uses premium titanium material whose lightweight nature and high corrosion resistance make it suitable for everyday use. the precision-machined solid handles on the scales promote a comfortable and secure grip.
A polished stainless steel pocket clip comes attached to the handle and offers you a comfortable and convenient way to carry your knife. The lined lanyard hole lets you easily attachment of a lanyard for alternative (neck) carry.
3. Cold Steel 27TLCTH Recon 1
Recon 1 is a highly popular tactical folder from Cold Steel that uses the USA Carpenter’s XHP steel. It features a 4-inch xhp blade that offers superior edge sharpness and retention, excellent corrosion, and decent toughness.
The blade comes sharp out of the box and ready to cut anything you throw at it. Cold Steel crowns this blade with a DLC coating which significantly improves its friction and wear resistance and makes it even more resistant to corrosion.
Since this knife comes with Cold Steel’s world-famous Tri-Ad Lock with exceptional strength and impact resistance, it keeps the blade secure in the open position, preventing it from closing on your fingers and leaving you with serious injuries.
Don’t forget that this knife has a sturdy, lightweight G10 scaled handle to give you a secure grip. Besides, the handle is contoured to offer you a more comfortable grip. the included reversible pocket clip assures you of comfortable carry.
This knife is popular with law enforcers, military personnel, fire and rescue cue, and even civilians who want a dependable cutting tool for tactical and emergency situations. You can’t go wrong with this knife for everyday carry.
Also available on:
In conclusion, cts-xhp is well-rounded steel that offers you excellent edge retention and great corrosion resistance. It is relatively easy to sharpen and offers sufficient toughness to keep off chipping and cracking. What more could you ask of knife steel?
As you have discovered from this cts xhp steel review, some of the big names in the knife industry like Spyderco and Cold Steel are already using this steel, acting as further proof that cts-xhp is a good steel for knife making.