Knives can be made out of many different types of steel. If you’re a knifemaker, or just somebody buying one to use, you’ll naturally want the knife that has the highest quality steel.
With such a range, though, it can be difficult to narrow them all down and find the one that will suit your needs best!
So we’ve saved you some time and done it for you! We have a comprehensive range of guides on all the different types of knife steels, each describing what benefits you’re going to get, and explaining how each is scientifically made.
This particular guide will tell you all about S30V, from its qualities to its components, and how good it will be if used in a knife blade.
Read on to find out if it’s the steel you’re looking for!
S30V Steel Composition
When choosing the steel that’s going to make up your knife, you’ll want to look at all the parts that have gone into creating it.
These are the chemical elements and pieces that have all been painstakingly researched and tested, before being mixed together to make the final steel.
Think of it like a soup – you put a bunch of food ingredients in, and out comes something delicious! Only now it isn’t delicious, just really helpful.
More officially referred to as CPM S30V, this particular steel was developed in America and has fast become one of the most respected and renowned steels available.
However, due to its brilliant quality and effectiveness at cutting well while keeping undamaged, it is quite expensive. That said, its many qualities are so great that you’re probably saving money in the long run!
But what makes it so good? What chemical properties have made S30V? Read on to find a comprehensive breakdown.
The chemical element that makes up the most of S30V is that of chromium, which is 14% of the steel. It brings a lot of benefits to the steel, such as tensile strength.
This is the measure of how much a metal can be put under pressure before it snaps and breaks.
With increased tensile strength, this steel should be able to put up with a lot of stress. So if your knife is being bent or squashed for whatever reason, it’s unlikely to destroy it.
Chromium brings other benefits, such as edge retention.
This refers to a film that’s been used to coat the knife, in this case, a combination of chromium and oxygen to produce chromium oxide – which will help cover the blade and stop damage.
Think of it as your new mobile phone. You’ve just spent loads on it, and don’t want to drop it and smash it. So what do you do? You buy a case and a screen protector!
Those are essentially films that cover the important device inside.
So for knives, the film helps to give it a greater resistance to corrosion and wear. These mean that the knife is unlikely to get worn down the more you use it, meaning you won’t have to shell out and buy a new one.
The next largest chemical element is vanadium, which accounts for 4% of the steel. This also contributes to wear resistance, making it doubly likely that the steel won’t begin to get warped and dented – and become less effective.
Vanadium also improves hardenability, which is not the same as hardness (which is how hard the steel is).
This, on the other hand, is all about how hard the steel can potentially become when put under a great deal of thermal heat.
After that, molybdenum is the next biggest chemical presence. Although it may only be 2% of the steel, its benefits cannot be ignored, as it is majorly responsible for giving a steel increased machinability.
This specialist term refers to the fact that the steel can be more easily cut by a machine.
This will mean that your knife blade should be crafted into the perfect, serrated shape – and ready for use. S30V includes a very tiny percentage of sulfur that also adds machinability, just for good measure.
Carbon is another essential chemical element that helps to make S30V such a particularly impressive steel. For one, it improves the hardness of it, meaning it’s unlikely to get deformed or damaged.
Additionally, the element adds to the wear and corrosion resistance, which are already improved by other elements. With this extra level of protection, the knife definitely won’t corrode if it gets wet.
There is a small risk that extra carbon can decrease a steel’s strength – though this may be the case with S30V, which has a relatively high 1.45%, there are enough elements that improve the strength to surely make up for it.
For example, there are a handful of other elements in mostly small amounts that help add to the strength. A fifth of a percent of nitrogen is included in S30V, which not only adds to edge retention, but gives it extra strength too.
The same goes for silicon, with a half a percent included in the construction of the steel. One more gas like nitrogen, phosphorous is another ingredient that helps to make the steel much stronger.
All of these mean that the knife blade should be able to cut into firmer things and is unlikely to be damaged by doing so.
Finally, 0.4% of tungsten is included. This helps add to the wear resistance, making the steel last longer and in better condition, while also improving the blade’s hardness.
There’s a reason that S30V is such a popular steel for making knife blades with, and that’s because of this great range of chemical ingredients. They all bring really crucial benefits, and now we’re going to examine why these are so handy.
S30V Steel Qualities
As we’ve suggested, S30V is great at resistance to getting old and broken down. Thanks to its chromium and vanadium, the steel has a high resistance to wear.
This means that if you use it a lot, nobody is likely to be able to tell! It’ll look as good as new.
The same goes for corrosion resistance. If the knife has less of this, it might begin to form rust if it becomes wet at any point.
This would be a slippery slope to the knife becoming ruined – but thankfully, the resistance to corrosion will stop that from happening in the first place.
Just give it a small wipe whenever you’ve used it near liquid, and it should never rust.
The steel also has a very fine edge retention, meaning that the edges and curves of your knife blade will be well-protected from becoming blunt and broken.
This is thanks to the inclusion of chromium and nitrogen in its mixture of chemical elements.
The S30V steel is also quite impressively hard. It may not have the best hardness on the market, but it is without a doubt hard itself.
On the Rockwell hardness scale, which measures the hardness of steels by testing how much they become dented by different loads, the steel scored a 58-61 HRC.
This is towards the higher end of many steels, and is largely due to the inclusion of carbon, vanadium, tungsten, and manganese.
You’ll greatly see the benefits that these elements have brought to it if you try to cut into something that’s rather thick – the fact that the knife won’t become misshapen is right down to its impressive hardness.
In fact, the use of vanadium carbides in the steel construction gives it a refined grain, which is what gives it some of its best properties.
However, hardness comes at some cost, affecting the sharpness of S30V steel. This makes sense though, because if a steel is so much more effective and refined because of its hardness – those hard qualities and edges aren’t going to be easy to sharpen.
The same goes for toughness. Though the S30V has far from poor toughness, it just isn’t quite at the level of a few other steels.
This is because it’s too good elsewhere – if it’s got great hardness and resistance to corrosion, it’s just not going to be able to be as tough. That isn’t to say it’s weak, though. It’s still tough.
For the heat treatment of the steel (a controlled process that will help to give it its best properties), first austenitize to 1950°F before quenching down at 125°F.
In case you’re wondering, austenitizing is all about heating the metal above its critical temperature in order for transformations to take place. By quenching right after the austenitizing, it makes the steel hardened.
Now double temper at 600°F. Double-tempering is heating then cooling the metal twice in quick succession. You want to do this for 2 hours each time, cool between.
S30V is one of the finest stainless steels available on the market, and a great choice for knifemakers or knife users to have as the steel for their blade.
Its common usage in fancy pocket knives and expensive kitchen cutlery tells you exactly how good a quality steel it is, and how effective it is at cutting materials – without getting damaged.
As you have seen, it’s got a wide range of quality chemical elements making it up. They give it a great hardness as well as quality resistance to both wearing down and corrosion.
Though S30V can be a fairly expensive steel, you’re really getting the quality! And think of it this way: it’s an investment!
By putting the money in now, the knife won’t break, and you won’t have to be buying a new one anytime soon.
In fact, it’s far above many other steels on the market! To compare, it offers much better sharpness and toughness than the S90V, though that does offer slightly better edge retention if you need it.
Similarly, the D2 steel pales in comparison – with lower corrosion resistance, sharpness, and edge retention. In the same way, 154CM steel also comes up short in toughness and corrosion resistance.
Many steels can come quite close to the S30V and its qualities (such as VG10, 420HC, and S110V) but they typically have some component that just can’t equal it.
For that reason, the S30V is a brilliant steel for your knife blade, and tends to offer the best qualities overall.
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