If you see a knife with N690Co near the hilt, it might be confusing to understand what this means.
This is a unique steel compound made by European company Bohler used primarily in knives and is acclaimed for its affordability and high quality for its price.
The material is currently most popular for its use in knives, especially knives intended for outdoor activities.
So in this review, I’m going to be breaking down all the different qualities of this steel and showing what products it is best in.
Chemical Composition Of The Steel
- Carbon (C) 1.07%
- Chromium (Cr) 17.3%
- Molybdenum (Mo) 1.1%
- Silicon (Si) 0.4%
- Vanadium (V) 0.1%
- Manganese (Mn) 0.4%
- Cobalt (Co) 1.65%
But what do these parts of the steel mean for its properties?
The most unique factor of this steel is its high Carbon content as well as the inclusion of Cobalt.
These elements greatly increase the strength of the steel, so if it is used in a knife, for example, it increases edge retention and the strength of the blade.
The inclusion of Chromium increases the steel’s resistance to corrosion, as well as further helps edge retention for blades. By having over 12% of chromium, this steel officially qualifies as a stainless steel.
Both Molybdenum, Vanadium, and Manganese increase the steel’s machinability. The Molybdenum particularly helps with extra strength, the Vanadium with wear resistance, and the Manganese with blade hardness.
Finally, the use of silicone further helps increase the strength of the blade.
So what does this steel do well and what does it get outclassed in?
What N690Co Does Well
As previously stated, the combination of Carbon and Cobalt is one of the biggest selling points of this steel. Because of this, the steel scores an impressive HRC rating of 61.
A good level of hardness ensures that a steel will keep its shape and not falter with the range of factors involved in outdoor activities.
Edge Retention (Easy To Sharpen Too)
This factor comes with the level of hardness the steel has.
Knives made out of N690Co steel will be able to retain their sharp edges for an above-average period of time, making them perfect for those who don’t always have access to sharpening equipment.
A factor behind a consistently fine edge is the inclusion of Cobalt.
When you do eventually end up having to sharpen a blade made with N690Co, due to the blade's machinability, this will not be troublesome and will be relatively efficient.
With the inclusion of Chromium and Vanadium, this steel has a high wear resistance. Once again, the unique use of Cobalt increases this to a further degree.
A lot of the knives made with N690Co can be slightly more expensive than the average cost of a knife, but a factor of this is not having to worry about premature wearing on the blades, with them designed for long-term use.
Because of the high chromium content of the steel, if it is used for outdoor activities in wet or humid conditions, you will not have to worry about corrosion.
So if you know that you’ll be using a knife made from this steel in wet conditions, you can trust that you won’t have to worry about any rusting.
Manufacturers are happy to work with the material, primarily for the use of Molybdenum, Vanadium, and Manganese within its composition.
This reduces the damage the material could potentially do to manufacturers' machines and makes it generally easier to produce.
What N690Co Does Not Do Well
The main issue with this steel is the low toughness it has. Knives made with this material will not have excessively low toughness but compared to how well this material scores on other factors for knife-making, it lacks in toughness.
The knife should still be able to perform most stressful activities that an outdoors knife can do, but if you are hoping to do some really tough work, maybe consider a knife that performs better in this category
Bohler’s N690Co is a popular choice for knife-making for many reasons, as displayed here.
By including Cobalt as a compound within the composition of the steel, a knife made out of this material performs well in all categories, only slightly lacking in toughness.
And if you are planning to use this steel for something other than knife-making, the machinability from the Molybdenum, Vanadium, and Manganese makes this a good steel to work with!
OUR TOP PICK
This knife features a 3.45 inch (8.76 cm) blade and a full length of 6.06 inches (15.4 cm) and features Spyderco’s signature non-locking SPILIT design.
The leaf shape blade is perfect for precision use and folds into a compact, sleek-looking design. The hole in the blade makes the knife easy to fold out and safe to fold back in.
The sheepfoot style of the Spyderco Roadie uses the durable premium N690Co steel.
This penknife design is a classic for Spyderco featuring a double dent at the top of the blade for easy folding in and out, and the reinforced nylon handle gives it a comfortable grip.
The blade length is 2.09 inches (5.3 cm) and the overall product length is 5.08 inches (12.9 cm), making the blade easily portable.
Both products are available in a wide variety of colors, and Spyderco often offers a variety of limited edition designs on their website.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Knife Toughness Mean?
Knife toughness refers to how resistant knives are to breaking or showing premature signs of wear like chipping, for example. If a knife has high toughness, it means it will be less likely to break when dealt tough jobs.
What Does Knife Hardness Mean?
Knife hardness refers to the strength of the material it is made from.
A harder knife will generally be able to have a sharper edge and get jobs done more efficiently, however, this is usually at the cost of a heftier price tag.
Typically, the harder the knife, the more expensive the knife.
What Does Edge Retention Mean?
Edge retention is a measurement of how often the sharp edge of a knife will need to be re-sharpened to keep the edge from becoming blunt.
This is typically a reflection of both the knife’s hardness and toughness, but other factors like the elements in the composition can be attributed to this.
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