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Is 9Cr18MoV a Good Knife Steel? Unveiling the Underdog

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Tired of overpriced knife steels that drain your wallet faster than a rusty can opener? Meet 9Cr18MoV, the budget-friendly badass of the blade world. This unassuming Chinese champ is shaking things up with its laser-sharp bite and rock-solid toughness, all without breaking the bank.

But is 9Cr18MoV a good knife steel? Is it too good to be true? Don’t let its humble origins fool you. 9Cr18MoV is a chemical ninja, packed with secrets that make it hold an edge like a samurai and shrug off rust like a duck in a rainstorm. From kitchen duty to outdoor adventures, this steel punches above its weight class without needing constant pampering. It offers great advantages for outdoor, EDC and kitchen use.

Key Takeaways

    • Budget-Friendly Bite: 9Cr18MoV delivers razor-sharp performance without the hefty price tag, making it a budget-conscious champion for everyday cutting tasks.
    • Tenacious Toughness: This steel boasts excellent corrosion resistance and holds its edge well, standing strong against rust and wear-and-tear.
    • Sharpening Savvy: While its edge retention is impressive, sharpening 9Cr18MoV might require a slightly different approach compared to some steels.
    • Versatile Value: From kitchen duty to outdoor adventures, 9Cr18MoV’s adaptability makes it a valuable asset for any knife enthusiast seeking a reliable and affordable blade.

What is 9Cr18MoV steel?

9Cr18MoV is a high-end Chinese stainless steel that is very popular with knife manufacturers worldwide. Essentially, 9Cr18MoV is a modified 440B steel that contains 0.9% carbon and 18% chromium. 9Cr18MoV steel is durable and retains its edge. 9Cr18MoV steel is widely used to make knife blades, scissors, surgical blades, cutlery in general, and other items. Its properties are largely due to its chemical composition – the clever combination of elements gives the steel high edge retention, while also being highly resistant to corrosion.

Is 9Cr18MoV a good knife steel
Is 9Cr18MoV a good knife steel?

Chemical composition of 9Cr18MoV steel

9Cr18MoV steel contains 0.9% carbon, 18% chromium and additional molybdenum and vanadium. The full chemical composition is as follows:

ElementPortionEffect
Chrome18%Improves wear resistance, heat resistance and scale resistance. It increases tensile strength because it acts as a carbide former. Use of rust-free or stainless steel, as it increases corrosion resistance from a mass proportion of 12.2%. Reduction in weldability.
Carbon0.9%Increasing hardness and tensile strength. In larger quantities, increase in brittleness and reduction in forgeability and weldability.
Mangan0.8%Improves hardness and tensile strength.
Molybdenum1.3%Improves hardenability, tensile strength and weldability. Reduction in forgeability and ductility.
Nickel0.6%Nickel increases tensile strength and yield strength. From 8% increase in corrosion resistance.
Phosphor0.04%Increases tensile strength, hardness and corrosion resistance but also brittleness.
Sulfur0.03%Increases machinability but also brittleness.
Silicon0.8%Improves strength.
Vanadium0.12%Increasing hardness, increasing wear resistance and improving tempering resistance.
9Cr18MoV steel composition

What is the hardness (HRC) of 9Cr18MoV steel?

There are a variety of different heat treatments applied to steels. These specific heat treatments can drastically affect the properties of the steel in question.

During this process, carbon content is one of the main factors that provides hardening to the steel. In other words, a high carbon content causes the steel to become harder during the heat treatment process.

9Cr18MoV Steel Rockwell Hardness
9Cr18MoV Steel Rockwell Hardness

9Cr18MoV steel can be heat treated to achieve a Rockwell hardness of 58-60 HRC. The presence of vanadium also increases the vanadium carbide content, which contributes to the overall hardness and wear resistance.

Is 9Cr18MoV rustproof or stainless steel?

9Cr18MoV is a rust-resistant steel but not a stainless steel. To be considered stainless, it must have a chromium content of at least 10.5 – 13% dissolved in the austenite or ferrite, depending on the definition. With 18%, 9Cr18MoV is generously equipped here. Unfortunately, this steel is not a stainless steel because its sulfur and phosphorus content (so-called iron companion) exceeds 0.025% (see here).

Properties of 9Cr18MoV Steel

According to the chemical composition and hardness of 9Cr18MoV, this steel offers the following properties and characteristics:

1. 9Cr18MoV steel edge retention

The edge retention of steel is due to the combination of elements that help harden the steel while keeping its brittleness in check.

The high carbon content of 9Cr18MoV steel gives it a solid base that helps resist abrasion. The intensive heat treatment further enhances this. As a result, 9Cr18MoV holds its sharpness quite well.

Furthermore, the addition of vanadium contributes to the formation of vanadium carbide, an extremely hard substance that also contributes to the edge retention of this steel.

2. 9Cr18MoV steel corrosion resistance

Stainless steel is a preferred material for knife blades due to its corrosion resistance. This is due to the presence of elements (nickel, molybdenum, chromium, etc.), which together prevent oxidative damage.

9Cr18MoV steel contains chromium (18%), nickel (0.6%) and molybdenum (1-1.3%) – relatively large amounts that give it excellent corrosion resistance.

9Cr18MoV steel blade pocket knife
9Cr18MoV steel blade pocket knife

3. 9Cr18MoV steel wear resistance

Blade manufacturers use wear resistance to evaluate the ability of a steel grade to resist wear. Wear resistance is closely related to hardness, but is also significantly affected by specific chemical reactions. With 18% chromium and 0.12% vanadium, this 9Cr18MoV offers an immensely fine grain, resulting in exceptional wear resistance.

4. Sharpness of 9Cr18MoV steel

9Cr18MoV is a solid steel that is praised for its hard finish and excellent edge retention. However, this does affect the ease of sharpening. So, compared to other steels in its price range, some users who are not as experienced in sharpening may find it relatively difficult to sharpen.

Modern sharpening tools and techniques continue to improve, and many of the high-quality sharpening systems available today can help even the least experienced users achieve and maintain a razor-sharp edge on almost any high-quality knife steel.

5. Machinability of 9Cr18MoV steel

9Cr18MoV is a hard steel. The golden rule is simple: the harder the steel the harder it is to machine. On the other hand, 9Cr18MoV contains a lot of chromium and some sulfur which has a positive effect on machinability.

6. Toughness of 9Cr18MoV steel

The harder the steel gets, the more brittle it tends to become, which reduces its toughness. With a Rockwell hardness of 58-60 HRC, one would expect 9Cr18MoV to perform poorly in terms of toughness. However, the addition of nickel and manganese to the steel increases the overall tensile strength of 9Cr18MoV, making it decently tough.

It usually comes down to a compromise between hardness and toughness. Many of the premium knife steels that have come and are coming on the market are now pushing the limits of what can be achieved with modern metallurgy.

9Cr18MoV steel EDC knife
9Cr18MoV steel EDC knife

Is 9Cr18MoV a good knife steel?

Yes, 9Cr18MoV is a good knife steel that can be found in many knives used by anglers, hunters, hikers and campers. 9Cr18MoV is a popular knife steel – all over the world. This is mainly due to its high edge retention and corrosion resistance.

It is also a popular knife steel for kitchen knives thanks to its great edge retention, wear resistance and resistance to corrosion and stains.

Pros

  • Sharpness: Stays razor sharp for a long time
  • Rustproof: Highly resistant to corrosion and staining
  • Affordable: A budget-friendly option compared to premium steels
  • Versatile: Suitable for various knives and tasks

Cons

  • Sharpening: Can be slightly more difficult to sharpen than some steels
  • Chipping: Not as chip-resistant as some high-end steels
  • Extreme Conditions: Not ideal for freezing temperatures or saltwater environments

Equivalents of 9Cr18MoV Steel

9Cr18MoV and 440B are roughly equivalent steels that have nearly similar chemical compositions. In fact, 9Cr18MoV is actually a 440B steel with vanadium added and molybdenum content increased from 0.75% to 1-1.3%. However, there are slight variations in the manganese and silicon contents, which have been reduced from 1% to 0.8%.

Another 400 series that is close to the 9Cr18MoV is the 440C steel. Both have high carbon and chromium content. In addition, they are heat-treated to a Rockwell hardness of 58-60 HRC. Apart from the slightly higher amounts of molybdenum in the 9Cr18MoV, the two steels are more or less on par in terms of hardness and wear resistance.

9Cr18MoV steel folding knife
9Cr18MoV steel folding knife

Related: 12C27 steel review

Other designations and standards of 9Cr18MoV steel

9Cr18MoV steel is also available alternatively under these designations:

Standard SpecsProprietary Equivalents
AFNOR – Z2CND1805Bestar – BE4112
AISI – 440BBofors – RO189
BS – X90CrMoV18Bohler-Uddeholm – N685 ISOEXTRA
CSN – 17042Bohler-Uddeholm – N685 EXTRA
DIN – X91CrMoV18Dorrenberg – R17X
DIN – X90CrMoV18Grimm Edelstahl – RF90
EN – X90CrMoV18Hover&Sohn – RS11
GB – 90Cr18MoVHoverstahl – Coracid4112
GB – 85Cr17Kind & Co – RM189
GB – 8Cr17Kind & Co – Coracid440B
JIS – SUS440BKlein Metals – Chronifer M17B
JUS – C.4772Lohmann – LO-R 4112
KS – STS440BMetal Ravne – OCR6
SIS – 2327Nippon Koshuha – SM2
UNE – X90CrMoV18Ossenberg – RFSh2
UNI – X90CrMoV18Osto Wolff – Korronit-C
UNS – S44003Platestahl – PMCo189
W-Nr – 1.2361Poldi – AK9
W-Nr – 1.4112SIJ Metal Ravne D.O.O. – SIHard 2361
Schmolz Bickenbach – Formadur 2361
TES – REMANIT4112
Thyssen-Krupp – NIROSTA4112
Thyssen-Krupp – X90CrMoC18
Villares Metals – V440BC
Yoshikin – CROMOVA 18
Zapp – K90L
Zapp – ARGESTE 1.4112

Final words: 9Cr18MoV steel review

9Cr18MoV is a great steel that has all the qualities of a good knife steel. Although some users find it a little difficult to sharpen, it offers great advantages for outdoor, EDC and kitchen use.

For those who do not intend to subject their knife to significant abuse (batoning…) where the tensile strength is likely to fail, 9Cr18MoV steel is a great choice. Its high corrosion and wear resistance and excellent edge retention make it a versatile knife steel to own.

Although 9Cr18MoV is a relatively high-quality steel, knives vary in price depending on various factors such as the brand, the quality of the handle, and the sheath used if it is a fixed-blade knife.

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