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Is S110V Steel Good for Knives? Performance Evaluated

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As a professional knife enthusiast, I know how important it is to choose the right steel for your knife’s intended use. After extensive testing and research, I’m excited to share my thoughts on CPM S110V steel and its suitability for use in knives.

But is CPM S110V steel good for knives? You’ve probably heard of the Spyderco Military knife, which is made from CPM S110V steel. I am going to share a comprehensive analysis of this steel’s properties and potential benefits.

What is CPM S110V steel?

CPM 110V is a martensitic stainless tool steel made from a premium alloy with a maximum hardness of 63 HRC. It is manufactured by Crucible Industries in the USA and is rich in vanadium and niobium (S110V datasheet). It is primarily used for industrial knives, cutting machines, round cutters, screw elements and wear parts for machines in the food industry.

Is S110V steel good for knives
Is S110V steel good for knives?

S110V steel composition

CPM S110V is an alloy with high vanadium, molybdenum and carbon content, which is rare in steel and is composed as follows:

ElementPortionEffect
Chromium20.0%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.
Cobalt2.5%Improve hot hardness, corrosion and wear resistance. Increase in tensile strength and yield strength, but at the expense of toughness. carbide former.
Carbon1.9%Increasing hardness and tensile strength. In larger quantities, increase in brittleness and reduction in forgeability and weldability.
Molybdenum1.0%Improves hardenability, tensile strength and weldability. Reduction in forgeability and ductility.
Niobium3.0%Increase in strength and toughness. Carbide, nitride and carbon nitride formers due to high affinity for carbon and nitrogen.
Vanadium4.0%Increasing hardness, increasing wear resistance and improving tempering resistance.
S110V steel composition

Is S110V stainless steel?

Yes, S110V is a stainless steel because it contains more than 13% chromium. It is a high-performance powder metallurgy tool steel that contains high amounts of vanadium and niobium, which enhance its wear resistance and toughness. The “S” in S110V stands for “stainless,” which means that it has a high level of corrosion resistance and is ideal for use in outdoor or marine environments where it may be exposed to moisture or salt water.

What is the hardness of CPM S110V steel?

The hardness of S110V steel typically ranges from 60-63 HRC (Rockwell hardness scale), which is extremely hard and can hold a sharp edge for an extended period. The high hardness level of S110V steel makes it well-suited for applications where wear resistance and edge retention are critical factors.

CPM S110V Steel Rockwell Hardness
CPM S110V Steel Rockwell Hardness

S110V steel properties

According to its chemical composition and hardness, CPM S110V offers the following properties:

  • Edge retention: S110V has excellent edge retention due to its high hardness. It is possibly one of the best cut retention on the market anywhere, thanks to its high vanadium content and hardness.
  • Corrosion resistance: With a chromium content of over 15%, it is a stainless steel, making it rust resistant by definition, making it ideal for tools used in humid environments.
  • Wear resistance: Thanks to its chemical composition (=niobium, vanadium and chromium), it also offers extremely high wear resistance.
  • Sharpness:The harder the steel, the harder it is to sharpen“; it is true with CPM S110V. It is one of the hardest steels. So sharpening the S110V steel knife is difficult and that is rather an unpleasant task for many people.
  • Machinability: It is hard steel, so it is demanding in both grinding and machining.
  • Toughness: High hardness combined with high corrosion resistance would result in low toughness. Normally steels only excel in two of the three disciplines. But with S110V it is not true. It is hard, corrosion resistant and its TOUGHNESS is quite respectable, even if it is not its paradigm discipline!

Is CPM S110V a good knife steel?

Since S110V just has excellent edge retention, wear resistance, high hardness, high corrosion resistance and decent toughness, it is NATURALLY best suited for high-quality knives. It is nearly perfect despite its comparatively low toughness, especially for use in wet environments (fishing, hunting, skinning and diving).

However, if you want to use it as an everyday EDC knife and are not squeamish about it in the process, you might want to choose a different one – or at least a knife without a filigree tip, because it could break off.

CPM S110V Steel Blade
CPM S110V Steel Blade

S110V steel equivalent

The closest steel is probably CPM S90V (see article here) and comes from the same company. Its edge retention and corrosion resistance are also excellent, though not as high as S110V. However, S90V has better toughness. Although S90V has slightly better toughness, the two are still very close.

Some might still use CPM M4 as an equivalent, but on closer inspection, it is rather out of the question. M4 has better toughness but much lower corrosion resistance. One could perhaps say that S110V lies between S90V and M4.

Related: How good is LC200N steel for knives

CPM S110V steel compared to other similar steel

I have compared S110V with a few similar steels that can be an option to choose from depending on budget and other criteria.

CPM S110V Steel vs. CPM S30V Steel

CPM S30V is an industry-standard stainless steel renowned for its excellent edge retention and toughness. However, in comparison, CPM S110V steel boasts far superior edge retention, courtesy of its high levels of vanadium and niobium in its composition.

CPM S30V, in contrast, tends to require sharpening more frequently to maintain its performance. However, CPM S30V fares better in terms of overall toughness and ease of sharpening, making it a popular choice for heavy-duty knives that undergo rigorous use.

CPM S110V Steel vs. D2 Steel

D2 steel is a high-carbon steel with excellent wear resistance and toughness, making it a popular choice for tools that see high-impact usage.

However, CPM S110V steel is known to have better edge retention than D2 steel, making it a superior choice for knives where sharpness is a priority.

D2 steel, on the other hand, is easier to sharpen and is more versatile, making it suitable for a wider range of applications.

CPM S110V Steel vs. VG-10 Steel

VG-10 steel is an excellent all-around knife steel, known for its high corrosion resistance and ease of sharpening. However, in comparison to CPM S110V steel, VG-10 pales in edge retention.

Since CPM S110V has twice the amount of vanadium, which contributes to the steel’s high hardness and wear resistance. Nevertheless, VG-10 steel is more forgiving and less prone to chipping, making it ideal for classic chopper-style knives.

CriteriaCPM S110V SteelCPM S30V SteelD2 SteelVG-10 Steel
Edge RetentionExcellentGoodGoodFair
ToughnessGoodExcellentGoodFair
Corrosion ResistanceGoodGoodFairExcellent
SharpeningFairGoodFairExcellent
S110V vs S30V vs D2 vs VG10 steel

Final words: Is S110V steel good for knives?

Premium knives are – logically – made of high-quality premium steels. CPM S110V offers excellent properties and is nearly perfect, but its high toughness for the alloy but low toughness in direct comparison tends to make it unsuitable for use in knives with delicate tips that need to be pushed hard. If you are looking for a knife that will stay sharp and cut well for a long time and reliably should definitely consider purchasing an S110V knife.

That said, with premium knives, you always have to keep in mind that knifemaking is not an exact science. There is no such thing as the perfect knife that can do everything equally well.

You always have to think about what you want to use the knife for. Whether you can and want to sharpen a knife made of a super steel like S110V, or whether a knife made of a non-premium steel might not do the job better, for example, S30V – much tougher and much easier to sharpen.

What are the characteristics of CPM S110V steel?

CPM S110V steel has a high carbon content and is alloyed with vanadium and niobium, making it extremely tough and resistant to wear. It also exhibits excellent corrosion resistance and has a fine grain structure.

How durable is CPM S110V steel?

CPM S110V steel is highly durable, thanks to its exceptional wear resistance. It can withstand heavy use and retain its sharpness for a longer period compared to many other knife steels.

Does CPM S110V steel have good edge retention?

Yes, CPM S110V steel is renowned for its outstanding edge retention. It maintains sharpness even after extended periods of use, making it an excellent choice for tasks that require prolonged cutting without frequent resharpening.

How does CPM S110V steel perform in real-world tests?

Knives made with CPM S110V steel have demonstrated impressive performance in real-world tests. Users have praised its ability to cut through various materials effortlessly and its ability to retain sharpness even in demanding cutting tasks.

Is CPM S110V steel versatile?

Yes, CPM S110V steel is versatile and suitable for a wide range of knives. It is commonly used in folding knives, fixed blade knives, and kitchen knives. Its excellent edge retention and durability make it a popular choice among users from different backgrounds.

How should I maintain and care for CPM S110V steel knives?

To properly maintain and care for CPM S110V steel knives, it is recommended to clean them after use, avoid exposure to harsh chemicals, and store them in a dry and safe place. Regular sharpening and oiling the blade can also help preserve its performance.

How does CPM S110V steel compare to other knife steels?

When compared to other knife steels, CPM S110V steel stands out with its exceptional wear resistance and edge retention. It is considered on par with or even superior to many popular knife steels in terms of performance and durability.

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