Is CPM 20CV a Good Knife Steel? Composition & Analysis

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At A Glance
CPM 20CV, a martensitic stainless steel developed by Crucible Industries, is an excellent choice for knife steel. It offers superior wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and edge retention. The steel’s exceptional hardness and performance make it ideal for heavy-duty cutting tasks. While it may require more effort to sharpen and maintain than other steels, its superior durability and performance characteristics make it a highly sought-after option for premium knives.

CPM 20CV is a high-quality stainless steel that has captured the attention of knife enthusiasts and makers alike. Developed by Crucible Industries, CPM 20CV is known for its exceptional wear resistance and corrosion resistance, making it an ideal choice for premium knives. Composed of high levels of vanadium, chromium, and carbon, this steel promises excellent performance in heavy-duty cutting tasks or intricate workmanship.

As a result of its outstanding properties, CPM 20CV has become popular among professionals and hobbyists, and it is widely used in applications like plastic injection feed screws, barrel liners, and mold cavities. With its exceptional hardness, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance, CPM 20CV has earned its reputation as a top-tier knife steel. So, whether you’re in the market for a new knife or looking to craft your own, selecting CPM 20CV as your steel of choice is a confident decision backed by its proven performance.

Understanding the composition and properties of CPM 20CV can help you make an educated decision when choosing the right steel for your next knife. With its balanced mix of desirable attributes, it’s no wonder that CPM 20CV has become a popular choice among knife makers and users alike.

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Basics of CPM 20CV Steel

CPM 20CV is a martensitic stainless steel developed by Crucible Industries that boasts excellent wear resistance and corrosion resistance. This high-performance knife steel is made using powder metallurgy, a process that ensures the even distribution of fine carbides, which enhances its toughness and durability.

The chemical composition of CPM 20CV includes a high concentration of vanadium, chromium, and carbon. This unique combination provides exceptional hardness, edge retention, and resistance to deterioration from environmental factors.

When comparing CPM 20CV with other popular knife steels, it is often likened to Bohler M390 and Carpenter CTS-204P, as they all share similar properties. In practical applications, these nearly identical steels are often indistinguishable. While CPM 20CV is highly regarded for its performance, it is worth mentioning that it can be more difficult to sharpen than some other steels.

Given its outstanding properties, CPM 20CV has found applications not only in premium knives but also in plastic injection feed screws, barrel liners, screw tips, and mold cavities. This versatile steel can meet the demands of various industries where wear resistance and corrosion resistance are critical factors.

In summary, CPM 20CV is a high-quality knife steel that offers impressive performance and durability. Its powder metallurgy production process, along with its unique chemical composition, make it a sought-after option for knives and various other demanding applications.

Composition and Properties

Chemical Composition

CPM 20CV is a high-quality steel widely used for making knives and boasts an impressive chemical composition. The steel contains 1.90% Carbon, 20.00% Chromium, 1.00% Molybdenum, 0.60% Tungsten, and 4.00% Vanadium. This unique mixture of elements contributes to the desirable properties of CPM 20CV steel.

The high Carbon content (1.90%) lends exceptional hardness and tensile strength to the steel. It also enhances the steel’s resistance to wear, abrasion, and corrosion. Comparatively, 1095 steel is known for its high carbon content, but CPM 20CV has outperformed it in terms of edge retention and corrosion resistance.

Chromium, one of the most substantial components in CPM 20CV at 20.00%, forms chromium carbide, which increases hardness, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance of the blade. This high Chromium content also contributes to making CPM 20CV a stainless steel, thus rendering it more durable than other types of steel.

Molybdenum (1.00%) and Tungsten (0.60%) work together to further increase the strength and hardness of CPM 20CV steel. These elements ensure that the knives made from this steel can withstand tough conditions and retain their edge longer.

Vanadium, at 4.00%, plays a significant role in making CPM 20CV a top choice for knife makers. It strengthens the steel and improves wear resistance, resulting in long-lasting and sharp blades.

In summary, the unique combination of elements in CPM 20CV steel offers excellent properties, including high hardness, impressive edge retention, and superb corrosion resistance. Its chemical composition sets it apart from other steel types, making it a preferred choice for high-quality knives.

CPM 20CV Performance Metrics


CPM 20CV is a martensitic stainless steel that offers a high hardness rating. According to the Rockwell C scale, its hardness rating typically ranges between 58 to 61 HRC. This rating can vary depending on the heat treatment provided by the manufacturer.

Edge Retention

The high hardness of CPM 20CV steel results in excellent edge retention, thanks to its high carbon and vanadium content. This super steel is often compared to other premium steels such as M390 and CTS-204P, which are known for their excellent edge retention.

Corrosion Resistance

CPM 20CV offers a great level of corrosion resistance due to its high chromium content. This stainless steel is able to resist rust and corrosion in most environments, making it perfect for use in premium knives that will be exposed to moisture and humidity. However, it may not be as corrosion-resistant as some other stainless steels like S30V or S35VN.


Despite its high hardness rating, CPM 20CV also exhibits a good amount of toughness. The steel’s toughness is considered adequate for various applications, including kitchen knives and outdoors knives. Its toughness helps it withstand impacts and potentially resist chipping and brittleness.

Wear Resistance

The high carbon and vanadium content in CPM 20CV contribute to its wear resistance. It is known for its high wear resistance and ability to retain its sharpness, even after extensive use. While it may prove challenging to sharpen due to the wear resistance, users can expect their blades to maintain their edge for extended periods.

Overall, CPM 20CV is a versatile super steel that offers a balance of hardness, edge retention, corrosion resistance, toughness, and wear resistance, making it an excellent choice for premium knives.

Sharpening and Maintenance

CPM 20CV is a high-end knife steel known for its excellent wear resistance and corrosion resistance. This means that knives made from this steel will hold their edge well and require less frequent sharpening compared to other types of steel. However, when it comes to sharpening CPM 20CV knives, it can be a little more challenging due to its high wear resistance.

One approach to sharpening CPM 20CV knives is using a high-quality sharpening system, such as a Sharpmaker or guided sharpening systems with diamond or ceramic abrasives. These systems can provide efficient and accurate sharpening of the knife edge. While it might still take some time and effort to achieve a polished edge, the results are worth it as they enhance the cutting ability and longevity of the knife.

Proper maintenance is also essential for knives made of CPM 20CV steel. Since it is a stainless steel, it already offers excellent corrosion resistance. However, it is always a good idea to clean the knife after each use, especially when it comes in contact with acidic or corrosive substances. Wiping the blade with a soft cloth or rinsing it under running water can help avoid staining or dulling of the blade’s finish over time.

If you’re planning to store your CPM 20CV knife for an extended period, make sure it is clean and dry before storage. Applying a thin layer of oil to the blade can help protect it from potential moisture that could lead to corrosion. Store the knife in a cool, dry place to ensure its longevity and optimal performance when it’s ready for use again.

In conclusion, while CPM 20CV steel may require a bit more effort to sharpen and maintain compared to other knife steels, the benefits of excellent wear resistance and corrosion resistance make it a popular choice for knife enthusiasts who value performance and durability. With proper sharpening techniques and regular maintenance, a CPM 20CV knife can be a reliable tool for various cutting tasks and last for years to come.

Comparison with Other Knife Steels

In this section, we will compare CPM 20CV with other popular knife steels such as M390, S30V, S35VN, S90V, and CTS-204P.

CPM 20CV vs M390

  • CPM 20CV: Known for its excellent wear resistance and corrosion resistance, CPM 20CV is used in premium knives and various industrial applications. It is a high Vanadium, Chromium, and Carbon martensitic stainless steel.
  • M390: M390 is also a martensitic stainless steel, featuring high wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and great edge retention. Widely used in high-end knives and cutting tools.

Both steels have similar properties, however, M390 is considered to have slightly better edge retention while CPM 20CV offers higher corrosion resistance.

CPM 20CV vs S30V

  • CPM 20CV: As mentioned, CPM 20CV excels in wear and corrosion resistance, making it suitable for premium knives and industrial applications.
  • S30V: A well-balanced stainless steel known for its toughness, edge retention, and corrosion resistance. S30V is commonly used in mid to high-end knives.

While both steels perform well, CPM 20CV has higher wear and corrosion resistance compared to S30V.

CPM 20CV vs S35VN

  • CPM 20CV: Offers exceptional wear and corrosion resistance, suitable for premium knives.
  • S35VN: An improved version of S30V, S35VN provides slightly better toughness, edge retention, and ease of sharpening while maintaining excellent corrosion resistance.

In this comparison, CPM 20CV offers higher wear and corrosion resistance, while S35VN provides better toughness and ease of sharpening.

CPM 20CV vs S90V

  • CPM 20CV: Known for its wear and corrosion-resistant properties, ideal for premium knives and industrial use.
  • S90V: A high Vanadium stainless steel with extreme edge retention and wear resistance but lower corrosion resistance compared to CPM 20CV.

When compared to S90V, CPM 20CV offers better corrosion resistance, while S90V excels in edge retention and wear resistance.

CPM 20CV vs CTS-204P

  • CPM 20CV: Exceptional wear and corrosion resistance, making it ideal for premium knives and industrial applications.
  • CTS-204P: Similar to M390, CTS-204P is a martensitic stainless steel providing outstanding wear resistance, edge retention, and corrosion resistance.

CPM 20CV and CTS-204P have comparable properties, but CTS-204P may have a slight edge in terms of edge retention, while CPM 20CV offers higher corrosion resistance.

CPM 20CV vs Other Steels

CPM 20CV maintains a great balance of wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and edge retention when compared to many other knife steels. Its performance is mostly on par or better than other reputable steels, but user preferences based on specific requirements may necessitate the selection of alternative steels.

Manufacturing Applications and Use Cases

Kitchen Knives

CPM 20CV steel is a popular choice for kitchen knives due to its high wear resistance and excellent corrosion resistance. Its excellent corrosion resistance prolongs the life and performance of the knife, making it suitable for daily use in wet environments, such as kitchens. The steel’s high hardness also ensures that the edge remains sharp, reducing the need for frequent sharpening.

The abrasion resistance of CPM 20CV makes it an ideal material for cutting through various ingredients, withstanding wear and tear in the kitchen. However, it is essential to note that its machinability might be challenging compared to other steels, but its excellent properties outweigh this minor inconvenience in professional kitchen settings.

Folding Knives

For folding knives, CPM 20CV is a top choice due to its balance of toughness, corrosion resistance, and edge retention. Folding knives are often subjected to heavy use, and the high hardness of this steel maintains blade sharpness for an extended period. Furthermore, its resistance to rusting ensures that the folding mechanism remains smooth, preventing any issues with the knife’s closing and opening.

The inclusion of CPM 20CV in folding knives provides enhanced durability, especially in the face of regular wear and tear. This makes it an ideal blade steel for various applications, from everyday carry (EDC) to outdoor adventures and survival scenarios.

Fixed Blade Knives

Fixed blade knives, such as hunting, survival, and tactical knives, benefit from CPM 20CV steel’s impressive properties. The steel’s toughness and wear resistance make it suitable for handling harsh conditions and rugged use. Its excellent corrosion resistance ensures that the knives resist rusting in damp or humid environments, making them reliable tools in various situations.

Mold cavities for creating fixed blade knives can be crafted from CPM 20CV, allowing for precise shaping of the blade and consistent performance. Additionally, the steel’s high wear resistance and hardness lower the risk of damage, such as chipping or breaking, during heavy-duty use.


CPM 20CV steel is a martensitic stainless steel that offers superb strength and durability for knife blades. Its high wear resistance and good edge retention make it an excellent choice for various cutting tools, and it has been noted to be easy to maintain and sharpen.

When it comes to balance, CPM 20CV sits at the top tier of knife steels, providing a good combination of hardness, corrosion resistance, and wear resistance. Its performance attributes make it suitable for both everyday carry knives and high-end collectible knives, giving users a quality knife that will last for a long time.

From a value standpoint, knives made from CPM 20CV may command a higher price than those made with more common steels. However, this is due to the superior properties of the material and the additional investment in the manufacturing process. This means that, considering its performance, it still delivers good value for its cost.

One aspect that should be considered when working with CPM 20CV is its grindability, which can be more challenging compared to other steels. Nevertheless, with proper equipment and expertise, it can be worked on effectively to produce a high-quality finished product.

In summary, CPM 20CV steel offers a strong and durable option for knife users who value balance, performance, and quality in their tools. While it may come with a slightly higher price tag, the benefits of choosing this steel for your knife outweigh the cost and provide lasting value.

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