CPM 20CV vs S35VN – Choosing A Steel For Knife Blades

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At A Glance
CPM20CV, a martensitic stainless steel, stands out for its exceptional wear resistance, edge retention, and corrosion resistance, attributable to its high carbon, chromium, and vanadium content. Conversely, CPM S35VN, a premium martensitic stainless steel co-developed by renowned knifemaker Chris Reeve, boasts superior toughness and easier sharpening. Despite CPM20CV’s higher cost, it’s an excellent choice for knives meant for heavy-duty or wet conditions due to its superior characteristics. On the other hand, the more affordable CPM S35VN is ideal for general-purpose knives due to its balanced properties.

Top Rated Knives

Blade steel is a significant factor to consider when selecting a knife. Two renowned blade steels often placed side by side for comparison are CPM20CV and CPM S35VN. This article will draw a comparison between these two steels considering their composition, hardness, toughness, corrosion resistance, edge retention, and ease of sharpening to discern which of them performs better in knives.

Embarking on a journey into the realm of blade materials can seem daunting for both the seasoned knife enthusiast and the beginner.

In this article, we’ll guide you through an extensive comparison between two popular knife steels: Crucible Particle Metallurgy’s 20CV (CPM20CV) and S35VN (CPM S35VN). We aim to demystify their inherent characteristics such as composition, hardness, toughness, corrosion resistance, edge retention, and ease of sharpening, leading you to an informed decision about which is better for knife blades.

Steel Background

Before we dive into the comparison, it’s essential to understand the foundation of these steel types.

CPM20CV

A martensitic stainless steel, CPM20CV is known for its exceptional wear resistance and edge retention. Thanks to its high levels of chromium, it also possesses excellent corrosion resistance. Much like other CPM steels, it’s processed using Crucible Industries’ unique Crucible Particle Metallurgy technique, resulting in a very homogeneous, high-quality steel.

CPM S35VN

Co-developed by Chris Reeve, a world-renowned knifemaker, CPM S35VN is a premium grade martensitic stainless steel designed to offer better toughness than its predecessor, CPM S30V. This steel’s production also uses the Crucible Particle Metallurgy process, yielding a highly consistent, superior quality steel.

Read More: S35VN Knife Steel Review

Steel Composition

The first comparison point is the chemical makeup of each steel.

CPM20CV

  • Carbon: 1.9%
  • Chromium: 20%
  • Molybdenum: 1%
  • Vanadium: 4%
  • Tungsten: 0.6%
  • Manganese: 0.3%
  • Silicon: 0.3%
  • Phosphorus: 0.03%
  • Sulfur: 0.03%

CPM S35VN

  • Carbon: 1.4%
  • Chromium: 14%
  • Molybdenum: 2%
  • Vanadium: 3%
  • Niobium: 0.5%
  • Manganese: 0.5%
  • Silicon: 0.5%
  • Phosphorus: 0.02%
  • Sulfur: 0.02%

From the above composition, we see that CPM20CV possesses more Carbon, Chromium, and Vanadium than CPM S35VN, accounting for its superior wear resistance, edge retention, and corrosion resistance.

CPM20CV vs CPM S35VN – Complete Comparison

Hardness

The hardness of a knife steel is integral as it influences edge retention and wear resistance directly.

CPM20CV exhibits a Rockwell hardness (HRC) of 59-61, falling into the optimal balance of edge retention and toughness. This steel is tough enough to resist chipping or breaking during heavy use.

CPM S35VN, with a Rockwell hardness (HRC) of 58-61, matches CPM20CV in hardness. It’s designed to resist chipping and breaking even under heavy-duty use.

Toughness

Toughness measures a steel’s ability to resist chips and cracks under stress.

CPM20CV, while tough, isn’t as resilient as CPM S35VN when it comes to resisting chipping and breaking. CPM S35VN was explicitly engineered to provide superior toughness compared to its predecessor, S30V.

Corrosion Resistance

Corrosion resistance reflects how well a steel can resist rust and oxidation.

With 20% Chromium, CPM20CV offers outstanding corrosion resistance. It is ideal for knives intended for use in wet or humid conditions.

CPM S35VN, with 14% Chromium, offers excellent corrosion resistance, although not as strong as CPM20CV.

Ease of Sharpening

Ease of sharpening tells us how easily a steel can be sharpened using conventional methods. Typically, the higher the hardness and edge retention, the harder it is to sharpen.

CPM20CV, while not as challenging to sharpen as some other high-hardness steels, does require more effort than CPM S35VN.

CPM S35VN, owing to its balanced properties, is relatively easier to sharpen without losing the benefit of excellent edge retention.

Edge Retention

Edge retention refers to how well a steel maintains its sharpness during use.

CPM20CV boasts excellent edge retention due to its high carbon and vanadium content, meaning it can maintain its sharp edge for an extended period.

CPM S35VN also possesses good edge retention but doesn’t match the enduring sharpness of CPM20CV.

Price

As a high-end knife steel, CPM20CV is more expensive than CPM S35VN. The cost corresponds with its superior edge retention, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance.

CPM S35VN is a more affordable option and provides excellent value considering its balanced properties.

Conclusion

While both CPM20CV and CPM S35VN are excellent blade steels with their unique strengths and weaknesses, the choice between the two largely depends on the intended use and personal preference. CPM20CV, with its superior edge retention and corrosion resistance, is an excellent choice for knives meant for heavy-duty or wet conditions. In contrast, CPM S35VN, offering excellent toughness and ease of sharpening, is an ideal option for general-purpose knives.

Selecting a knife with either of these steels is an excellent choice. However, it’s crucial to choose a reputable brand and manufacturer to ensure the full potential of the steel is realized.

When you visit a merchant by clicking a link on this site we may make a commission on anything you buy (at no additional cost to you).   Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to Amazon Associates and the eBay Partner Network.”