Is CPM 3V a Good Steel For Blades? (Knife Steel Reviews)

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At A Glance
CPM 3V is indeed a good knife steel, lauded for its impressive properties of high toughness and wear resistance. This tool steel is used in various cutting tools, including knives, due to its maximum resistance to breakage. It boasts a hardness typically ranging from 58 to 60 HRC on the Rockwell scale, but can reach up to 64 HRC with proper heat treatment. However, it isn’t stainless and may oxidize over time. CPM 3V’s unique chemical composition, attributed to the powder metallurgy process, includes 0.80% carbon, 7.50% chromium, and 2.75% vanadium, enhancing its hardness, toughness, and wear resistance. Despite some downsides like potential oxidation and comparably less ease in sharpening due to its hardness, CPM 3V provides a balanced blend of properties, making it an attractive choice for those in need of a high-performing knife steel.

CPM 3V steel has gained popularity among knife enthusiasts due to its impressive properties, which make it an excellent choice for various cutting tools. This high-toughness, wear-resistant tool steel is designed to offer maximum resistance to breakage, finding use in knives, slitters, stamping tools, and scrap choppers. The unique chemical composition of CPM 3V sets it apart from other steels, positioning it as an ideal option for those seeking a durable and reliable knife blade.

The hardness of CPM 3V steel typically ranges from 58 to 60 HRC on the Rockwell hardness scale, which is considered ideal for knife steels. However, with proper heat treatment, the steel can achieve a higher hardness of up to 64 HRC, albeit at the cost of reduced toughness. Its advantages don’t end there – CPM 3V steel is known for its excellent field knife blade qualities, which can withstand heavy use and resist breakage. One should note, however, that it isn’t stainless and may oxidize over time depending on the working environment. Overall, CPM 3V steel’s balance of toughness, wear resistance, and hardness make it an attractive option for those in need of a high-performing knife steel.

CPM 3V Composition

Carbon Content

CPM 3V steel has a carbon content of 0.80%, which contributes to its hardness and wear resistance. The carbon content in CPM 3V falls in the ideal range for knife steels, allowing them to achieve high hardness without sacrificing toughness.

Chromium and Vanadium Content

This steel contains 7.50% chromium and 2.75% vanadium, both of which significantly enhance its performance as a knife steel. Chromium increases tensile strength, hardness, and toughness while also playing a role in rust resistance. However, with less than 12% chromium, it is important to note that CPM 3V is not classified as a stainless steel. Vanadium, on the other hand, contributes to producing some of the smallest and hardest carbides in knife steels, providing better wear resistance and edge retention.

Other Alloying Components

CPM 3V also contains 1.30% molybdenum, which enhances steel’s wear resistance and toughness. Although not present in large amounts, trace elements like manganese, silicon, and sulfur can be found in CPM 3V, impacting various properties of the steel.

Powder Metallurgy Process

The unique composition of CPM 3V can be attributed to the powder metallurgy process used in its production. This method involves melting the steel at a high temperature, then cooling it rapidly to form a fine powder. The powder is then compacted under immense pressure, forming a knife billet, which is then subjected to heat treatment. The powder metallurgy process results in a more uniform distribution of alloying elements in the steel, providing increased toughness, wear resistance, and edge retention.

Properties of CPM 3V Steel


CPM 3V steel has a hardness range of 58 to 60 HRC on the Rockwell hardness scale. This range is considered ideal for knife steels, offering a good balance between toughness and edge retention. However, with proper heat treatment, CPM 3V steel can achieve higher hardness of up to 64 HRC, though it may come at the expense of toughness.


One of the main strengths of CPM 3V steel is its high toughness, which refers to the steel’s resistance to fracturing and chipping. This makes it a suitable choice for demanding applications such as heavy-duty knives and tools, where it can withstand abuse and resist breakage.

Wear Resistance

CPM 3V steel offers high wear resistance due to its unique chemical composition, which includes a combination of chromium and vanadium content. This results in a durable and efficient cutting edge that can maintain its sharpness during demanding cutting tasks, making CPM 3V a suitable choice for knives and tools that require excellent edge retention.

Corrosion Resistance

While CPM 3V steel provides many benefits in terms of hardness, toughness, and wear resistance, it does not excel in corrosion resistance. Unlike stainless steel, CPM 3V steel is prone to oxidation over time, particularly in moist or corrosive environments. When choosing a CPM 3V knife, it is essential to consider the working environment and whether corrosion resistance is a priority.

Edge Retention and Sharpening


CPM 3V is a high-toughness, wear-resistant tool steel known for its ability to resist breakage and maintain a sharp edge for a significant amount of time. Its edge retention is superior to many other tool steels, although not as impressive as premium steels like S35VN or S30V. The excellent sharpness of CPM 3V is primarily attributed to its high hardness, which ensures that the blade remains sharp for longer when compared to other steels.

Ease of Sharpening

When it comes to sharpening, CPM 3V is not the easiest tool steel to work with, but it isn’t overly challenging either. Due to its hardness and wear resistance, it might take more time and effort to sharpen compared to softer steels. However, with the proper sharpening equipment and techniques, you can achieve a razor-sharp edge on a 3V blade without too much difficulty.

In conclusion, CPM 3V is a reliable knife steel option when it comes to edge retention and sharpening. While it might not outperform some premium steels in terms of edge retention, its high hardness and toughness make it a solid choice for various cutting tasks. When it comes to sharpening, have patience, and use the right tools and techniques to maintain the sharpness of your 3V steel knife.

Comparison with Other Steels

Performance and properties of CPM 3V compared to other popular steels:

CPM 3VHigh toughness and wear resistanceNot stainless, moderate hardness
5160Good toughness, popular for large knives and swordsNot stainless, moderate wear resistance
52100High wear resistance, popular for ball bearingsNot stainless, high hardness
Stainless SteelCorrosion resistanceVaries depending on alloy
D2Good edge retention; popular for working knivesSemi-stainless, high hardness

Comparing CPM 3V with other tool steels, it demonstrates better toughness than A2 and D2 tool steels. In terms of edge retention, CPM 3V is considered inferior to M4 and CPM M4. On the other hand, the steel has relatively better corrosion resistance than non-stainless steels like 5160 and 52100.

When looking at popular stainless steels, S30V and S35VN offer better corrosion resistance than CPM 3V but might have slightly lower toughness. Elmax and S90V are other stainless steel options, both offering better edge retention but possibly reduced toughness in comparison to 3V. As for CPM-154, it offers good corrosion resistance and toughness but may not hold an edge as well as CPM 3V.

CPM 3V Care and Maintenance

Proper Care

CPM 3V is a high toughness, wear-resistant tool steel, making it a popular choice for knife blades. To ensure its longevity, proper care is necessary. Regularly clean the blade with a mild soap and water solution, wiping it dry with a soft cloth afterward. Lubricate the pivot and other moving parts with a light oil to prevent wear and reduce friction. Sharpen the blade using a high-quality sharpening stone or system, and store the knife in a dry location when not in use.

Corrosion Prevention

While CPM 3V is known for its toughness and wear resistance, it is not completely stainless. This means that it is more prone to oxidation and corrosion than other stainless steels. To prevent corrosion, apply a thin layer of oil or a corrosion inhibitor to the blade after cleaning, and avoid storing the knife in humid or damp environments. Moreover, always dry the blade completely before storage.

CPM 3V Pricing and Alternatives

In this section, we will discuss the pricing of CPM 3V steel and compare it with some alternative steels in both budget and premium segments.

Price Comparison

CPM 3V steel is generally considered a high-performance tool steel, and as such, its price falls in the mid to high range compared to other knife steels. While it may not be as expensive as some premium options, it does come at a higher cost than more budget-friendly alternatives. For example, a typical CPM 3V knife can outsell a knife made of a more budget-oriented steel at certain outlets like Blade HQ.

Budget Alternatives

For those on a tighter budget, there are more affordable steels that still provide decent performance in terms of edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance. Some popular budget steels include:

  • A2: A popular tool steel renowned for its toughness and ease of sharpening.
  • D2: Another tool steel that offers good edge retention and is also wear-resistant. As mentioned earlier, CPM 3V has been noted to hold its edge better than D2 in testing.

Premium Alternatives

If you’re looking for even better performance in a knife steel and are willing to spend more, some premium alternatives to CPM 3V are:

  • CPM MagnaCut: A newly developed steel by Crucible that boasts a superior balance of edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance.
  • Bohler M390: A high-end stainless steel with exceptional edge retention and corrosion resistance, making it popular for premium knives.
  • CPM-20CV: Similar to M390, it offers excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance.
  • CPM-4V: Another Crucible steel, it provides a step-up in edge retention and toughness compared to 3V, but may be more expensive.

Overall, the choice of knife steel will be subjective to an individual’s preferences, priorities, and budget. CPM 3V offers a high-performance option that balances edge retention, toughness, and cost. However, it may not be the best choice for everyone, and alternatives exist at both lower and higher price points, depending on different priorities and use cases.


In wrapping up, CPM 3V steel presents a formidable option for those seeking a knife steel that melds high toughness and wear resistance with impressive edge retention, even if it isn’t stainless. Its unique chemical composition, credited to the powder metallurgy process, enhances its hardness and toughness.

However, its lack of stainless properties means it may oxidize over time and might be a bit challenging to sharpen due to its hardness. Nonetheless, the high-performing properties of CPM 3V make it an attractive choice for knife enthusiasts, outdoorsmen, or professionals in need of a resilient and reliable cutting tool.

Comparisons to other steels show that while it might not always be the ultimate winner in all categories, it consistently ranks high in performance. Its maintenance requirements are straightforward and its cost, while not on the budget end, offers a solid balance between performance and price.

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.”