CPM-S110V Knife Steel – Is It Worth The Price?

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Last updated on July 14th, 2023 at 02:47 am

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CPM-S110V is a cutting-edge powder metallurgy stainless tool steel known for its exceptional wear resistance and high corrosion resistance. Developed primarily for use in plastic injection applications, this versatile stainless steel has also found its way into the knife-making industry. With its unique combination of properties, CPM-S110V offers a significant advantage over traditional knife steels when it comes to durability and performance.

Produced by Crucible Industries, CPM-S110V’s composition consists of high levels of vanadium and niobium, which contribute to its outstanding wear resistance and toughness. This martensitic stainless tool steel undergoes a proprietary Particle Metallurgy process, ensuring an even distribution of elements throughout the steel, resulting in improved consistency and overall quality. Due to these attributes, knives crafted with CPM-S110V are well-regarded for their edge retention, corrosion resistance, and enduring appeal to knife enthusiasts.

My Favorite Knife That Uses CPM-S110V Steel

CPM-S110V Steel Overview

CPM-S110V is a premium stainless steel manufactured by Crucible Industries through their Crucible Particle Metallurgy process. This steel is known for its excellent wear resistance and edge retention capabilities, primarily due to its high amounts of carbon, vanadium, and niobium in its composition.

One of the major changes in CPM-S110V compared to its predecessors S90V/S125V is the addition of niobium to the metallurgy. Niobium, like vanadium, forms very hard carbides that contribute greatly to wear resistance.

Featuring the same high vanadium content as CPM S90V, CPM S110V also benefits from the added contribution of 3.5% niobium. This results in a 25% greater volume of wear-resistant carbides, with 50% more of the wear-resistant MC type.

Designed as part of the CPM S series of steels, this alloy martensitic stainless steel is used in a wide range of applications, such as industrial knives, slitters, circular cutters, screw elements, and wear components for food processing. The unique chemistry of CPM-S110V provides a balance of high hardness and excellent corrosion resistance, making it a popular choice for various knife makers and users.

Some renowned knife models utilizing CPM-S110V steel include the Spyderco Military S110V. This particular knife demonstrates the extreme cutting abilities and edge retention of CPM-S110V steel, which sets it apart from many other steel types.

In summary, CPM-S110V steel is a high-performance knife steel, known for its impressive wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and edge retention. Its popularity can be attributed to the unique combination of elements and the metallurgical process used in its production.

Chemical Composition

The CPM S110V steel is a product of a unique combination of elements, giving it exceptional wear resistance and corrosion resistance properties. Some of the key constituents in the steel include carbon, chromium, vanadium, niobium, molybdenum, and cobalt, resulting in a premium grade martensitic stainless steel tool.

The composition of CPM S110V steel is primarily dominated by high levels of vanadium and niobium. The vanadium-rich and niobium-rich primary alloy carbides contribute to the steel’s outstanding wear resistance compared to other commercially available PM tool steels. Additionally, the presence of chromium (which is over 15% of the composition) gives CPM S110V stainless steel characteristics and provides it with good corrosion resistance.

An in-depth look at the chemical composition of CPM S110V steel includes:

  • Carbon (C): 2.8%, which considerably influences the hardness and strength of the steel
  • Chromium (Cr): 15.25%, responsible for stain resistance and corrosion resistance
  • Vanadium (V): 9.0%, enhancing wear resistance and improving overall grain structure
  • Niobium (Nb): 3.0%, also contributing to wear resistance and grain refinement
  • Molybdenum (Mo): 1.3%, vital for promoting hardness and strengthening the steel
  • Cobalt (Co): 2.5%, added to improve the steel’s resistance to heat and wear

It is essential to note that the CPM S110V steel is produced by Crucible Industries using their metallurgy stainless tool steel technology. This process gives the steel better wear and corrosion resistance properties compared to other types of steel, such as 440C or CPM S90V. Developed originally for plastic injection applications, which demand a combination of high wear and corrosion resistance, the CPM S110V steel has found its way into multiple industrial applications, such as knives, slitters, and screw elements.

Properties and Characteristics

CPM-S110V is a high alloy martensitic stainless tool steel produced using the Crucible Particle Metallurgy (CPM) process. This steel is celebrated for its exceptional combination of properties, particularly in terms of wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and edge retention. The steel’s composition includes a high volume of vanadium-rich and niobium-rich primary alloy carbides that contribute to its wear resistance and durability.

One of the key features of CPM-S110V steel is its wear resistance. Developed originally for plastic injection applications where a balance of wear and corrosion resistance is crucial, this steel stands out among other stainless steels like S90V and M398. The wear resistance in CPM-S110V is a result of the high levels of vanadium and niobium present in the steel, as well as its unique microstructure achieved through the CPM process.

Toughness is another important property to consider when evaluating a knife steel. While CPM-S110V may not be the toughest option available, its impressive wear resistance means it has good overall strength. The process used to produce the steel also ensures a uniformly distributed carbide structure, contributing to its toughness.

In terms of edge retention, CPM-S110V performs exceedingly well. The steel’s high carbon content, along with its high amounts of vanadium and niobium, provides excellent edge retention capabilities 5. This makes it a popular choice for industrial knives, food tools, screw elements, and circular cutters where maintaining a sharp edge is vital.

When it comes to corrosion resistance, CPM-S110V’s stainless steel composition ensures that it performs well. This corrosion resistance contributes to the steel’s desirability for applications requiring constant exposure to moisture or corrosive materials.

Lastly, the hardness of CPM-S110V is dependent on the heat treatment process. Proper heat treatment can optimize the properties of the steel, providing a balance of wear resistance, toughness, and corrosion resistance.

Overall, CPM-S110V offers a remarkable combination of properties that make it a popular choice for high-performance knives and cutting tools. Its wear resistance, edge retention, and corrosion resistance ensure a durable and reliable cutting edge, while its toughness and hardness contribute to the steel’s overall performance.

Comparison with Other Knife Steels

CPM-S110V is a high-performance knife steel known for its excellent wear resistance and corrosion resistance properties. When comparing CPM-S110V with other popular knife steels like S90V, S30V, M390, and S35VN, it’s essential to take into account various aspects of their composition and performance characteristics.

CPM-S110V steel has a higher overall content of vanadium and niobium, which results in the formation of hard carbides that contribute to its exceptional wear resistance. This gives CPM-S110V an edge in terms of wear resistance when compared to steels like S90V and S30V. However, S90V still offers exceptional wear resistance and is favored by many knife users for its balance of properties.

S30V steel is another popular choice for its well-rounded performance. While it does not boast the same level of wear resistance as CPM-S110V, it offers a good balance of toughness, corrosion resistance, and edge retention. S30V is often recommended as an excellent “all-around” knife steel.

M390 steel, on the other hand, is known for its impressive corrosion resistance and excellent edge retention. M390 often competes with CPM-S110V in terms of performance, but it does not have the same levels of niobium and vanadium, which can lead to slightly lower wear resistance.

S35VN is another well-regarded knife steel that offers a good balance of toughness, edge retention, and corrosion resistance. It is an evolution of S30V steel with some compositional changes aimed at improving toughness and edge stability. While S35VN does not provide the same level of wear resistance as CPM-S110V, it has earned a reputation as an easy-to-maintain steel that holds an edge well.

In conclusion, each of these knife steels has its strengths and weaknesses. CPM-S110V excels in wear resistance and corrosion resistance, making it an excellent choice for high-performance blades. However, other steels like S90V, S30V, M390, and S35VN offer well-balanced characteristics that suit various user preferences and knife applications.

Heat Treatment

CPM-S110V is a high-alloy stainless tool steel developed using the Crucible Particle Metallurgy (CPM) process. The heat treatment of this steel is crucial in achieving its exceptional wear and corrosion resistance properties.

During the heat treatment process, the steel undergoes several stages that optimize its performance. The initial phase involves austenitizing. This procedure is generally performed at a temperature of around 2150°F. It ensures that a high volume fraction of vanadium carbide, chromium carbide, and niobium carbides forms within the steel, providing excellent hardness and wear resistance.

Once the austenitizing stage is complete, quenching is performed to rapidly cool the steel, thereby transforming the austenite grains to martensite. This phase transition results in a significant increase in hardness.

The final stage of the heat treatment process is tempering. Tempering CPM-S110V involves heating the steel at a lower temperature, typically in the range of 300–800°F. This process allows the steel to attain a desirable balance between hardness, toughness, and corrosion resistance.

The hardness of CPM-S110V can reach up to 64 HRC or even as high as 66.5 HRC, depending on the heat treatment applied. It is essential to note that these impressive hardness levels can only be achieved by following the correct heat treatment process, as even premium steels with poor heat treatment might not perform as expected.

In summary, the heat treatment process involving austenitizing, quenching, and tempering is crucial for achieving the optimal properties of CPM-S110V steel. The resulting steel offers a remarkable combination of wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and hardness, making it an excellent choice for high-end knives.

Sharpening and Maintenance

CPM-S110V is a high-performance knife steel known for its excellent wear and corrosion resistance. To maintain its sharpness and overall performance, proper sharpening and maintenance are essential.

When sharpening a CPM-S110V knife, it’s crucial to choose the right sharpening stone. Due to the steel’s high wear resistance, harder sharpening stones like diamond or ceramic stones are recommended. These stones can efficiently work on the tough carbides found in this steel, making the sharpening process more effective.

Begin by setting the bevels of the knife edge to the desired angle. It’s important to maintain a consistent angle throughout the entire sharpening process. If you’re unsure of the correct angle, check the manufacturer’s recommendations. Once the bevels are set, start grinding the knife on the coarse grit side of the sharpening stone to remove any chips or imperfections.

As you progress, switch to a medium grit stone, and finally, to a fine grit stone. This will help smooth out the scratches and refine the edge. When the edge is sufficiently sharp, strop it on a leather strop or compound-loaded cloth to remove any burrs and polish the apex. This final step ensures the blade stays sharp for a long time.

Regular maintenance is key to prolonging the sharpness of a CPM-S110V knife. Make sure to clean it after each use, wiping off any debris and moisture to prevent staining and rust. Use a light coat of oil on the blade to keep it from corroding, especially if you plan to store the knife for an extended period.

In conclusion, the process of sharpening CPM-S110V steel can be straightforward if you use the right tools and follow a consistent technique. With proper care and maintenance, your knife will remain sharp and have its longevity preserved.

Popular Knife Models

Spyderco is a leading brand in the knife industry, known for using high-quality materials like CPM-S110V steel in its products. This section will discuss some popular Spyderco knife models featuring this steel.

The Spyderco Military is an ideal choice for military personnel due to its durability, sharpness, and lightweight design. Its 4.3 oz weight makes it easy to carry, while the CPM-S110V steel blade offers impressive cutting performance and edge retention. The G-10 handle provides a secure grip, while the liner lock securely keeps the blade in place.

Another popular model is the Spyderco Manix 2. This knife features a 3.37″ CPM-S110V steel blade and dark blue G-10 handle. Its ergonomic design and strong build make it a reliable choice for everyday carry. The Ball Bearing Lock™ ensures safe use while maintaining the blade’s sharpness.

The Spyderco Paramilitary 2 is another renowned knife made with a CPM-S110V stainless steel blade. This model combines a sharp, durable blade with a comfortable G-10 handle for enhanced grip. Its improved pivot bushing system allows for smoother opening and an overall better user experience. The Paramilitary 2 also employs the Compression Lock® patented by Spyderco, which provides easy one-hand operation.

Last but not least, the Spyderco Native 5 comes with a 2.95″ CPM-S110V steel blade and a dark blue FRN handle. The lightweight design makes it an easy-to-carry option, while the quality materials ensure its durability and functionality. Additionally, the back lock mechanism in this model provides secure blade locking and safe usage.

In summary, these popular Spyderco knife models featuring CPM-S110V steel demonstrate the brand’s commitment to quality, durability, and performance. Each model offers unique features catering to various users’ preferences, ensuring that there’s a knife to suit everyone’s needs.

Uses and Applications

CPM-S110V is a highly sought-after knife steel due to its exceptional wear resistance and corrosion resistance. This steel is primarily used in the production of high-performance knives and tools.

Knives: CPM-S110V is popular for creating premium knives that require high durability and edge retention. The steel has perfect a chemical composition and properties that make it an ideal choice for manufacturing premium quality knives.

Industrial knives: The excellent wear resistance and corrosion protection of CPM-S110V make it a suitable material for industrial knives. These knives are commonly used in industries that demand consistently sharp and long-lasting tools, such as the food processing industry and plastic injection applications.

Circular cutters: CPM-S110V’s high tensile strength and ability to retain a sharp edge make it an ideal material for manufacturing circular cutters. These cutters are used in various industries, including textiles, paper, and metalworks, where consistent cutting performance and minimal tool wear are essential.

Although CPM-S110V is a highly regarded steel for its exceptional properties, it can be challenging to work with due to its hardness. This factor has limited its widespread adoption in the knife-making industry. Nevertheless, CPM-S110V continues to be the material of choice for professionals and enthusiasts who require uncompromising performance from their blades and cutting tools.


CPM S110V steel is a premium stainless steel manufactured by Crucible Industries. Its unique composition, containing high amounts of Carbon, Vanadium, and Niobium, grants it exceptional wear resistance and edge retention capabilities. Developed primarily for industrial applications like plastic injection, this steel is an excellent choice for knives and other cutting tools.

The powder metallurgy process used in producing CPM S110V results in its high wear and corrosion resistance. This makes it an ideal choice for those who require a reliable and durable knife for various tasks, from daily chores to outdoor activities.

However, it is important to acknowledge that there is no perfect steel for every situation. While CPM S110V offers excellent wear resistance and edge retention, it may not be the best choice for all users. Some may prefer a more affordable or more corrosion-resistant steel, depending on their specific needs.

In conclusion, CPM S110V is a high-quality steel that provides exceptional wear resistance and excellent edge retention. It is a great choice for anyone who requires a reliable cutting tool, but it is essential to consider other steel options depending on personal preferences and intended use.

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