Is CPM S45VN a Good Knife Steel? Where Does It Actually Rank?

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Last updated on July 21st, 2023 at 02:43 am

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At A Glance
CPM S45VN, developed by Crucible Industries, is a high-quality knife steel notable for its impressive properties, such as better hardness, toughness, and corrosion resistance compared to its predecessor, S35VN steel. This stainless steel achieves these performance levels through a rebalanced chemical composition, including slight increases in Carbon, Chromium, and Niobium. S45VN steel offers excellent edge retention and durability, making it an ideal choice for various cutting tasks. Notably, it’s popular in high-end folding knives. Therefore, in response to the question, CPM S45VN is indeed a good knife steel, given its blend of desirable characteristics.

CPM S45VN steel, developed by Crucible Industries, is a martensitic stainless steel known for its improved properties compared to its predecessor, S35VN steel. This enhancement in performance levels is achieved through a rebalanced chemical composition, offering knife enthusiasts better hardness, toughness, and corrosion resistance. As a result, S45VN has gained popularity as a premium choice for knife blades, particularly in high-end folding knives.

When comparing S45VN to other steels like S30V, it’s important to note the slight increase in Carbon, Chromium, and Niobium in its composition. These minor adjustments provide the aforementioned benefits, resulting in a steel that offers impressive edge retention and durability for various cutting tasks while still maintaining a modest level of toughness.

In conclusion, CPM S45VN steel is indeed a good knife steel owing to its blend of desirable characteristics. It has proven itself as a valuable material in the knife-making world, making it a standard for premium knives and a strong contender among other high-performance steels.

Understanding CPM S45VN Steel


CPM S45VN is a martensitic stainless steel designed by Crucible Industries as an upgrade to their popular S35VN steel. This newer steel boasts a higher chromium content (16%), which significantly improves corrosion resistance. The alloy composition also includes other elements such as niobium (0.5%), nitrogen (0.15%), carbon (1.45%), as well as smaller amounts of vanadium, tungsten, and molybdenum. These elements contribute to the steel’s overall performance and durability.


The metallurgy process behind CPM S45VN utilizes a technique known as powder metallurgy or particle metallurgy. This innovative method allows for a much more uniform distribution of the alloying elements throughout the steel, resulting in a more consistent material.

In the powder metallurgy process, the individual elements of the alloy are first combined and then melted together. The molten steel is then rapidly cooled, resulting in a solid material known as “pre-alloyed powder.” This powder is then compressed into a desired shape and heated to a specific temperature, causing the particles to bond and form a solid piece of steel.

The use of particle metallurgy in the production of CPM S45VN greatly improves the steel’s overall properties, including increased corrosion resistance and edge retention, making it an excellent choice for high-end folding knives. The balanced alloy composition and advanced production process have contributed to CPM S45VN’s position as a strong contender among premium knife steels.

Key Properties of S45VN Steel

Hardness and Strength

S45VN steel has a hardness of around 61-62 HRC, which gives it an excellent balance between hardness and toughness. This high hardness enables the steel to maintain a sharp edge and resist the deformation that can occur during cutting tasks. Its strength adds to its overall durability, making it a reliable material for knife blades.

Corrosion Resistance

The increased chromium (Cr) content of about 16% in S45VN steel provides a marked improvement in corrosion resistance. This improvement makes it less prone to rust and oxidation, ensuring that the knife’s performance remains consistent over time and provides a longer lifespan even in humid or wet environments.

Edge Retention

CPM S45VN steel scores high on edge retention due to its optimized chemical composition, offering a better cutting performance. Enhanced edge retention means that the blade will stay sharper for longer periods, requiring less frequent sharpening and ensuring consistent cutting ability.


While S45VN steel does prioritize edge retention and corrosion resistance, it still provides a reasonable level of toughness. This property helps prevent the blade from chipping, breaking, or deforming under high stress or impact. However, it’s important to note that the toughness is considered modest compared to its predecessor, S35VN steel.

Ease of Sharpening

The ease of sharpening for S45VN steel knives depends on the knife’s hardness and intended use. Sharper edges may require a more careful approach to avoid damaging the blade, but in general, S45VN steel can be sharpened relatively easily. The steel’s good balance of hardness and edge retention means that although sharpening might not be as easy as softer steels, the blade will stay sharp for longer, reducing the frequency of sharpening.


Machinability is an essential property when constructing knives, as it refers to how easily the steel can be cut and shaped during production. While specific data on S45VN steel’s machinability is scarce, its balanced properties and optimized chemical composition indicate that it should perform well during the manufacturing process. High-quality knife makers are increasingly using S45VN steel for their premium knives, suggesting that the material offers reliable machinability.

S45VN Steel vs. Other Knife Steels

Comparison with S35VN Steel

CPM S45VN is considered an upgrade to the popular S35VN steel. It is a high alloy stainless steel boasting excellent edge retention and increased corrosion resistance, while maintaining moderate toughness. Although S45VN improves on the corrosion resistance and edge retention properties of S35VN, it may lack some of the toughness that S35VN is known for.

Alternatives to S45VN Steel


CPM S30V is an older generation of steel from the same family. Its performance is generally considered to be outdated when compared to S45VN. While it has good edge retention and corrosion resistance, it falls behind its successors in these categories.


Bohler M390 is another option for those looking for a high-quality steel. M390 offers superior edge retention and excellent corrosion resistance. It is also considered to be a more premium option compared to S45VN.


Both CTS-204P and CTS-XHP are high-performance steels with impressive corrosion resistance and edge retention properties. However, they might not be as tough as S35VN or S45VN. CTS-204P is chemically similar to M390, while CTS-XHP is comparable to D2 tool steel with improved stainless properties.


CPM 20CV steel is another alternative to S45VN. According to Knifebasics, the main difference between S45VN and 20CV is that S45VN offers slightly better toughness, while 20CV has superior edge retention and corrosion resistance.

Other Steels

When considering steel options, there are many additional types, each catering to different needs. For example, 14C28N, ELMAX, and 440C steel are viable alternatives, offering a balance between corrosion resistance, edge retention, and affordability. For those who prefer more traditional options, carbon steel and simple stainless steels are available. Tool steels like M4 and Vanax also have their particular advantages in terms of strength and resistance.

In short, CPM S45VN is an excellent knife steel with improvements over its predecessor, S35VN, in terms of corrosion resistance and edge retention. However, its toughness is slightly behind that of S35VN. There are many other knife steels in the market, each with its distinct advantages and trade-offs. It is essential to consider your specific needs when selecting a steel for your knife.

CPM S45VN in the Knife Industry

CPM S45VN is a martensitic stainless steel designed by Crucible Industries as an improvement over the popular S35VN steel. This steel offers several advantages such as enhanced edge retention, corrosion resistance, and toughness, making it a popular choice for knife enthusiasts and manufacturers alike.

Popular Knives with S45VN Steel

Chris Reeve Large Inkosi Tanto

Many knife makers have been using CPM S45VN steel for their premium knife offerings. A few examples of popular knives featuring this steel include:

  • Spyderco: This renowned manufacturer has released several folding knives with CPM S45VN, including the Para Military 2 and the Native 5. Spyderco is known for its commitment to high-quality materials, and the use of CPM S45VN highlights this dedication.
  • Chris Reeve Knives: CRK has also adopted CPM S45VN in some of their iconic folding knives, such as the Sebenza 31. Chris Reeve Knives is known for using high-performance steels, and the addition of CPM S45VN to their lineup further demonstrates this attention to quality.

These are just a few examples of the many knives available with CPM S45VN steel. The popularity of this steel among high-end kitchen knives, EDC knives, and pocket knives is a testament to its performance and versatility.

Price and Availability

CPM S45VN is a premium knife steel, known for its impressive edge retention, increased corrosion resistance, and modest toughness. It has become a popular choice for high-end folding knives, and has been embraced by renowned knife makers such as Spyderco and Chris Reeve Knives. Due to its exceptional performance, CPM S45VN is generally found to be more expensive compared to its predecessors like S35VN.

The price of CPM S45VN knives can range from around $160 for a Spyderco Para Military 2 up to $500 or more for custom or limited edition models from top knifemakers. Although prices may vary depending on the specific model and design features, it’s important to remember that you are investing in a high-quality blade with excellent performance characteristics.

CPM S45VN steel typically rates around 59-61 on the Rockwell hardness scale, which contributes to its exceptional edge retention and wear resistance properties. This hardness level is comparable to other premium stainless steels used in the knife industry.

In terms of availability, CPM S45VN can be found in various high-quality knife models developed by reputable manufacturers like Spyderco, Chris Reeve Knives, and other custom knifemakers. As a relatively new steel, it is gradually becoming more widely available in the market and accessible to knife enthusiasts.

It’s worth noting that CPM S45VN is produced by Crucible Industries using their CPM process, which ensures high quality and consistency. The steel was developed with contributions from companies like MOV and Sandvik, who have extensive experience in the production of cutting tools, screws, and other demanding components.

When considering a CPM S45VN knife, it’s essential to factor in its price, availability, and performance attributes. The investment in a high-quality blade will ensure improved cutting performance, longevity, and corrosion resistance over a wide range of applications.


In summary, CPM S45VN is a high-quality knife steel that offers an optimal combination of edge retention, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and toughness. It builds upon the older S30V and S35VN steels by incorporating enhancements such as increased amounts of Niobium and Nitrogen, substituting some of the Vanadium and Carbon elements. This unique blend of elements makes S45VN an ideal choice for an everyday carry (EDC) knife steel.

One notable review of the CRK Inkosi S45VN knife shows that after a full year in the field, the steel performed exceptionally well, suggesting that S45VN could indeed become an industry standard for upscale knives. With its improved corrosion resistance over S30V and S35VN, S45VN demonstrates a clear progression in the evolution of stainless steel for knife manufacturing.

From the available information on CPM S45VN, it is apparent that this steel brings valuable advancements to the knife industry. However, as with any knife steel, individual preferences and intended usage will ultimately determine whether or not S45VN is the right choice for a specific consumer. Regardless of individual needs and priorities, it is hard to ignore the performance, durability, and quality that S45VN offers to knife enthusiasts and professionals alike.

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