When high performance, durability, and reliability is required, you will need nothing less than the best steel available. CPM 20CV steel is one of the most popular steels in this category, because of its excellent capabilities and wide application potential.
If you are using CPM 20CV steel for knife making, the final product will be a robust workhorse that will keep performing at the highest level even during heavy and continuous use. This premium steel is what is technically called a “martensitic” stainless steel that does not wear easily, while resisting the effects of corrosion, the enemy of all metal tools.
Common Uses of CPM 20CV steel
- Cutlery made for applications that require durability and very high and consistent performance
- Manufacturing components including plastic extrusion and injections
- Sharp granulating edges for industrial and heavy-duty machinery and tools
- Pelletizing machinery parts and related equipment
CPM 20CV Steel Chemical Composition
The physical properties of CPM 20CV Steel come from a distinct chemical composition and structure. You might remember that this steel is a Martensitic steel. This means that the steel has a crystalline structure which produces the hardness that you will appreciate.
Elements that you can find in the metal includes:
- Carbon, 1.9%
- Chromium, 20%
- Vanadium, 4 %
- Molybdenum, 1%
- Tungsten, 0.6%
Carbon , 1.9 %: This is a huge amount of carbon. In comparison, many carbon steels just have about 0.6% carbon. While carbon leads to terrific hardness, the main problem is that too much hardness also comes with a lot of brittleness. The good news is that they’re able to dial down the hardness so that the steel also reasonably resistant to chipping.
Chromium, 20%: Chromium helps with corrosion resistance, which is why stainless steel has to have at least 12% of it. With 20% chromium, working in watery conditions won’t be a problem.
Vanadium, 4 %: This boosts the hardenability, its toughness against fracturing, and ability to resist shock loading. Very few steels contain vanadium, and most of them only have 0.35% or so. But here you have a lot.
Molybdenum, 1%: This also helps with the corrosion resistance too. It also enhances creep strength, elevated temperature strength, and hardenability.
Tungsten, 0.6%: It promotes strength at high temperatures.
This chemical composition results in machinability that is at 35-40 percent of a 1 percent carbon steel, which is outstanding considering the distinct advantages of this premium steel over other carbon steels.
A significant result of the composition of this steel is the resistance to corrosion and wear. The chromium content of CPM 20CV steel lets it join the ranks of true stainless steels.
Meanwhile, the vanadium content supports the wear resistance capabilities of the final product, meaning that the best CPM 20CV steel knives and tools will keep on cutting and performing, far longer than if any other inferior steel is used.
CPM 20CV Steel Hardness
For the uninitiated, steel hardness may be a little bit confusing, but you may compare it to how much a particular steel will resist deformation from outside forces. This could be difficult to visualize at first, which is why steel makers often use a standard called the Rockwell scale to illustrate their products’ hardness. Most steels used in cutlery have a Rockwell scale score of between 50 and 60. CPM 20CV steel hardness is at an outstanding 59 to 61 on the same scale.
Properties of CPM 20CV Steel
What makes the 20CV different from other premium steel grades? Let its key properties clue you in on the things you can expect from this steel.
Maintaining a cutting edge is of utmost importance for tools like knives and industrial equipment because it reduces any downtime or reduction in speed or performance due to a blunt edge. CPM 20CV steel knife reviews have shown that the working edge of these knives shows a lot less reduction in sharpness when compared to others for continuous tasks. Even industry-standard testing from cutlery associations shows that CPM 20CV can consistently score significantly higher than other steels.
True stainless steel is able to prevent the formation of corrosion effectively during normal use, and CPM 20CV steel is categorized as one of these steels. This is due to the high Chromium content that helps prevent corrosion from occurring on the surface of the steel. You will see reduced maintenance requirements for your tools if there are no corrosion problems.
Wear Resistance and Durability
Friction can cause slow and damaging material loss for tools like knives. CPM 20CV has enough wear resistance that this kind of problem is reduced significantly. This adds to the overall lifetime of the final tool as more of it will remain to support the working edge of the tool.
Chip and Impact Resistance
Unlike with wear, corrosion, or edge retention, the problem of toughness is harder to prepare for. This is due to the fact that events that would cause a sudden failure of the steel can happen at any time, from a variety of sources. CPM 20CV retains the toughness of other stainless steels even though it is an extremely hard steel. If your application is exposed to risk of impacts, drops, and other similar events, this kind of steel is good for you.
Deformation Prevention and Hardness
An oft-forgotten aspect of hardness is how a steel resists slow deformation because of continuous pressure or force. CPM 20CV, after proper heat treatment, will be able to outperform many of the knife steels available in the market today. It will not lose its shape quickly after being bent, either by accident or by its use case. The high Rockwell scores of CPM 20CV are a great demonstration of this property.
CPM 20CV Equivalent Steels or Alternative
One of the best ways to estimate how a particular steel will perform for your application is to compare it with steels you are familiar with. Here are some comparisons between CPM 20CV and other popular steel types.
CPM 20CV vs S30V Steel
S30V has been seen in real use as inferior to CPM 20CV when it comes to overall toughness and maintenance. For knife-making applications, S30V is extremely brittle and hard to sharpen.
One of the advantages of using CPM 20CV steel is the variety of tasks it can perform without encountering any problems. S30V is also a good high-quality steel but you might get disappointed to find that it is not suited for a lot of common tasks we use knives on. For example, it is not ideal for high torque or high impact applications. This means no bone cutting, prying, lever work, digging, and other similar actions. All of these will damage a S30V steel knife.
CPM 20CV vs M390 Steel
Like CPM 20CV, M390 is premium steel so it is relatively expensive. Unfortunately, the hardness of the m390 makes it so that your maintenance tool, including sharpening machinery, will wear out a lot faster. M390 products are also notoriously difficult to modify.
This difficulty in sharpening also means that it is highly likely that you will need to acquire additional special or high-end tools to maintain an M390 knife. For example, it is not ideal to use regular stone, and you will be forced to use specialist ceramic stones, or even diamond coated stones.
CPM 20CV vs 154CM Steel
154CM steel is a very popular steel for knife and tool makers due to its corrosion resistance. However, unlike CPM 20CV, tools using 154CM have been seen as prone to chipping. This means that under sudden stressful load like drops, sudden chops, leverage and springing, the knife might break or lose a significant chunk of support.
Is CPM 20CV steel good for knives?
Looking at its features, using CPM 20CV for knife products is ideal. Its composition is comparable to other super steels that are now popularly used for knives. With high Chromium, Carbon, Vanadium, and Molybdenum in its mix, it promises toughness and wear resistance that are needed for many knife applications.
What might make some think twice about this material is its hardness. It makes for a knife that’s hard to sharpen, it might be daunting for some. However, since this steel can get really sharp and hold its sharpness for a long time, sharpening it shouldn’t be too intimidating as you might not need to do it very often anyway.
Pros & Cons of CPM 20CV Steel
- Low maintenance (it’s a stainless steel so it doesn’t require serious upkeep to prevent rusting)
- Suitable for a wide range of applications (being both tough and hard make this steel capable of handling different kinds of requirements and uses)
- Durable (its composition makes it capable of handling how knives are often used, no matter what the activity is)
- Good for everyday use (popular for EDC)
- Offers great value for the money (durability and performance is often coupled with a very reasonable prices)
- Impressive composition (comparable to other super steel grades)
- Sharpening can be a challenge (the steel is very hard but with its edge retention, sharpening is not needed often)
- Requires additional investment (compared to other, less premium options in the market)
- Can be more difficult to find in areas where premium steel is not a common offering
Best CPM 20CV Steel Knives
There are several great picks for 20CV knives so there’s a very good chance that you’ll find something that will suit your needs and requirements if you decide to get one. To help you get started on your search, however, here are some CPM 20CV steel knife reviews that will introduce you to some fine choices.
#1: Zero Tolerance 0562CF Hinderer Slicer Folding Knife
- Style: Pocketknife
- Designer: Rick Hinderer
- Blade Length: 3.5 in. (8.9 cm)
- Blade Thickness: 0.156 in. (0.396 cm)
- Closed Length: 4.8 in. (12.2 cm)
- Handle Color: Black & Silver
- Handle Thickness: 0.4975 in. (12.6 mm)
- Overall Length: 8.3 in. (21.1 cm)
- Weight: 5.5 oz. (156 g)
Starting off this short list is the Zero Tolerance 0562CF Hinderer Slicer Folding Knife. A lot of hype surrounds this item, many agreeing that it’s possibly the best Zero Tolerance and Hinderer collaboration there is. From such a strong statement, it can certainly pique a lot of people’s curiosity.
The fact alone that it uses 20CV steel is already a sign that this product is designed to be a premium option. This is why its use of titanium and carbon fiber and titanium materials for its handle amps up its charm and performance.
With its excellent sharpness and edge retention as well as its toughness and practical design, the 0562 CF is meant for everyday carry. It can take on a wide range of day-to-day tasks without a hitch, slicing and cutting through just about anything. It’s also suitable for outdoor use.
- High-grade materials used promise durability
- Suitable for all-around use promising great value for your money
- Fast deployment engineering for easy handling
- ‘Stylishly and lovingly worn’ appearance add more charm to this item
- Comfortable to hold and handle
- Good size
- Well-designed lockup
- Very portable
- On the expensive side but it is a premium knife so it should be expected
- Can be a bit of a challenge to sharpen
#2: Benchmade – Mini Griptilian 556 Knife
- Designer: Pardue
- Action: Manual-opening
- Blade: EdgePlain
- Blade Length: 2.91″ (7.39cm)
- Blade Thickness: 0.100″ (2.54mm)
- Open Length: 6.78″ (17.22cm)
- Handle Thickness: 0.55″ (13.97mm)
- Weight: 2.90oz. (82.21g)
For a better bang for your buck, the Benchmade Mini Griptilian 556 Knife would be a solid option. With its use of 20CV steel, it offers an upgrade to the fans of the famous Griptilian line.
One way to describe this folding knife is that it added a high-end flair to a mid-range favorite. By using 20CV for the blade and fiberglass for the handle, it offers a notable combination that will suit a wide range of applications.
While popular as an EDC, the 556 is also tough enough for survival applications and other outdoor activities. Aside from the toughness of the material, some of its versatility can also be attributed to its thoughtful design. Its Grivory handle is meant to be ambidextrous so it can be handled with ease by both left and right-handed users.
- Offers great value for the money with its price, build, and performance
- Made in the USA
- Widely versatile as it can be used as an EDC or an outdoor tool
- Suitable for all users as it comes with the ambidextrous Grivory handle
- Comes with a limited Lifetime warranty
- Easy and comfortable to handle and use
- An upgrade to the other items in the Griptilian line
- A bit thick
- Some have issues with the lock
- Can be a bit hard to sharpen but that has a lot to do with the hardness of the 20CV steel
#3: Kershaw Link Pocket Knives
- Blade Length: 3.25 in. (8.4 cm)
- Blade Finish/Coating: Stonewashed finish
- Closed Length: 4.4 in. (11.2 cm)
- Handle Material: 6061-T6 aluminum
- Handle Finish/Coating: Olive anodized
- Handle Thickness: 0.36 in. (9 mm)
- Overall Length: 7.6 in. (19.3 cm)
- Weight: 4.7 oz (134 g)
- Made in USA
While most items that use premium materials tend to be pricey, you can also find an affordable option if you know where to look. The Kershaw Link Pocket Knives 1776 are some solid options for such a need, promising great value for your money with its choice of material, guarantee of quality, and friendly price tag.
Since this is a CPM 20CV steel review writeup, it can be expected that this Kershaw product is made of the said steel. Being a premium material, it’s quite surprising that it’s made available at a relatively low price point for this type of steel. This alone makes the product worth looking into.
In addition to this, this product is made in the US. With the higher manufacturing standard in the country, this fact can already guarantee the top-notch quality of the item.
Made to function as an everyday carry, the 1776 is also equipped with the brand’s SpeedSafe® assisted opening mechanism for fuss-free deployment and easy handling. Its handle is also very notable for its comfortable shape and good grip. It’s meant to be easy to handle, making it a popular go-to knife by many.
- Premium design and materials without breaking the bank
- Made in the USA
- Well-designed and constructed handle promises comfortable and easy handling
- Comes in attractive colors
- Comes sharp straight out of the box
- Ambidextrous handle
- A little heavy
- Some have minor troubles with the locking mechanism
How to Sharpen CPM 20CV Steel Knives
Choosing an ultra-premium base like CPM 20CV steel for your knife or tool is a great option to ensure that it will perform well, and keep performing that way for a long time.
Although it is relatively more difficult than other common steels that are used for knives, the advantages and capabilities truly justify the effort.
CPM 20CV steel knife reviews also show that the steel works well in a variety of form factors across most applications. CPM 20CV steel is a good choice for your next project. If you have any questions regarding this premium steel, feel free to leave a comment.