The CTS BD1 steel isn’t really all that common these days. Most of the time, you’ll find it in Spyderco knives, which is the brand that commissioned its creation in the first place.
But what does it really mean when you do find CTS BD1 steel in your blade? How does it perform? How long does it hold a sharp edge? How easy is it to sharpen? Will it rust easily?
You’ll find all the answers (and more) in this comprehensive CTS BD1 steel review. You’ll even be able to check out the great CTS BD1 steel knives that best illustrates the capabilities of this steel.
What is CTS BD1 Steel?
The “CTS” in the name stands for Carpenter Technology Corporation. This is a US company that produces specialty steels designed for high performance. The BD1 is at the upper end of the CTS family of stainless steels, designed for easy machinability, good edge retention, notable toughness, and great corrosion resistance.
Spyderco actually requested Carpenter to create this steel. It does better at both edge retention and corrosion resistance than more commonly found steels like 8cr13mov and AUS8. It may not have the wear resistance of high carbide steels like 154CM, but then you’ll find the CTS BD1 steel knives more affordable as well.
Common Uses of CTS BD1 Steel
You may find the CTS BD1 steel in the following products:
- EDC knives
- Camping knives
- Ball bearings
- Smaller machinery parts
CTS BD1 Steel Chemical Composition
The chemical composition of CTS BD1 steel is quite simple really, which is why it offers consistent behavior during heat treatment.
- Carbon, 0.9%
- Chromium, 15.5%
- Manganese, 0.6%
- Molybdenum, 0.3%
- Silicon, 0.37%
- Vanadium, 0.1%
Carbon, 0.9%: This is relatively a large amount of carbon, though it doesn’t match the carbon content of the super-steels. But this much carbon is great for wear resistance and edge retention. It’s not too much either, so it’s still easy to sharpen while it’s tough enough for most tasks.
Chromium, 15.5%: This much chromium qualifies this as stainless steel, since the main requirement is a minimum of 12% chromium. This is clearly past that standard, so you can expect nice corrosion resistance for your knives even if you use it outdoors. Some part of the chromium also binds with the carbon to form carbides.
Manganese, 0.6%: Next to carbon, manganese is the most important element in determining the strength and hardness of the steel. It boosts tensile strength and hardenability, and you have more than the usual amount here. But it’s not too much to minimize the risk of being too brittle.
Molybdenum, 0.3%: This also forms carbides, and improves hardenability. It boosts creep strength and strength at higher temperatures. When added to stainless steel (like in this case), it also helps in improving corrosion resistance.
Silicon, 0.37%: Steelmakers add silicon to the molten steel to help get rid of oxygen bubbles. It also strengthens the steel and makes it harder. But only a little should be used because too much of it can lead to cracking.
Vanadium, 0.1%: This boosts resistance to wear and fatigue strength, toughness against fractures, and resistance to shock loading. But the steel can become brittle with too much vanadium, which is why you only have a tiny amount of it here.
CTS BD1 Steel Hardness
Since the CTS BD1 steel is among the better all-around steel, it’s not too hard. It’s still hard enough to get a rating of 58 to 60 HRC. That’s good for wear resistance and edge retention, but it’s not too hard so it’s still easy to sharpen and not very likely to chip off.
Properties of CTS BD1 Steel
Let’s check out the attributes you can expect from this steel. As you’ll discover, because it’s an “all-around” steel it offers lots of benefits.
Respectable Edge Retention
Sure, it won’t hold its edge as long as the high carbon super steels. But you won’t have to sharpen CTS BD1 blades too often. Many other steels (especially stainless steels) require frequent sharpening since they’re a lot softer.
Decent Wear Resistance
You can also rely on the CTS BD1 to last a while. That’s why the knives made with this steel aren’t exactly in the sub-$50 budget price range. They’re more expensive, but then they last longer.
Easy to Sharpen
This is another benefit you get owing to the fact that CTS BD1 isn’t terribly hard. So, it’s no trouble to sharpen at all. You don’t really need special equipment.
This is stainless steel with plenty of chromium, so it won’t rust easily even if you use it for cutting wet stuff or out in the rain. You do still need to take some basic precautions, like not leaving the knife in a basin of water overnight. Just wipe it down after each use, and you’ll be fine.
For knives, toughness is defined by its likelihood to chip off. With CTS BD1, you get good toughness that balances out the decent hardness.
CTS BD1 Equivalent Steels or Alternative
You can get a more accurate idea of how CTS BD1 performs when you compare it head-to-head with other “comparable” steels. That way, you may confirm that the CTS BD1 is best-suited for your needs.
Conversely, you may find a steel that’s better to the tasks you want to do. But be aware that “better” steels tend to cost more.
CTS BD1 vs BD1n Steel
That “N” at the end of the of the BD1N changes things completely, so don’t think these steels are the same. The BD1N is definitely better. While the CTS BD1 is in the upper-midrange tier, the BD1N is at least in the high-end tier of steels. The BD1N can get really hard and wear-resistant, at levels the CTS BD1 can’t really match.
But the BD1N isn’t all that widely available just yet, so you’re more likely to find the CTS BD1 in your steel. Besides, the BD1N is quite expensive in comparison, so you’re not really going to find it used for a lot of affordable knives.
CTS-BD1 vs VG10 Steel
VG-10 is one of the high-end steels, a bit higher on the pecking order than the upper-midrange CTS BD1. They’re both great at all the factors, though in general the VG-10 scores higher.
This is especially true with edge retention, as the VG-10 can get quite hard. It’s also slightly better at corrosion resistance, they’re equally easy to sharpen. But the CTS BD1 may be a bit tougher, meaning it’s less likely to chip off.
CTS-BD1 vs 8cr13mov Steel
This is a very common comparison, as these 2 steels are very similar. They’re both part of the upper-midrange steels. They’re also found in Spyderco knives.
The CTS BD1 does score a bit higher when it comes to edge retention and corrosion resistance. But you’ll probably find the 8cr13mov noticeably easier to sharpen.
CTS BD1 vs AUS 10A Steel
These 2 steels are very similar. Some brands (like Cold Steel) weren’t able to secure the needed amount of CTS BD1 for their knives, so they switched to AUS 10A basically it offers the very same properties as the CTS BD1. Cold Steel likes to point out that it may be even better in durability, strength, and edge retention.
While the AUS 10a can be quite tough, the CTS BD1 may be a bit tougher.
CTS BD1 vs S30v Steel
S30V is a premium steel, so it’s not quite fair to compare it directly with the more affordable (but still upper-midrange) CTS BD1. The S30V is much better at retaining a sharp edge, with its high carbon and vanadium content. It’s even a bit more corrosion-resistant too.
But while the S30V is also easier to sharpen, the CTS BD1 is even easier.
CTS BD1 vs AUS 8 Steel
Like the CTS BD1, the AUS 8 is also among the upper-midrange steels. But it’s a bit softer, so it doesn’t hold its sharp edge as long as CTS BD1 does. CTS BD1 is also significantly better at corrosion resistance.
But the AUS 8 is the hands-down winner at ease of sharpening. While the CTS BD1 is no trouble to sharpen, the AUS 8 is extremely easy to sharpen in contrast.
Is CTS BD1 steel good for Knives?
Yes. The fact that Spyder requested the Carpenter steelmaker company to produce this steel. It’s good at all the relevant factors. It’s slightly better at holding its edge than 8Cr13MoV and AUS-8, and it’s also better at resisting rust and staining.
If you’re looking for good steel for an EDC knife without having to pay through the nose, then you’d want to check out the knives made with CTS BD1.
Pros & Cons of CTS BD1 steel
Best CTS BD1 Steel Knives
Since Spyderco requested Carpenter to create CTS BD1, you can see how this steel really performs in these Spyderco knives.
#1: Spyderco Manix 2 Lightweight Signature Folding Knife
- Overall Length: 8.03″ (204mm)
- Blade Length: 3.37″ (86mm)
- Closed Length: 4.66″ (118mm)
- Edge Length: 2.88″ (73mm)
- Weight: 3oz (85g)
- Blade Thickness: 0.125″ (3.2mm)
- Handle: FRCP
- OriginUnited: States
The Manix is meant for EDC work, with its lightweight build, broadleaf blade, compact size, and plain cutting edge. The original Manix 2 Lightweight won the Most Innovative American Design award from Blade magazine when it first came out, and this version is even better.
You get an overall length of just over 8 inches, but when closed it measures only 4.7 inches. With the 3.4-inch blade made with CTS BD1 steel, you’re ready to get to work. This blade even has the non-reflective DLC coating on the blade.
This is fully ambidextrous, with the large hole for easy opening. The FRCP handle offers a secure grip, and keeps the weight down at 3 ounces.
#2: Spyderco Ronin 2 Fixed Blade Knife
- Overall Length: 7.84″ (199mm)
- Blade Length: 4.08″ (104mm)
- Edge Length: 3.55″ (90mm)
- Weight: 3.9oz (111g)
- Blade Thickness: 0.118″ (3.0mm)
- Handle: G-10
- Origin: Taiwan
This features a “Wharncliffe” blade design with a perfectly straight cutting edge. With deep hollow-ground bevels on the 2 sides of the blade, you’re able to cut with full power all the way up to the point of the blade.
The blade itself is about 4.1 inches long, with the length of the edge at about 3.6 inches and a width of about 0.12 inches (3mm). Overall, it’s 7.84 inches long and weighs less than 4 ounces. The skeletonized full tang gives you a nice balance while maximizing the strength.
The thin G-10 handle features textured scales for a secure grip. The handle also flares at the junction of the blade and handle, so you basically have a guard that keeps your hand from sliding towards the sharp edge.
#3: Spyderco Alcyone Value Folding Knife
- Overall Length: 7.04″ (179mm)
- Blade Length: 2.91″ (74mm)
- Closed Length: 4.13″ (105mm)
- Edge Length: 2.78″ (71mm)
- Weight: 3.3oz (94g)
- Blade Thickness: 0.110″ (2.8mm)
- Handle: G-10
- Origin: China
In case you’re wondering, the name Alcyone refers to the brilliant Taurus system with multiple stars. Hyperbole aside, the leaf-shaped blade does the job well, and it’s great even for knife newbies.
This is 4.13 inches long when closed, and when opened it has an overall length of a little over 7 inches. The blade itself is 2.91 inches long, with its cutting edge at 2.78 inches and the thickness at just 2.8mm.
It’s easy to open with one hand due to the large “Round Hole”, and the G-10 handle has a non-slip textured grip. Basically, it gets the job done quickly and safely with its no-nonsense design.
Is CTS BD1 a “super steel”? No, it’s not. It’s not very common, and some even regard it as an entry-level budget steel. But as you can see in our list of CTS BD1 knives, these knives aren’t exactly super-cheap either.
What CTS BD1 steel really is for you is a steel that balances out all the factors, so you get a good all-around knife you can afford. Try CTS BD1 in your camping and EDC knives, and you’ll soon find these knives among your favorites. They’re good at doing the job, without any major issues at all.