M390 steel is considered to be one of the best knife steels that have gained immense popularity in the world of knives. It is known for its exceptional performance, durability, edge retention, and corrosion resistance. Due to its ability to hold a sharp edge and withstand heavy use, M390 steel has become a popular choice among knife enthusiasts and professionals. Moreover, many top knife brands use M390 steel to manufacture their premium knife models.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced knife user, it is important to know all the details about your knife, especially the steel used to build it. In this blog, I will take a closer look at what M390 steel is and let you know why it has become the gold standard for high-end knives.
Composition and Properties of M390 Steel:
Due to the chemical composition and key properties of M390 steel, it has become an ideal choice for heavy-duty use in a variety of applications. The followings are the chemical composition and key properties of M390 steel:
- Carbon (1.90%): Provides more toughness and durability to the steel.
- Chromium (20.0%): Provides resistance to corrosion and wear.
- Molybdenum (1.0%): Enhances strength, toughness, and wear resistance.
- Vanadium (4.0%): Enhances the steel’s strength, toughness, and wear resistance.
- Tungsten (0.6%): Provides additional hardness and wear resistance.
- Silicon (0.7%): Provides extra hardness to the steel.
- Manganese (0.3%): Provides extra strength to the steel.
- Phosphorus (0.03%): Improve machinability.
- Sulfur (0.008%): Improve machinability.
M390 steel has a high level of hardness, typically ranging from 60-62 HRC (Rockwell Hardness Scale), which makes it ideal for applications where a sharp, durable edge is needed. However, this high level of hardness can also make this steel more difficult to sharpen. So you have to use the proper sharpening tools and techniques to sharpen M390 steel knives.
Due to its high chromium content, M390 steel has excellent corrosion resistance that helps to protect it from corrosion. So this steel is an ideal choice for knives that will be exposed to moisture, such as outdoor and marine knives.
M390 steel contains a high amount of vanadium and tungsten that contribute to the steel’s ability to withstand high impact and stresses without chipping or cracking. With proper care and maintenance, we can use knives made from this steel for a long.
M390 steel is often considered one of the best knife steels for edge retention. It can hold a sharp edge for an extended period of time, even with heavy or repeated use. So this steel is used in demanding applications such as hunting, outdoor survival, and tactical situations.
Due to all these chemical compositions and key properties of M390 steel, it is often compared with other high-end knife steels such as S30V, S35VN, CTS 204P, and CPM-20CV.
History and Development of M390 Steel:
M390 steel is a 3rd generation powder metallurgy technology steel developed by Bohler-Uddeholm, an Austrian steel manufacturer. It is made by mixing the raw materials in powder form and then sintering them under high heat and pressure.
M390 steel was first introduced in the cutlery industry in 2005 when Chris Reeve Knives (CRK) used it in their high-end Sebenza folding knives. M390 steel was a relatively new material at the time, but it has become increasingly popular in the cutlery industry over the years.
Due to its outstanding performance, this steel has become increasingly popular among knife enthusiasts, knife makers, and manufacturers. Many popular knife brands have started using M390 steel, including Benchmade, Spyderco, LionSteel, and Zero Tolerance.
Is M390 Good Knife Steel?
M390 steel contains a high level of chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, and tungsten that provides outstanding hardness, toughness, and corrosion resistance to the steel. This combination of properties makes it very resistant to rust, wear, and chipping. It also retains its sharp edge for longer periods of time. Additionally, M390 steel is relatively easy to sharpen, which is important for maintaining a knife’s edge over time.
So, M390 is considered high-quality steel ideal for high-end knives and other cutting tools. It will be the best knife steel if you are looking for the best cutting tools with superior performance and durability.
Advantages and Applications of M390 Steel:
M390 steel is one of the best quality stainless steel that has gained immense popularity in the knife industry in a short period of time. It offers several amazing advantages due to its excellent chemical composition and properties. Here are a few common advantages of M390 steel:
- Superior edge retention: M390 steel can hold a sharp edge for longer periods of time than other types of steel for its superior edge retention.
- Cutting performance: Since M390 steel has excellent edge retention, it can be used frequently or for heavy-duty cutting tasks.
- Excellent corrosion resistance: M390 steel contains high levels of chromium and vanadium, which makes it highly resistant to corrosion and rust. So you can use it in humid or wet environments or for outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and fishing.
- High hardness and toughness: M390 steel has a high level of hardness and toughness that helps it to withstand heavy use and abuse without chipping, cracking, or breaking.
- Versatile: Due to its hardness, toughness, and edge retention, M390 steel can be used for a wide range of heavy-duty, such as chopping, hacking, and cutting.
All these outstanding advantages make this steel an ideal choice for a wide range of knife applications, including everyday carry knives, tactical and combat knives, hunting and outdoor knives, chef’s knives, and custom knives.
2 Popular M390 Steel Knives (Recommended)
LionSTEEL M4 Bushcraft Fixed Blade Knife is designed as an all-around fixed blade knife that features M390 steel for its blade. The knife has a blade length of 3.74 inches and a total length of 7 inches when open. The handle is made of Fiberglass and comes with a stitched leather sheath for easy carrying. This knife is specially designed for bush crafting, wilderness survival, camping, outdoor cooking, and other chores.
Overall Length: 7 inches, Blade Length: 3.74 inches, Blade thickness: 0.159 inches, Blade Material: M390 steel, Hardness: 60-62 HRC, Handle Material: Fiberglass, Brand: Lion Steel, Made-in: Italy.
- The blade is made of M390 steel.
- The blade length of this knife is 3.74 inches.
- The total length of the knife is 7 inches.
- The knife handle is made of Micarta.
- This knife comes with a double Stitched leather sheath.
- Excellent edge retention.
- Excellent corrosion resistance.
- Durable and attractive look.
- Safe and convenient to carry.
- Best for constant and frequent use.
- The knife is relatively heavy to carry for extended periods.
- The price point may be too high for some users.
Spyderco Ethnic Series Pattadese Knife is a high-end folding knife that features M390 steel for its blade. The knife has a blade length of 3.16 inches and a total length of 7.22 inches when open. The handle is made of Fiberglass, which is very easy to carry. It has a sturdy LinerLock mechanism that ensures the blade locks securely open and a deep-pocket wire clip for easy carrying.
Overall Length: 7.22 inches, Blade Length: 3.16 inches, Blade thickness: 0.157 inches, Blade Material: M390 steel, Hardness: 60-62 HRC, Handle Material: Fiberglass, Brand: Spyderco, Made-in: Italy.
- The blade is made of M390 steel.
- The handle is made of contoured carbon fiber.
- It has a deep-pocket wire clip.
- It has a sturdy LinerLock mechanism.
- Highly resistant to corrosion.
- Pocket friendly.
- Easy To Carry.
- Lightweight and durable.
- Excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance.
- The knife is relatively expensive compared to other knives.
- The blade is relatively short.
Heat Treatment and Maintenance of M390 Steel Knives:
Heat Treatment Process of M390 Steel
M390 steel is a high-performance steel that requires going through some steps of heat treatment to achieve optimal properties. The optimal heat treatment process involves heating the steel to a specific temperature, holding it at that temperature for a set timeframe, and then cooling it rapidly in a quenching process. The exact temperatures and times used in the heat treatment process may vary depending on the final product’s specific application and desired properties. After the heat treatment, the knife blade should be cleaned, polished, and sharpened to prepare it for use.
Proper care and maintenance of M390 steel knives
Although M390 steel is one of the best knife steel, taking proper care of the knife made from M390 steel is important to extend its lifespan and performance. Here are some tips for taking proper care and maintenance that will help you to extend the lifespan and performance of M390 steel knives:
- Keep the knife clean and dry.
- Do not use harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners on the knife.
- Store the knife properly.
- Sharpen the knife regularly.
- Use appropriate sharpening tools.
- Use the knife for its intended purpose.
- Do not use the knife to chop hard objects.
- Keep your knife away from moisture and other corrosive materials.
Due to several common misconceptions and myths about M390 steel, many users of this steel often damage and decrease the lifespan of their knives. Here are some common misconceptions and myths about M390 steel that are commonly spread among knife users:
- It is too hard to sharpen.
- M390 steel is too brittle.
- It is impervious to rust.
M390 steel is widely considered the gold standard for high-end knives and other cutting tools due to its excellent combination of corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and edge retention. As a regular user of M390 steel, I can assure you that the knives made with M390 steel will perform at the highest level for years. If you are a knife enthusiast or professional who is looking for high-performance cutting tools, it is definitely worth exploring and experiencing the exceptional performance of M390 steel knives.