What is S90V Steel: The Premium Choice for High-Performance Knives

S90V steel is a high-end martensitic stainless steel manufactured by US-based Crucible Industries in 1999 using the company’s proprietary CPM (Crucible Particle Metallurgy) process. It contains high amounts of carbon, chromium, vanadium, and molybdenum, which contribute to exceptional edge retention, toughness, and wear resistance. Due to its unique properties, excellent performance, and durability, S90V steel is considered a premium choice for high-performance knives.

In this blog, I will explore all the chemical compositions, properties, and advantages of S90V steel and discuss why it is a premium choice for high-performance knives.

Composition and Properties

Chemical composition

  • Carbon (2.3%): Improves hardness and corrosion resistance.
  • Chromium (14%): Enhances corrosion resistance and wear resistance.
  • Vanadium (9%): Improves wear resistance and hardenability.
  • Molybdenum (1%): Increase Machinability and strength.
  • Cobalt (2.8%): Increase the strength of the blade.
  • Manganese (0.50%): Increases hardness and brittleness.
  • Tungsten (0.40%): Improves wear resistance and hardness.
  • Silicon (0.50%): Improves strength.
  • Phosphorus (0.03%): Increases strength.
  • Sulfur (0.03%): Increases machinability.

Key properties

Hardness:

S90V steel has a high hardness of 59-61 HRC at the Rockwell hardness scale, which enhances its edge retention and wear resistance. So users can maintain a sharp edge for long periods.

Toughness:

Despite its high hardness, S90V steel is also tough and durable, which makes it resistant to chipping and breaking during heavy use. For this reason, knives made from this steel won’t chip, break, or crack when subjected to force or stress.

Wear resistance:

S90V steel contains high vanadium and cobalt content in its composition, which greatly contributes to exceptional wear resistance. It helps this steel to withstand damage from both abrasive and adhesive wear. So S90V steel is a reliable choice for heavy-duty cutting tasks.

Corrosion resistance:

S90V steel offers excellent corrosion resistance compared to many other knife steels due to its high level of chromium. Chromium is the main alloying element responsible for providing its stainless properties. So S90V steel is highly resistant to rust and corrosion caused by external elements such as moisture, humidity, and salt.

Edge retention:

Due to the balanced combination of vanadium and chromium elements in its composition, S90V steel offers excellent Edge Retention, which means the blade will hold a sharp edge for prolonged periods of use.

Machinability:

S90V steel is known to be difficult to machine due to its high hardness and wear resistance. It makes it a premium choice for high-performance applications where exceptional wear resistance and edge retention are critical.

Advantages and Benefits

S90V steel offers several advantages and benefits that make it a premium choice for high-performance knives, including:

  • Exceptional edge retention: Its high chromium and vanadium lead to exceptional edge retention that provides the ability to perform well for a very long time, whether you use it for light or heavy-duty jobs.
  • Cutting performance: Due to its edge retention, S90V steel can hold a razor-sharp edge for extended periods, making it ideal for demanding cutting tasks.
  • Resistance to corrosion and wear: S90V steel has excellent resistance to both corrosion and wear because of its high levels of chromium and vanadium. For this reason, it is highly resistant to rust, staining, and pitting. So this steel is widely used for making outdoor and marine applications.
  • High toughness and durability: S90V steel is highly tough and durable, which allows it to withstand heavy use and abuse without chipping, cracking, or breaking. So you can choose this steel for heavy use.
  • Suitable for various cutting tasks: S90V steel’s high wear resistance and toughness make it suitable for various cutting tasks, from everyday carry to outdoor and tactical use. 
  • Long-term value and investment: S90V steel is considered a long-term investment due to its high-quality materials, exceptional performance, and long-lasting edge retention. If you want a knife that lasts long, you can choose an S90V steel knife.

Heat Treatment and Blade Design

Heat treatment is an essential part of manufacturing any steel to improve the steel’s properties, such as hardness, toughness, and ductility. S90V steel also requires a specific heat treatment process to achieve its full potential. The optimal heat treatment process for S90V steel involves preheating, austenitizing, quenching, and tempering. This process will enhance the steel’s hardness, toughness, and wear resistance, while improper heat treatment can lead to brittle, unstable, or inconsistent performance.

The blade design is another crucial factor in maximizing the performance of S90V steel. To maximize the performance of S90V steel, blade designers should consider the following factors:

  • Blade geometry
  • Edge geometry
  • Heat treatment
  • Blade thickness
  • Blade shape
  • Handle design
  • Blade coating

Overall, a well-designed blade can maximize the performance of S90V steel and help produce a durable, sharp knife capable of tackling various cutting tasks.

Best Uses and Applications of S90V Steel Knives:

S90V steel is known for its versatility and durability and provides outstanding performance in numerous situations. Due to its excellent edge retention, toughness, hardness, and wear-resistant, S90V steel l is often used for various applications, including outdoor activities, cooking, and everyday carry.

Here are some of the best uses and applications of S90V steel knives:

  • Outdoor activities: S90V steel knives are ideal for outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and hunting. With this knife, you can cut tough materials such as wood, rope, and animal hide.
  • Cooking: S90V steel knives are perfect for cutting through tough meats, vegetables, and fruits, as it is less prone to rust and corrosion.
  • Everyday carry: Since S90V steel knives are lightweight, compact, and easy to carry, they are great for everyday carry. Its high-performance properties make this steel knife suitable for opening boxes, cutting ropes, or slicing food.
  • Tactical use: S90V steel knives can be used for tactical use, especially for military and law enforcement purposes. Due to its high strength and wear resistance, you can use it in harsh environments without any tension.
  • Heavy-duty tasks: S90V steel knives are great for heavy-duty tasks such as cutting through tough materials like bone or thick leather.

These high-performance characteristics of S90V steel make it a popular choice for those who demand the best in their knives. There are several popular knife brands and models that use S90V steel for their blades. Here are some following brands that use S90V steel:

  • Spyderco
  • Benchmade
  • Zero Tolerance
  • Cold Steel
  • Chris Reeve Knives

Care and Maintenance Tips:

It is essential to take proper care and maintenance of S90V steel knives to maintain optimal performance and longevity. Here are some tips for cleaning, storage, maintenance, and avoiding common mistakes:

  • After using your S90V steel knife, clean it thoroughly to remove all the dirt and moisture.
  • To wash the S90V steel knife, you can use warm water and mild soap.
  • Never use harsh detergents or abrasive materials on the S90V steel knife.
  • Use a soft cloth or paper towel to dry the knife after cleaning it.
  • Store your knife in a dry, cool place to avoid direct sunlight, moisture, or other corrosive materials.
  • Regular sharpening and honing are necessary to maintain the S90V steel knife’s sharp edge.
  • You can use a sharpening stone or honing rod to sharpen the knife blade.
  • Avoid using your S90V steel knife on hard surfaces.
  • Do not put your knife in the dishwasher or soak it, which can damage the steel.

Common Misconceptions about S90V Steel:

Although S90V steel is extremely popular and demanding stainless steel in the knife-making community, there are several common misconceptions about S90V steel that need to be addressed:

  • S90V steel is not tough: One of the most common misconceptions is that S90V steel is not tough. While it is true that S90V steel is very hard steel, it is not brittle. It has excellent toughness that can withstand heavy use.
  • S90V steel is not stainless: Another common misconception about S90V steel is that it is not stainless, which is a complete myth.
  • S90V steel is too expensive: While it is true that S90V steel is more expensive than some other steels, its high performance and excellent properties make it worth the investment.
  • S90V steel is difficult to sharpen: While it is true that S90V steel is very hard steel, it can be sharpened with the right tools and techniques.

Comparison with other knives:

S90V steel vs S30V steel

Both S90V and S30V are high-end steels developed by Crucible Industries. However, S90V has lower corrosion resistance, higher toughness, and better edge retention than S30V. Additionally, S90V is more difficult to work with than S30V due to its high hardness and toughness. Overall, S90V is superior steel in all categories than S90V.

S90V steel vs M390 steel

M390 has a slightly lower level of vanadium but a higher level of chromium, which offers better corrosion resistance and higher toughness than S90V. It also has a finer grain structure that makes it easier to sharpen than S90V. So you can pick M390 if you are concerned about corrosion resistance.

S90V steel vs D2 steel

Both S90V and D2 offer the same toughness. However, D2 contains a higher level of carbon and chromium compared to S90V. So D2 is more prone to rust and corrosion than S90V. On the other hand, D2 is less wear resistance compared to S90V. While D2 is a great steel for certain applications, it is not as advanced as S90V.

FAQS:

What is S90V steel?

S90V steel is a premium-grade steel that is known for its exceptional properties, including high hardness, wear resistance, and toughness.

How is S90V steel different from other knife steels?

S90V steel is different from other knife steels in terms of its unique composition and properties. It contains high levels of carbon, vanadium, and so on, contributing to its exceptional wear resistance, edge retention hardness, and toughness.

What are the key properties of S90V steel?

Due to its unique composition, S90V steel has several key properties, including:

  • Exceptional wear resistance
  • High hardness
  • High toughness
  • Excellent edge retention
  • Corrosion resistance
  • Machinability

How hard is S90V steel?

S90V steel is very hard with a Rockwell hardness range of 59-61 HRC.

Does S90V steel have good corrosion resistance?

Yes, S90V steel has good corrosion resistance for its high chromium content.

Can S90V steel hold a sharp edge for a long time?

Yes, S90V steel is known for its exceptional edge retention, which means it can hold a sharp edge for a long time, even with heavy use.

How does S90V steel compare to other high-end knife steels like S30V or S35VN?

S90V steel is harder and more wear-resistant compared to other high-end knife steels like S30V or S35VN. However, S90V steel may be more difficult to sharpen than S30V or S35VN due to its high hardness and wear resistance.

Does S90V steel require special care and maintenance?

Yes, S90V steel does require special care and maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity. So you must take special care of your S90V steel knife to make it long-lasting.

 Can S90V steel be used for kitchen knives or other specialized applications?

Yes, S90V steel can be used for kitchen knives or other specialized applications that require high-performance steel, such as hunting knives and tactical knives.

What knife brands or models commonly use S90V steel?

S90V steel is used by several knife brands and models, such as Benchmade, Zero Tolerance, Spyderco, Chris Reeve Knives, and so on.

 Is S90V steel considered a premium or luxury steel for knives?

Yes, S90V steel is generally considered a premium or luxury steel for knives due to its high cost and excellent performance properties.

Can S90V steel be sharpened easily?

Sharpening S90V steel can be challenging due to its high hardness and wear resistance. It requires high-quality sharpening tools, such as diamond or ceramic sharpening stones. So use a 20-25 degrees sharpening angle per side and avoid using electric sharpeners or low-quality sharpening tools that can damage the edge.

Conclusion:

S90V steel is a high-performance knife, which makes it a premium choice for cutting tasks that require sharpness and edge retention. With proper maintenance, S90V steel knives can provide long-term value and investment. Overall, S90V steel is a top-performing steel that delivers exceptional cutting performance and durability.

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