The answer to this question is quite tentative as it depends on the purpose for which it’s been used as well as customer sentiment. The following comments have been obtained from reviews of knifemakers and users:
Both are premium steels, but S30V and it’s newer iteration S35V are considered more top tier. I have knives with both.
From the user’s standpoint, it’s hard to tell a real difference; at least for an EDC pocketknife. If I were selecting a hard-use outdoor knife, I’d probably go 154CM as it has slightly better corrosion resistance.
S30V will take a slightly finer edge, but you aren’t going to put one on a working knife if you know what you’re doing.
Honestly, if it’s a knife you actually intend to use, you will be well served by either. Pick the one that fits your hand best and has the blade shape you want for whatever you’re going to do with it.
When buying a knife— I have been known to buy the occasional knife— I select it by action and blade shape and the comfort of the handle in my hand.
If I see either 154CM or S30V on the blade, I don’t think about the steel any more. Either one will work for anything I am going to do with it, and both are top quality.
Dominic Tramonte: says
I would have a hard time telling the difference. They’re both great day to day steels.
I’ve found S30V to take and hold a slightly better edge, but with good heat treatment 154CM is close.
Theoretically 154CM chips less, but I haven’t found S30V chippy myself. For the record I suspect I would like CPM154 best, but I’ve never used it.
S30V is stronger and will hold a edge longer compared to 154CM. Like others have said 154CM will dull sooner but is easier to sharpen. I personally enjoy both steels.
154CM Steel overview
154CM is a type of martensitic (hardened) stainless steel manufactured by Crucible Industries, American company formerly known as Crucible Materials Corporation.
The C stands for chromium while the M stands for molybdenum. Both are combined with carbon which are the three major elements used to manufacture the steel.
ATS-34 is a Japanese equivalent steel also used for making knives manufactured by Hitachi Corporation. The composition of 154CM comprises the following:
- Carbon 1.05%
- Chromium 14%
- Manganese 0.5%
- Molybdenum 4%
- Silicon 0.3%
- Iron 80.15%
In 1959, Crucible Industries in collaboration with the Wright Air Development Center of the United States Air Force developed the CRM154 which is the earliest version of the 154CM before the Chromium content was added to it.
However, crucible did not patent 154CM apparently due to similarities with patents by Allengheny Ludlum and Latrobe.
It is quite uncertain if Crucible was aware of the products of these companies prior to the launch of their own famous version or not.
154CM was initially a proprietary American-made, high-carbon stainless steel used for the manufacture of knives in the 1970s and was popular among its users due to its good quality steel.
Its manufacturing process involved the use of electric currents to create heat for melting metals within a vacuum.
The manufacturer later ceased to use this process of vacuum-melting and the quality of the steel declined as a result.
In 1972, knifemaker Bob Loveless started using and selling 154CM made knives. At that time, it was said to be an originally developed knife steel for the high temperature regions of Boeing 747 engines.
According to Loveless, 154CM “has helped me raise the overall quality of my blades and I expect to use it at the end of my days.”
Knife makers switched to the use of ATS-34 as an alternative to 154CM manufactured in Japan by Hitachi Corporation.
The quality and popularity of 154CM has however been restored with its production by Crucible Industries.
Is 154CM Stainless
A knife made of 154CM stainless steel is meant for cutlery. 154CM is not a powder steel but is usually used to make knives of higher grade.
it has a very good balance of toughness, hardness and resistance to corrosion. With a Rockwell Hardness tat ranges between 58-61,
154CM is harder, stronger and retains its sharpness longer than most modern stainless-steel knives with HRC in the mid-upper 50s.
Is 154CM Hard to Sharpen?
In comparison with S30V, knives made from 154CM steel are easier to sharpen. They also take less time in sharpening.
Does 154CM Steel Rust?
Due to its composition of Carbon and Chromium, 154CM has a high corrosion resistance to salt water. It also has corrosion resistance to HCI and H2SO4.
S30V steel : all you should know
S30V is also martensitic (hardened) but unlike 154CM, it is sintered (powder made) and also manufactured by Crucible Industries.
It is composed of vanadium carbides which gives the steel a very refined grain to improve sharpness in the knives made from it.
As a result, knives made of S30V are harder and cut more effectively than knives made with chromium carbides as there are no weak points in the stainless steel.
S30V is also produced by Crucible Industries which has been well known in the knife steel industry and market for several decades and is famous for the development of powder metallurgy steels which were released in 1970.
Powder metallurgy made possible, the existence of higher alloy steels and microstructures which were finer. This was achieved by its fast solidification process.
The story of S30V really begins with a conversation between Dick Barber, lead developer of the S30V and Chris Reeve, knifemaker and founder of Chris Reeve Knives.
The conversation was about the reason why they were using another brand of steel called BG42 instead of Crucible products. Chris argued that his knifemaking company would patronize Crucible Industries if they produced steel of better quality.
As a result of that conversation, Dick and his fellow knifemaker, Ed Stevenson conducted interviews with knifemakers and knifemaking companies in order to arrive at the manufacture of a customer centered knife steel.
They asked them about the properties they would love a knife steel to possess. Among the knifemakers interviewed include:
Tony Marfione, Phil Wilson, Mike Jones, Sal Glesser, Steve Ingrim, Bill Harsey, Tom Mayo, Jerry Ernie Emerson, Hossom and Paul Bos.
Chris Reeve Knives, the company owned by Chris Reeve tested the initial versions of Crucible’s new production, S30V and this is the reason why the company is of significant importance to the production of S30V.
Judging from the discussion between Dick Barber and Chris Reeve, it is an accurate assumption that the goal of Crucible Industries at this time was to design and produce a steel for manufacturing knives which was to be of superior quality to BG42.
In order to achieve this, Dick Barber’s team had to use powder metallurgy. Paul Bos was consulted to help in the heat treatment of S30V using knife heating equipment.
Is S30V a Good Knife Steel?
Considered a premium grade steel for knives, S30V is so expensive that its price affects the price of the knives made from it.
According to a review from Buck Knives, a blog dedicated to the use of knives, S30V is “the absolute best steel blade available”.
Another review explains from Joe Talmadge explains: “It might be due to the ultimate high-end all-round stainless steel, duen to high performance coupled with easier machinability
and ‘sharpenability’ than other steels in this class.” Besides cutlery, S30V is also popular with outdoor survivalists. The composition of the major components of S30V comprises:
- Carbon 1.45%
- Chromium 20%
- Vanadium 4%
- Molybdenum 2%
With a small but significant amount of Molybdenum, S30V is produced by mixing tiny “ball bearing”
bits of its ingredients and fused with heat and pressure leading to the fusion of the atoms of the ingredients into one strong solid piece of stainless steel.
Due to its high durability, S30V is the choice for knifemaker, Benchmark Knives’ HUNT series of hunting knives.
Other knife makers that have adopted the use of S30V include: Spyderco Knives, Zero Tolerance, Microtech Knives, Piranha Knives and a host of others.
Is S30V Hard to Sharpen?
Compared with 154CM, a S30V knife is harder to sharpen. This is most likely because it is a stronger and tougher steel material.