Both the S90V and the S30V come from the same SxxV family made by the US-based Crucible Industries.
The S90V sits higher on the spectrum and costs a little more due to its better toughness and edge retention capability.
On the other hand, despite being at the lower/cheaper end of the super steel family, the S30V showcases extraordinary hardness and wear resistance.
It even outperforms the higher S90V in those aspects.
Let’s explore the difference between them in more detail. Only then you’ll be able to pick a winner for the S90V vs S30V: Premium steel comparison.
The CPM S90V is a premium quality steel made by US Crucible Industries.
This martensitic stainless steel is known for its extraordinary edge retention, superb wear resistance, and higher corrosion resistance.
The CPM S90V steel is a part of the premium crucible “SxxV” series produced by the US Crucible Industries.
This supreme steel is considered one of the best super steels available. S90V is usually used to make valve components, slitters, bearings, cutters, and knives.
Also known as the CPM S30V, this super steel is one of the best steel for knives out there.
The S390V is a part of the same SxxV series family as the S90V, produced by the US Crucible Industries. The steel offers similar performance to the S90V.
However, a careful combination of alloy materials made this high-end, martensitic, and stainless steel especially good for knives.
The CPM S30V blades showcase the perfect combination of corrosion resistance, edge retention, and toughness.
S90V vs S30V: How do they differ?
The CPM S90V uses Carbon, Chromium, and Vanadium as its core alloys.
A moderate concentration of Manganese, Molybdenum, Silicon, Tungsten, Sulfur, and Phosphorous makes the steel super strong, durable, and wear-resistant.
The chart below showcases the different concentrations of alloys used in forging the CPM S90V steel:
The S30V uses similar alloy materials to the S90V. The only distinction between them is the concentration.
This powerful and tough steel is rich in Chromium, Vanadium, and Molybdenum.
As a result, the steel is super strong and produces premium-grade kitchen cutlery, scout knives, custom knives, and pocket knives.
Companies like Zero Tolerance Knives prefer this steel extensively to manufacture higher-end knives.
Here is what the material composition of CPM S30V looks like:
The CPM S90V can usually be found in a wide section of blades.
It scores 57-59 HRC on the Rockwell hardness scale, which ranks as a hard steel rating and is almost perfect as a blade steel.
This super steel is used to make most everyday carry and premium-grade knives.
However, the higher Vanadium count makes the S90V a bit less machinable. You can say it is too hard for its own good.
The S30V is, surprisingly, harder than the S90V. It can achieve a Rockwell hardness score of 59-61 HRC when suitable heat treatment is applied.
The S30V takes the lean on hardness and as a result, is widely known as the perfect blade steel for knives across the globe.
The unique composition and the process of making provide the S30V with exceptional edge retention, hardness, and wear resistance.
3. Wear resistance
The high concentration of Vanadium creates vanadium carbides, which significantly improves S90V’s capability to withstand wear.
As a result, knives made from CPM S90V steel can live through numerous rough uses over decades.
Exceptional wear and abrasion resistance is one of the key features of the S90V super steel.
Just like the S90V, the CPM S30V also gets its amazing wear resistance capabilities from vanadium carbides that form during the making process.
Most usual steels have chromium carbides inside that are weaker than vanadium carbides.
As a result, your blade steel becomes hard and wear-resistant.
4. Edge retention
This super steel uses a unique combination of Vanadium, Carbon, and Chromium to provide near-perfect edge retention.
CPM S90V even outperforms other top-quality steels (like D2 and S30V). It is suitable for both light and heavy work.
The higher concentration of Vanadium and Chromium makes the blade strong enough to withstand rough uses over time.
The edge retention capacity of steel greatly depends on the heat treatment process.
The better the treatment process, the better the edge retention capabilities will be and the longer your blade will be able to perform without deforming.
The S30V is known globally for its impeccable edge retention. The materials used and the advanced CPM technology have helped the S30V secure the top spot for steel knives.
This is the only category where the big, higher-end brother (S90V) has the lead.
The CPM S90V had to compromise on toughness in order to achieve an amazing level of hardness and edge retention. As a result, the CPM S90V is a little fragile.
The S90V provides a decent quality of toughness, which is almost the same as the D2 steel and falls behind higher-grade steels (like S35VN and S30VN).
No steel can dodge giving in to cracking, breaking, or chipping over time. The longer it will take your blade to crack or chip, the tougher your steel is.
Despite being at the lower spectrum of the super steels, the S30V still outperforms its higher-end brother S90V in toughness.
Ironically, all the toughness of the CPM S90V is also its biggest downfall. Just as the blade is tough to dull, it’s also tough to sharpen.
The vanadium carbide in the S90V is harder than the chromium carbide.
As a result, traditional aluminum oxide abrasives and sharpening stones won’t be enough to sharpen your S90V blade. You’ll need a diamond or CBN stone to do that easily.
Just like the CPM S90V, the S30V also lags behind in terms of grindability.
They both are hard to deform and sharpen. The good news is that you won’t be needing to sharpen your blade very often.
The performance of the S30V gives it a slight edge over the S90V because that is even harder to grind. You’ll need a diamond or CBN stone here as well, but the process is a bit easier than the S90V.
7. Corrosion Resistance
The higher amount of Chromium used (14%) helps the CPM S90V steel to be extremely rust-proof, corrosion-resistant, and durable.
That’s why the steel is extremely versatile and can be used in almost any application. People refer to S90V knives as the “one-for-all” steel knives.
Here, the two super steels perform the same. The higher Chromium concentration also helps the CPM S30V steels to be super hard and corrosion-resistant.
They can even be used under saltwater without any fear of rusting.
However, if you don’t take good care of your blades, no amount of corrosion resistance is going to save your blade; whatever quality steel that may be.
Talking basic maintenance care will help your steel to stay rust-free for generations.
The CPM S90V is considered supreme quality steel. A higher number of alloys used in the composition of the S90V significantly increases the production cost.
You can get the CPM S90V in a long, bar form; or in the shape of a knife.
The price depends on the application of the blade (knives) and the dimensions of the steel bar. A reasonable quality S90V knife can cost you around $100 – $1000.
Being at the lower side of the SxxV series family, the S30V is cheaper than the S90V.
However, the overall better performance of the S30V stainless steel had made the steel widely popular among knife enthusiasts.
Unlike the CPM S90V, the S30V is extensively used to make a wide range of knives. You can get a quality S30V pocket knife for around $100 – $500.
S90V vs S30V: Which One Is Better for You?
It depends on the application you are using the blade for.
If your primary goal is to get a quality knife, the cheaper and tougher S30V would be the perfect option.
The combination of hardness, corrosion resistance, edge retention, and a lower price will help you get the perfect S30V knife.
On the other hand, if your primary goal is to make tools like valve components, gear pumps, feed screws, slitters, cutters, and bearings; the higher-end S90V will provide a better outcome.
The CPM S30V provides better toughness and wear resistance and lags behind the S90V in edge retention and grindability. The price is also a concerning factor.
If you buy your next blade steel based on the job type and your requirement, you won’t be disappointed.
1. Is S30V good steel for making knives?
Ans: Yes, it is. The CPM S30V is known as the “perfect steel for knives” with excellent corrosion resistance and implacable edge retention.
The CPM S30V steel even outperforms some of the super steel of its own class.