M390 Steel Review - Is It Good For Knife Making

M390 Steel Review – Is It Good For Knife Making?

Are you having trouble deciding which knife is ideal for you? M390 steel is one of the hardest new steels on the market, and it could be exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to finding the right cutting partner. 

This M390 steel review will help you decide if an M390 knife is suitable for you.

What Is M390 Steel?

Bohler-Uddeholm produces M390, ultra-premium steel, coming as a result of the merger of Swedish Uddeholm and Austrian Bohler.

M390 is a third-generation PM (powder metallurgy) high-vanadium, high-chromium, and martensitic stainless steel that offers excellent corrosion and wear resistance.

This steel is referred to as “micro-clean” by Bohler. It has a fine grain-size structure and can accept a mirror-polished beautifully, providing your knife a cool appearance.

M390, like most other steels in its class, is for tough usage and tear and wear.

It’s also made to withstand high levels of mechanical shocks and vibration, which is why manufacturers prefer it for such industrial applications as barrels, injection molding, and screws.

M390 is well-suited for manufacturing tiny knives in the knife business. Because this type of steel is so costly, you can only expect to see it in limited-edition and high-end knives. High-end tiny fixed folders and blades frequently use super steel.

Chemical Composition

Based on the information provided by BOHLER-UDDEHOLM, M390 steel consists of the following components:

Image credit: @zknives

Carbon – 1.9%: Carbon is necessary for all sorts of blades and knives because it increases the hardness and longevity of the blade, yet carbon is a corrosive component.

Silicon – 0.7%: It increases the toughness of steel and prevents air bubbles from occurring during the smelting process.

Manganese – 0.3%: Just enough to improve tensile strength without causing brittleness.

Chromium – 20%: Again, Chromium is present in all forms of steel and is utilized to improve hardness, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance at the expense of toughness.

Molybdenum – 1%: Molybdenum optimizes the sharpness while also making the steel stronger at high temperatures.

Tungsten – 0.6%: Usually seen in places where there is a lot of Chromium. Tungsten improves the knife’s wear resistance, complementing the lack of hardness in Chromium.

Vanadium – 4%: During heat treatment, it is used to make fine-grained steel. Vanadium is necessary because powdered steel relies on the correct dispersion of tiny grains. It also adds wear resistance and edge.

Related: CPM S30V Chemical Composition

M390 Properties

Now, let’s take a deeper look at our M390 steel review, thus supporting you in choosing the right kitchen tool.

Microstructure

Because M390 has a high Chromium concentration, it has less of the high hardness vanadium carbide and more of the lower hardness chromium carbide. However, vanadium increases the hardness of chromium carbides.

Chromium carbides in powder metallurgy steels are bigger than vanadium carbides, limiting toughness, but they are simpler to sharpen since they are softer than typical sharpening abrasives like aluminum oxide.

Toughness

Knife Toughness Chart
Image credit: @kenaveryknives.com

M390 is used to produce very robust knives. M390 steel has a strong chipping resistance when compared to other steels of the same Rockwell hardness. The steel has a high hardness level, making it ideal for knife manufacturing.

Steel with high hardness will give your knife considerable strength during your daily use, especially while camping (you can use it to open the box), hammering, or cutting small wooden sticks.

Corrosion Resistance

Apart from other components such as Molybdenum and Nitrogen, Chromium is undoubtedly the major factor determining corrosion resistance in a steel alloy. 

Having said that, the carbon quantity in M390 is rather high, around 20%, leading to overall good resistance to corrosion. This is why this stainless steel is preferred in manufacturing knives for usage in salty and humid environments, where rust sensitivity is considerable.

Edge Retention

Knife Edge Retention Chart
Image credit: @kenaveryknives.com

The capacity of a knife to retain its sharpness while in use is referred to as edge retention. M390’s edge retention is also relatively good because of its high carbide concentration and 4% vanadium additive.

Hardness and edge retention are usually associated. The M390 steel has been designated as a super-steel, which implies it has excellent edge retention.

Ease In Sharpening

Sharpenability and sharpness are two of the most neglected aspects of blade steel. 

As previously stated, because M390 achieves its strong edge retention through large carbide volume rather than hard vanadium carbides, sharpening ease can be slightly better than steels with equivalent edge retention. 

This is especially true when working with aluminum oxide abrasives. In any case, sharpening with diamond or CBN stones would be pointless.

If you’re a fan of Knife Sharpeners, according to BOHLER, the M390 steel is perfectly sharpenable, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to sharpen with a whetstone

Perfect Polishing Ability

This is steel with perfect polishing ability, just a little grinding, and the M390 steel is shiny like new. Honestly, it doesn’t matter much, unless you are a knife collector, and at the same time, having a polished knife is also very good. It will look very nice.

So, Is M390 Good Knife Steel?

Yes, M390 steel is excellent knife steel and is one of the super steels that is gaining favor in the knife-making industry. The steel is designed utilizing the PM process, which results in great wear resistance, exceptional edge retention, and good corrosion resistance.

This top-rated Bohler tool steel produces high-quality M390 steel for knives that can endure heavy usage and prevent corrosion in humid and salty environments. An M390 steel knife has high toughness and can endure rigorous use and abuse to some level.

However, you should be aware that the M390 has a few drawbacks when it comes to knife manufacturing. It is highly costly and can upset your budget. It’s also not the easiest to sharpen, but it’s also not the most difficult.

Another question: Is AUS-8 Stainless Steel Good For Knives?

M390 Vs Other Steels

M390 vs 20 CV

Both M390 and 20CV steels are high-quality steels with excellent edge retention, corrosion resistance, and hardness, but they are difficult to sharpen.

M390 vs M4

M4 steel has the same hardness and edge retention as M390 steel, but it is high carbon steel with limited corrosion resistance.

M390 vs S110V

The S110V is on par with the M390 in terms of edge retention, sharpness, and corrosion resistance but has a lesser toughness.

M390 vs S90V

The S90V has the same/close edge retention as the M390, but it has less hardness, corrosion resistance and is more challenging to sharpen.

M390 vs S35VN

The M390 slightly outperforms the S35VN in every way.

Conclusion

That’s all of the M390 steel review. This stainless steel is without a doubt in its own class, being nearly as resistant to corrosion as H1. 

Though the blade may necessitate a little more elbow grease when sharpening compared to others, it will retain its edge even after others have failed. 

Because of these properties, many large knife manufacturing businesses and bladesmiths are increasingly using M390.

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