154CM Steel Review: Is it a Good Knife Steel?

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154CM knife steel is one of the oldest steel variants available in the market. With a long, rich history spanning over a few decades, it ranks among the widely used steels for making a variety of knives, ranging right from small folders to big fixed ones.

154 CM steel has been used as a high-end steel variant. Still, it is essential to know how this steel performs in terms of resistance to corrosion, edge retention, and toughness.

What is 154CM Steel?

KATSU Folding Pocket Japanese Knife, Carbon Fiber Handle, EDC Knife w/CPM 154CM Steel Blade, Leather Sheath

154CM is a high-carbon, high-alloy, futuristic stainless steel made in America by Crucible Industries. It surfaced to fulfill the need for steel in applications that involve producing higher temperatures. This was where 52100 steel was proving to be inapt. However, 154 CM is not the initial replacement of 52100.

Indeed, it is usually tagged as a modified 440C version, chiefly distinguished by the inclusion of molybdenum. It is ideal for those who require a steel variant with better wear and corrosion resistance and more hardness than 52100.

The letters CM in the steel represents Climax Molybdenum, which is the name of a company that made the steel for the first time and then sold it to Crucible. The digits simply have no genuine interpretation.

Initially, 154CM was made for making the components of jet engine turbines. Since the 1970s it has been used widely for making knife blades.

After some time, Crucible manufacturers somehow ceased using the vacuum-melted process while producing this steel. This resulted in inferior quality. Then many knife makers started using ATS-34, a Japanese equivalent of 154 CM. Later, Crucible began its production again and then came up with a CPM form, CPM 154.

154CM and CPM 154 are not the same, although they share many common aspects. Structurally, CPM154 is a powder steel form of the former.

Chemical Composition

154CM has enough chromium due to which it is a type of stainless steel having a high share of carbon and molybdenum. Following are the various elements of which this steel is made up of:

  • 14% chromium for better tensile strength, resistance to corrosion as well as wear, and retention of sharpness
  • 4% molybdenum for better strength as well as manufacturing ability (machinability)
  • 1.05% carbon for enhanced hardness, durability, as well as resistance to wear and corrosion
  • 0.8% silicon for better strength and toughness
  • 0.5% manganese for improved hardness and sharpness retention
  • 0.4% vanadium for better hardenability as well as wear resistance
  • 0.4% tungsten for better wear resistance and hardness
  • 0.03% phosphorus for better strength
  • 0.03% sulfur for easier processing while manufacturing

This composition is similar to that of many other high-carbon stainless steel variants made around the era of the second world war. Only a few minor differences exist to get rid of patent problems.

Steel Hardness

Due to more carbon, vanadium, and chromium content, 154CM boasts a rating of 58-61 on the Rockwell hardness scale. This makes it quite harder than several other stainless-steel options. As a result, it retains a sharp edge for much longer than these steel variants. The level of toughness goes up when this steel is double-tempered.

154CM Stainless Steel Properties

TOPS Knives B.O.B. Fieldcraft Hunter - 154CM Steel (White)

The chemical composition of this steel contributes to its properties. Following are its most significant properties that you can expect from 154CM steel on sale:

  • Decent Toughness: This high-carbon steel is tough. Although the high hardness reduces the level of toughness, this steel is fairly tough. For you, it means that a 154CM blade can handle abuse in any application. It can endure quite a bit of impact and force. It is durable!
  • Superb Edge Retention:  Due to its chemical composition consisting of solid materials, this steel holds up its sharp edge for an unbelievably long time. This means a significantly reduced frequency of sharpening. If you sharpen it once, the sharpness will last for a long time.
  • Ease of Sharpening: Surprisingly, it is fairly easy to sharpen such hard steel and attains razor-like sharpness quicker than most steels having an identical level of hardness. Just do not allow it to become full dull, as then re-sharpening it can be quite tough.
  • Great Wear Resistance: Considering its noteworthy composition, this hard steel keeps wear and tear away. The credit goes to the high carbon as well as chromium levels along with manganese and vanadium that further fortifies it. This makes it an ideal choice for making cutlery as well.
  • Corrosion Resistance: As this is a type of stainless steel, it fights well against corrosion and rust. However, it is still prone to rust if you do not take its proper care. For example, those frequently touched regions on your knife can gather grime and sweat with time, which can attract an accumulation of rust. Thus, it is essential to maintain your blade dry and clean once you use it.

154 CM vs Other Knife Steel Options

154CM vs S30V

The latter is another martensitic form of stainless steel from the company that also produces 154 CM. Formally, it is called CPM S30V, as it is powder-made.

As S30V is super steel, its performance is better than 154CM. S30V is harder and retains a sharp edge better. It is also better at corrosion resistance. However, S30V is more expensive. Still, depending on the heat treatment, S30V may come at affordable prices.

154CM vs. CPM-S30V

154CM vs 440C

The latter is the closest steel variant, as it is a modified form of 154CM. It is alleged that 440C was the starting point for the preparation of 154CM as a 52100 alternative. Both these steel variants are almost close when it comes to all main properties.

Nevertheless, 440C has more chromium, while 154CM has more molybdenum. This balances the hardness and corrosion resistance equation for both.

154CM vs. 400 Series

154CM vs CPM 154

Both are quite similar steel variants. However, CPM 154 is a modern form of 154CM. It resolves a few issues of 154 CM, especially at the time of polishing. With the chemical composition of CPM154, it is easier to polish and finish. With heat treatment, the CPM version is likely to give you better quality and performance.

CPM 154 is better in terms of edge retention ability, while both scores the same for other properties.

CPM-154 vs. 154CM

154CM vs 1095

Both these steel variants differ significantly in composition. Although tougher and easier to sharpen, 1095 is susceptible to rust and corrosion, because of no chromium content.

154CM vs. 1095

154CM vs D2

The latter is also a mid-range, semi-stainless steel, which is admired for its hardness, edge sustenance, and wear resistance. However, when it comes to price, D2 is costlier. However, 154CM is better at resisting rust and corrosion and easy to sharpen. But D2 wins in terms of toughness and edge retention.

154CM vs. D2

154CM vs VG10

The latter is a famous kitchen knife steel. Both are quite similar but have trivial differences in composition, especially in their chromium and carbon proportions. This makes VG10 somewhat a better option for those who want better corrosion resistance as well as ease of sharpening.

154CM vs. VG-10

Top 154CM Knives

Here are a few top knives made of 154 CM steel.

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So, is 154CM a Good Knife Steel?

Yes, with its durability, excellent wear resistance, and a good level of toughness and hardness. It is also a mid-range option hence attracts those who are ready to invest moderately on a knife that they will use heavily.