3Cr13 Stainless Steel – Is it a Good Knife Steel?

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Many of us looking for knives consider price the most critical factor. If on a strict budget, the output is clear: purchase cheap, get cheap. After all, you will receive what you pay for. Knives whose blades are made using 3Cr13 steel are quite cheap but still offer decent performance.

What is 3Cr13 steel?

Schrade 3.5" Frontier Ultraglide Folder Knife with 3CR13 Steel Black Oxide Blade & G10 Scale Handle with Finger Flipper and Pocket Clip for Outdoor Survival, Camping and Everyday Tasks, Tan, One Size
Schrade 3.5″ Frontier

Made in China, 3Cr13 is a type of martensitic stainless steel. This name comes from the Chinese standard for classifying steels. Being produced in China, this steel has a low-price tag, attracting buyers with a low budget. However, it is not for those looking for a professional knife that will not cause any hassle in the long run.

Still, it is quite reassuring to note that 3Cr13 is pretty popular in the U.S. Herein, it is used to make many products such as tools, bolts, springs, and bearings. The credit goes to its superb hardness as well as toughness. These useful properties enable the knife makers to make reliable knives. So, this itself informs that this is a common steel type with an assurance of good performance.

This is not the steel to consider if you are in search of a special knife. Instead, it is for those looking for a regular knife to get the normal tasks done.


Due to more than 10% of chromium, 3Cr13 is a type of stainless steel. It also contains good proportions of carbon, manganese, and silicon. Following are the various elements of which this stainless steel is made up:

  • 13% chromium for enhanced resistance to corrosion as well as wear and improved hardness
  • 1% manganese for more hardness as well as brittleness
  • 1% silicon for better strength
  • 0.35% carbon for improved edge retention ability and boosted tensile strength
  • 0.6% nickel for enhanced toughness
  • 0.04% phosphorus for more strength
  • 0.03% sulfur for better manufacturing (machinability) but brings down the strength


Asuka 10 1/4
Asuka 10 1/4

This steel is moderately hard. The aim here is not to obtain the hardest steel but to reduce hardness such that the metal does not become too brittle.

Instead, the manufacturers wanted the best compromise between brittleness and hardness, which means the steel can yet be tough and hard.

The hardness rating of this steel is usually between 52 and 55. On average, it is around 54. This is the level of hardness of many affordable knives today.

The hardness level can differ from one manufacturer to another. However, the general rule of thumb is the less carbon content, the less is the steel’s hardness. Therefore, the carbon content in this steel is considered less, due to which the hardness is considered moderate compared to the upscale steel options.

Any experienced knife user will assent that this hardness level exists in most pocket-friendly knives. The advantage of less hardness is that the blade will never become too brittle, which means it will stay firm in performance while performing tough tasks.

There are a few equivalents in the 1Cr13 and 2Cr13 categories of steel. However, 3Cr13 is harder and has more strength than these steel options.


The chemical composition of this stainless steel governs its properties. Following are its most significant properties that you can expect from a 3Cr13 steel blade:

  • Great Toughness: This steel is tough considering its wallet-friendly price. This is a major reason why several blade makers prefer this Chinese steel. The high toughness level is because this metal is less hard! The two properties are proportional. Due to its toughness, makers use it to make tough knives that can endure much abuse without chipping or breaking easily.
  • Fair Edge Retention: Frankly speaking, 3cr13 does not have an excellent edge retention capability, unlike pricey steels. However, sustaining sharpness is not also the poorest. It can hold its sharp edge fairly, although you will have to sharpen the edge regularly. The ability of this steel to retain a sharp edge is better than other steel options in the same price range.
  • Excellent Wear Resistance: This steel resists wear and tear thanks to the good balance between toughness and hardness. It will not chip while chopping, and it lasts for an interestingly long time. Another selling point of steel is flexibility.
  • Corrosion Resistance: This stainless steel has high chromium content and low carbon amount. Thus, you can expect this steel to resist corrosion moderately. However, it will finally rust after some time, especially when exposed repeatedly to humid climate conditions. Therefore, proper care and maintenance are indispensable for durability and improved corrosion resistance.
  • Ease of Sharpening: This steel is easy to sharpen due to its moderate hardness level. The easy sharpening quality offsets okayish edge retention.
  • Machinability: This property is essential for knife creators. Its high level facilitates them to give a better shape to their knives. 3Cr13 has a high level of machinability.

3Cr13 is a martensitic stainless option; it has beyond-satisfactory strength, longevity, and corrosion resistance. Thus, it is a good choice for different applications.

3Cr13 vs. Other Knife steel Options

3Cr13 vs. 420j2

Several knife specialists believe that 3cr13 is quite similar to 420j2. However, this is not true. The latter is simply a touch harder and is admired for its better edge retention. Further, being a type of stainless steel, 420j2 ensures good machinability and corrosion resistance. As it keeps rusting at bay, 420j2 is used to make dives and surgical knives, unlike the 3Cr13 steel.

3Cr13 vs. 1055

Although in the same price range, these two types of steel are pretty different, as 1055 is a carbon steel type. With this carbon steel, you can obtain sufficient hardness and better edge retention than the 3Cr13 stainless steel. Further, it is still not too brittle. Yet it does not resist corrosion and is not usually used for making knives.

3Cr13 vs. 420

Both of them are stainless steel. However, as 420 is resistant to rusting or corrosion, it is preferable for knives designed for salt-water use. However, this steel is quite soft because of its low carbon amount. Thus, it also contributes to the quick dulling of the edge. Still, it is widely used in making ornamental knives and swords; it is not meant for knives designed for daily use. For such use, 3Cr13 is a better option.

So, is 3Cr13 steel Good for Your Knives?

Yes, 3cr13 stainless steel quality is ideal for low-end knives, as it has a good ability to sustain the edge, a good hardness level, is very easy to sharpen, and has decent resistance to corrosion as well as wear. Above all, it is quite affordable. Overall, it is a perfect build material for low-end knives.