4116 Steel: Is it a Good Knife Steel?

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If you have ever searched for German knives, chances are high for you to spot knives with 4116 steel. Yes, it is a popular steel variant, but its use is not limited to making knives. Today, many esteemed knife brands are using it for making kitchen and tactical knives. Obviously, there must be some good reasons for that, right? So, let’s find out in this post dedicated to the 4116 stainless steel review.

What is 4116 Steel?

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4116 is a low-end, fine-grained, martensitic stainless steel made by ThyssenKrupp, a German company. Thus, it is also known as 4116 Krupp stainless steel. The German 4116 steel was first formulated for use in making knives for the medical, food, and pharmaceutical industries.

This martensitic steel is quenched at the time of its hardening process. Although you may find many claims, this steel is not a type of high-carbon steel. It actually belongs to the moderate-carbon steel category.

As 4116 knife steel is reasonably versatile, it has resulted in some confusion among its users. As many knife makers use it to provide some of their most inexpensive knives, many users believe it to be a low-quality variant. Nevertheless, esteemed German knife makers use this steel for offering both entry-level and upscale kitchen knives. Thus, it is somewhat difficult to position it on a specific level of versatility.

Some users even believe that the exact composition of 4116 is a trade secret due to which its construction is more difficult to evaluate. However, this is not true. It was devised for use in medical equipment, which itself says that its formulation has been done as per the standards. In terms of quality, it is usually compared to 440C, which should give you a hint regarding its reliable build.

The German 4116 stainless steel is used for making medical-grade devices and food tools, including knives such as tactical and kitchen. Today, top knife makers such as Cold Steel widely use it for making kitchen knives.

Chemical Composition

The composition of the German 4116 stainless steel is quite similar to its German counterpart, X50CrMoV15. The only difference is in terms of sulfur and vanadium, with sulfur being more and vanadium being relatively less in 4116. Its composition is similar to some more steel variants. Following are its components:

  • 0.5% Carbon: For improved hardness as well as the ability to keep wear or corrosion away
  • 15% Chromium: For the good ability to retain an edge, superb tensile strength, and more power to keep wear as well as corrosion at bay
  • 1% Manganese: For more hardness
  • 1% Silicon: For more strength
  • 0.8% Molybdenum: For more strength as well as machinability
  • 0.15% Vanadium: For better wear resistance as well as hardenability
  • 0.03% Sulfur: For a more flexible manufacturing process
  • 0.04% Phosphorus: For more strength


On the hardness Rockwell scale, 4116 German stainless steel has a rating of 56 HRC. This makes it not too hard steel. Nevertheless, this rating can be even 55, depending on the heat treatment of the manufacturer. Still, this is a good level of hardness, as many chef knives have the same hardness rating. This indicates that this steel is sufficiently hard to last long despite frequent kitchen use.

The rating of 56 HRC is due to the 0.5% carbon content. It is hard enough to cut any food items. Simultaneously, it is not so hard to chip.

Steel Properties

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The chemical composition of 4116 determines its properties. Due to a good balance of carbon and chromium, it is exceptionally well at resisting corrosion, retaining a sharp edge, and being stronger than other competitive steels. Following are its properties:

  • Great Corrosion Resistance: This is the best property of 4116 Krupp steel. Due to its 15% chromium content, it belongs to the stainless-steel category. This means it will not easily corrode or rust when used in saltwater or a humid area. After all, this property should not be surprising, as the steel was developed initially for medical tools.
  • Toughness: Due to a high level of chromium, 4116 has a high level of toughness. Another reason for its toughness is the low level of hardness on the Rockwell chart. Although not the toughest steel, it is still capable of defending from the harsh elements. The tougher the steel, the less hard it is! There is also enough molybdenum to deliver sufficient strength, which is required at high temperatures and to keep brittleness away.
  • Good Edge Retention: This steel retains a sharp edge well due to the carbon content. It is true that it will not retain its edge shape as well as sharpness for a very long time. This is unlike what many low-end steel variants are offering. However, the widespread use of this steel for making kitchen knives simply proves otherwise. This steel can hold up well when used regularly in the kitchen.
  • Reliable Wear Resistance: Due to a good amount of vanadium, you can expect to get a durable 4116 knife. It is resistant to abrasion damage, which means it is not going to wear easily.
  • Ease of Sharpening: The German 4116 stainless steel is easy to sharpen, as it is a kind of soft steel due to the hardness level of below 60 HRC. This reimburses for the not-so-good ability to retain an edge. In other words, you can easily obtain an ultra-sharp edge that became dull. You can easily and quickly gain this edge using a standard sharpening tool.

4116 vs. Other Knife Steel Options

Comparing this German steel with other steel variants will give you an idea of how much better it can perform. So, let’s compare!

4116 versus D2

The latter steel is a semi-stainless option admired for its wear resistance due to its ability to punch other steel variants. Both the steels are tough and are capable of keeping heavy wear and tear at bay.

Nevertheless, D2 is not a type of stainless steel. Due to a lot of chromium, D2 will not rust easily. However, 4116 wins over when it comes to rust resistance.

4116 versus 4110

The latter is also a kind of German steel, and it comes from the same company that makes 4116. Well, this is not surprising, considering that their names are similar. Nevertheless, information regarding 4110 seems to be insufficient.

Both the steels have similar compositions, due to which they are always compared. However, 4116 has somewhat more molybdenum, which means more toughness as well as durability.

4116 versus 440C

The latter is a mid-range option with superb corrosion resistance, great toughness, and incredible wear resistance. It also has more chromium for being more rustproof and more molybdenum for being tougher and less brittle. It would not be wrong to say that 440C is one step ahead of 4116.

4116 versus 8Cr13MoV

The latter, as Chinese stainless steel, is the counterpart of 440C. Thus, you can expect superb performance without paying much. It promises high toughness, superb corrosion resistance, and durability.

The only limitation of 8Cr13MoV is that it is from China. So, in terms of quality, the German steel is considered better.

Top 4116 Stainless Steel Knives

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So, is 4116  a Good Knife Steel?

Yes, it is good knife steel considering its great ability to keep corrosion and wear at bay, great toughness, and ease of sharpening. Although its ability to retain a sharp edge is not the best out there, you can still rely on this German steel for kitchen tasks.