9Cr18MoV Steel: Is it a Good Knife Steel?

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If you have been looking for some mid-range everyday carry knives, you may have come across some models made using 9Cr18MoV steel. Many buyers consider it a sensible option while looking for versatile knives, ensuring the desired longevity and performance.

What is 9Cr18MoV Steel?

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9Cr18MoV refers to a type of high-end stainless steel. It is made in China but delivers good performance. Despite being an upscale model and featuring high quality, it is not expensive. But this does not mean that its quality or performance is of low grade.

The steel is admired for its excellent ability to keep corrosion away. Hence 9Cr18MoV is used in making cutlery, surgical blades, and knives.

Chemical Composition

The carbon content in this steel is moderately high, while the chromium content is high.

Any steel used in making a knife usually has more than 12% chromium. Although this is enough to make it resistant to rust, it is insufficient to label it as a kind of stainless steel according to some manufacturers. They believe that any steel with 14% or more chromium content is stainless. Well, there are varied beliefs in terms of what percentage of chromium can make any steel stainless.

The amount of chromium in 9Cr18MoV is 18%. Thus, it is stainless. Due to the presence of other elements such as molybdenum and vanadium, it is an alloy too. Following are the different elements of which this material is composed of:

  • 18% chromium for good edge retention, tensile strength, resistance to corrosion as well as wear
  • 1.3% molybdenum for better strength as well as manufacturing ability
  • 0.95% carbon for better resistance to corrosion as well as wear and improved hardness
  • 0.6% nitrogen for better edge sustenance ability and more strength
  • 0.8% manganese for more hardness
  • 0.8% silicon for more strength
  • 0.12% vanadium for more wear resistance as well as hardenability
  • 0.04% phosphorus for more strength
  • 0.03% sulfur for more manufacturing ability

Hardness

The hardness rating of 9Cr18MoV steel is reliant on the brand that manufactures it. However, typically, it is between 58 and 60 on the Rockwell Hardness rating scale. Undoubtedly, this is a great hardness level, which you find in knives of high quality coming from brands such as Cold Steel, Spyderco, and Buck.

The presence of a high amount of carbon in the composition is the major ingredient that contributes to this high level of hardness. Even the inclusion of vanadium increases the vanadium carbide content to deliver more hardness to this steel.

As a rule of thumb, the harder the steel, the more brittle it is. Thus, you forego toughness to enjoy more hardness. In other words, any harder steel is less tough. The 9Cr18MoV stainless steel is hard but is not as tough as many other steels.

Steel Properties

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The chemical composition of 9Cr18MoV governs its characteristics of properties. Following are its most significant properties:

  • Decent Toughness: You need to comprehend that hardness differs from toughness. The former refers to how the material keeps wearing at bay, while the latter dictates how the material keeps breaking or chipping away. A hard knife means it is going to last longer. On the other hand, a tough knife means it is going to resist breaking as well as chipping. In the context of knives, toughness is contrary to brittleness. So, a more brittle knife is less tough. 9Cr18MoV is certainly not the toughest steel around. Nevertheless, with the inclusion of manganese and nickel, its tensile strength is truly significant, which ensures decent toughness.
  • Great Edge Retention: The high level of hardness makes it possible for this steel variant to hold a sharp edge for a longer time than what is expected. The credit for this benefit goes to ~1% carbon content. Further, the presence of vanadium helps in producing vanadium carbide that improves the edge retention ability.
  • Good Corrosion Resistance: 9Cr18MoV is a kind of stainless steel. Thus, it is obvious for you to conclude that it will not corrode or rust easily or quickly. While not all stainless-steel variants are equally resistant to rust and corrosion, 9Cr18MoV steel does not corrode or rust for a long time. This is attributed to the relatively high amounts of molybdenum, nickel, and chromium, all of which enhance the ability to resist corrosion. You can rely on this steel if you are working with damp items or live in a region where humidity is high.
  • Exceptional Wear Resistance:  Technically, this ability relates to hardness although a few chemical reactions in the composition significantly affect it. With more chromium and vanadium contents, this alloy renders an extremely refined grain to resist wear in any condition.
  • Ease of Sharpening: Yes, 9Cr18MoV is hard. Although this is favorable for durability and sharp edge retention, it is unfavorable for ease of sharpening. Hard steel variants are not easy to sharpen, especially for first-time users having little to no experience of sharpening. However, this does not matter much because of its great edge retention ability.

9Cr18MoV vs Other Knife Steel Options

This comparison is possible in terms of its properties namely, resistance to corrosion, ease of sharpening, toughness, and sharp edge retention. So, let’s compare it with other steel variants!

9Cr18MoV vs 440C

Both the steel variants are of a similar grade. Their chemical composition is also similar with the only exception being more Molybdenum content in 9Cr18MoV. Thus, both are known for their excellent corrosion resistance as well as sharp edge retention properties.

Both are available for sale in the same price range. However, while 9Cr18MoV is a Chinese option, 440C is a USA-based grade.

9Cr18MoV vs 8Cr13MoV

Both are stainless steel variants and are a part of the Cr series. Usually, the 9Cr18MoV is considered the best option in this series. While not as hard as 9Cr18MoV, 8Cr13MoV is also less resistant to corrosion. However, it is more affordable. You can easily find lower-priced 8Cr13MoV knives with yet agreeable levels of corrosion resistance as well as hardness.

9Cr18MoV vs D2

The latter steel is very hard with carbon content being between 1.5% and 1.6%. Well, this is more than what 9Cr18MoV has. Still, it is tougher than most stainless options to keep chipping at bay. As it is very hard, D2 retains a sharp edge for a longer time. However, it is more difficult to re-sharpen or mirror polish and is also more expensive than 9Cr19MoV.

9Cr18MoV vs 14C28N

The latter option has less chromium as well as carbon content than the former one. Thus, it is relatively less hard and does not retain an edge for as long as 9Cr18MoV.

Top 9Cr18MoV Knives

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So, is 9Cr18MoV a Good Knife Steel?

Yes, it is an affordable option offering great resistance to corrosion and retaining an edge for a pretty long time. You can consider this low-end but high-performing steel for kitchen and EDC knives. However, do not consider it for tough jobs such as camping or bushcrafting.