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If you have been looking for European knives for tactical, bushcrafting, or other outdoor applications, chances are high for you to spot N690CO steel as the blade material. Many European knives will have it, as this steel is quite popular across the continent.
What is N690CO Steel?
The N690CO steel is cobalt-rich stainless steel from Bohler, a company in Austria whose steel sheets are always used for making upscale and high-end knives. This is why you get to see it in several European knives.
The origin of this alloy is N690 steel. As cobalt was added to this steel, it got a new name, N690CO. It is high-carbon stainless steel, to which cobalt is added for fostering structural consistency. Technically, this is a fine-grained steel form whose blades sustain their sharpness despite being subjected to prolonged spells of usage.
Bohler makes this stainless steel in such a way that the manufacturers of knives find it easy to use. The credit goes to the trivial differences in its mechanical properties. In simple words, this means spending no time in determining or spotting the direction of the grain before cutting the steel. For you as a knife user, this translates to more affordability due to less production effort.
N690CO steel has a high content of chromium, carbon, and molybdenum, thus have a good balance between toughness and hardness. A steel type is considered stainless if its chromium content is above 10.5%. In this steel, the chromium content is over 12%, hence it is stainless steel.
Its chemical composition is quite close to that of 440C with analogous amounts of chromium, carbon, and molybdenum. Apart from these three, it also has cobalt and vanadium to enhance the alloy properties. Following are the various elements of which this steel is made up of:
- 17.3% chromium for improved edge retention, tensile strength, and wear as well as corrosion resistance
- 1.65% cobalt for enhancing the individual impact of other elements
- 1.07% carbon for better hardness as well as resistance to wear and corrosion
- 1.1% molybdenum for improved strength as well as manufacturing ability (machinability)
- 0.4% manganese for more hardness
- 0.4% silicon for better strength
- 0.1% vanadium for better hardness as well as wear resistance
Due to the mix of cobalt and high carbon, the N690CO stainless steel is very hard. However, at the time of the heat treatment, the knife makers make sure it does not get too hard. As with the presence of cobalt, a risk of being brittle is always there.
Typically, this steel gains a rating of approximately 60 HRC, mostly the hardness range is between 59 and 61. That said; you get a hard edge for tough outdoor applications with a reduced risk of chipping.
The chemical composition of this steel dictates its properties. Following are its most significant properties that you can expect from an N690CO knife:
- Great Cutting Ability: The hardness level of this steel is ideal for cutting stronger and tougher things than the plastic and paper ones. With it, you can easily cut wood, rope, and other things seen outdoors.
- Superb Edge Retention: The edge does not dull fast and is better than most steels. The credit goes to the inclusion of cobalt that delivers a consistent fine edge.
- Superb Corrosion Resistance: It can keep rust and corrosion at bay even in too wet conditions. You can expect resistance to damage from exposure to harsh elements such as salt, moisture, and humidity. This is attributed to the inclusion of much chromium along with manganese, molybdenum, and vanadium.
- Great Wear Resistance: The inclusion of cobalt, a heat-resistant and super-hard metal, makes this steel more resistant to wear than many other steel knives. Even the premium steel edges tend to wear with time, as you use them as well as resharpen them a lot. However, an N690CO edge can last for several years without wear. This is another reason why it is preferable for making knives for outdoor activities.
- Easy to Sharpen: Although you are ensured of a good cutting edge for a long time, the edge of this steel will dull at some point in time. Resharpening it is an easy job.
- Toughness: It is tough to find a steel type that delivers a good level of hardness and toughness. Well, this is one such steel. Although N690CO may not provide a superior level of toughness, its toughness level is decent.
N690CO vs Other Knife Steel Options
N690CO vs S30V
In terms of corrosion resistance and toughness, both of them score equally. However, S30V retains an edge for a longer period. It is also costlier. On the other hand, an N690CO edge is easier to sharpen.
N690CO vs VG10
Both of them are high-end steels and rank the same when it comes to corrosion resistance. This is because both have enough chromium. However, VG10 is less tough due to which it is likely to chip off, especially when used in the bush. Nevertheless, it comes with a better ability to retain a sharp edge. On the other hand, N690CO is easier to sharpen.
N690CO vs D2
D2 is a type of high-end steel but classified as tool steel. So, it is quite harder than most other steel variants as well as retains its edge sharp for a long period. However, it falls behind in the race with N690CO when it comes to corrosion resistance. It does have chromium but not as sufficient as required to be a type of stainless steel. On the other hand, it is more difficult to resharpen a D2 edge.
N690CO vs N690
N690 is the ancestor of N690CO. More cobalt was added to N690 steel later. N690 retains a sharp edge well as well as is resistant to corrosion. However, due to higher cobalt content, N690CO is better.
N690CO vs 154CM
You can expect decent edge retention as well as corrosion resistance from 154CM. However, N690CO is a better option for rust resistance and edge retention ability. 154CM is, nevertheless, easier to sharpen.
N690CO vs AUS 8
AUS 8 is a type of upper-midrange steel and is tagged as a decent all-around performer. It has been in the world of steel for quite some time. While an AUS 8 edge is easier to sharpen and its knife is more affordable, N690CO is better at maintaining a sharp edge as well as keeping corrosion at bay.
N690CO vs M390
The latter steel is known for its better edge retention as well as rust resistance abilities. However, it is more difficult to resharpen its edge than that of N690CO. The level of toughness remains the same for both.
Top N690CO Knives
|Spyderco Roadie Non-Locking Lightweight Knife||See it on Amazon|
|Cudeman 255-L Suther Hunting and Mountain Knife||See it on Amazon|
|Mako Fixed Knife||See it on Amazon|
So, is N690CO Stainless Steel Good for Your Knives?
Yes, if you are looking for a knife with excellent resistance to corrosion as well as wear, great edge retention, good toughness, and superb corrosion resistance for working in the bush or wild. It is an ideal option for working in wet or tough environments, as it is easy to sharpen anywhere. But you will end up paying more than usual, as it is a high-end steel option.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.