CPM 154 Steel: Is it a Good Knife Steel?

(This site is reader-supported. When you buy something using retail links on our articles, we may earn a small commission.)

As a buyer, you would surely ensure that the knife you choose the best bang for your buck. For this, it is essential to ensure a good balance among features like edge retention, toughness, resistance to corrosion, and ease of sharpening. Such a balance is found in knives with a CPM 154 blade. As all the important properties are balanced, this steel acts as a versatile option for a variety of knives. Let’s find out more about it in this quick CPM-154 steel review.

What is CPM 154 Steel?

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

CPM 154 is a type of martensitic stainless steel that the Crucible brand makes in the U.S. Formulated first in 2006, this steel is produced by implementing the Crucible Particle Metallurgy (CPM) process, which leads to a finer grain structure.

In addition, the process contributes to easy grindability and polishing while enhancing wear and corrosion resistance, and ensuring better hardness and higher toughness. Due to the balanced properties, many custom knife manufacturers find it easy to use this steel.

CPM-154 belongs to the family of high-end stainless steels. It is not the same as 154 CM steel, as it is a CPM-manufactured form of the brand’s standard 154 CM to give you the benefit of the CPM process.

The roots of CPM steel can be traced to the 440C steel, the best option in the collection of the 440-steel series. The Crucible brand then considered adding some more molybdenum for enhancing the ability to retain an edge. At the same time, the brand decreased the amount of chromium. Interestingly, still, this novel steel retained its level of corrosion resistance and was named 154CM.

cpm 154 vs 440C

Chemically, 154 CM and CPM-154 seem to be the same. However, the latter is a powder form due to its distinct manufacturing process. This process makes it better than 154 CM steel in terms of toughness.

CPM 154 is versatile steel and is used for making a variety of knives such as premium EDCs and bushcraft knives. It is also used for making cutlery, bearings, and corrosion-resistant tools.

Chemical Composition

CPM 154 contains high amounts of carbon, molybdenum, and chromium. Due to a high level of chromium, it belongs to the category of stainless steel. Below are the components that make up this steel:

  • 1.05% Carbon: For increased hardness (but less strength) and better ability to keep wear or corrosion at bay
  • 14% Chromium: For terrific tensile strength, great edge retention, and superb resistance to wear and corrosion
  • 4% Molybdenum: For more strength and machinability
  • 4% Tungsten: For improved hardness as well as resistance to wear
  • 0.8% Silicon: For better strength
  • 0.5% Manganese: For the enhanced hardness
  • 0.4% Vanadium: For better hardenability as well as resistance to wear
  • 0.03% Sulfur: For better machinability
  • 0.03% Phosphorus: For more strength

Steel Hardness

Because of molybdenum content, this steel is harder than 440C. According to Crucible, CMP-154 has a hardness rating of 58-59 HRC. Well, this rating is considered good, as it is the same level that quality knives have, which come from a few esteemed brands.

However, the exact level of hardness seems to vary, as it is dependent on the heat treatment employed. The rating can, thus, be between 55 and 62 HRC. However, the rating of 59 HRC is common.

Steel Properties

Kershaw Leek Carbon Fiber Stonewash Finish with CPM 154 Steel; Ken Onion Classic Design with SpeedSafe Assisted Opening and 3 Inch Medium-Sized Drop Point Precision, Slicing and Piercing Blade

The chemical mix of CPM 154 governs its properties.

  • Decent Toughness: This steel is not that hard, which means it is tough. Remember, toughness and hardness are inversely proportional. In this case, you will obtain both good hardness and decent toughness. In other words, you get the right balance of both properties. Thus, it will not chip or crack easily. This is the reason why it is used for making outdoor knives.
  • Excellent Edge Retention: As the level of hardness can be as high as 62, you can expect excellent retention of a sharp edge. This means you can expect the sharpness to stay for long despite frequent use outdoors. The credit for this property goes to its high chromium as well as carbon levels.
  • Great Wear Resistance: Whether you use CPM 154 knives for camping or cutting tough things, they are made to last. This is because of more than 1% carbon in the chemical composition of this steel. It will not wear easily or quickly.
  • Good Corrosion Resistance: CPM 154 is pure stainless steel due to 14% chromium content. Thus, it is reasonably resistant to corrosion and stains. Although it may not have better anti-corrosion properties than its high-end counterparts, it will fight well against corrosion.
  • Ease of Sharpening: It is not very easy to sharpen this steel edge as compared to that of a softer steel variant. At the same time, it is not very hard to do so as compared to a harder steel variant. However, this is not a major concern, as the steel retains its sharp edge for a long time. This means you need to sharpen it only occasionally.

Comparison With Other Knife Steel Options

CPM 154 vs S30V

CPM 154 is very near to S30V when it comes to achieving a balance among toughness, hardness, and resistance to wear. Still, S30V wins the crown by offering better resistance to corrosion and being better at retaining the edge.

CPM-154 vs. CPM-S30V

 

CPM 154 vs 154 CM

Both ensure almost the same performance. Nevertheless, CPM 154 is considered superior to 154 CM. It is harder, retains edge better, and easier to grind and finish.

CPM-154 vs. 154CM

CPM 154 vs M390

The latter steel is an ultra-premium steel grade. It is super steel having a higher hardness rating. Thus, M390 ensures higher edge retention and improved corrosion as well as wear resistance. However, it is easier to sharpen CPM 154. Further, it is tougher and is less likely to chip.

CPM-154 vs. Bohler M390

CPM 154 vs S35VN

While CPM 154 is a high-end steel grade, S35VN belongs to the premium tier of this category. S35VN is a bit better at edge retention as well as corrosion resistance. On the other hand, the CPM steel is easier to process (manufacturing) as well as sharpen.

CPM-154 vs. CPM-S35VN

CPM 154 vs VG10

The Japanese steel, VG10, provides better ensures better corrosion resistance than CPM 154 and easier to sharpen.

CPM-154 vs. VG-10

CPM 154 vs D2

Both are mid-range steels. While CPM 154 wins in terms of better resistance to wear, D2 is better at edge sustenance. As D2 is semi-stainless steel, it is not as good as the CPM steel in resisting corrosion. D2 is a bit easier to process and has a higher grind rating.

CPM-154 vs. D2

Top CPM 154 Knives

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

So, is CPM 154 a Good Knife Steel?

Yes! CPM 154 is a good steel option due to its great edge retention ability and a good balance amongst toughness, hardness, and corrosion resistance. Due to these properties, it is chosen for making EDC knives, outdoor knives, and kitchen knives. Although corrosion resistant, it is essential to keep your knife dry after use and lubricate it occasionally.