CTS-204P Steel Review: Is It a Good Knife Steel?

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If you were looking for premium knives you might have come across knives made using CTS-204P steel. This is the steel that esteemed brands such as Microtech, Benchmade, and Spyderco use to make upscale knives with unmatched performance.

What is CTS-204P Steel?

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Made by Carpenter Technology Corporation, CTS-204P refers to an upscale stainless-steel form produced by using the powder metallurgy process. This American company is dedicated to manufacturing different alloys and other items used in several factories and markets.

This steel has a high mix of carbon, vanadium, and chromium content, hence suitable for making high-performance custom as well as industrial knives. Admired for a very high level of resistance to wear as well as corrosion, 204P is available as a fine-grained alloy.

At present, it is a famous option for making high-end folding as well as fixed blades. It is also used in making high-end cutlery, heavy-duty tools, food processing equipment, industrial machinery, and plastic molding facilities.

Chemical Composition

CTS-204P steel is comparable to CPM-20CV and Bohler M390. This is because all three steel variants share a specific chemical composition featuring tungsten, molybdenum, chromium, and vanadium.

It is also a type of stainless steel, as it has enough chromium content (>11%) in it. Following are the various elements of which this steel is made up of:

  • 20% chromium for better tensile strength, resistance to corrosion as well as wear, and retention of sharpness
  • 1.9% carbon for enhanced hardness, durability, as well as resistance to wear and corrosion
  • 4% vanadium for better resistance to wear and improved hardenability
  • 1% molybdenum for better strength as well as manufacturing ability (machinability)
  • 0.65% tungsten for better hardness as well as wear resistance
  • 0.6% silicon for improved strength
  • 0.35% manganese for more hardness

Steel Hardness

The CTS 204P steel boasts a hardness rating between 57 and 59 HRC. However, it can go up to 62 HRC. This high level of hardness is due to the higher amount of carbon, vanadium, and manganese in its composition.

Since the toughness goes down as hardness goes up, it raises the question that how good is the steel in terms of wear resistance. We will discuss that in the next section.

Steel Properties

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Following are its most significant properties that you can expect:

  • Great CorroCTS 204P Propertiession Resistance: Due to ~20% chromium content in the chemical composition, CTS-204P is one of the most rust-resistant steels. You can easily use a blade of this steel in any situation or environment with easy care and maintenance. Thus, this steel is preferable for making heavy-duty knives that do not need much upkeep.
  • Good Wear Resistance: The inclusion of tungsten, vanadium, carbon, and chromium content is responsible for this another big benefit. It has made this steel a resilient material that will not deform when exposed to tough jobs. It endures very heavy use because it keeps wearing at bay.
  • Exceptional Edge Retention:  It holds its edge for a significantly longer time than other steels due to its very high hardness rating. This is attributed to high vanadium as well as carbon content in its composition. As a result, you can use a CTS 204P knife for performing tough jobs for a longer period without re-sharpening the edge.
  • Good Toughness: One of the attributes of a perfect knife is the ability to withstand impact and resist chipping. Despite being quite hard, CTS-204P features great toughness.
  • Sharpening Ease: This is where 204P lacks. As it is quite hard and resilient, sharpening this steel will take more time than that for any softer steel variant. Further, it is also difficult to sharpen, particularly for beginners. Still, you will make it razor-sharp if you use the most appropriate sharpening technique. As the steel will retain its edge for long, you need not sharpen it often.

CTS-204P vs Other Knife Steel Options

This comparison can be done in terms of different properties: resistance to corrosion, toughness, edge retention, and ease of sharpening.

CTS-204P vs M390

While the chemical composition is quite similar, the amounts of manganese and tungsten differ. For you, this means that both are almost the same in terms of performance as well as quality.

Both rank the same in terms of the four main properties. However, they may differ in terms of heat treatment given, which is likely to influence the performance of the blade.

The most evident difference is availability. The German steel, M390, is not that easily available as the CTS-204P steel made in the United States. Thus, 204P is a bit cheaper to acquire.

CTS-204P vs CPM 20CV

Crucible Industries’ reply to Bohler’s M390 is CPM-20CV. Thus, in terms of composition, 204P and CPM 20CV are basically the same steel. What sets them apart is the way they are created.

As the name indicates, CPM 20CV is manufactured using the patented process called Crucible Particle Metallurgy (CPM). This process facilitates very fine and even carbide allocation. On the other hand, CTS-204P is manufactured using the powder metallurgy process called the Carpenter Micro Melt, which is alleged to be a superior one. This is because it provides more refined output.

Otherwise, based on all four properties, both steels have the almost same performance.

CTS-204P vs Elmax

Elmax is a type of German steel that is almost identical to 204P. However, it was made for use in technical products, hence it may not work at the level of 204P or M390.

Elmax has more silicon and less chromium. Thus, it ranks lower than this American steel when it comes to corrosion resistance. Nevertheless, both steels are hard to sharpen, but Elmax is a bit better. Both are really good at edge retention.

CTS-204P vs. ELMAX

CTS-204P vs S35VN

The latter comes from Crucible Industries. In terms of toughness, both steel variants are the same. However, when it comes to the level of hardness, S35VN wins due to higher molybdenum content as well as the presence of niobium. It is also a relatively easier steel to sharpen. Still, CTS-204P is a better option for edge retention.

CTS-204P vs. CPM-S35VN

CTS-204P vs CPM S90V

The latter made by Crucible Industries with higher vanadium content. It ensures flawless edge stability, resistance to wear, and toughness. However, its lower level of chromium makes it less resistant to corrosion than the former. As CTS-204P is tougher because of its high vanadium content, and S90V is really harder to sharpen it may be a better option for you.

CTS-204P vs. CPM-S90V

CTS-204P vs S110V

Crucible’s S110V and Carpenter’s 204P are different steel variants. The S110V has less chromium. Thus, a bit better at edge retention, but not at corrosion resistance. CTS-204P is much tougher too.

CTS-204P vs. CPM-S110V

Top CTS 204P Knives

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So, is CTS-204P a Good Knife Steel?

CTS 204P is an excellent option for your premium knives. It provides terrific corrosion or rust resistance, high edge retention, superb wear resistance, and a great toughness level. These properties make this steel knife great for all outside activities, ranging right from diving to hiking.

Now, the real question is whether you need an expensive knife with premium knife steel? That we leave up to you to decide.