Elmax 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.)

Elmax is a premium steel that comes with supreme qualities at a premium price tag. The steel is mainly found in the high-end fixed blade, assisted, OTS, and OTF knives from top knife brands. Let’s explore its chemical composition, properties, and performance compared to other steels and see if that justifies the price tag.

What is Elmax Steel?

Bradford G-Necker Elmax

Elmax is a premium steel stainless steel from Bohler-Uddenholm, a European brand. It is the third-generation powdered steel formulated via the Powder Metallurgy (PM) process using a hardening and rust-resistant mold. Bohler-Uddenholm uses this proprietary process to make several other premium stainless steels as well.

PM refers to the technology wherein fine powdered materials are mixed, pressed to gain the intended shape, and heated to create a bond. The resulting steel contains a structure of superfine grain, hence gets classified as super-clean steel. It is not surprising why Bohler Elmax is used to make the standard issue knife for the US Navy SEALs.

It is a super steel with superb blade properties, ranging from dimensional stability to high strength. Thus, it has become a preferred material for making blades of different kinds of knives.

Chemical Composition

What’s truly special about Elmax is the right blend of high chromium, high carbon, high molybdenum, and high vanadium in its composition. As it contains more than >1.5% carbon content, Elmax can be classified as high carbon steel. It can be considered as stainless steel too, as it has more than 13% chromium content.

  • 1.7% Carbon: For higher hardness as well as ability to resist wear.
  • 18% Chromium: For great hardness, edge retention, toughness, resistance to corrosion and wear, and tensile strength
  • 3%: Vanadium: For better resistance to shock loading, toughness, hardenability
  • 1% Molybdenum: For better machinability as well as strength
  • 0.8% Silicon: For greater strength
  • 0.30% Manganese: For more forgeability, resistance to wear, hardenability, and tensile strength

M390, another super steel from Bohler-Uddeholm is considered as an equivalent of Elmax. 390 is better at corrosion resistance and Elmax is better at the ease of sharpening.

Steel Hardness

On the Rockwell scale, Elmax has a hardness rating of 61-62 HRC. This is considered very hard, which makes the steel stronger and more durable than hard steels.

Steel Properties

Bark River Adventurer II elmax

  • Great Toughness: Elmax is among the toughest steels today. It is used in making tough knives that can endure fair abuse. These knives are made to tackle tasks such as light batoning without succumbing to chipping. However, some users have reported microchipping. Remember, Elmax is not the toughest steel. So, it will not be able to withstand extreme abuse.
  • Superb Edge Retention: Elmax can retain a super-sharp edge of a blade for a very long time. This is attributed to the high hardness level. It contains a high volume of chromium carbides. Hence the sharp edge does not deform or dull with constant use.
  • Excellent Wear Resistance: With 1.8% carbon content, this high-carbon steel demonstrates incredible resistance to wear and shock. The more the carbon, the stronger and more resistant the steel is to wear. Further, this resistance is even across the blade, unlike many knife steels that are prone to be worn out from corners.
  • Excellent Corrosion Resistance: Elmax steel knives are admired for their great resistance to rust and corrosion. This is attributed to the high chromium content.
  • Okayish Ease of Sharpening: Elmax is one of the easiest to sharpen in the category of high carbon steels. Most knife users have reported that sharpening it is easier than M4 and S110V. Still doesn’t come close to the performance of AUS-8 or H1 in terms of ease of sharpening.

Comparison With Other Knife Steel Options

Let’s now compare Elmax with other steels in terms of hardness, toughness, ease of sharpening, and corrosion and rust resistance.

Elmax vs S30V

The biggest difference in performance is in corrosion resistance, where S30V wins over Elmax. They both are pretty close in terms of the other 3 properties.

ELMAX vs. CPM-S30V

Elmax vs VG10

Elmax is known for higher wear resistance, greater toughness, and better edge retention than VG10. However, VG10 being a mid-range steel is more affordable, is easier to sharpen, and better at corrosion resistance.

ELMAX vs. VG-10

Elmax vs D2

While the former is stainless, D2 is semi-stainless. Thus, Elmax better when it comes to resisting corrosion and rust. It is also better in edge retention and ease of sharpening as well.

ELMAX vs. D2

Elmax vs CPM 3V

CPM 3V is tougher than Elmax. However, for this unparalleled toughness, you compromise edge retention.

ELMAX vs. CPM-3V

Elmax vs S35VN

CPM-S35VN fares better at the ease of sharpening and corrosion resistance, but Elmax is better at edge retention.

ELMAX vs. CPM-S35VN

Elmax vs S90V

Both steels are known for their great edge retention ability. However, Elmax wins over CPM-S90V when it comes to ease of sharpening, and toughness.

ELMAX vs. CPM-S90V

Elmax vs Maxamet

Elmax is better at resisting corrosion and being tough than the premium Maxamet steel. However, Maxamet fares better when it comes to edge retention.

Elmax vs 20CV

Both are premium steels and have the same rank for toughness and edge retention. However, Elmax is less resistant to corrosion than CPM-20CV but better at the ease of sharpening.

ELMAX vs. CPM-20CV

Elmax vs Cruwear

Cruwear is not stainless, while the former is! Still, both options perform similarly when it comes to retaining a sharp edge. However, Elmax ensures better corrosion resistance, while Cruwear provides more toughness.

Elmax vs 204P

CTS-204P is an American steel and is better at resisting corrosion. On the other hand, Elmax is easier to sharpen.ELMAX vs. CTS-204P

Top Elmax Knives on Amazon

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

So, is Elmax Steel Good?

Yes, Elmax is ideal premium steel recognized for its great wear resistance, toughness, hardness, and edge retention. Many esteemed brands such as Microtech use this steel in their premium knife lineups.