Choosing a good knife is about more than a cool looking handle and a decent price point. Sure, those may all the considerations you need if you’re looking for something to hang on the wall, but for a working knife, you need to know that the materials that went into it are up to the task.
When choosing between 20CV and S30V blades, the better option may be different depending on how you intend to use the knife. On balance, we feel 20CV is a better material for knives. That being said, there are plenty of factors to consider, and S30V does shine in its own right. If you’d like to dig a little deeper into this topic with us, keep reading!
What are 20CV and S30V?
20CV and S30V are grades of steel; these numbers tell you what properties the steel has. In this case, you can be sure that in buying a knife with a 20CV blade, you will be getting a particular level of toughness and edge retention.
The idea here is that you do not have to worry about the quality of your knife because it has been crafted and graded to a particular standard. The alternative is buying a knife with no standards and hoping for the best, which is not necessarily a good way to spend your money.
20CV and S30V are two popular grades of steel that are commonly used in knife blades, but what is the difference between the two, and which is better for your knife?
The Differences Between 20CV and S30V
At a glance, the two grades of steel don’t look all that different on paper. They both bear the same toughness rating, their corrosion resistance is similar, and they are both relatively easy to sharpen.
As it turns out, 20CV’s corrosion resistance is, in fact, a little better than S30V, but where the real difference comes in is edge retention. 20CV’s edge retention is noticeably better than S30V, meaning that a blade crafted from this material will hold its edge for longer, meaning less sharpening and more cutting power.
Given that the toughness level is the same, you could be forgiven for thinking there’s not much reason to go with the more expensive 20CV, but you might be surprised at how much of a difference improved edge retention can make—particularly if this is a knife you are going to be using a lot.
Which to Pick?
Given that 20CV matches or surpasses S30V in every metric, it is hard to recommend S30V for your knife blade. That being said, we made the claim at the top of this post that there are situations where S30V would be a better choice in some circumstances. Those circumstances are financial in nature.
If you are on a tight budget, S30V will be a much more compelling option than if you have a bit of cash to throw around. Granted, the quality of the steel is not as good as 20CV, but a knife with slightly inferior steel is better than no knife at all.
Of course, if money is not so tight, you don’t need to buy the very best just because you have the money to do so. S30V is a good steel in its own right, and as we have mentioned, it is at least as tough as 20CV. If you are planning to use your knife sparingly—perhaps it is for bushcraft, but you only go out a few times a year—there is no reason a knife with an S30V blade couldn’t do the job. The good news is that it is equally easy to sharpen, so when it does start to lose its edge, you can just as easily sharpen it back up.
It is hard to argue that S30V is a better steel than 20CV when you consider that 20CV matches or out does S30V in every relevant attribute. It has equal toughness and ease of sharpening, slightly better corrosion resistance, and significantly better edge retention. But it is more expensive. If you need something affordable, you can do a lot worse than a knife with an S30V blade. Is 20CV better? Yes, but that doesn’t mean that S30V can’t do the job.