Is K390 steel a good knife steel? Details K390 steel review

What is K390 steel?

Bohler’s K390 steel is a high-end, powder metallurgy steel that can be used for cold work. It is not stainless-steel because it doesn’t contain enough chromium to make it a stainless steel.

K390 is a high-quality knife steel that contains Vanadium. It has excellent toughness and wear resistance. This steel can also be used to make knives, as well as barrels, coins, shearing, and cutting tools.

K390 Steel Composition

  • Carbon 2.47%: Enhances edge retention, hardness, and tensile strengths. It increases steel resistance to wear, corrosion, and abrasion.
  • Chromium Cre 4.20%: This is the formation of Chromium caride, which increases the hardness, tensile and corrosion resistance of the blade.
  • MolybdenumMo 3.80% – It increases machinability.
  • Vanadium V 9.0%: It increases wear resistance and toughness, as well as improving corrosion resistance.
  • TungstenW 1.00%: Used as an alloying component due to its high melting temperature, which improves the performance of steel at high heat.
  • Cobalt Co 2.00% : Increases steel strength and heat hardness.
  • Silicon Si 0.5%: Increases strength, heat resistance.

Properties for k390 steel

K390 Steel Hardness

K390 steel is hard steel with a maximum Rockwell toughness of 65 HRC. Although it’s not the most hard steel available, some steels score up to 68 HRC. However, it offers exceptional wear and tear which is why it’s used to make high-end knives.

K390 Steel Edge retention

K390 is a great choice for edge retention. This is due to its high levels of Vanadium, Carbon composition. This steel is able to keep knives sharp even after frequent use.

Bohler steel edge retention beats CPM Cruwear and M4 steel, as well as most premium stainless steels such S30V. K390 knives are the best choice if you’re looking for a knife that doesn’t dull easily.

K390 Steel Wear resistance

K390’s wear resistance is another area of excellence. K390 knives are durable and will last a lifetime without any signs of wear. This steel contains high levels of Vanadium, which is responsible for its wear resistance.

K390 Steel Corrosion Resistance

Bohler K390, unlike stainless steel, isn’t made of chromium. This makes it susceptible to rusting. K390 knives are protected from rusting by the low levels of chromium found in their composition, as well as proper care and maintenance.

You should not use stainless steel knives.

K390 Steel Toughness

K390 is a rare steel that can offer both high hardness as well as toughness. It is also less durable because it is made from hard steel. It is not the most tough steel on the market. However, its toughness is comparable to other high-end metals.

You cannot use it for more difficult jobs like batoning. K390’s toughness is slightly higher than HTML110 steel, and D2 Steel but not by much.

K390 Steel Sharpening

K390 has a high hardness, making it difficult to sharpen. However, this does not mean you won’t be able to sharpen your knife. You will need more effort and time, especially if the person is not skilled in sharpening knives.

Modern sharpening systems can simplify the process. K390 is a great choice to reduce the need for sharpening. It will keep your knife sharp for a long period of time.

K390 Steel Machinability

This steel’s ease of machining is another reason it attracts knifemakers. Bohler K390 is easy to cut and process. It also doesn’t wear out cutting machines. Because it has high levels of Molybdenum, it is much easier to use.

K390 Steel Equivalents

Vanadis8 steel, and CPM10V steel are the closest steels to K390 steel in terms of performance. They are both high carbon vanadium steels that have a similar edge retention to K390 blade and are also non-stainless with below-average resistance to corrosion. S90V Steel is a stainless steel that could be used in place of K390.

K390 Steel Comparison

K390 Steel vs M390

While M390 and K390 steels are both made by the same company M390 Steel has superior corrosion resistance and wear resistance to K390. M390 stainless steel contains 20% chromium, while K390 non-stainless steel has less than 4.00%.

K390 steel vs VG10

VG10 steel is stainless steel that has 14.50% to 15.50% of chromium, while K390 non-stainless steel has 4% Chromium Content. Bohler K390 Powder metallurgy Steel has a higher carbon content at 2.55% compared with VG 10 steel’s 1.05%.

K390 knives are more hardened and resistant to wear than VG10 steel, while the carbon enhances its edge retention. K390 knives have better edge retention and wear resistance than or VG10 steel. K390 knives are stronger than VG10 steel, but VG10 is more tough and easier to sharpen.

Bohler K390 steel is more difficult to sharpen than VG10 steel. VG10 is also easier to maintain, in terms of avoiding rusting and staining. VG 10 steel is a popular choice in kitchen knives, while K390 steel is a better choice for pocket knives because of its superior edge retention.

K390 vs ZDP189

ZDP189 Steel is stainless steel with 20% chrome content and K390 steel, which is non-stainless with 4% Chromium Content. ZDP189 Steel has a higher carbon content of 3.0% than K390 steel’s 2.5%. This carbon increases its hardness and wear resistance, as well as its edge retention capability.

K390 has a Rockwell hardness 64-65HRC Bohler and is more tough than ZDP189 stainless. ZDP189 steel is extremely brittle because of its high HRC, which is caused by the 30% carbide content.

It’s worth noting, however, that ZDP189 steel has a lower corrosion resistance than other stainless steels. When choosing between ZDP189 and K390 steel, you shouldn’t solely base your decision on corrosion resistance.

K390 steel vs S30V

K390 steel’s Vanadium content is 9.0%, compared to the 4.0% in S30V steel. The steel’s Vanadium content makes it harder and more resistant to wear, while also increasing its edge retention capability due to the formation hard Vanadium Carbides.

CPM steel is more tough than K390 knife Steel. S30V steel’s toughness is due to its better alloy composition, which allows for a uniform distribution of finer carbides. This distribution improves toughness and ease of sharpening.

S30V blade steel is made of stainless steel. It has a higher corrosion resistance than K390 steel because it contains 14% of the chromium elements in its composition, compared to 4% for K390. Outdoor knives are more suitable for S30V knife steel, where corrosion might be a problem.

K390 steel vs M4

Bohler K390’s Carbon content is 2.5% higher than M4 steel’s 1.25. K390 also has a higher Vanadium content at 9.0%, compared to the 4.5% in M4 steel. This carbon and Vanadium gives it a higher hardness, wear resistance, and enhances its edge retention properties.

The K390 knife-steel has a higher percentage of Vanadium carbides than at 65HRC. This allows it to retain more edge strength than HTML4 knife steel . Because of the uniform and fine carbide distribution, M4 steel is easier to sharpen than K390.

Bohler K390 blade steel is tougher than M4 at 65 HRC. M4 steel is more tough than K390 blade steel due to its lower amount of Vanadium and other chromium carbides, and its more balanced alloy composition.

Is K390 stainless steel good for knives?

K390 steel can be used to make knives due to its high edge retention, excellent machinability and wear resistance. Its only drawback is its low rust resistance, but it can be protected from rusting by proper care and maintenance.

About the author

Hi, my name is Jaba Ray. I'm a knife expert and researcher. I am the creator of, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I love people who need suitable steel or knife for their cook because I'm also a food lover. I work with a team of people who've always had a passion for knives and blades on this site.

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