What is K110 steel?

Bohler K110 steel knife

What is K110 Steel?

K110 steel is a high carbon, cold work tool steel also known as D2 steel produced by the Bohler Industry in Austria. Bohler K110 is not stainless steel because it does not contain enough Chromium to make it stainless steel. 

Bohler K110 knife blades offer outstanding wear resistance performance thanks to the alloy composition geared towards tool making. K110 steel is mostly used in making blank dies,shear knives, punches and forming dies. More knife manufacturers have adopted K110 as a budget knife steel due to its excellent wear resistance and edge retention.

K110 Steel Composition

  • Carbon C 1.65%: Increases edge retention, hardness, and tensile strength. It also improves steel resistance to wear, abrasion, and corrosion.
  • Chromium Cr 13.00%: The formation of Chromium carbide Increases the hardness, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance of the blade.
  • Molybdenum Mo 0.75%: It improves machinability and corrosion resistance properties.
  • Manganese Mn 0.50%: Increases the hardenability of the steel alloy.
  • Silicon Si 0.40%: Increases strength and heat resistance.
  • Phosphorus P 0.03%: Improves machinability and hardness but is generally considered an impurity
  • Sulfur S 0.01%: Improves machinability but is generally considered an impurity.

Properties of K110 Steel knife

K110 Steel Hardness

Bohler K110 steel offers a hardness of 56-62 HRC, which is great hardness, and it varies with the heat treatment used by the manufacturer. The great hardness of K110 is associated with the high Carbon content in its composition. The high hardness of K110 steel increases the edge retention and wear resistance properties of K110 bladed knives.

K110 Steel Wear resistance

Wear resistance is an area of excellence for K110 steel to the point that K110 knives are named the best in wear resistance. K110 blade steel can withstand abrasion and wear even with daily use and tough applications, and they will serve you for a very long time.

K110 Steel Edge retention

Edge retention measures how long a knife keeps a sharp edge with frequent use, and it is directly affected by its hardness. Being hard steel, K110 knife steel offers excellent edge retention than most knives of the same budget. K110 knives will not bother you with frequent sharpening, and therefore, they are the best for outdoor use.

Bohler K110 knife steel edge retention is better than most popular knife steels out there including the likes of 14C28N, N690, CPM154 and 8Cr13MoV.

K110 Steel Toughness

As a rule of thumb, the toughness of most steels decreases with increased hardness. Therefore, Bohler K110 steel does not perform well in toughness, but it is not the worst. Most knife users describe its toughness level as average. This means that it can withstand medium-duty cutting tasks without chipping or breaking. 

If you want your K110 knives to serve you for a long time, do not subject them to tough cutting tasks like batoning and chopping. If your cutting needs are mostly heavy-duty, invest in knives made with tougher steels than K110 like CTS XHP, MagnaCut and AEB-L steels

Ease of sharpening K110

K110 steel is not easy to sharpen because it is a hard tool steel with excellent wear resistance. This does not mean that you can never get a sharp edge with dull K110 knives. With the right sharpening tools and skills, you will get a sharp edge, but it will take you more time and energy. 

Use harder sharpening tools like ceramic or diamond sharpeners to achieve an ultra-sharp edge. It will be even harder for you to get a sharp edge if you are learning knife sharpening skills. In the meantime, ask an experienced knife sharpener to help you or pay someone to get the job done. 

What’s more, K110 knives are not the best to practice knife sharpening because they are challenging, and you might hurt yourself with the blunt edge.

K110 Steel Corrosion resistance

K110 steel contains 12% chromium which is not enough to make it stainless steel. This indicates that K110 knives can rust or develop patina quite easily. If you use the knives in highly corrosive environments or leave them in water for a long time, you will notice the blade rusting. Therefore, proper care is paramount. Ensure to wash and dry K110 knives after use to keep corrosion at bay.

Pros of K110 knives

  • K110 bladed knives offer high wear resistance, making them very durable.
  • The knives offer better edge retention than other budget knives.
  • K110 knife blades achieve an ultra-sharp edge and therefore deliver great cutting performance.

Cons of K110 knives

  • K110 steel is not stainless steel; therefore, the knives can rust and corrode without proper care.
  • K110 knives are very difficult to sharpen.

K110 Steel Comparison

K110 vs D2 (k110 steel equivalent)

K110 steel and D2 steel are the same steel there is no difference between these two steel apart from the naming. K110 is a proprietary name adopted by the Bohler Industry while D2 is the standard name by AISI (American Iron and Steel Institute).

K110 vs N690

The most notable difference between K110 steel and N690 steel is that K110 is non-stainless steel while N690 is stainless steel. N690 steel is better knife steel than K110 in terms of maintenance due to its corrosion resistance properties and ease of sharpening.

Both K110 and N690 offer the same level of toughness, they are not the best for tough applications as they are more susceptible to chipping and cracking. Both of these blade steel make knives with weak tips and thus the knives should not be used for prying.

K110 steel is better than N690 steel in edge retention due to the excellent alloy composition that produces a higher Rockwell hardness and excellent wear resistance properties. It is however harder to sharpen when the edge dulls.

K110 vs M390 

M390 steel is generally better and more premium steel than K110 steel. M390 steel outperforms K110 steel in edge retention and corrosion resistance while offering the same level of toughness. Bohler M390 is stainless steel while K110 is non-stainless steel.

Bohler M390 steel was formulated to be high wear-resistance steel while still providing excellent corrosion resistance properties. M390 contains high content of chromium which leads to the formation of large Chromium carbides responsible for the high hardness and wear resistance.

Despite BohlerK110 blade steel having a high wear resistance, it does not match that of Bohler M390 blade steel. The reduced wear resistance makes it easier to sharpen K110 knives compared to sharpening M390 knives.

Are K110 steel knives good?

Yes, K110 steel knives are good because the blades offer excellent wear resistance and hold an edge for a long time. K110 knives have decent toughness but require extra care and maintenance to avoid corrosion as they are not stainless.

K110 knives are also relatively cheap and they give edge retention performance similar to that of premium blade steels like Crucibles S35VN.

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