Elmax vs. M390 Knives: Which is Better?

M390 offers excellent corrosion resistance and holds its sharpness slightly longer than Elmax. But it falls a bit lower than Elmax in toughness. Sharpening Elmax steel is fairly easier compared to sharpening M390 steel.

m390 vs elmax
Elmax vs. M390

In this article, we will look into the steels’ features in detail to help you decide between Elmax and M390 knives. Let’s get into it!

Are Elmax and M390 knives the same?

Elmax and M390 are both super steels manufactured by Bohler-Uddeholm, and you might wonder if their knives are the same. However, if you pay close attention to the performance of the blades, you will realize that they are different.

Elmax and M390 are not the same. They differ in their designs and natural capabilities, including corrosion resistance, toughness, edge retention, and ease of sharpening. Each knife has unique features influenced by its chemical composition and determines its quality and performance. 

If you trying to choose between Elmax and M390 knives, come along to the next section as we look into the features, pros, and cons. Here is a table of Elmax and M390 composition.

Elmax Steel1.70%18.00%3.00%1.00%0.00%
M390 Steel1.90%20.00%4.0%1.00%0.60%
Elmax vs M390 composition

Elmax Knife Characteristics

Elmax vs. M390 Knives: Which is Better?Elmax vs. M390 Knives: Which is Better?

Elmax is stainless steel manufactured by Bohler-Uddeholm. It contains high amounts of Carbon, Vanadium, and Chromium. The blend of these elements gives it the properties of a super steel. 

Knives from Elmax offer excellent corrosion resistance, high edge retention, and toughness. Also, sharpening Elmax knives is easier than most super steels. However, Elmax is expensive steel; therefore, you will spend more on the knives.


  • Tough
  • Moderately Easy to sharpen
  • Excellent corrosion resistance
  • Good balance


  • Expensive
  • The blade chips, when used for very tough applications

M390 Knife Characteristics

Elmax vs. M390 Knives: Which is Better?Elmax vs. M390 Knives: Which is Better?

M390 is also a product of Bohler-Uddeholm, and it makes knives with excellent corrosion resistance, high edge retention, and decent toughness. The knives are durable and can be used to handle challenging tasks. 

The steel offers excellent edge retention so that the knives can be used in highly corrosive environments. Moreover, M390 knives are moderately easy to sharpen. On the downside, M390 is expensive steel and therefore makes expensive knives.


  • Excellent corrosion resistance
  • Tough
  • Excellent performance
  • Moderately Easy to sharpen


  • Expensive

How to choose between Elmax and M390

Edge retention5.56.5
Corrosion resistance89
Ease of sharpeningModerateModerate
Elmax vs. M390

To choose the right knife between the Elmax and the M390, consider the steel features that suit your lifestyle and knife needs. Consider the toughness, edge retention, and corrosion resistance alongside the price.


Elmax offers better Toughness than M390 due to the decreased Rockwell hardness, it is thus less brittle than M390 steel. Elmax knives are likely to withstand high-impact applications compared to M390 Knives. 

Elmax is not the toughest steel but it is tougher than M390 steel. As a result, Elmax knives do not crack, chip, or break easily when used for tough applications. They can be used for light batoning without chipping on edge. Therefore, if you are looking for a knife to be used for tough needs, you are better with Elmax knives.

Edge retention

M390 offers better edge retention than Elmax steel because it contains high carbide volume and many Vanadium elements in its composition. As a result, M390 knives will stay sharp for a long time. If you want a knife that does not become dull faster or your lifestyle does not allow frequent sharpening, look into the varieties of M390 knives.

Corrosion resistance

M390 outshines Elmax steel in corrosion resistance because it contains high amounts of Chromium. The 20% chromium makes M390 stainless steel; therefore, it is suitable for making knives to be used in highly corrosive environments. If you want knives to be used in areas of salty water or high humidity, the varieties of M390 will not disappoint you.

Wear resistance

M390 steel is however superior to Elmax steel as it is stronger and offers better wear resistance,  edge retention, and corrosion resistance. Bohler M390 steel is made to be a highly wear-resistant stainless steel.


Super steels are tough, durable, and highly resistant to corrosion but expensive. Elmax and M390 knives might be too expensive for you if you are on a budget. 

What Makes a Good Quality Knife?

Elmax vs. M390 Knives: Which is Better?Elmax vs. M390 Knives: Which is Better?

Elmax vs. M390 Knives: Which is Better?Elmax vs. M390 Knives: Which is Better?

A seasoned knife user can identify a high-quality knife the first time they see it. A high-quality knife has features that set it apart from regular knives. However, you must know what to look for to categorize a knife as high quality.

The features used to determine knives’ quality include sharpness, handle quality, and edge retention. A good quality knife should be sharp enough to give precise cuts, the blade should hold an edge for a long time, and it should have a slip-free and sturdy handle to prevent accidents.

With the right sharpening tools and skills, every knife blade gets a razor-sharp edge. The difference between a regular and high-quality knife is determined by how long the edge remains sharp. No one enjoys using a knife that requires sharpening after a few uses.

The handle determines comfort, safety, and hygiene when using the knife. High-quality handles are comfortable on the hand and do not slip when used to prevent accidents. You also need a knife whose blade can easily cut through materials. A dull knife is very frustrating to use; worse, it can injure you.

Final Thoughts

Elmax and M390 are siblings, but they are different in many ways. M390 is better in edge retention, wear resistance and corrosion resistance, while Elmax offers better toughness.

Elmax knives are easier to sharpen than M390 knives, this is due to the high wear resistance of M390 steel which makes it hard to sharpen when the need arises. Elmax even though highly wear-resistant is a bit easier to sharpen.

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My name is Jonathan M, and I’m a passionate Mechanical Engineer, a knife enthusiast, and the author of this website. I have a bachelor's degree in Mechanical engineering with a specialization in material science. I am particularly interested in researching knife steel, knife properties, and brands. I hope you will find value in the articles on this website. Contact me if you have any questions or input!