N690 is cobalt enriched stainless steel manufactured by Bohler, an Austria steel company. This steel is high in carbon with the addition of cobalt for consistency.

N690 steel should not be confused with N690Co, both are produced by Bohler but the latter contains more Cobalt in its alloy and was developed after the original N690 steel.

N690 steel alloy contains high amounts of chromium making it stainless steel. It also has fine grain composition that enables the blade steel to remain sharp for a long time even after exposure to prolonged tough applications.

Bohler N690 steel’s ability to withstand stress is a favorite choice for knife makers. It is used to make outdoor knives including, tactical, camping, hunting, and bushcraft knives.

N690 Steel Chemical Composition

·        Carbon C 0.95%: Increases edge retention, hardness, and tensile strength. It also improves steel resistance to wear, abrasion, and corrosion.

·        Chromium Cr 17.00%: Formation of Chromium carbides. Increases the blade’s hardness, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance.

·        Nitrogen N 0.15%: Improves the hardness of steel while also refining the grain structure to prevent chipping and cracking.

·        Molybdenum Mo 0.50%: It improves machinability and hardness.

·        Phosphorous P 0.03%: Increases the strength and improves the machinability of steel

·        Manganese Mn 1.00%: improves the strength and hardness of steel. When the steel is heat-treated, hardenability is improved with increased manganese.

·        Silicon Si 1.00%: Increases strength and heat resistance.

·        Sulfur S 0.03%: Improves machinability but is regarded as an impurity in high quantities.

Properties of N690 steel

N690 Steel Hardness

The hardness of N690 steel is 55-60 HRC as per the Rockwell hardness scale. This range makes it hard steel, associated with the high amounts of carbon in its composition. The added cobalt, a very hard and heat resistant metal, also contributes to the hardness.

Because of this high hardness, N690 blade steel becomes a perfect choice in making outdoor knives.

N690 Steel Edge retention

If you have been searching for a knife with excellent edge retention, you are in the right place. Like any other hard steel, Bohler N690 blade steel can hold an edge for a long time without the need for frequent sharpening.

You can confidently pack N690 stainless knives for tough outdoor applications. The fine edge that does not become dull faster is also associated with fine-edged cobalt in its composition.

N690 Steel Toughness

As a rule of thumb, you can either get high hardness or toughness from steel but never both. However, it is different from N690 blade steel as it offers both.

Although it does not offer the best toughness out there, it delivers decent toughness, enough to withstand tough outdoor applications without chipping or breaking easily.

The perfect balance between the hardness and toughness of this steel makes it the go-to choice among knife makers and users.

N690 Steel Corrosion resistance

Bohler N690 steel takes pride in corrosion resistance because it contains high amounts of chromium in its composition. It is stainless steel as it contains more than 17% chromium which surpasses the 13% chromium content required to make a steel stainless steel.

Therefore, you can use this steel in areas of high humidity, moisture and salt without rusting. This is another reason this steel is preferred in making outdoor knives because they are mostly used in highly corrosive environments.

N690 Steel Wear retention

Due to the added cobalt, N690 offers great wear retention better than some premium steels out there.

Most knives, even some made with high-end steel, wear out with continued use and sharpening, but N690 knives have proven to last longer in the same conditions.

N690 Steel Ease of sharpening

N690 holds an edge for a long time, but it will eventually become dull. The good news is, it is very easy to attain a sharp edge on this steel.

Unlike other hard steels, which require sophisticated sharpening tools and professional sharpening skills, N690 steel is super easy to sharpen.

N690 vs. Other Knife Steels

N690 vs. M390 steel

Both N690 and M390 steel are produced by Bohler but offer different properties. Bohler M390 steel is premium steel as it contains a more refined alloy. M390 blade steel is better than N690 by far. It outshines it in all aspects, it offers better wear retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance.

M390 steel is also very expensive and can be found in premium knives. Probably this is the only aspect where N690 excels over M390 steel.

See Also: Bohler M398 Steel an improved version of M390 with better edge retention and wear resistance.

N690 vs. N690Co

Bohler N690 and N690Co are both made by Bohler and are very similar steels. However, more cobalt was added to N690CO and hence the CO in its name.

They offer the same hardness level, and both offer great edge retention, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance, however, because of the extra cobalt, N690CO stainless steel is better.

Is N690 Steel good for knives?

Yes! Bohler N690 stainless steel is good knife steel and is used by big knife companies. It offers excellent edge retention, great wear resistance, superb corrosion resistance, decent toughness and it is easy to sharpen.

Because of these features, it is a good choice for making outdoor knives. N690 steel knives are also affordable for the better properties they offer.

However, I’d highly recommend looking at N690Co blade steel knives as it is an upgraded version of N690 and N695 steel, there is not much difference in price.

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