K390 steel is high-end steel manufactured by Bohler following the particle metallurgy process to be used in cold work applications. It is not stainless steel because it does not have enough chromium in its composition to qualify it as stainless steel.

K390 contains high amounts of Vanadium, giving it outstanding toughness and excellent wear resistance, making it a good choice for knife makers. In addition to knives, this steel is also used in the manufacture of cutting tools, screws, barrels, plastic applications, and shearing applications.

K390 steel Chemical composition

  • Carbon C 2.50%: Increases the edge retention, hardness and tensile strength. It also improves steel resistance to wear, abrasion and corrosion.
  • Chromium Cr 4.00%: Chromium Increases hardness, tensile strength and corrosion resistance of a blade.
  • Molybdenum Mo 4.00%:
  • Silicon Si 0.30%: Increases strength and heat resistance.
  • Vanadium V 0.03%: Improves machinability and hardness.
  • Sulfur S 0.03%: Improves machinability.
  • Silicon Si 0.55% : Increases strength and heat resistance.
  • Tungsten W 1.00%: Forms hard carbide in combination with other elements

Properties of k390 steel

K390 Steel Hardness

K390 hardness is 64-65 HRC making it hard steel. It is not the hardest steel on the market because some steel scores up to 68 HRC, but it still offers outstanding wear and tear, the main reason it is used to make high-end knives.

K390 Steel Edge retention

One of the areas where K390 scores best is edge retention, which is expected because of the high amounts of Vanadium and Carbon composition. Knives made from this steel can remain sharp for long, even with frequent use.

If you have been on the market for a knife that does not become dull often, K390 knives will sort you.

K390 Steel Wear resistance

Another area of excellence in K390 is its wear resistance. One thing for sure is, K390 knives will serve you for a long time without deteriorating. The high wear resistance is associated with the high amounts of Vanadium in this steel.

K390 Steel Corrosion resistance

As already mentioned, K390 is not stainless steel because of its low chromium contents, making it vulnerable to rusting. However, the minimal levels of chromium in its composition and proper care and maintenance protect K390 knives from rusting.

If stainless steel must feature in your knives, varieties made from this steel will not be a good choice for you.

K390 Steel Toughness

It is rare to get a steel that offers you both high hardness and toughness, which is the case with K390. Since it is hard steel, it is less tough. This is not to say that it has the worst toughness on the market, but its toughness does not match other high-end steel.

It will handle several tough jobs, but you cannot use it for tougher applications like batoning.

K390 Steel Ease of Sharpening

K390 registers high hardness making it hard to sharpen. This does not mean that you will never get a sharp edge, but you will use more time and effort, especially if you do not have experience in knife sharpening.

However, you can make the process easy by opting for a modern sharpening system. To ease the burden of sharpening, K390 remains sharp for long.

K390 Steel Machinability

Another property that attracts knife makers to this steel is its easy machinability. It does not require much effort to cut and process K390, and it does not wear out the cutting machines.

It is easier to work with because it contains high amounts of Molybdenum in its composition.

K390 steel equivalents

K390 steel vs VG10

K390 is better than VG10 steel in toughness and ease of sharpening. On the other hand, VG10 beats K390 in corrosion resistance and edge retention.

K390 steel vs M390

Both K390 steel and M390 steel are developed by the same company, but M390 steel came first and offers outstanding edge retention and wear resistance. What’s more, M390 contains 20% chromium in its composition, making it stainless steel with high corrosion resistance than K390.

Is K390 steel good for knives?

K390 steel is suitable for knife making because of its excellent edge retention, good machinability, great hardness, and good wear resistance. The only downside is its poor rust resistance but you can protect it from rusting through proper care and maintenance.

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