Steel manufacturers are constantly refining the elements used in making steel to produce new and better steel. The new technologies in steel produce steel that performs well in all aspects including hardness, toughness, edge retention, and corrosion resistance.
Here is a list of 6 new knife steels on the market with top performance.
- CPM MagnaCut Steel
- AR-RPM 9 Steel
- H2 steel
- ApexUltra Steel
- Vanax Steel
- CPM SPY 27 Steel
1. CPM MagnaCut (best All round)
MagnaCut is a premium stainless steel designed by KSN’s Larrin Thomas. It was named MagnaCut to fit in the high-speed steel category by Vanadium Alloys Steel Company (VASCO). Magna is a Latin name meaning great or awesome, and Cut represents the high-speed steels category in VASCO. It is, therefore, an awesome high-speed steel.
MagnaCut has taken the knife steel world by storm as it does everything well. Its selling point is a high toughness, great edge retention, and ultra-high corrosion resistance.
Unlike other types of stainless steel, MagnaCut contains 10% chromium which is less than the 13% chromium in most stainless steel. Its production design features low Chromium elements with the aim that all soft chromium carbides will dissolve during heat treatment.
As a result, it gains excellent toughness and edge retention because it is left with hard vanadium and niobium carbides.
MagnaCut offers excellent corrosion resistance because the Chromium elements are used for corrosion resistance only. Additionally, sharpening MagnaCut is very easy because it has a fine microstructure. You can get an ultra-sharp edge easily using simple sharpening tools.
These great attributes make MagnaCut a perfect choice for everyday carry knives, outdoor knives, fishing knives, and all-around user knives.
2. AR-RPM 9 (Budget Option)
AR-RPM9 is a budget-priced steel produced by Artisan Cutlery using the Powder Metallurgy process. The 9 in the name represents the nine elements in its composition, carbon, Chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, manganese, nickel, silicon, and Rare Earth (RE).
The composition of AR-RPM9 is unique because it contains Rare Earth elements. However, Artisan Cutlery does not specify the RE elements included in the composition.
AR-RPM9 offers high hardness, which is attributed to the high carbon elements and cobalt and vanadium in its composition. As a result of the high hardness and hard vanadium carbides, AR-RPM9 offers great edge retention.
Additionally, AR-RPM9 is stainless steel because it contains 18% Chromium which is more than the 12% required to make steel stainless.
The major downside of AR-RPM9 is that it is not easy to sharpen because it is hard steel. AR-RPM9 blades do not become dull faster, but you will spend a lot of time and energy getting a razor-sharp edge.
3. H2 steel (Best in corrosion Resistance)
H2 is stainless steel manufactured by Spyderco. It is a replacement for the company’s H1 steel, whose production was seized during to the COVID-19 pandemic.
H2 steel has the same chemical composition and is produced following the same process as its predecessor H1. However, the elements are more refined for better performance.
For instance, it contains fewer carbon elements, enhancing its corrosion resistance because there is less formation of carbides that make steel vulnerable to corrosion. Additionally, it contains increased molybdenum and nickel, which increases its hardness and toughness.
Although Spyderco suffered huge losses because it could not continue making H1, its replacement H2 offers better hardness, corrosion resistance toughness, and machinability making it a favorite of many knife users and makers.
H2 knife steel is a good choice for making fishing, and diving knives as it offers excellent corrosion resistance and toughness. However, it does not offer the best edge retention. Be ready for frequent sharpening.
4. ApexUltra (Best for forging)
ApexUltra steel is a new low alloy steel that is perfect for making handcrafted knives because it is forgeable and forge-weldable. Moreover, it features a pure and fine microstructure that makes it very easy to sharpen and finish.
The major selling point of ApexUltra is its excellent toughness, thanks to its pure and well-balanced chemical composition. It is recorded to have a toughness of 66+ HRC, which is the highest among all knife steels on the market.
Consequently, the steel does not break, crack, or chip easily when expressed to impact and force. ApexUltra also offers excellent hardness and edge retention, which is attributed to the inclusion of Tungsten in its composition.
Because of its features, APEX Ultra knife steel is a good manufacturer of blades for camping, culinary, carving, and knives with thin edges.
The major downside of ApexUltra is that it offers poor corrosion resistance because it is not stainless steel and, therefore, it is prone to corrosion.
If its other attributes interest you, you can keep your blades from rust and stains through proper care and maintenance, which involves washing and drying the knives immediately after use.
5. Vanax Steel (Premium Steel)
Vanax stainless steel is a product of Bohler Uddeholm, manufactured using the powder metallurgy process. It is among the new generation steels, where the manufacturer uses Nitrogen for hardening instead of carbon. The high amounts of Nitrogen increase its hardness and corrosion resistance.
Through the years, Bohler Uddeholm has produced three versions of Vanax including Vanax 35, Vanax 75, and the latest Vanax SuperClean, also known as Vanax.
Bohler stopped the production of the latter two in order to produce Vanax superclean only. Vanax offers more toughness, edge retention, corrosion resistance, and durability than the former versions.
The major downside of Vanax knife steel is that it is very expensive and consequently makes premium knives with a high price tag.
6. Spyderco SPY 27
CPM SPY 27 is a stainless steel produced by Spyderco following the particle metallurgy process. Spyderco collaborated with crucible industries to make their blade steel after many years of outsourcing blade steel.
The composition of SPY 27 knife steel is unique because it contains higher amounts of cobalt than other premium steels and added Niobium. As a result, it offers good corrosion resistance, decent toughness, and great edge retention.
The major downside of CPM SPY27 is that it is hard to sharpen. It takes a lot of time and energy to get a sharp edge, especially for beginners. But with the right sharpening skills and tools, it gets an ultra-sharp edge very fast.
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!