Is K390 Steel Good for Knives?

K390 steel is a powder metallurgical tool steel by BÖHLER. The steel is the best for cold work applications, for high-end and premium knives, and for cutting, blanking, and punching tools.

This is due to its great wear resistance, toughness, and strength. The steel has high machinability which makes it quite popular with knife makers.

Knife users apply the steel in difficult cutting, die-cutting, and cold forming operations so you have probably heard of it when looking for a strong blade for your knife collection.

If you are curious to know about this famous steel, I have laid out the steel’s characteristics, comparisons, and general performance. Read along to find out more.

Is K390 steel good for knives?

K390 steel is good for knives. The steel is a high-end tool steel for quality blades. It is very hard and tough. It offers great edge retention, wear resistance, strength, and it is very easy to sharpen. The steel is suitable for hard use and is good for EDC knives, hunting, camping, and pocket knives. It does not have high corrosion resistance so it’s likely to rust if you do not take good care of it.

Characteristics of K390 Steel

Let’s look at the characteristics of K390 that make the steel worth a mention when talking about high-end tool steels.

High hardness

K390 steel has very high quantities of Carbon. 2.47% Carbon is high at any rate which gives this steel very high hardness.

The presence of Manganese and Tungsten in K390 adds to the hardness of the steel.

Great edge holding

Being so hard, the steel offers great edge holding capacity which is a good quality in steel. Most users will prefer knives that can hold an edge for long to avoid frequent sharpening which is not a fun activity to keep taking part in.

Low corrosion resistance

One downside of K390 steel is its vulnerability to corrosion. The 4.25% Chromium found in the steel is not enough to offer it resistance.

This makes K390 knives require some effort on your part to prevent corroding and rusting. Regular maintenance including cleaning and oiling will keep your knife in good working condition.

High wear resistance

The steel has good amounts of the elements Molybdenum, Vanadium, and Tungsten. These three work with Chromium to provide quite high wear resistance.

No matter the surfaces you use your blade on, you will be sure that the knife will not wear down until it has taken some very good use and for a long period.


K390 steel is very tough. Its good composition of elements gives it great toughness levels making your knife highly durable.

Easy machinability

The steel is easy to work on. Knifemakers are pleased to learn that it is one of those steels that can be easily machined in knife production.

Sharpens fast

Most hard steels will require an arm and a leg to sharpen. It gets harder to attain sharpness the harder steel becomes. But not with K390.

The steel sharpens easily and can attain a perfect edge quite fast. This is big news to knife users who do not enjoy sharpening blades and those who don’t know how to do it right either.

K390 steel Hardness

You can measure the hardness of steel using the Rockwell scale. The higher the Carbon content, the harder the steel.

At 2.47% Carbon, K390 steel is very hard. It has a Rockwell hardness of 65 HRC.

Hard steel is typically more durable but the downside of it will be its brittleness. As steel attains higher hardness, it becomes more brittle making it easier to break.

Is K390 stainless steel?

K390 is not stainless steel. This is because it contains low amounts of Chromium at 4.25%.

Steel is stainless if its Chromium levels are at 10.5% and above.

Stainless steel is highly popular because you can safely use it in wet places and humid environments. For activities like fishing, diving, or cutting wet substances in the kitchen, stainless steel knives offer a stress-free solution.

However, if the steel is not stainless, you will need to be careful when using it for wet purposes. You will have to take good care of the blade and keep it dry to prevent rust.

You will also have to sharpen it regularly to keep corrosion away. Luckily, K390 is easy to sharpen so this form of maintenance is not too much to ask.

K390 steel comparisons

As we have seen, K390 is not too bad a knife steel. It offers some commendable features that make it stand out.

Now let’s look at some of the steel’s closest comparisons:

S90V steel – K390 is closer in comparison to S90V. Both steels rank in the same price range with high hardness, edge retention, and wear resistance. But S90V has higher corrosion resistance than K390.

M390 steel – Both steels have similar edge retention and toughness. However, M390 has very high corrosion resistance and is easier to sharpen compared to K390.

CPM M4 steel – Compared with CPM M4, K390 has more strength, durability, stability, and wear resistance making it better.


K390 is a high-end tool steel and it offers good quality performance. The steel is very hard and tough at the same.

This however makes it have low corrosion resistance because steel can only have two of the three properties. Although it is hard, the steel is very easy to sharpen, and for a short amount of time you can attain a favorable sharpness. It will also hold that edge for a considerably long amount of time.

The blade has great wear resistance and can take a hard cutting. You will have to keep it dry and to oil it regularly to avoid rust because it is not stainless making it vulnerable to rust.

It is used in the production of high-end and premium knives. This shows you just how good the steel is and you can get yourself one if you were on the edge about purchasing it.

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