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VG-10 vs. S30V Steel in Knives: Which is Better?

No matter what kind of knife you use, and no matter the application, if you want to get the most out of your tool, you’ve got to pick the right kind of steel.

opening can with knife
opening can with knife

The formulation of the steel will determine the knife’s inherent characteristics, including its corrosion resistance, durability, edge retention, and ease of sharpening. Basically, it will play a major part in how well you and your knife get along!

Today, we will be looking at two extremely well-regarded steels that are known for extraordinary performance all around. VG-10 and S30V. The question is, which one of them is better?

VG-10 and S30V compare very favorably. Of the two, S30V holds an edge better than VG-10 and is more durable overall but difficult to sharpen. VG-10 is easier to sharpen, somewhat cheaper, and very corrosion-resistant.

This is one of those comparisons where you’re getting down to splitting atoms.

Both types of steel are uniformly excellent for folding and fixed blade knives, and ultimately your budget alone might be the determining factor: S30V tends to be a fair bit more expensive, but it is worth it if you want to maximize performance.

Keep reading, and I’ll tell you a lot more so you can make an informed decision…

The Basics: VG-10

VG-10 has been around for a while now, and although it has arguably been surpassed in certain metrics by other super steels of our era, it is still a great contender among the best performing types of stainless steel.

Developed by the Takefu Special Steel Company in Japan, and being one of the highest grade steels they produce, it remains an extremely popular choice for well-rounded kitchen cutlery, pocketknives, and other precise cutting and slicing tools.

Popularized by Spyderco initially, and since having spread to other major manufacturers of folding and fixed blade knives, most knives featuring VG-10 are still made in Japan to this day.

VG-10 Composition

VG-10 is well-regarded and deservedly so for its excellent combination of corrosion resistance, edge retention, easy sharpening, and cost-effectiveness. Examining the formula, we see it consists of:

  • 1% carbon,
  • 15.5% chromium,
  • 0.3% of vanadium,
  • 1.2% molybdenum,
  • 0.5% manganese,
  • and 1.5% cobalt.

If you raised your eyes at the inclusion of cobalt, you aren’t alone. This rare element is featured in only a handful of knife steels and isn’t used as some glitzy marketing stuff, either.

Cobalt produces remarkable synergistic benefits with other elements that yield steel capable of taking and holding a remarkably good edge. It also allows tools made with it to be quenched at higher temperatures. A little bit makes all the difference!

The Basics: S30V

S30V, properly called CPM S30V, is a hardened powder steel with a unique formulation that promotes the formation and uniform distribution of vanadium carbides which lend this formula its excellent hardness and abrasion resistance.

It‘s particularly notable for a very fine grain and great toughness. Among knife and tool connoisseurs, S30V is known for being developed by Dick Barber of Crucible Industries in collaboration and consultation with such renowned bigwigs in the knife sector as Ernest Emerson, Tony Marfione, and Paul Bos.

Today, it tends to be seen at the very top of many high-end companies’ offerings on nice steels for various models and is arguably considered one of the very best blade steels available.

Regardless of whether you think that is true or not, there is no arguing that S30V might well be the best all-purpose stainless steel for mass-production knives considering how easy it is to machine.

S30V Composition

Compared to VG-10, S30V has a really simple, but quite ingenious, composition, consisting of 14% chromium, 1.45% carbon, 2% molybdenum, and 4% vanadium, along with a tiny bit of niobium.

This combination, prepared correctly, leads to an excellent toughness, edge retention, and sharpness profile, and knives made with it are renowned for their ability to cut and cut and cut without dulling unless subjected to extreme abuse.

Advantages of VG-10

VG-10 is the steel for real knife lovers, and it’s easy to see why. It is extremely easy to sharpen, offers very good edge retention characteristics, and is capable of being sharpened to a truly fine edge. It’s also famously corrosion-resistant, withstanding saltwater, acidic foods, sweat, and a lot more.

This means that for all-around use as a pocketknife, fixed blade, kitchen knife, or something else, you can depend on VG-10 to do its job without any worry that it will rust if it is given even the least little bit of care.

And though it does not hold an edge like some other kinds of steel, or S30V particularly, it is so easy to sharpen to a high degree that you won’t dread the task.

When it comes to all-around performance for a reasonable price, VG-10 is superb.

Advantages of S30V

S30V was originally developed to be the ultimate stainless steel for knife making, and, for a time, the creators arguably succeeded.

Like VG-10, it’s incredibly corrosion-resistant but also quite hard, and it’ll keep a wickedly sharp edge for a very long time while being quite durable overall, although it has a distressing tendency to chip on a microscopic level when subjected to truly hardcore use.

If you know what you are doing when sharpening, you can sharpen your knife made from S30V and then cut for miles and miles before it needs a touch-up again. And, just like VG-10, you won’t need to worry about it rusting on you unless it is utterly neglected.

The only downside is that this steel is pretty pricey, and you’ll notice that knives made from it occupy only the uppermost offerings from major manufacturers.

What Kind of Knife is Best Suited for VG-10?

You can make a great case that any common knife is suited to be made from VG-10, as long as you can afford it, of course!

Modern, high-performance folding pocketknives are a natural choice thanks to the myriad advantages that this steel offers, and it is also an inspired choice for any kind of knife, fixed blade or otherwise, that’s going to be used in mildly corrosive environments.

It is also great for kitchen knives and any other kind of cutting tool that will be subjected to acidic mediums. Cutting tomatoes, fruit, and other foods like that is a true test for many steels, including stainless steels, but one that VG-10 will pass with flying colors.

You can cut these acidic things with a knife made from it, give it a quick rinse, then wipe it off and forget about it.

What Kind of Knife is Best Suited for S30V?

S30V is suitable for all of the same purposes that VG-10 is suitable for, only it does everything even better. As a kitchen knife, it is all but completely impervious to typical use.

In pocket knives, it will stay sharp forever and need only occasional touch-ups unless you’re deliberately trying to mangle the edge. And, no matter how much salt or acid you subject it to, it is unlikely to rust.

In many ways, S30V can be considered a straight upgrade to VG-10 with the only downside being it is significantly more difficult to sharpen, though the trade-off is it holds its edge much longer.

Bottom Line: Which Should You Get?

Ultimately, both steels are excellent, but as to the choice of which one you should get, it might boil down to cost alone and your skill at sharpening.

If you’re a newbie chef or cook, go with VG10 steel, but if you can afford S30V, you won’t regret it. Everything that you like about VG-10 is exemplified in S30V with the sole exception that it is more difficult to sharpen.

You have to know what you’re doing and use the right kind of sharpening stones or tools to do the job right, otherwise, you’re going to be wasting time and getting frustrated.

You’ll pay for these advantages, though, which means that if you balk at the cost of S30V or you just like the idea of a steel that is more forgiving during sharpening, get VG-10 and don’t think twice about it.

The post VG-10 vs. S30V Steel in Knives: Which is Better? appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

By: Tom Marlowe
Title: VG-10 vs. S30V Steel in Knives: Which is Better?
Sourced From: www.survivalsullivan.com/vg-10-vs-s30v-steel-knives/
Published Date: Sat, 09 Mar 2024 20:53:33 +0000


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