3V vs. High Carbon


Platinum Member
Feb 25, 1999
Which would be stronger and hold an edge better (specifically in reference to a large 10+" blade): 3V or differentially hardened tool steel (e.g., 1095 or 52100)?
According to CPM probably 3V. Compared to a very well known steel like A2, 3V looks very promising:

A2 : 40, 2-3
3V : 50, 7

Both are at 60 RC, with the first number being the Charpy value and the second the adhesive wear resistance. For more information :


I would be interested in actual user feedback.

Burke; first of all, neither 1095, nor 52100 are tool steels. Check it out for yourself. Go here:


Look up 1095 under carbon steels, and 52100 under alloy steels.

So, what is the freaking difference you dilettante doctor?? Well, actually, Burke, it is not a cut and dried distinction. To get a feel of what constitutes a tool steel, I suggest the superb FAQ's by Joe Talmadge, located along with a lot of other great information in the knowledge base section on BFC's home page.

Another good place to learn about different types of steels, and what a tool steel is, is the Crucible Particle Methodology website:


Click on 'Heat Treating and Fabrication of Tool Steels.' Then, click on 'Tool Steels,' this will give you loads of information on the different types of tool steel, both CPM and traditional ingot type, which are available.

In addition, the 'Tool Steel' site has a great topic contained within it; 'Selecting High Performance Tool Steel.' I find myself going back and reading these often. In fact, in composing this post, I found a new steel, T15, on the CPM site. It has some very interesting components and characteristics.

While the information is presented in the above references much better than I can, let me just say that tool steels are designed to work other steels; therefore, desired qualities are hardness, wear resistance, and toughness. The maintaining of strength while hot is also useful in tooling, but is of no importance in knives.

Just remember that there is usually a catch. In the case of tool steels, it is lack of corrosion resistance.

I have heard a lot of good things about 3V, but have no first hand experience.

Hope this helps, Walt
I'll give you a little background on how we designed 3V (I'm one of their metallurgists).
In tool steels with any type of wear, A-2 is about as tough as you can get. For better toughness you have to give up all wear and go with S-7. If you look at the properties of A-2 vs S-7 there is a big gap between the two. 3V was designed to have as much wear resistance with as close to the toughness of S-7 as we could get.
3V has about 2/3 of the toughness of S-7 and wear equal to or slightly better than D-2.
Corrosion is about equal to D-2 but still not comparable to stainless.
Hope I don't sound too commercial, but knowing why the grade was designed can help to put it into perspective.