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The steel shootout- S30V and S35VN!

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by DR.BOOM, Apr 19, 2013.

  1. DR.BOOM


    Jan 2, 2011
    I have been working on this for a few weeks now. I wanted to see if there we truly a difference between these steels, and if one was superior. In my opinion the best way to do this was the same knife, same grind, same edge and edge angle. Using the knives for the same purposes. Now I need to note that this is not a hard use test, I don't abuse my knives so I don't care which steel holds up under stupid tests. That being said I will introduce the knife used, the beloved and great Spyderco Paramilitary 2.
    The knives will be used as I would use my EDC and as I suspect the majority of us here would. Cutting light stuff like paper, cardboard, pallet wrap for some of us. However I want the steel to be able to stand up for some slightly more challenging tasks like plastic, wood and, other tougher materials. So I want to show you guys my journey with testing the steels. (Pictures taken last minute just for some visuals). The knives were both sharpened on the Edge Pro to a 30 degree angle. Both knives were sharpened to an even polish with the stock 1000 grit stone. In the beginning I noticed that the S35VN seemed like it took the edge and the polish a bit quicker.
    The knives were both carried for 2 different week long runs. The first run was casual out and about days running errands and as a general EDC. The second run was my work knife, this is where I was planning to really test the steel. About 3/4 of the way through the work run on the S30V I noticed the edge was beginning to bind on things as it cut. It would still slice threw anything however usually required a bit more work.

    Still extremely reliable for a knife steel, And it made it through the rest of the week just fine.
    Moving on to the S35VN.
    This knife seemed sharper In the beginning and through the rest of the week doing the same as the CPMS30V however It never got that dragging and catching that that the S30V that I would get cutting open pallet wrap and other stretchable materials. I tried to notice if I ever used either of the knives in a more aggressive matter and both knives were truly used evenly in my opinion. At the end of the testing I tested both knives on some cardboard and I felt like the plain S30V actually cut a little bit easier on this test.
    I then took both knives back to the Sharpmaker and I made even passes on both knives and the S35VN earns an additional point here taking a better more noticeable edge faster after 15 strokes on each side.

    After the last few weeks I'm ready to pick a steel. I am siding with the S35VN. It just held the edge better and for a longer time period. I now see why Sal and Chris Reeve like this steel so much. I hope this far too long thread was at least a bit entertaining for some of you. Thanks for reading guys.
  2. Locutus D'Borg

    Locutus D'Borg Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Dec 1, 2012
    Most non-knife enthusiasts won't notice a difference, but this was interesting and shows why Hinderer and CRK may have changed to S35VN. In 5 years every high end maker will be using S200VN or similar hyper steel, so you'll have to rerun your tests.
  3. masterserg


    Jan 4, 2011
    Interesting stuff. I have both on my CRKs and did not notice much of a difference, both in my kind of usage (which is far from hard use) and sharpening .... both steels being equally good and easy to maintain for me. If there are minute differences, I really can't tell. I am not sure it's an apples to apples (CRK vs. Spyderco) as the heat treatment must be considered as well.

    Anyway, good stuff!
  4. DR.BOOM


    Jan 2, 2011
    I will gladly redo my tests with some more super steels. However I forgot to mention some of the corrosion resistance testing so maybe I can do updates soon for more fun.
  5. Ankerson

    Ankerson Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 2, 2002

    What you are describing as in easier to sharpen, taking an edge quicker etc are things that are the exact opposite of what higher wear resistance is.

    Interesting use, I won't say test because it's really not, it's more perception in the end than anything else.

    S35VN has a lower alloy content than S30V, that's lower Vanadium content and overall a lower percentage of carbide formers.

    Nobody has ever said that S35VN holds an edge longer than S30V, that's Crucible for example and others because it doesn't.

    S35VN was developed to be easier to work with than S30V for the knife manufacturers as in easier to grind into knife blades and finish.......... lower wear resistance.....

    Also it's supposed to be slightly tougher than S30V to solve the supposed chipping issues.

    I have seen CATRA results and there is a real difference between S35VN and S30V... S35VN is lower....

    Spyderco hasn't changed over to S35VN in their flagship models, they are still using S30V and using S35VN in some models.

    CRK was involved in the development of S35VN so it would make since they are using it since they only use one steel at a time.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013
  6. Ankerson

    Ankerson Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 2, 2002
    CRK changed because S35VN was easier to work with over S30V (less wear and tear on equipment and easier to finish) and to feed Chris Reeve's ego again to be involved in the development.

    Don't know why RHK is using it.....
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013
  7. Ken44


    Jun 29, 2005
    Who told you this ? Or did you mean to put IMO ?

    I think many have changed because S35VN is easier to work with, may be slightly tougher, and holds an edge just as well as S30V.
    I have the same two Para's as the OP and can't really tell a difference myself.
  8. Ankerson

    Ankerson Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 2, 2002

    In normal use most won't be able to tell the difference in the two steels taking into count how most use their knives, push them and the differences will show up in favor of S30V.

    S35VN is easier to sharpen and does take a finer edge easier and faster than S30V, also it's easier to touch up in general.

    Both are good steels in the end so it depends on how the knives are used and the end users needs or wants, sharpening talent etc.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013
  9. Luis G.

    Luis G. Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 18, 2011
    This follows in line the sebbies I've owned. S30v/S35VN. S30v holds an edge for slightly longer but in my use the difference was negligible. S35VN in my opinion is a downgrade.

    Sorry but on a $400 knife I don't want to hear complaining about material choice due to wear on the equipment.
  10. Ankerson

    Ankerson Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 2, 2002
    It's what has been said from the beginning about S35VN.

    CRK never said it had better performance over S30V nor did Crucible.

    That's keeping it real with no kool-aid...... ;)

    Also the reason why I got my two Umnumzaans before the change to S35VN..... And I am keeping them... ;)

    For those who remember wear and tear on equipment was CRK's reason for using S30V over S90V back when they made the change from BG-42, the really interesting thing was we all could have been using S90V for a very long time now if that wasn't an issue. ;)

    Now that would have really been something since the knife industry for the most part followed what CRK was doing at the time so think about the possibilities of where things could be today steel wise if Chris Reeve had more foresight as in S90V would have became the standard back in 2001. :)

    Not really a ding on CRK though as IMO S30V is one of the best user steels there is as it provides a good balance performance wise.

    In the end and today it's Spyderco that came out with the 1st standard production knife in S90V in the South Fork and that's truly a huge leap for the knife industry. :thumbup:

    However I do agree with you on the $400 knife and the wear and tear topic, that's something to talk with CRK about though. ;)

    I already did awhile back on the phone and I just told them I preferred S30V over S35VN, but that's not telling them how to make knives and I wouldn't even think of trying to do that as they are the standard. ;)
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013
  11. Ken44


    Jun 29, 2005

    I wasn't asking about the steel, as I know what I(and you) think about that. I was asking about the "ego" part.

    Do you know for fact that ego had something to do with him switching, or is that just what you happen to think?
  12. Ankerson

    Ankerson Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 2, 2002
    Knowing the history what do you think about it?
  13. Ken44


    Jun 29, 2005
    I don't think ego had one thing to do with it. If I did think it may I would put IMO if I made a statement like that, and not state it as if it were fact.
    Thats just me though.
  14. Luis G.

    Luis G. Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 18, 2011
    It's clear it was an opinion, which was founded on history.

    S35VN makes no sense from a "making the best knife possible" perspective. More having to do with machining, which in my opinion is moot point compared to S30v which leads us to the more probably choice.

    I think the decision to switch over S35VN is more having to do with public relations than anything. For how long has CRK been knocked for not using other steels? Now they have the S35VN, the "replacement to S30v".

    A replacement which under performs, and the only real advantage is for the manufacturer to cut costs or to at least parade the fact they use "modern" steels and are innovators in steel usage.
  15. Ankerson

    Ankerson Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 2, 2002

    I believe CRK does what they want to in the end and I would say for the most part they do a good job making the knives they do, the quality is definitely there no doubt in my mind at all.

    It's only the latest steel choice that has me completely baffled, yes I get that S35VN is easier on the equipment so the benefits to CRK is obvious and it's pretty apparent that MOST people really aren't going to see much if any difference between S30V and S35VN. The real question is that for those who really do like and or need the higher performance that S30V gives where their needs even taken into consideration taking into count the cost of the knives before the switch, or was it just CRK's involvement in the development of S35VN the real reason for making that switch to a lower performing steel.

    Or to put it simply, was the end customer even in the thought process at all or was it just to benefit CRK?

    I mean beyond the hype that surrounded the switch to S35VN early on, and it was hyped up, not by CRK, but the drive was there in the beginning until the real story came out about the performance.

    That is the real question and I seriously doubt we will ever get a real answer to that one.. ;)

    Or one that isn't VERY carefully worded.......

    As far as the different steels go, new steels per say, well that makes no since at all because I can think of two steels that have been around for awhile that offer excellent performance and they are ELMAX and CPM 154 so S35VN really makes no since at all looking at the overall picture and were S35VN fits in performance wise compared to ELMAX, S30V, and CPM 154.

    That's the reason IMO that's it's CRK's involvement in the process of S35VN that was the real reason for the switch, and not performance or the end customers, because if performance was even in the thought process they would have either stayed with S30V or went with a proven performer with a solid history in CPM 154.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013
  16. Tripton


    May 26, 2008
    You know, it's a funny thing for me.

    All this forum talk, and I was worried that my S35VN knives would perform as if the blades were made from candle wax, or maybe string cheese. As it turns out, in my personal experience, I have been rather impressed with how well it holds an edge, seemingly holding a sharp edge longer than S30V. ( S30V, of course, losing a razor edge quite fast, and then maintaining a useable edge for a good long time.) Shockingly, my Sebenzas in S35VN with the HORRIBLE jello-like heat treat of 58-59:)rolleyes:) have been working very, very well for me too. I can't believe it myself, after reading the extended "tests" here, and watching the videos on youTube that implied that the edge retention would be like a lead fishing sinker that I pounded into the shape of a blade using a ball peen hammer.

    I guess I will just keep S35VN, right along side the Elmax, M4, CPM154, S60V, and S30V....and even right along side ancient poop steels like 1095, O1, and Case's CV. They work for me too, even if I have to sharpen them more often.

    I don't know crap though, really. I am just a guy who likes knives. I will keep my personal ego in check until I am certain that I know more about knife steels than Chris Reeve, Sal Glesser, and Rick Hinderer combined...
  17. Final Option

    Final Option Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2012
    Tripton I love this quote you made, sums it up for me.

    "I don't know crap though, really. I am just a guy who likes knives. I will keep my personal ego in check until I am certain that I know more about knife steels than Chris Reeve, Sal Glesser, and Rick Hinderer combined..."
  18. chad2


    Sep 2, 2011
    First off I am not bashing anyone. But you say that more vandium is better, yet you say he should have used cpm154 which has none. Actualy if it did not have 14 percent chromium it would be considered a carbon steel. I am not bashing cpm154 because it is one of my favorites but these statments dont make sense. I guess my question is why does cpm154 do so well when compared to much higher alloy steels?
  19. Ken44


    Jun 29, 2005
    Me too:thumbup: Chris will tell you what he thinks on the phone, and I know a couple of people didn't really like that. One of those made a video that Sal saw. Sal then did more testing to make sure that S35VN was as good as he thought it was, and it was.
  20. Ankerson

    Ankerson Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 2, 2002

    It has 4% Molybdenum and it actually does have some Vanadium in it. ;)

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