M390 vs. S35VN | 50+ Realistic Comparisons Revealed

Experts and enthusiasts frequently mention M390 and S35VN when discussing high-performance knife steels. Both are well-regarded for their exceptional qualities, which make them great choices for premium knives. 

In this comprehensive comparison, we’ll look at the differences between M390 vs. S35VN and address any questions you may have regarding their compositions and performance attributes.

Understanding the Compositions

M390 Composition:

M390 is a powder metallurgy stainless steel well-known for its remarkable combination of wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and edge retention. The composition contains high levels of chromium (20%), vanadium (9%), and molybdenum (1%). These elements explain why the M390 is so incredibly hard and maintains a sharp edge for a long time.

S35VN Composition:

S35VN, an advancement above S30V, also utilizes powder metallurgy. Compared to M390, its composition has less carbon (1.40%) and higher concentrations of chromium (14%), vanadium (3%), and niobium (2%). Niobium improves toughness and helps mitigate some of previous steel iterations’ chipping and cracking problems.

Performance Differences

Edge Retention:

The M390 and S35VN are preferred options for high-end knives because of superior edge retention. However, because of its greater carbon and vanadium content, M390 is sometimes seen to have a modest advantage. Those who value cutting capability will find the steel especially intriguing because of its capacity to hold a sharp edge for extended periods.

Corrosion resistance:

Both steels have strong corrosion resistance due to their high chromium content. M390’s increased chromium content may offer a modest advantage in corrosive settings, making it an ideal alternative for consumers who demand improved oxidation resistance.


S35VN offers a significant edge in terms of hardness. Adding niobium to S35VN improves its capacity to endure impact and lateral stress, alleviating some of the worries about chipping and brittleness associated with previous steel variants. This makes S35VN a good choice for knives subjected to heavy wear.

Easy Sharpening:

While both steels are believed to be quite difficult to sharpen due to their extreme hardness, S35VN is frequently seen to be slightly more forgiving in this respect. S35VN’s greater machinability over M390 may make it a more accessible alternative for individuals who wish to maintain their knives easily.

M390 vs. S35VN

CompositionHigh Carbon (1.90%), Chromium (20%), Vanadium (9%), Molybdenum (1%)Lower Carbon (1.40%), Chromium (14%), Vanadium (3%), Niobium (2%)
Edge RetentionExcellentExcellent
Corrosion ResistanceExcellentExcellent
ToughnessGood (for a high hardness steel)Excellent
Wear ResistanceOutstandingExcellent
Ease of SharpeningModerateModerate
MachinabilityModerateEasier than M390
PriceHigherGenerally Lower
AvailabilityWidely availableWidely available
Blade Sharpness RetentionProlongedProlonged
Impact ResistanceModerateHigh
Edge StabilityExcellentExcellent
Heat TreatabilityCritical; requires precise heat treatmentEasier to heat treat
Cutting PerformanceSuperiorExcellent
Maintenance RequirementsRegular sharpening, moderate maintenanceRegular sharpening, high maintenance
Edge Chipping ResistanceGoodExcellent
Blade StrengthHighVery High
Edge Retention Under StressMaintains wellMaintains well
Resistance to PittingHighHigh
Edge Stability During Heavy UseGoodExcellent
Wear Resistance Under LoadExcellentExcellent
Resistance to Acids and BasesHighHigh
Resistance to AbrasionExcellentExcellent
Edge Stability During Abrasive UseExcellentExcellent
Edge Stability During High HeatExcellentExcellent
Resistance to Rust and StainsHighHigh
Edge Stability During FreezingExcellentExcellent
Resistance to Impact ForcesModerateHigh
Blade Sharpness After Heavy UseRetains wellRetains well
Resistance to MicrochippingModerateExcellent
Edge Stability in Extreme ColdExcellentExcellent
Resistance to Wear and TearHighHigh
Sharpening DifficultyModerate to DifficultModerate
Resistance to Environmental FactorsExcellentExcellent
Edge Retention Under Abrasive UseExcellentExcellent
Edge Stability During TwistingGoodExcellent
Resistance to SaltwaterHighHigh
Edge Stability During MoistureExcellentExcellent
Resistance to Chemical ExposureHighHigh
Edge Stability During SlicingExcellentExcellent
Resistance to OxidationHighHigh
Overall PerformanceSuperiorExcellent

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Which Steel is Better for EDC Knives?

M390 and S35VN are great candidates for daily carry (EDC) knives, with superior edge holding and corrosion resistance. The selection may come down to personal taste, with those who value edge retention favoring M390 and those who value ruggedness preferring S35VN.

Q2: Are these steels prone to chipping?

While both steel sheets are noted for their great hardness, S35VN’s toughness makes it more resistant to chipping than M390. And adding niobium to S35VN improves its capacity to endure impact and lateral stress, making it a durable alternative for situations where the knife may be subjected to severe stress.

Q3: Which Steel Is More Cost Effective?

M390 is commonly regarded as a higher-end steel, and knives manufactured from it are priced accordingly. S35VN, while still a high-performance steel, may be found in a wider spectrum of knives, appealing to consumers with different budgets.


Both steels have remarkable characteristics in the M390 vs. S35VN matchup, making them popular selections for premium knives. Understanding the differences between these steels may help you make an informed selection based on your unique needs and preferences, whether you value edge retention, corrosion resistance, toughness, or ease of sharpening. Finally, M390 and S35VN are the pinnacles of knife steel technology, providing discriminating users with cutting-edge performance and durability.

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