Should I Choose 3cr13 Steel Over Others For Knife

Peter Stec
July 29, 2021
3cr13 Steel Review

If you’ve been on the lookout for a durable and high-quality knife, you’ll likely come across 3cr13 steel knives. 3cr13 steel is so commonly used because it’s perfect for various applications. But you don’t just want a ‘good’ knife, you want the perfect blend of toughness, hardness, and other features that will serve multi-purposes and last you a long time. 

Real knife enthusiasts know that a knife is only as good as the stainless steel used while making it. That’s why we’re going to dive deep into all the different properties of the Chinese martensitic steel, 3cr13 so we can know for sure if it’s a worthy contender as a knife material. We’ll even compare it to some of the other popular choices for steel knives, 8Cr13MoV, 5cr15 and 1055 carbon. 

What is 3cr13 Stainless Steel?

As you might have guessed, 3cr13 stainless steel is a type of steel that is used in the production of different kinds of knives. The 3cr13 is a martensitic steel, which refers to an extremely strong crystalline structure.

The 3cr13 is a Chinese steel and is usually produced in China, and its most common usage is for the production of knives. It is a budget or low-end material and holds up really well for a long period of time thanks to its corrosion resistance. 

This 3cr13 steel undergoes two phases of heat treatment. The first phase is quenching. This is when the 3cr13 is heated and then cooled in either oil or water to increase its strength and hardness.

The second phase of heat treatment that the 3cr13 undergoes is tempering. This involves another round of heating and cooling but without liquids and ensures that the metal is less brittle and stronger from the inside. 

Knife makers opt for 3cr13 since it’s so affordable while also delivering a high-quality experience. Of course, you can’t compare it to some of the other premium stainless steels out there, but you get a great knife for the price with 3cr13 stainless steel. 

What is the 3cr13 Composition?

Like other stainless steels, 3cr13 is an alloy of other metals. Understanding the percentage, blend, and composition of the stainless steel plays an important role in the performance of knives made from it. 

While the main two components of 3cr13 steel are Carbon and Chromium, the other substances are what sets it apart from the rest. 

  1. Chromium 13% – You may know Chromium as the component that’s directly responsible for corrosion resistance. In fact, many kitchen utensils that are ‘non-stick’ have a chromium coating. However, chromium plays an even greater role. When a high amount of chromium is used in the stainless steel blend (13%), it fortifies and provides a lot of strength. 
  2. Carbon 0.35% – Of course, Carbon has to be part of the stainless steel. The carbon here contributes to edge retention. 
  3. Nickel 0.7% – Nickel adds to the strength as well as the toughness of the stainless steel. 
  4. Manganese 1% – An essential metal, manganese plays a role in the brittleness and overall hardness of the steel. 
  5. Silicon 1% – You might not think of silicon as a necessary component for stainless steel, but it actually contributes greatly to 3cr13 steel. It does this by improving the corrosion resistance, particularly if the knife ever comes in contact with sulphuric acid. 
  6. Phosphorus 0.04% – Phosphorus helps in the machinability of 3cr13 steel, making it easier to cut and shape into the perfect knife. 
  7. Sulfur 0.03% – Just like phosphorus, sulfur also contributes towards the machinability of 3cr13 steel, improving the knife shaping process. 

3cr13 Stainless Steel Properties

Let’s take an in-depth analysis of the 3cr13 stainless steel properties:

3cr13 Hardness

You’ll find that most 3cr13 stainless steels range from 52 to 54 HRC. As far as stainless steel goes, this is a moderate hardness that’s more than enough for knives.

You can make a sturdy knife out of 3cr13 and it will hold up in most applications well. Since the 3cr13 stainless steel isn’t loaded with too much carbon, it’s not so hard that it veers on brittle. 

The hardness of the 3cr13 is just enough for your knife to last for a long time for regular applications: such as a kitchen knife or a pocket knife. However, if you want a knife that can truly stand up to any challenge: you might want to specifically search for a knife made out of stainless steel that has greater hardness (more than 54 HRC and a higher percentage of carbon composition). 

3cr13 Toughness

The less hard a knife is, the tougher it is. One of the great things about having a 3cr13 knife is that the hardness is only moderate, which means that it’s significantly tougher than other materials. The toughness of this knife means that it won’t break or chip in any situation. That’s a pretty good deal for 3cr13, considering how affordable it is. 

3cr13 Edge Retention

Here’s where 3cr13 doesn’t shine the brightest: the edge retention of knives made out of 3cr13 is not the best. Once you sharpen the edge, it stays sharp and performs really well, but not for extended periods of time. If you’re planning to get the 3cr13 knife, be prepared to commit to sharpening it every once in a while.


However, it’s not too much of an inconvenience, and you’ll usually only find high-end knives with great edge retention.  

3cr13 Corrosion Resistance

One of the things that the 3cr13 does exceptionally well is corrosion resistance. Thanks to the very high amounts of chromium in the composition of 3cr13, you’ll probably never see so much as a hint of rust on your knives. This is definitely useful and extends the life of your knife by a great deal. 

How Does 3cr13 Compare to Other Steels? 

You can only know if the 3cr13 is a worthy contender if you’ve seen what other stainless steels have to offer. We’re going to compare the 3cr13 stainless steel against the other popular choices for knives in the market to see where it shines or falls short. 

3cr13 Vs. 8Cr13MoV

Properties:3cr138cr13MoV
Edge Retention3/101/10
Ease of Sharpening7/108/10
Corrosion Resistance6/106/10
Toughness 6/106/10
Hardness4/104/10
3cr13 Vs 8Cr13MoV

As we can see from the comparison table, 3cr13 and 8Cr13MoV are quite similar in their properties. 8cr13MoV has worse edge retention than the 3cr13 knives but makes up for it in easier sharpening. 

3Cr13 vs 5cr15

Properties3cr135cr15
Edge Retention3/103/10
Ease of Sharpening7/107/10
Corrosion Resistance6/108/10
Toughness 6/105/10
Hardness4/104/10
3cr13 vs 5cr15

The 3cr13 and 5cr15 have similar properties in terms of their edge retention and ease of sharpening. However, the 5cr15 outperforms the 3cr13 in corrosion resistance, while you get better toughness from the 3cr13. 

3cr13 steel vs 1055 carbon

Properties3cr131055 carbon
Edge Retention3/106/10
Ease of Sharpening7/106/10
Corrosion Resistance6/101/10
Toughness 6/106/10
Hardness4/107/10
3cr13 steel vs 1055 carbon

The 1055 carbon has much better edge retention and hardness than the 3cr13 steel. Although both are budget stainless steel materials, you’ll get better hardness without brittleness from the 1055 carbon. However, the 3cr13 still provides better corrosion resistance than the 3cr13. 

Is 3cr13 Steel Good for Knives? 

Looking at the properties, composition, and price of 3cr13, it’s easy to deduce that it makes the perfect budget stainless steel for knives that are pocket-friendly and durable for a large variety of applications.

A knife made out of 3cr13 is easy to sharpen, and high on toughness and corrosion resistance, which means that it will be by your side for a long time.

3cr13 Equivalent Stainless Steel

If you can’t source 3cr13 stainless steel, it’s recommended that you opt for 8cr13MoV since it’s the most similar to 3cr13 in terms of properties and capabilities. They are both budget stainless steels that have high quality and will last you a long time. The only difference is that you don’t get as good edge retention with the 8cr13MoV, but it makes up for it in ease of sharpening.

Best 3cr13 Stainless Steel Knives in the Market

It’s clear to see that the Chinese steel 3cr13 stainless steel is high quality and perfect for someone looking for a budget steel knife.

However, you can’t depend on the material alone! An important factor to understand whether a knife is good or not is its build and cut. The geometrical design of the knife will also play a role in how effective it is and how well it performs in different situations. 

We’ve pulled together the best stainless steel knives in the market for a large variety of applications for you to purchase! Since all these knives are budget knives, you won’t have to worry about burning a hole in your pocket. 

TAC-FORCE TF606WS Engraved Personalized Pocket Knife

TAC-FORCE TF606WS Engraved Personalized Pocket Knife

3cr13 stainless steel is perfect for pocket knives since they’re affordable in a budget range but also have high toughness for any situation. This EDC knife has a wooden handle and allows you to send customized engraving messages. That means you can engrave your loved one’s initials on the pocket knife if you plan to gift it to them as a gift. 

There’s nothing more personal than a pocket knife for your outdoorsy friend, and it could save them in any kind of situation. 

The knife itself is quite small and can fit easily in a pocket. It’s 4.5 inches when folded and also reasonably lightweight at 5 ounces. 

With its drop point shape, you can easily sharpen this knife and also enjoy its corrosion-resistant features. You’ll also get a rope cutter, can opener, and glass breaker with this tool. 

Mossy Oak 14-inch Bowie Knife

Mossy Oak 14-inch Bowie Knife

3cr13 steel isn’t just suited for pocket knives. You can also make a great Bowie knife and enjoy high performance. This knife has a stunning design, 8.5 inches long with a clip point design. Even though 3cr13 doesn’t have the best edge retention, the design of the Bowie knife is such that it stays sharp for a longer time. 

With full-tang construction and an attractive ergonomic wood handle, this Oak Bowie Knife is a thing to behold. It has increased reliability and is very durable. Our favorite aspect of the Bowie Knife is the leather sheath included. Most budget knives do not come with an included leather sheath, but this one does. It sure looks great to have a 14 inch Bowie Knife in a sheath on your belt!

KUMA Multi-Purpose Chef Knife

KUMA Multi-Purpose Chef Knife

If you can’t help but think that the properties of 3cr13 would make it an excellent choice for Chef Knives, you’re absolutely right. 3cr13 has the perfect blend of hardness and toughness while also being corrosion resistant which makes it a Chef’s trustworthy partner. The slightly low edge retention isn’t an issue with the Chef knife as well, since regular sharpening of knives is recommended no matter which steel was used when you’re in the kitchen! 

The thin blade fashioned in Japanese-inspired design doesn’t just look great, but also works really well for chopping vegetables and carefully carving meats and seafood. The slightly beveled blade and bolster handle make this Chef’s knife safe as well, reducing the chances of kitchen accidents.

Conclusion

It’s clear the 3cr13 is one of the best stainless steel materials in the budget category for knives. Pocket, camping and kitchen knives made out of 3cr13 perform well and last a really long time.

The corrosion resistance makes life much easier, and as long as you’re prepared to sharpen it once in a while: you should have no cause for complaint with 3cr13 knives. It’s a great gift to give someone who is just starting out on their knife-loving journey. 

We hope that you were able to choose the perfect 3cr13 knife for you from our carefully curated list. Good luck!

About The Author
Hey Knife Up gang! I'm Pete, and I'm just another man like you in a small rural town who loves the outdoors as much as the other million internet users that cruise sites like KnifeUp.com every day. The difference is that I like to share what I know and research what I don't totally know so that YOU can have all the info you need to feel confident and prepared for all things outdoors-related! And, for those who care, I have 42 years of wilderness canoeing and bushcraft experience in Northern Ontario and spend most of my Summers covered in mosquitos and fish slime, but hey, it's a lifestyle choice, eh?

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