CTS 204p Stainless Steel: Is It Good for Knives?

Peter Stec
September 27, 2021
CTS 204p Stainless Steel

CTS 204p is one of the best steels in the market for premium high-end knives. It’s earned itself the reputation as a premium knife steel thanks to its incredible wear resistance. CTS 204p steel also has exceptional corrosion resistance as well as a number of other properties. 

In this article, we’re going to dive deep into everything you’d want to know about CTS 204p steel. We’ll cover how it’s made, the heat treatment, the composition and even the best CTS 204p steel knives in the market. 

So if you want a high-end knife made from nothing but the best corrosion resistant stainless steel in the market, read on. 

What is CTS 204p Steel? 

CTS 204p Steel is a high-quality, high-end premium powder stainless steel. This premium steel is produced by Bohler-Uddeholm and has rose to fame thanks to its homogenously fine carbide and fine-grain distributed structure. It uses the Carpenter Metallurgy process, and has really high corrosion resistance and wear resistance. 

A knife made from CTS 204p is unique in that it offers incredible corrosion resistance as a premium stainless steel would, but can also deliver the kind of hardness and edge retention that you can expect from a high-carbon alloy steel. 


CTS 204p has high levels of vanadium and other alloying agents and is considered a high-alloy steel. That’s why it can seemingly provide everything you would want in a steel. 

According to the grinding and heat treatment, CTS 204p steel provides great hardness and toughness as well as wear resistance that make it the perfect knife steel. 

Apart from being used for special high-end knives, CTS 204p is also used for small industrial processing equipment and for food-safe applications. It reduces tooling requirements and is also very easily polished. 

What is the Heat Treatment of CTS 204p Steel? 

CTS 204p steel undergoes a few different heat processes for its capabilities to shine through. These are the heat processes as published by Bohler-Uddeholm through their powder metallurgy technique. 

Soft Annealing

The first process that CTS 204p Steel undergoes is Soft Annealing. There are a few reasons why steel is annealed — it becomes softer and easier to work with, less brittle and also becomes tougher with more internal strength. Soft annealing makes the atoms of the steel migrate all the way to the crystal lattice. This reduces the chance and percentage of dislocation in the steel for higher performance. 

Under proper protection, CTS 204p steel is heated up to 400°F (222°C), held in that heat for 4 hours, and then cooled down in a controlled setting to about 30°C. 

CTS 204p has to carefully soft annealed, otherwise it can over carburize. 

Stress-Relieving

After machining, the steel could have developed unwanted internal stressors. CTS 204p steel is not impervious to this, and the stress-relieving process is an extremely important stage of the heat process. This is done by heating up the steel to 649/704°C (1200/1300°F) and holding it at that heat for about two hours, before reducing the heat and cooling it to 427°C (800°F) and then letting it cool at room temperature. 

Hardening

Both processes of soft annealing and stress-relieving can reduce the hardness of CTS 204p steel. That’s why it’s also important to go through heat processes specifically meant for increasing the hardness of the steel. Whenever you refer to hardening for steel, it’s more often than not the austentizing process that is being referred to. CTS 204p steel is no exception, and goes through austentizing in order for it to get hard enough for any adversary. 

Before austentizing, CTS 204p steel needs to be rapidly preheated at 760/788°C (1400/1450°F) after which the austentizing happens at a temperature range from 1050–1100°C (1920–

2010°F). Then soak at the austentizing temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour before going to the quenching process.

Tempering

Tempering increases the strength of the steel while reducing brittleness. The entire process involves heating up the steel to a point that’s just below the melting point, and then cooling it rapidly. The higher the temperature of tempering, the more that the toughness of the steel will be increased to. 

The recommended temperature range for the tempering of CTS 204p steel is 204-309°C (400-750°F) with a holding time of 2 hours. If CTS 204p steel is tempered at a higher temperature and held for longer than 2 hours (up to 10 hours), then it can be much tougher at the cost of hardness. 

Quenching

Finally, CTS 204p Steel must undergo quenching. Quenching is a process of heating up the steel to a certain temperature and then rapidly cooling it in a liquid. Many steels either require water or oil or saline water.

CTS 204p steel needs to be quenched in warm oil or neutral salt. It should be heated up to 222–586°C (400–1020°F), and then cooled down in brine or saline water. If heated in a vacuum furnace, the intert pressurized gas must be 4 bars at minimum. 

What is the Composition of CTS 204p Steel? 

This interesting steel has lots of unique capabilities — it’s hard and tough like a high-carbon alloy, while also being very corrosion resistant like a regular stainless steel. The best of both worlds feature can only be attributed to the the composition of various elements in CTS 204p Steel. 

Understanding the elements that go together to make CTS 204p steel will help you have a better idea of why it performs the way it does. Let’s get into the composition of CTS 204p Steel. 

  • Carbon 1.9% – The moderate amounts of carbon in CTS 204p Steel steel contribute towards hardness, but not to a great extent. For carbon to be a major contributor of hardness, it would need to be of a higher percentage in CTS 204p Steel steel. However, it does contribute a lot to the edge retention properties of the CTS 204p Steel steel. CTS 204p steel gets most of its hardness due to the other alloys that are present. 
  • Chromium 20% – 20% of Chromium is an extremely high amount for CTS 204p Steel to have. That’s why it has such great corrosion resistance — Chromium is mostly responsible for corrosion resistance when it comes to stainless steel. A little known fact is that Chromium also contributes greatly to the hardness of the steel. Chromium is actually the second hardest metal in the world. 
  • Molybdenum 1% – Most steels generally have a very small fraction of Molybdenum content, but CTS 204p Steel has a much higher Molybdenum content. The Molybdenum content is significant enough for CTS 204p Steel to be called a Molybdenum steel. Molybdenum contributes greatly towards the toughness of the steel. A lot of the inner strength and flexibility of CTS 204p Steel can be attributed to the high Molybdenum quantity. 
  • Manganese 0.35% –  Manganese is a common alloy that is added to most steels. That’s because Manganese immediately improves the hardness of the steel and adds a good dose of brittleness. We tend to think that brittleness is undesirable, but this isn’t the case. Brittleness actually contributes to edge retention, helping the knife stay sharper for a longer time. 
  • Silicon 0.6% –  Silicon is another common and important alloying agent. This helps greatly in the deoxidizing of steel during the heat process (particularly the smelting process). 
  • Vanadium 4% – Vanadium and Molybdenum go hand in hand in most alloys (Remember the MoV line in budget stainless steels?) and that’s because they both contribute to hardness perfectly. Vanadium is a really important addition to CTS 204p steel, especially in the quantity 4%. The high amount of Vanadium and Molybdenum is what gives CTS 204p steel so much hardness that it mimics a high-carbon steel
  • Tungsten 0.65% – Tungsten improves the wear resistance of a steel, making it much stronger and resilient.

How Hard is CTS 204p Steel? 

CTS 204p Steel usually has a hardness of 62-63HRC in the Rockwell Hardness Scale although it can go up to 65 HRC as well. The hardness of CTS 204p steel depends on the tempering and quenching heat processes. Coupled with great edge retention, solid toughness and CTS 204p Steel has enough hardness to deal with any object. 

62-63 is high in hardness for a knife steel. 

Is CTS 204p Steel Good for Knives? 

Yes, CTS 204p is good for knives. This premium high-end steel is perfect for knives thanks to its exceptional corrosion resistance, wear resistance, toughness and hardness. A kitchen knife or outdoor knife made from CTS 204p will perform well and last for a really long time.

What are the Properties of CTS 204p Steel? 

Here are all the properties and capabilities of the CTS 204p Steel, according to its hardness, toughness, edge retention, ease of sharpening and corrosion resistance. 

CTS 204p Hardness

CTS 204p Steel has really high hardness. At 63HRC, CTS 204p Steel is extremely hard for regular kitchen requirements. You would need to take extra care of your cutting board to enure the knife doesn’t damage it!

For an outdoor or survival knife, 63 HRC is also sufficient for all applications, hunting and cutting wood. 

CTS 204p Toughness

After looking at CTS 204p’s hardness, you might assume that it’s quite low on toughness. This would be true with other steels, but in the case of CTS 204p it’s the opposite. CTS 204p actually has great toughness as well and works really well in outdoor settings, especially when used to make survival knives or pocket knives. You can use this for hunting or building shelter in the wild. 

CTS 204p Edge Retention

CTS 204p has decent edge retention thanks to the carbon content. Even though the carbon content of CTS 204p isn’t enough for hardness (without alloying elements), it is more than enough for great edge retention. You won’t have to sharpen a CTS 204p knife too often, and it stays ultra sharp for a long time, even through consistent use. 

This makes it perfect as an outdoor knife where you may not have the time or tools to sharpen your knfie.

CTS 204p Ease of Sharpening

CTS 204p has an HRC of 62/63, and only naturally suffers in the ease of sharpening area. Hard steels are always difficult to sharpen, and CTS 204p is no exception. However, CTS 204p does have great edge retention, which means that you will very rarely have to sharpen your knife. 

Even though it takes extra effort, once you bring CTS 204p to an ultra sharp edge, it will take a lot of usage for that sharp edge to dull. You might have to sharpen only the tip at times, but overall, the difficulty of sharpening is not a dealbreaker. The task is also simplified with the use of better tools.

CTS 204p Corrosion Resistance

CTS 204p has 20% Chromium. When a steel has more than 10% Chromium it is considered to be a stainless steel, and CTS 204p has nearly double that amount. You can be sure that your knife made out of CTS 204p will never rust and form any kind of corrosion. It will stay exactly like it is for the rest of its lifespan as long as you take basic care of it. 

CTS 204p is not a very fussy knife, but we still don’t recpmmend leaving it in water, or excessively moist areas since there is a chance some rust can form in these extreme conditions. Always keep your knife clean and dry.

CTS 204p Wear Resistance

CTS 204p is unique in its high wear resistance. This is why it makes such a good outdoor knife. It’s very difficult to deform or damage a knife made out of CTS 204p steel. This knife steel can really stand up to any challenge when you take it out into the wild.

CTS 204p Stainless Steel | Is CTS 204p Steel a Stainless Steel? 

Yes, CTS 204p is a stainless steel. Knives are considered to be stainless steels when they have more than 10% Chromium in them. CTS 204p has 20% Chromium which is double the amount, and is definitely great at corrosion resistance. You won’t struggle with rust and corrosion with your knife made out of CTS 204p . 

CTS 204p is used for lots of food-grade applicatiosn and equipment since it is a stainless steel and is not prone to rust.

How does CTS 204p Steel Compare to Other Stainless Steels? 

Everything sounds great in isolation, right? We know that CTS 204p Steel has great hardness, toughness, edge retention and corrosion resistance. Let’s see how CTS 204p Steel performs in these very same areas when compared to the other popular choices for stainless steels in the market. 

CTS 204p Steel vs. 8cr13mov 

CTS 204p Steel vs. 8cr13mov steel comparison chart
PropertiesCTS 204p Steel8cr13mov
Edge Retention8/101/10
Ease of Sharpening5/108/10
Corrosion Resistance9/106/10
Toughness 7/106/10
Hardness8/104/10

Even though 8cr13mov and CTS 204p Steel are both stainless steels, they have very different properties. CTS 204p Steel far outperforms 8cr13mov in terms of edge retention and toughness and corrosion resistance.

CTS 204p Steel vs. Elmax Steel

CTS 204p Steel vs. Elmax Steel comparison chart
PropertiesCTS 204p SteelElmax Steel
Edge Retention8/107/10
Ease of Sharpening5/104/10
Corrosion Resistance9/1010/10
Toughness 7/1010/10
Hardness8/107/10

CTS 204p Steel and Elmax Steel have similar capabilities and properties, and both are premium high-end stainless steels. Choose CTS 204p if you want better hardness and edge retention.

CTS 204p Steel vs. 440c

CTS 204p Steel vs. Elmax Steel comparison chart
PropertiesCTS 204p Steel440C
Edge Retention8/107/10
Ease of Sharpening5/103/10
Corrosion Resistance9/109/10
Toughness 7/104/10
Hardness8/106/10

The CTS 204p Steel and 440c have some similarities, and they have equal corrosion resistance. However, CTS 204p is higher in toughness and hardness both. 

Conclusion

CTS 204p Steel is a great choice for someone looking for a reliable and durable high-end stainless steel knife. It will last you years and is very low-maintainence. Let us know your experience with CTS 204p Steels in the comments below. 

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?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search This Site:

KnifeUp was founded in 2010. Today, KnifeUp is the home to knife experts who provide clear, unbiased, practical advice on buying and maintaining knives to make your life easier.

Whether you’re looking to buy a knife, sharpen it or understand the knife laws, KnifeUp’s 11-year strong library of over 300 pieces of professionally researched content will answer your questions with straightforward answers.

BEST LAW ARTICLES
"I've been looking for knife law guides for a while and your articles are amazing. I haven't found such clear law advice anywhere else. I'm really happy I found KnifeUp."
Chuck N
GREAT GEAR REVIEWS
"KnifeUp's series of knife reviews was really helpful. I found a great knife that did exactly what I wanted to do thanks to them. They also helped me save $30! I love KnifeUp."
Kyle S
YOUR RIGHTS ADVOCATE
"I'm relieved that there is someone out there protecting me and my rights. When something threatens my rights, KnifeUp is the first to inform me."
Justin M
KnifeUp.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fee by advertising and linking to Amazon

© 2021 KnifeUp. All Rights Reserved. Sitemap