D2 vs. CPM S30V Steel: Which is Better for Knives?

10 Best Utility Knives Video
10 Best Utility Knives Video

Both D2 and CPM S30V steel are good choices for knife blades. Each offers some level of corrosion resistance because of high levels of Chromium used in the making of both. If you are debating between one or the other, you choice will probably depend on cost constraints.

How Different are the Two?

D2 steel is less costly than S30V and doesn’t have quite the hardness or toughness of the latter. However, it doesn’t lag by much in those categories. S30V is also considered true stainless steel; D2 only has enough Chromium to be “semi-stainless.”

If money is no object, then you should definitely go with the more expensive one. A number of knife makers say that there isn’t a better blade steel for sale. That would make sense as S30V was developed by a knife craftsman.

On the other hand, if money is a limiting concern, D2 makes a very good blade. Its Chromium content is in the 11% to 13% range, which puts it just a hair under the firm limit of 13% needed to be considered truly stainless.

Separating Qualities

Both steels are tough on grinders, but S30V is noticeably more difficult. Remember, when the steel is hard to grind, that means it will hold up exceptionally well in daily usage. Again, both are good choices, but S30V carries the premium price tag.

For example, if you are going to make a knife that’s going to be the ultimate survival tool, it would be wise to make it from the more expensive product. In extreme situations like that, your life may depend on it. The toughness, corrosion resistance, and edge-holding ability of S30V could make the difference between life or death.

Read our guide to finding the best machete.

In a situation like that, the extra cost is justified. Yet, if you are making a folding knife that’s more of an everyday utility tool, D2 steel will be more than serviceable. S30V would make a marginally better blade, yet you may wish to put the extra money into handle coverings or some other decorative inlay.

D2 vs. CPM S30V Conclusion

In conclusion, picking the right steel comes down to cost and corrosion resistance. Need a blade that is almost guaranteed never to rust? Then use S30V steel. What if you are creating a handful of more ordinary knives? D2 steel will do the job and do it well. In the end, weigh the pros and cons against your budget and objectives for the knife. Only then will you be able to make the right choice. D2 is often used by the Benchmade company in butterfly knives. (Read about the $30 folding knife that will outlast any $100+ knife).

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26 thoughts on “D2 vs. CPM S30V Steel: Which is Better for Knives?”

  1. I have had s30v rust wat faster then cpmd2 ‘the s30v rusted on the unpolished top of the spine.I would taje d2 over any steel on a knife it just seems to be made for it.imo stainless is for people who dont take care of there tools.if I had to take a stainless I should user s35vn.but ifyou’re maker masters d2 then that is the blade I will take

    • I have both D2 and S30V. I take care of my knives, but they get hard use, outdoors. Never seen either rust. The only way that happens is when they are not cleaned or left wet for awhile. Otherwise that should never happen.

  2. The sharpest knife in my collection has cheap steel, but it’s the easiest knife to sharpen…
    I’ve picked D2 over S30V for this reason.

  3. So, Patric has a rusty blade, but believes stainless is only for people who don’t take care of their blades?…I have several D2 and several S30V blades. Though neither are true stainless, no rust has ever presented on either. If blade care is an issue I don’t recommend either steel. Sharpening is an event and takes time. That said, both steels are great for knife blades, tuff and will hold an edge. If you don’t have the time to spare get a stainless blade of softer steel. If a pure edge is your thing get a high carbon steel blade, expect to sharpen often, but the edge will be like a laser, but some rust may present if not oiled and/or stored properly. It’s a matter of preference IMO. I like to “geek” on my blades and get them shaving sharp, no matter the steel.

  4. So, Patric has a rusty blade, but believes stainless is only for people who don’t take care of their blades?…I have several D2 and several S30V blades. Though neither are true stainless, no rust has ever presented on either. If blade care is an issue I don’t recommend either steel. Sharpening is an event and takes time. That said, both steels are great for knife blades, tuff and will hold an edge. If you don’t have the time to spare get a stainless blade of softer steel. If a pure edge is your thing get a high carbon steel blade, expect to sharpen often, but the edge will be like a laser and some rust may present if not oiled and/or stored properly. It’s a matter of preference IMO. I like to “geek” on my blades and get them shaving sharp, no matter the steel.

  5. I don’t really have a preference. Simply put, I take good care of my tools. My Sliver Stag is made of D2. Handles fine, over the years passing. Keeps a good polish, a little work to sharpen. But I see that as a good quality. Excellent blade.

  6. S30V is nice, but man it’s a beast to sharpen compared to other steels. Luckily it holds an edge for a good bit under normal usage. I am fond of 420HC. It’ll take a razor edge, and it’s easily brought back to hair popping status after heavy usage. I’m about to pick up my first D2 (DPX), so we’ll see how it compares.

  7. SV30 steel is the first stainless I actually like- takes a good edge and holds it better than other stainless blades I have used. I carry a Spyderco as my EDC. Truth is, I have carried a Victorinox Swiss Army for years and it takes and holds a good edge too but Ive never seen any larger knives of this steel.

  8. Obviously this author doesn’t use knives everyday… D2 is my choice and in my opinion superior in performance. Just because it costs more, doesn’t make it better.

  9. I have had both.. S30V is definately a better steel, harder for sure, and probably harder to sharpen.. However, I have professionals sharpen my knives & that doesn’t matter. It’s good to have choices, and I will lean to quality & durability over low price everytime.

  10. Interesting, I was a chef for many years when much younger. Therefore I used knives of different shapes and sizes every day. Different compounds too. But stainless was hard to sharpen and soon lost its edge. Carbon steel, on the other hand was a mild steel, easy to sharpen and retained an edge. Even today I still have a huge cooking knife collection and if I want a sharp knife to get the job done fast and effortless I use a mild carbon steel knife. Yes they will rust in minutes if washed and left wet. To prevent the rust I would rub the blade with a cut of lemon. The acid in lemon made the blade form a film, a black film. Then just wipe off the excess black and the knife will not rust. Just like gun metal blue, but a gun will rust too.

    So, I like pocket knives too, and have quite a few. But some are so much a work of art that I don’t want to damage them. The metal today is more superior for a pocket knife, and they stay sharp with general use. But I also still have a mild steel pocket knife 50 years old and as sharp as any, including D2 and S30V. Let a hard steel knife loose it’s edge and it’s hard to fix.

  11. Knives are not made from mild steel, which has a 0.4% carbon content. They are usually made from tool steel which has a 1.2% carbon content, plus other alloys (tungsten, chromium, vanadium and molybdenum) A mild steel knife would blunt very quickly as does a stainless steel knife as s/s doesn’t hold a cutting edge. The only decent s/s knife is surgical s/s which has different alloys to keep it sharp. don’t buy s/s knives for your kitchen or camping as they blunt quickly, that’s why special forces use high carbon steel or tool steel dip coated to prevent rusting.
    By the way, as an ex engineer, I have to laugh when I hear “carbon steel” ALL STEEL IS CARBON STEEL! Iron + carbon = steel. What they mean is high carbon steel.

  12. Silver Stag Knives, out of Washington, State, uses D2 Steel in their Knives, & I Purchased 3, so far. They are in the $150.00 – 300 + range, but worth every penny. I’m on this site, to know more about these Steel Codes, not to argue, but to learn. I would like see a s30v knife, buy & compare. So far, extremely happy with D2 Steel, but I have an inquiring mind. I also like to spend my money on MADE IN THE USA, or sell it to the citizens of origin!

  13. Best all around Knife you can get is a Kershaw 1050 / Oregon USA /by Kai Japan. It’s my old buddy. it has the Best folding knife handle ever. You could probably find a used one on E-Bay. I know it is the BEST because I have had one for about 5 decades – it is still my favorite Bait Cutter. Lots of use in Saltwater, & with only “Reasonable” care. I don’t know what the Steel or the Brass or the wood handle are. I wash it off with soap & water. 2 drops machine oil & I like a big smooth ceramic stick to sharpen it, I clean the brass infrequently with a sponge fingernail buffer. It holds it’s edge well enough but not great. For the frequent blade touch up’s, I think using the ceramic stick saves on the loss of steel. Never a speck of rust.

    Point: I doubt my favorite, for reasons, 50 year old knife has the hardest or best steel by todays standards. Get one that is well made that fits your hand & won’t flip – take “Reasonable” care – it will last a lifetime.

  14. I own both but I am pretty partial to D2. The main reason being that i can put a razor edge on it. Then instead of dulling with use that razor edge transitions into a micro toothy edge which still cuts amazingly well. Better sometimes depending on the material. I rotate blades out sometimes. But my daily carry 80% of the time is a d2 blade. I put my own edge on it when i bought it a little bit over a year ago and its seen nothing but a strop since then. 4 passes on each side with.5 micron diamond paste and its sharp as when i put that first edge on it. I love d2 steel

  15. I am a knife maker SIMSknives Walterboro S.C. I use O1, and A2 as my go to carbon steels, and in stainless if they want a low cost knife (not a cheap knife) I use the old tried and true 440C but in the high end I like 35VN all the way.

  16. I understand people that like stainless but if I really need a knife that I need to use I’ll take a good high carbon steel like 1095 It will not let you down. when you need to ct some thing it seems to always come through. I spent 26 years in the USMC. I have my Dads K-bar from ww11 and it is still razor sharp my viet nam issue K-Bar is the same way. in short dependable is what i look for so what if it may rust if you don’t take care of it. I take care of my things and that’s why my colt python is still a great gun. my friends constantly say glock glock it always shoots, so does my python and my k-bar always cuts and stays sharp.

  17. my dad made a knife for me out of stellite a type of hard faceing. I used that knife for ten years and I cannot ever remember sharpening or the need for sharpening it. I don’t know what the commercial name is for this steel. do you have any idea what it would be?

    • Maybe D2, it is used à lot in industry. Or ceramic but I think you will notice it.
      There is some better steel than D2 like Z210cw12 with the proper hardening it can be awesome.

  18. I have a love/hate relationship with D2: it’s certainly not a bad blade steel (esp the CPM version), but it is not a premium steel. Maybe at one time it was, but in a world with M390/20CV/204P, Elmax, Nitro V, S90V, XHP, etc., and Magna-Cut on the way, there’s no way to argue that D2 is a top-tier steel. And that’s fine, as long as the price of the knife reflects this mid-tier. For example, Daggerr Knives out of Russia makes some absolutely outstanding knives with D2 blades for <$100, and <$75 in some cases (they look super cool too). Other companies, however, price their D2 knives like they're premium blades. I understand that the titanium body, carbon fiber scales, baby seal skin thumb studs, or whatever other features on the rest of the knife affect the price, but that's exactly my point: if you're going to make a premium knife and charge a premium price for it, then I want the most important part of that knife to be premium as well. And a D2 blade just doesn't cut it, bad pun entirely intended.


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