How Good is N680 Steel?

Peter Stec
January 24, 2013
knife steel

Knives are made out of many different types of metal for a variety of different reasons. Böhler N680 steel is a fairly cheap type of steel but it also has some really good qualities about it. For example, this type of steel is very corrosion-resistant. The tradeoff, however, is that it does not hold an edge as well as some of the other more expensive steels on the market.

Who Would Like this Steel?

Still, for people who are not looking to spend a lot of money, want a knife that will not corrode easily, then this just may be the best choice. It does not take a lot of work to sharpen a blade, and if a person is out to save money, N680 steel is very well priced. It is not cheap but only a little more expensive than 420 or 440 steel.

N680 steel performs a little better than 420 steel, a common steel used to make many mass-marketed knives. It keeps an edge better than 420 as well as resists corrosion better. (See how mass marketed balisongs suck).

In terms of corrosion resistance, N680 is high but not as high as titanium knives or ceramic knives who are almost impossible to rust. If you are looking for a dive knife, check out titanium knives. They run about $50.

How N680 Steel Resists Corrosion

During smelting, N680 is infused with nitrogen, an elemental gas. The nitrogen interacts with the chromium inside the steel to give the chromium “more space to work with” so to speak. This allows the chromium to better defend the iron from reacting with oxygen. If iron reacts with oxygen, rust forms.

Composition

  • 0.40% Cobalt
  • 1.10% Manganese
  • 0.21% Molybdenum
  • 0.09% Vanadium
  • 0.54% Carbon
  • 17.30% Chromium

Other Features of N680

  • It contains 0.40% Cobalt. Cobalt is an expensive metal and, when added to steel, increases the steel’s hardness. This makes knives that are slow to dull.
  • N680 also contains .09% Vanadium. Vanadium is used to give the metal a nice grain when it is forming. The grain gives the metal more flexibility and chip resistance. Unlike pure carbon steels, carbon steels with vanadium are less likely to break.
  • N680 is used in some top of the line Spyderco knives because of its features and price point.

Favorites Using N680

Things to Keep in Mind

There are a lot of other considerations to keep in mind when looking for the right knife to purchase. However; the right type of steel is one of the most important factors. Also, a person should think about the craftsmanship of the handle and other parts. Just as almost anything a person buys knives also has their select manufacturers who are well known for quality products. This does not mean that Gerber is the only knife company you should trust because there are many other knife manufacturers who put out exceptional products, and some who are not known who put out better products than do companies such as Gerber.

Just keep in mind that only a certain amount of the money you spend goes towards the materials of which the knife is made. (See our machete guide). Other than that you are paying for the name or retailer expenses. Know your product, and buy what you are after. (This $30 folding knife outperforms $200 knives).

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?

3 comments on “How Good is N680 Steel?”

  1. Well, it all depends to what you compare. 440C is a nice steel for an industrial knives. The N680 performs in the same area in terms of cutting power and edge holding. It is way better for corrosion resistance. This one of the best choices for wet environnements in it range. Price stays however higher than 440C.

  2. Author seems confused, and I would look elsewhere for reviews considering this.
    One, this steel does not contain 20% Nitrogen….that is simply ridiculous, the few steels used for knives that have Nitrogen have a rough range of 0.1% to 0.5%. Significantly less than 1%. Not sure where 20% is coming from, maybe they meant 0.2%? Either way, information on how much Nitrogen is in this steel is hard to come by.
    Two, N680 does not have 1.5% Cobalt, in fact it has no Cobalt in it. N690 (note the “9”) does have Cobalt in the range of 1.5%, but N680 does not.
    Three, since it is made by Bohler-Uddenholm, it is a nicely made steel unlike the vast majority of 420 and 440 steels, and it is also rarer. Thus, it is not a cheap steel and much more expensive than 420 and 440 steels.
    Four, as far as I am aware, N680 has never been used in a Spyderco. N690 (again, note the “9”) has been used in some Spyderco knives however.

    It is very clear this “review” is confused as to what is being reviewed. N680 is a knife designed to be very corrosion resistant, while having better edge retention than similarly corrosion resistant steels like 420J2. It is a great choice if corrosion is a big concern, but you still want mid level cutting ability (AUS-8 level roughly). N690 is the Bohler-Uddenholm equivalent to VG-10, but I would argue is just a little bit better (but not enough to remove the comparison).

    Poor review in all honesty.

  3. N680 does not contain 20% nitrogen. I hope this is a typo…it’s not even remotely possible to achieve 20% nitrogen in steel.

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