Knives are made out of many different types of metal for a variety of different reasons. 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 contains about 20% nitrogen, so it is very corrosive 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 N680 Steel is Right For
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 are 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.
Other Features of N680
- It contains 1.5% 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 .1% 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.
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).