The N690 Cobalt Stainless Steel is made in Austria by a company known for making steel that can be made into sharp knives and surgical instruments. This steel is very similar to 440C steel, and it has 1.07% carbon content. N440C steel has a carbon content ranging from .95 – 1.07 percent. The N690 is a high-end stainless steel with an alloy that is common in many good knives. It is a durable knife steel that is wear-resistant. It is also a very hard steel.
This steel contains the important martensitic chromium steel with cobalt, molybdenum, and vanadium. This steel can be hardened to a very desirable hardness level. The surface finish is finely ground or polished.
N690 is sometimes compared to 440C steel. Many knifemakers do not believe that 440C is the best steel for comparison to the N690. The 440C steel is high-chromium stainless steel. Knives made of 440C steel are easy to resharpen, and it is an excellent steel for its price and performance. (See the top 3 dive knives).
The N690 is a good steel and it is very similar to the VG10 from. One prominent knife maker gave the steel a variety of knife makers’ tests. The results were good. They now have access to large sheets. Knife makers consider the VG10 from Japan to be better steel for comparison than the 440C. Its overall performance and ability to hold an edge is superior. (Read our machete review).
The N690 grade of steel is produced by a small Austrian steel plant that also provides steel for surgical instruments. The Austrian Bohler Company says that the N690 can be made into hardened cutting tools with excellent edge-holding property, such as knife blades. (See how Balisong Knives are rated).
The Spyderco Urban Lightweight folder is our hands-down favorite using N690 steel. The unique thing about this knife is that it is one of a few on the market that DO NOT LOCK open! Why would you want that? Well, as knife laws (especially in population centers) continues to tighten, knives that lock open are often seen as more “aggressive” or dangerous, while non-locking knives are still permissible.
The great looks of this knife are very “spydero-ish” with that leaf-shaped blade and textured FRN handle. It has a plain edge with a full flat grind and lots of jimping for your thumb and index finger. There’s a reversible tip-up carry clip.
The N690 steel is so good for making knives that one prominent knife manufacturer uses only N690 steel. This steel has the right carbon content and the right cobalt content. An Austrian steel manufacturer, who is the current source for N690, is considered to be a worldwide leader in their production of N690 steel. Their steel composition is as follows: carbon 1.07%, chromium 17%, cobalt 1.5%, manganese .40%, molybdenum 1.10%, silicon .40% and vanadium .10%. The key to the hardness of N690 is the addition of cobalt in the steel matrix. The cobalt creates uniformity in the structure within the steel. The value of cobalt in a knife blade is it produces a fine edge with excellent edge retention.
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