Home Knife Life N690 Steel Properties

N690 Steel Properties

N690 Steel Properties

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.

How N690 Compares

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).

Manufacturing N690 Steel

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).

Favorite Knife Using Bohler N690

spyderco c127pbk lightweight folding

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.


  1. 20 degrees should be fine, as long as the edge isn’t abused. A 15 degree angle is normally used on stuff like kitchen use knives, some japanese style knives, and other fine use knives.

  2. Boker is the knife maker this article is referring to but won’t name. Higher end Boker knives are some of the best knives made in my humble opinion. My blade for my Titan Defender is made from cannons from WWII though, not N690. My Boker Merlin is N690 and is terrific after 8 years of use.
    I’ve had no issues with either unless you include having to tighten the titanium torx screws on my clip of the Titan.

    • Incorrect. Boker is not exclusively using N690, hence this is not the manufacturer this article is referring to.
      It is very likely they are referring to Extrema Ratio, which is a prominent manufacturer and exclusively uses N690 (apart from titanium for diving blades)

    • Batoning is related to steel and Blade geometry so a thick blade is needed
      I think that high cromium steel are more brittle than low alloy steel but i dont know about N690CO, and i have never seen photograph comparison about carbide diffusion from this and 440c but some american forumer have reported to be similar
      About 440C is more brittle than 440a and 12c27 sandvik and is not used for impact blade

  3. Look at the website of Hillknives. They produce sturdy knives made From N690 steel.
    Find the video page, demonstrating cutting a nail with knife and hammer.

  4. Böhler is the sole producer of N690, Böker has worked with Böhler extensively. Actually, the knife you speak of was designed by a Böker designer in collaboration with Böker. Böker not only makes some of the best knives in the world, they also work with other top companies such as Vox, Böhler, Steiner Eisena, and designers such as Brad Zinkler, Lucas Burnley, Thomas Künzi and Armin Stütz to create some of the most unique and functional knives to hit the market every year. They’re quality and craftsmanship is very tradition, but their design and engineering is always forward thinking and looking to the next breakthrough in what we expect our knives to do, and how long they can do it – at any price range!.. A good friend of mine is a Böker dealer, and Im hooked on them! I don’t think I’ll carry another brand again honestly. The Reps are always cool too. Always willing to show you the latest and greatest, absurdly knowledgeable about the products and different steel types – they know enough to explain why a particular steel was chosen for a knife design and function… He also gave me a 5.11 polo shirt with the Böker Logo, a patch with the logo, two hats, and a Böker plus VG-10 Urban Trapper for $30! (MSRP $128.95)

  5. I have a AGA Campolin ZERO lever lock auto with an N690 blade. Have not sharpened it yet but it came shaving sharp. Seems like a very nice blade on a really nice EDC knife.

  6. I am a contractor interested in a few of these… Do yall give out samples? If so please send to
    David Segen
    1 Hawthorne Lane
    Manhasset, New York 11030

  7. In this description of N390, you have REVERSED the % values for Chromium and Cobalt.

    This should read:

    17.3% Chromium

    1.5% Cobalt

  8. I have 3 knives made with this steel. The gunhammer (tanto tip) from fox knives, the fulcrum c from Extrema Ratio and the Dobermann IV also from Extrema Ratio. The steel is excellent at keeping edge retention, with easy sharpening. It has also excellent resistance against corrosion and as said in the article, with proper heat treatment it could be hardened to 58-60 HRC.

  9. Last year I bought my first Boker hunter knife. It never seemed to dull with heavy use. after about a year, I tried to sharpen it to no avail. It only came out 1/2 sharp! Or should I say Kinda sharp. I took it to the Smoky Mountain knife works near my home in east Tennessee. $2 later, It had it’s original sharpness back!!!! I then went home and ordered another knife exactly like the first one. Boker rocks!!!!!!! Even though its price doubled in a year, it was well worth it!!

  10. If you read this and speak to your Boker dealer friend, as someone who owns maybe three-dozen of their knives–including a bunch of Kalashnikov auto variants, and a collection of exclusive kwaikens that are absolutely beautiful–I have three suggestions for Boker:
    #1. Improve QC. Boker makes high-quality, beautiful pieces, but every so often they let some out the factory door with mechanical defects and/or material flaws. For a company of their caliber, every knife that ends up in the hands of a customer should be perfect.
    #2. Make some high-end variants of the most popular models. Like, well…kwaikens. Or Urban Trappers. VG-10 is good steel, but an Urban Trapper would be a great blade for SG2 steel, and I’d buy a Damasteel damascus kwaiken with a titanium frame in a heartbeat.
    #3. Mid-range balisong. Kershaw just released one for $119, and it’s the best sub-$200 bali on the market by a mile. There’s a huge demand for well-built, $125-200 balis–Boker should jump on that.

  11. Ontario Knife Company was building some nice XM-3.

    This is what sold me on the knife.
    “This is an XM-3 “Utility” Tactical Automatic Folding-Blade Pocket Knife, made by Ontario Knife Company in U.S.A. FEATURES INCLUDE: Fine-Edge Bohler N690 Stainless-Steel Drop-Point Blade with Non-Glare Black Finish and a Steel-Frame Aluminum Handle with Black G10 Scales, Stainless-Steel Pivot-Point & Round Semi-Recessed Release Button with a strong Coil-type Kickspring, a “Tip-Up” Belt/Pocket Clip and a Spine Safety Switch. Blade is “sterile” which means no markings, as it was intended for minimum glare in a tactical environment. SPECS INCLUDE: Overall Length is 8″ with a 3-1/2″ Blade and weighs 4.25 oz.”


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