M390 vs N690: An In-depth Comparison of Knife Steel Types

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to choose between M390 and N690 steel for your instrument and couldn’t decide which one would serve your purpose the best? You are not alone. As an engineer with over a decade of experience working with various types of steel, I’ve been in that same scenario multiple times. Therefore, I understand the importance of making an informed decision and that is why I am excited to delve into this comprehensive examination between two distinguished knife steels: M390 and N690.

Comparison Table

Features M390 N690
Hardness High Moderate
Corrosion Resistance High High
Edge Retention High Moderate
Sharpenability Low High

M390 Steel: A Detailed Review

Manufactured by Bohler, M390 is a martensitic Chromium steel often praised for its impressive hardness and corrosion resistance. During my tenure, I’ve had opportunities to work with this type of steel and I’ve relished its potential.

Pros of M390 Steel

  • Excellent edge retention
  • Superb corrosion resistance
  • Impressive wear resistance

While the corrosion resistance and wear resistance features were as advertised, the edge retention of M390 truly blew my mind. The impressively sharp edge that you get at the start lasts a surprisingly long time. This saves a lot of time and provides stability when working on projects, making M390 a perfect match for high precision tools.

Challenges with M390 Steel

Despite the impeccable performance of M390, there were a few challenges that I faced. The primary one was its sharpenability. It took me some effort to sharpen the M390 knife, making it less ideal for those who might need to sharpen their tools frequently.

N690 Steel: An In-depth Analysis

Created by Bohler, an Austrian company, N690 is high-quality stainless steel. It’s most famous for its great sharpenability and reasonable edge retention.

Advantages of N690 Steel

  • Easy to sharpen
  • Decent edge retention
  • Good corrosion resistance

Fortunately, I had the privilege to work with N690 as well. My experience with N690 has been decent, giving me a balanced performance across various features. The true champion however, was its sharpenability. It was astonishingly easy to restore the blade to its original sharpness, which is a great advantage in a fast-paced working environment.

Drawbacks of N690 Steel

There were however some hurdles when using the N690 steel. Although it secured decent points in the corrosion resistance department, it did not awe me like M390 did. Furthermore, in terms of hardness and edge retention, it was comparatively less effective.

M390 vs N690: Side by Side Comparison

Despite both being stainless steels, M390 and N690 differ in several key areas. M390 excels in providing an excellent performance in terms of hardness, edge retention, and corrosion resistance. On the downside, it falls short on the ease of sharpenability.

If you are someone who values maintenance and the possibility to frequently restore your tools without much hassle, N690 might be a good choice, as its ease of sharpenability is significantly better than M390. However, the edge retention, which is one of the most important factors when choosing a steel for a knife, will be compromised.

Finally, an important fact to remember is that the right choice varies according to your preferences and your specific usage. So take your time to evaluate the pros and cons, consider your expectations and choose the right steel for your knife.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between N690 and M390 knife steel?

N690 and M390 are both high-performance stainless steel grades commonly used in knife making. However, they differ in terms of their composition, hardness, and overall performance:

– N690 is a stainless steel produced by Bohler, an Austrian manufacturer. It has good corrosion resistance, excellent edge retention, and is relatively easy to sharpen. N690 is also known for its toughness and ability to withstand heavy use.

– M390, on the other hand, is a powder metallurgy stainless steel made by Bohler. It offers even better corrosion resistance, excellent wear resistance, and superior edge retention compared to N690. M390 is also known for holding an extremely fine edge and excelling in slicing tasks.

2. What is better than M390?

While M390 is highly regarded as a top-tier knife steel, there are a few other stainless steel grades that are considered to be on par or slightly better in terms of overall performance:

– CPM S90V: It boasts excellent edge retention, high corrosion resistance, and is relatively easy to sharpen.

– CPM-20CV and CTS-204P: These steels are similar to M390, offering great wear resistance, toughness, and hardness.

– CPM S110V: It is known for its exceptional wear resistance and high hardness.

3. What is N690 comparable to?

N690 is often compared to other high-end stainless steels due to its excellent balance of performance and affordability. It is comparable to:

– VG-10: It is a popular stainless steel commonly used in kitchen knives known for its corrosion resistance and ability to hold a sharp edge.

– 154CM: It is a classic American stainless steel widely used in various knife applications, known for its great balance of edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance.

– AUS-8: It is a Japanese stainless steel known for its good hardness, ease of sharpening, and corrosion resistance.

4. Is D2 or N690 better?

Both D2 and N690 are commonly used high-carbon stainless steels with their respective advantages:

– D2 offers excellent wear resistance and is known for its edge retention. It is widely used in various industrial applications.

– N690, on the other hand, provides better corrosion resistance, toughness, and ease of sharpening compared to D2. It is often favored by knife enthusiasts for its well-rounded performance.

The choice between these steels depends on personal preferences and specific requirements for the intended knife usage.

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