CPM 3V Steel vs. S35vn Compared

The CPM 3V and S35vn are both designed for excellent toughness. However, one of them is a tool steel while the other is a stainless steel variety so you can expect a few major differences between them. 

Both these steel varieties have several advantages when used for knives because of their toughness and razor-sharp edges. Anyway, we’ll talk about all of that in detail as you proceed reading. 

So let’s get started!

What is CPM 3V Steel?

CPM 3V is a tool steel that is known for its tremendous resistance to breaking or chipping which makes it a great choice for knives. The CPM in the name stands for ‘Crucible Particle Metallurgy’. 

Particle metallurgy is basically quite a complex and costly process that is done for even distribution of carbides and hence, making the steel less susceptible to breaking or chipping. This steel is manufactured by Crucible Industries and is one of the best steel variety for knives.

What is S35Vn Steel?

Unlike the CPM 3V, the S35Vn/CPM S35Vn is a stainless steel variety which adds quite a lot to its worth. This steel too is manufactured by using a particle metallurgy process which provides improved toughness to the steel. 

Due to its toughness and unprecedented wear resistance, this steel variety can even prove to be a great choice for hunting and bush-craft knives. In short, the s35vn is a superior quality steel known for its grindability and toughness factors. 

Hardness Level


The hardness level of the CPM 3V is just what you need for knives. It has a 58 to 60 HRC rating on the Rockwell’s Hardness scale. Even more so, a 64 HRC can be achieved by adequate heat treatments. However, that doesn’t always render desirable results because high hardness levels are often associated with low toughness and we definitely do not want that. 

Anyway, this steel is harder than most ordinary knife steels. The hardness and toughness balance of the steel is up to par as well.


The hardness level of the CPM S35Vn is quite similar to that of the CPM 3V. It boasts an HRC rating of 58 to 61 on the Rockwell’s Hardness Scale.

With heat treatments, the HRC can go up to 64 so the steel is definitely impressive in terms of its hardness levels. And as for the toughness, well you won’t be disappointed about it either. 

The s35vn shows excellent resistance to breaking or chipping so you can rely on it for heavy-duty applications as well.


Is CPM 3V hard to sharpen?

Despite being a tough variety of steel, the CPM 3V is surprisingly quite easy to sharpen. You can easily get those razor edges back by using adequate sharpness tools. 

Also, a useful tip can be to perform frequent stropping to retain the razor edges for a longer time. Overall, sharpening the 3V steel is not a hassle at all.

Is S35Vn hard to sharpen?

The s35vn steel is again a hard steel that comes with an impressive ease of sharpening. The s35vn is composed of fine carbides and a uniform structure which leads to an effortless sharpening process. 

Just like the CPM 3V, the S35Vn won’t give you a tough time as you sharpen it. It gets those razor edges back within no time, provided you’re using suitable sharpening tools. 

Here’s a user sharing his experience about the S35vn sharpness:



The CPM 3V is composed of the following few components:

  • 0.80% Carbon 
  • 7.50% Chromium
  • 2.75% Vanadium
  • 1.30% Molybdenum 

Reasonable amounts of carbon and chromium contents in the CPM 3v are responsible for its characteristic hardness as well as toughness. The high amount of vanadium contributes to it small and hard carbide structures. Along with these functions, these components are also responsible for corrosion, wear resistance as well as edge retention. 


The s35vn comprises of the following contents in its composition:

  • 1.4% Carbon
  • 14% Chromium 
  • 3% Vanadium
  • 2% Molybdenum 
  • 0.5% Niobium

The addition of niobium in the s35vn is what makes it different from the usual steels. Niobium promotes toughness in the steel alongside carbon and chromium which make it harder and corrosion-resistant. 

Edge Retention 

The combination of carbon and niobium in the s35vn is a remarkable one. It makes the steel wear resistant so it can retain its edge for a longer time. The s35vn shows a 145% edge retention by CATRA testing relative to the 440C.

“A very well rounded, generally solid steel”, says this person:

On the other hand, the CPM 3V is not as good as the s35vn in terms of edge retention. This is primarily due to the alloy mixing in its composition which makes it more prone to wear and tear.

Corrosion Resistance 

As you know the CPM 3V is not a stainless steel but a tool steel so you cannot expect superior corrosion resistance from it. It does oxidize rapidly and shows discoloration even with proper care. 

The S35Vn, on the contrary, is a stainless steel variety and therefore, offers very high resistance to corrosion. With high contents of chromium in its composition, the s35vn retains its quality for a long time. 


Both the CPM 3v and s35vn are tough varieties of steel designed for superior performance. However, you’ll find the CPM 3V to be slightly cheaper than the s35vn although they’re quite close to each other in terms of performance.

You can find an s35vn knife for $150 to $300 which is more expensive than most regular stainless steels. Likewise, you’ll find the CPM 3v knives within the same range as well. Keep in mind that the price varies depending on the quality and weight/amount of steel used.

Final Verdict

Well, overall, it seems to be a close tie between the CPM 3V steel and the S35vn. However, the s35vn is superior in terms of edge retention as well as corrosion resistance so it gets a slight edge over the CPM 3V.

Related Posts