Crucible Industries developed the 154CM steel in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force in 1959. Inventors created this steel for use in high temperatures and challenging environments like inside combustion engines. And Crucible based the 154CM on 440C; the only standard martensitic stainless steel available then.
Initially, this steel-made jet engine parts but Bob Loveless introduced them in the knife industry in 1972. Today, 154CM is popular in high-end cutlery, valve ports, ball bearings, knives, and metallic bushings. Companies like Benchmade and Gerber have several brands of 154CM steel EDC and survival knives in the market. Follow along with this 154CM steel guide to learn deeper details of this high-end steel.
What is 154cm Steel?
154CM steel is a high-grade stainless steel that has been around for over a decade. It was first developed and produced by the Crucible Materials Corporation. It is a modified version of 440C steel, with the addition of molybdenum to increase its hardness and wear resistance. The presence of molybdenum also improves corrosion resistance and offers good edge retention for knives. Because of its superior properties, it has become one of the most popular steels for knife blades.
At a Glance
154CM is an acronym for 15% Chromium and 4% Molybdenum, though rumors had it that the CM referred to the company’s name (Climax Molybdenum) that initially designed this steel. History aside, this steel has seen better days. It has stood popular for its excellent corrosion resistance, toughness, high hardness, and wear resistance. That’s why manufacturers quickly switched to its Japanese equivalent ATS-34 when Crucible halted production. Later on, Crucible restarted 154CM production and even produced a CPM version known as CPM 154.
Indeed, every steel has its strengths and weaknesses, and thus performance depends on the use environment. And for old steel like 154CM, you have countless brands and knife types to choose from. This in-depth look into 154CM details and performance will help you decide if this steel fits your knife needs.
- Great edge retention
- High hardness (60-61HRC)
- Excellent wear resistance
- Impressive corrosion resistance
- Relatively easy to sharpen
- Awesome toughness
- Carbon, 1.05%: Improves the steel’s hardness for better wear and corrosion resistance.
- Chromium, 14%: This high chromium content makes 154CM stainless steel (the composition is more than the minimum 12%) with excellent corrosion resistance. Also, chromium boosts tensile strength, wear resistance, and edge retention.
- Molybdenum, 4%: Enhances the strength of this steel and betters machinability.
- Manganese, 0.5%: Increases hardness and brittleness.
- Silicon, 0.3%: Improves strength.
- Vanadium, 0.4%: Hardens the steel and betters wear resistance.
- Phosphorus, 0.03%: Increases strength.
- Sulfur, 0.03%: Boosts machinability.
- Tungsten, 0.4%: Improves hardness and wear resistance.
|Hardness range||60 to 61HRC|
|Preheating temperature||14000F (7600C)|
|Austenitizing time||30 to 60 minutes|
|Austenitizing temperature||1900-2000°F (1037-1093°C)|
|Quenching method||Oil or positive pressure (4 bars minimum)|
|Quenching temperature||Below 1250F (500C)|
|Optional treatment||Salt bath treatment (to about 1000°F (540°C)) to achieve highest toughness level|
2. Excellent Edge Retention
Generally, hardness and edge retention go hand in hand in the steel world. 154CM steel is very hard thanks to high volumes of carbides resulting from chromium, manganese, and carbon in the alloy. Whether hunting all day long or camping in the woods, this steel will handle all the cutting duties for a long without the need for re-sharpening.
3. Impressive Corrosion Resistance
At 14% chromium composition, 154CM is stainless and holds impressively well to corrosion. The added vanadium, manganese, and molybdenum further boost its ability to withstand the corrosiveness of salty, wet, and high-humidity environments. However, this steel isn’t a hundred percent rustproof and will eventually give in if left unmaintained. To avoid rusting, clean and dry your blade after use, and oil if stored for a long.
4. Great Sharpenability
154CM steel is among the hard steels that are relatively very easy to sharpen. The molybdenum and sulfur make this steel workable and easy to give a razor-sharp edge. The shareability of this steel is very beginner-friendly, even with simple tools like a whetstone. However, hard steel will require more effort to resharpen if left to be incredibly dull. Avoid letting 154CM get to butter dullness as it may become very challenging to resharpen.
5. Impressively Durable
For steel made initially for making jet engine parts, be sure its wear resistance is superb. 154CM lasts a lifetime. This steel will offer years of quality service unless taken through severe abuse that may break or chip it.
6. Very Tough
Typically, steel will have two primary qualities; hardness, toughness, and corrosion resistance. Surprisingly, 154CM steel performs well in all. When double-tempered at 400-12000F (204-6500C), 154CM attains toughness way beyond most hard stainless steels. This steel handles outdoor abuse and high-impact cutting tasks excellently without chipping or breaking.
154CM vs. Other Steels
Below is how 154CM compares with other steels in performance.
154CM VS 440C
These two steel types have almost similar chemical compositions, with 154CM having more molybdenum. Both have identical toughness, but 154CM is harder. Consequently, 154CM holds an edge better but is harder to sharpen. Also, 440C has better resistance to corrosion and rusting.
154CM and 440C are both types of stainless steel commonly used in knife making. Here is a comparison of some key properties of the two steels:
|Hardness range||60-61 HRC||58-60 HRC|
|Edge retention||Excellent||Very good|
|Ease of sharpening||Fairly easy||Fairly easy|
In general, 154CM is a high-quality steel that is known for its excellent edge retention and toughness. It is a popular choice for high-end knives and is often compared to VG-10 steel. 440C, on the other hand, is a lower-grade stainless steel that is known for its good corrosion resistance and ease of sharpening. It is often used in lower-end knives and is not as highly regarded as 154CM.
154CM VS CPM 154
154CM and CPM 154 have similar chemical compositions, but their performances differ primarily due to different production processes. Crucible makes 154CPM through melting, while CPM 154 undergoes a powder metal process. While these two steels have almost similar corrosion resistance, toughness, and ease of shareability, CPM154 holds an edge better and is more brittle.
154CM and CPM 154 are both high-quality stainless steels that are commonly used in knife making. They have very similar properties and are often compared to one another. Here is a comparison of some key properties of the two steels:
|Hardness range||60-61 HRC||61-62 HRC|
|Toughness||Very good||Very good|
|Ease of sharpening||Fairly easy||Fairly easy|
As you can see, 154CM and CPM 154 have very similar properties. Both are high-quality stainless steels that are known for their excellent edge retention and toughness. The main difference between the two is that CPM 154 has a slightly higher hardness range and may be slightly more difficult to sharpen as a result. Other than that, the two steels are very similar and either one would make a great choice for a high-end knife.
154CM VS S30V
154CM and S30V are both high-quality stainless steels that are commonly used in the manufacturing of knives and other cutting tools. Both steels offer good toughness and edge retention, although there are some key differences between the two.
One of the main differences between 154CM and S30V is their composition. 154CM steel is composed of carbon, chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium, while S30V steel is made up of carbon, chromium, vanadium, and molybdenum. This small difference in composition can result in slightly different properties and performance characteristics.
In terms of toughness, 154CM steel tends to be slightly tougher than S30V. This makes it a good choice for applications where the tool may need to withstand heavy use or impact. S30V steel, on the other hand, is known for its excellent edge retention and resistance to wear. This makes it a good choice for applications where the tool will be used for precision cutting or will be subjected to repeated use without sharpening.
Both 154CM and S30V steel are highly corrosion resistant, although S30V may have a slight edge in this regard. Both steels are also relatively easy to sharpen, although S30V may require a bit more effort due to its higher hardness.
In terms of cost, 154CM and S30V steel are both considered premium steels and may be more expensive than some other types of stainless steel. However, the price difference between the two is generally minimal.
154CM and S30V are both high-quality stainless steels that are commonly used in knife making. They have some similar properties, but there are also some significant differences between the two. Here is a comparison of some key properties of the two steels:
|Hardness range||60-61 HRC||58-60 HRC|
|Ease of sharpening||Fairly easy||Difficult|
Both 154CM and S30V are high-quality stainless steels that are known for their excellent edge retention and toughness. However, S30V has a higher level of corrosion resistance and is generally considered to be a slightly higher-grade steel.
On the downside, it is also more difficult to sharpen due to its high vanadium content. Overall, both 154CM and S30V are excellent choices for high-end knives, and which one is the better choice will depend on your specific needs and preferences.
Overall, the choice between 154CM and S30V steel will depend on the specific needs and requirements of your application. If you need a tough tool that can withstand heavy use, 154CM may be the better choice. If you need a tool with excellent edge retention and wear resistance, S30V may be the better option.
154CM VS VG10
VG10 has more chromium and vanadium than 154CM and thus better corrosion resistance. It’s also slightly better in edge retention and shareability. On the other side, 154CM is tougher.
154CM and VG-10 are both high-quality stainless steels that are commonly used in knife making. They have some similar properties, but there are also some significant differences between the two. Here is a comparison of some key properties of the two steels:
|Hardness range||60-61 HRC||59-61 HRC|
|Ease of sharpening||Fairly easy||Fairly easy|
As you can see, both 154CM and VG-10 are high-quality stainless steels that are known for their excellent edge retention. However, 154CM has a higher level of toughness and may be a better choice for applications where the knife will be subjected to heavy use or abuse.
VG-10, on the other hand, has a slightly higher hardness range and may be a better choice for applications where maximum edge retention is important. Overall, both 154CM and VG-10 are excellent choices for high-end knives, and which one is the better choice will depend on your specific needs and preferences.
154CM VS 1095
154CM and 1095 are two very different types of steel that are not often compared to one another. 154CM is a high-quality stainless steel that is known for its excellent edge retention and toughness. It is a popular choice for high-end knives and is often used in applications where corrosion resistance is important.
1095, on the other hand, is a high-carbon, non-stainless steel that is known for its excellent edge retention and toughness. It is a popular choice for use in high-performance knives and is often used in applications where a very sharp, long-lasting edge is important. However, 1095 is prone to rust and is not a good choice for applications where corrosion resistance is important.
Overall, 154CM and 1095 are two very different types of steel that are not directly comparable. 154CM is a high-quality stainless steel that is a good choice for applications where corrosion resistance is important, while 1095 is a high-carbon, non-stainless steel that is a good choice for applications where a very sharp, long-lasting edge is important.
Head To Head Comparison Summary
The comparison summary below rates 154CM against other steels on a scale of 1-10 in edge retention, toughness, shareability, and corrosion resistance.
|EASE OF SHARPNESS||5/10||7/10||5/10||5/10||6/10||7/10|
Is 154CM a Good Knife Steel?
Absolutely. 154CM makes among the best EDC, hunting, fishing, kitchen, and diving knives in the industry. Though expensive, you’ll get the best high-end steel performance in toughness, edge retention, hardness, corrosion resistance, and durability.
Whether you know your way around knives or not, 154CM blades will undoubtedly be the best knives in your collection. Besides, every knife company worth its salt has several knife brands made with 154CM, and most have a lifetime warranty on them. Check out our recommendations for the best 154CM knives below.
Benchmade – Mini Barrage 585 Knife
Your search for a perfect EDC high-performance knife ends with Mini Barrage 585. This compactly designed 154CM steel knife offers the following:
- Closed length: 4 inches
- 2.91-inch drop point-shaped blade
- Weight: 3.4oz
- Very sharp right out of the box
- Manual assisted opening mechanism for quick, one-handed opening
- Includes a reversible pocket clip
- Includes a lanyard hole
- Lifetime warranty
Gerber Gator Folding Knife
The 3.6-inch blade of the Gerber Folding Knife forms the ultimate outdoor tool for hunting, bushcrafting, and camping. This knife has been around for a long and has earned the respect of many outdoor enthusiasts.
- A closed length of 4.96 inches
- Weight: 5.4 ounces
- 3.6 inches drop point designed blade
- Textured handle for a firm and secure grip
- Includes a ballistic nylon sheath for safe carriage
- Traditional lock-back design
- Lifetime warranty in North America, and 25 years for other regions
Best Knives Made of 154cm Steel
154CM steel is a popular choice for high-end knives, offering a combination of performance, durability and affordability. The steel is used in a variety of knives, from pocket knives and kitchen knives to survival knives and hunting knives.
Many of the top knife manufacturers such as Benchmade, Spyderco, and Zero Tolerance offer a wide selection of 154CM steel knives. These knives offer superior edge retention, corrosion resistance, and toughness – making them perfect for any outdoor adventure or culinary task.
Some of the most popular 154CM steel knives include the Benchmade Griptilian, Spyderco Tenacious, and Zero Tolerance 0562CF. All these blades provide an excellent blend of performance and value, making them ideal for any knife enthusiast or outdoor enthusiast looking for a reliable knife.
Is 154CM good for outdoor knives?
154CM is a type of stainless steel that is often used for making knife blades. It is a high-quality steel that is known for its good balance of toughness, corrosion resistance, and edge retention. This makes it a good choice for outdoor knives that may be exposed to harsh conditions such as moisture or dirt.
It is also a relatively easy steel to sharpen, which can be important when using a knife in the field. Overall, 154CM can be a good choice for outdoor knives, but it is important to consider other factors such as the specific design of the knife and the type of use it will see.
How does 154CM steel perform as a (kitchen) knife?
154CM is a good choice for kitchen knives because it is a high-quality stainless steel that offers good performance in terms of edge retention, corrosion resistance, and toughness. It is also relatively easy to sharpen, which can be important in a kitchen setting where knives may need to be sharpened frequently.
That being said, there are other steels that may be better suited for certain types of kitchen knives. For example, some chefs prefer softer, more corrosion-resistant steels for their knives because they are easier to sharpen and maintain. Ultimately, the best steel for a kitchen knife will depend on the specific needs and preferences of the user.
Super-steel types perform excellently, and 154CM is no exception. 154CM steel scores highly in edge retention, durability, wear, corrosion resistance, shareability, and toughness. Yes, it’s a pricey investment, but it will certainly outlive you.
If you intend to buy a 154CM steel blade, we guarantee you won’t regret that decision. Besides, this steel is so reliable that most brands have a lifetime warranty on it. However, if you feel you want better performance and something more recent, then the CPM S35V or CPM S30V will suffice.