What Is CTS 204P Steel? [Is It A Good Knife Steel?]

CTS 204P is a premium stainless steel high in carbon, vanadium, and chromium. This US-made steel by Carpenter Technology Corporation offers top-notch hardness, toughness, and corrosion resistance. 

Technically, this steel is equivalent to M390 and CPM 20 CV, less the slightly higher tungsten content.

This fine-grained powder metallurgy steel performs excellently in both high and coarse polished edges. And just like other premium steels, this steel is costly primarily due to the difficulties and technical hurdles in its machinability.

It’s thus popular with high-end knives and high-performance industrial equipment. Let’s get to know CTS 204P steel better below.

At A Glance

While lower and medium-tier steels may feel good on knives, the capabilities and performance of premium steel types are mind-blowing. You get to experience the difference between good and excellent knife steel but at a hefty price. And, CTS 204P steel ranks high in premium steels.

Common Uses of CTS 204P Steel

You will find this premium steel applied in the following:

  • High-end and custom-made knives
  • Food processing equipment
  • Heavy-duty professional tools for tasks requiring high-performance steel
  • Custom tools for industrial machinery
  • Equipment for plastic molding production facilities
  • Extrusion applications


  • Easier to maintain as it’s highly corrosion and rust-resistant
  • Excellent edge retention
  • Gets scarily razor-sharp, especially if done by a sharpening pro
  • Takes heavy beatings with ease thanks to its extreme toughness
  • Highly versatile and can make knives that perform well in any condition
  • High reliability in all situations


  • Relatively hard to sharpen
  • Pricey
  • It’s not as popular as its equivalents

Chemical Composition

ElementComposition PercentageEffect on steel
Carbon1.9Improves hardness and consequently wear and corrosion resistance
Chromium20Enhances corrosion resistance, tensile strength, and wear resistance.
Molybdenum1Adds strength and improves machinability.
Vanadium4It Hardens steel and boosts wear resistance.
Manganese0.35Enhances hardness but more of it makes the steel brittle.
Silicon0.6Improves the strength of the steel
Tungsten0.65Adds to hardness and wear resistance of the steel

CTS 204P Hardness

CTS 204P steel has a hardness range of 57-59HRC but can go as high as 62HRC depending on heat treatment. However, maxing out any steel’s hardness may compromise toughness and, accordingly, the resistance to wear and corrosion.

CTS 204P Physical Properties

So, what should you expect from this premium-grade steel? Here is what sets it apart from other steel types:

Excellent Wear Resistance

The combination of chromium, carbon, vanadium, and tungsten results in high hardness that guarantees excellent wear resistance. Though they make sharpening a challenge, you can expect this steel to take extreme abuse without breaking a sweat.

Impressive Sharpness

CTS 204P steel can get scarily sharp. Coupled with excellent edge holding, very few steels may stand up to their top-notch performance. You get top performance for long as a reward for all the sharpening struggles.

Terrific Corrosion Resistance

With 20% of chromium, you can bet a kidney this steel holds to corrosion marvelously. CTS 204P steel is among the most rust-proof steels out there, with minimal maintenance required to remain rust-free. If you need a heavy-duty steel knife for all-environment and all-weather use with little upkeep needs, then CTS 204P steel fits the bill nicely.

Superb Edge Retention

Working with steel that can’t hold an edge through a task is very frustrating. However fun or easy the job is, the frequent sharpening replaces every bit of it. But CTS 204P steel ensures you don’t suffer any of that with its excellent edge holding.

Great Toughness

While mostly hardness and toughness have inverse relation in steel, CTS 204P steel surprisingly offers a good balance of both. As with all heavy-duty steels, you get tough and durable steel that can take abuse and all sorts of cutting tasks without easily chipping or breaking.

Relatively Difficult To Sharpen

Sadly, CTS 204P steel is not the kind of steel a beginner would give an edge easily. You will neither find it easy to sharpen with simple sharpening tools like a whetstone.

To provide this steel any proper sharpness, you need a mix of sharpening experience, time, and tons of patience. In turn, CTS 204P steel holds the edge long enough till you forget the sharpening struggle.

CTS 204P Comparison With Other Steel Types

Every steel has several equivalents and alternatives. And a head-to-head comparison may help you quickly settle for the best knife steel for your intended use. CTS 204P steel compares to its peers and options as discussed below.

CTS-204P vs. M390

M390 steel is the equivalent of CTS-204P in performance. Their chemical compositions differ minutely in tungsten and manganese content levels, resulting in similar quality and performance ratings.

While the M390 is German-made, the CTS 204P is American, and thus their availability may differ significantly. Also, blades from these two steels may have varying performances depending on the treatment process used.

CTS-204P vs. Elmax

These two premium steel types offer the same edge retention and toughness. The German-made Elmax has higher silicon but lower chromium contents compared to CTS 204P. Therefore, Elmax has lower edge retention and corrosion resistance but higher sharpenability.

See also: N690Co Steel Review [The Complete Guide]

CTS-204P vs. S35VN

CTS 204P and S35VN share a country of origin but vary in performance and chemical composition. S35VN is harder than CTS 204P due to the added niobium and higher levels of molybdenum.

However, CTS 204P stays several steps ahead with better wear and corrosion resistance. The two steels have similar toughness, but CTS 204P holds an edge for longer.

CTS-204P vs. CPM-20CV

Composition-wise, CTS 204P, and CPM 20CV are practically the same. The only difference is the manufacturer and the process used to create each. As the name shows, 20CV is a product of Crucible’s proprietary particle metallurgy process, while Carpenter produces 204P using their Micro-Melt powder metallurgy process.

Both steels are very refined with carbides uniformly distributed, but Carpenter’s process yields better results. Consequently, while these two steels are equivalents, CTS 204P has better performance.

CTS-204P vs. S90V

These two steel types offer outstanding toughness, edge stability, and wear resistance. They have almost similar performance ratings and reliability. The high vanadium content in S90V gives it an upper hand in toughness and wear resistance but falls short in corrosion resistance as CTS 204P has more chromium.

CTS-204P vs. S110V

Crucible’s S110V belongs to a different steel grade with CTS 204P. While CTS 204P has better corrosion resistance from more chromium composition, the S110V compensates it with having more of other elements. Thus, it’s tougher and holds an edge longer than 204P.

Is CTS 204P Steel Good For Knives?

CTS 204P steel is not good for knives; it’s excellent. You get excellent corrosion resistance, superb edge retention, excellent wear resistance, and decent toughness. Conclusively, CTS 204P steel makes the best performing outdoor, EDC, and other heavy-use knives, though for a top dollar.

Read also: How to Anodize Titanium At Home [Simple and Easy Methods]

Best CTS-204P Knives

Here are some recommendations of the best CTS 204P steel knives worth a place in your collection:

ZT 0456

This fancy-looking knife from Dmitry Sinkevich fits almost every occasion and dressing code. The sleek and modern design blends perfectly whether you’re in a business suit or hunting gear. This pricey knife offers:

  • Blade Length: 3.25 inches
  • Overall Length: 7.7 inches
  • Blade Thickness: 0.156 inches
  • Closed Length: 4.5 inches
  • Handle: Material Titanium
  • Handle Color: Silver
  • Handle Thickness: 0.56 inches
  • Weight: 6.3 oz. (179 g)


  • Premium components
  • Versatile for all cutting tasks
  • Looks and feels expensive
  • Lightweight handle
  • Awesome added features like caged ball bearings for easy deployment and a reversible clip


  • High-end price

Stedemon Folding Pocket Gentlemen Knife

With a titanium handle and a compact design, this folding pocketknife is the perfect EDC knife for you. Some notable features include:

  • Length open: 6.375 inches
  • Blade length: 2.75 inches
  • Blade thickness: 0.15 inches
  • Handle thickness: 0.55 inches
  • Handle length: 3.625 inches
  • Handle: Titanium
  • Weight: 2.89 oz. (82 grams)


  • Have a limited lifetime warranty
  • Compact size yet easy to handle
  • A beautiful satin finish on a sleek modern design
  • Deploys smoothly
  • Lightweight titanium handle
  • Features a reinforced lock bar


  • Some users are dissatisfied with the slim handle 
  • Not sharp enough right out of the box

Users Review on Amazon

As expected of premium steels, there are rarely any complaints about the steel’s performance. The CTS 204P meets the performance expectations of almost every user on Amazon.

77% of users rated the overall knife design and performance excellently, with the main concerns for the 23 % being on failed lock mechanisms, handle and blade color mismatch, and poorly finished handles.

Also, some users expressed difficulty in handling some compact designed knives like the Stedemon Folding Pocket Gentlemen Knife.

Final Word

Although CTS 204P steel popularity can’t match those of its equivalents M390 and CPM 20CV, it certainly blows all other steel types out of water in every performance aspect.

You get almost unmatchable edge retention, toughness, wear resistance, and many years of use from it. One sure thing about this steel is it offers the best performance many knife enthusiasts are willing to die for.

And oh boy, it’s pricey. Be ready to pay top dollar for a CTS 204P steel knife, but be sure you will get equivalent value from it. The limiting cost of this steel makes manufacturers use it for high-end and custom-made blades and high-performance industrial equipment.

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