CTS XHP Steel Review [Is it a Good Knife Steel?]

The dream of every knife shopper is to get a blade that aligns with his or her cutting needs perfectly. But every steel type excels well in situations that meet its strengths. For instance, high corrosion resistant steel does well in wet and high humid areas, while tough steel handles high impact jobs excellently.

But when you need an excellent performer for all situations and weather, all-around premium stainless steel like CTS XHP is the way to go. And as the name says, CTS XHP is a product of the US-based Carpenter Technology. It’s a powder metallurgy creation high in carbon and chromium for excellent performance.

Some experts describe its performance as equivalent to a highly corrosion-resistant D2 or a higher hardness 440C. But for us, we say you go through the CTS XHP steel review below and decide if it’s the steel you’ve been yearning to own.

At A Glance

One thing every knife user will tell you is that premium steels never disappoint. Yes, they are pricey but worth every dollar. To better illustrate, imagine steel as hard as D2 but with the corrosion resistance of 440C. And that is CTS XHP premium stainless steel for you.

It’s scarce steel commonly used in high-end knives, surgery tools, and comparatively expensive cutlery. You better order a CTS XHP steel blade online as finding any in your local store may be highly chancy. But meanwhile, find out what to expect from this steel in this CTS XHP steel review article. Also, we will recommend some great CTS XHP steel knives worth adding to your collection.


  • Great wear resistance
  • Terrific edge retention
  • High corrosion resistance
  • Reasonably challenging for its hardness
  • Relatively easy to work with


  • Pricey
  • Moderately difficult to sharpen
  • Scarce

CTS XHP Steel Chemical Composition

Below are the elements that form the CTS XHP stainless steel alloy.

  • Carbon, 1.60%: It increases the hardness and consequently the wear resistance. The high hardness also results in excellent edge retention.
  • Chromium, 16%: Makes CTS XHP highly corrosion-resistant stainless steel (surpasses the minimum 12% chromium) and boosts the hardenability, tensile strength, and toughness.
  • Molybdenum, 0.80%: Boosts the CTS XHP strength in high temperatures, hardens it further, and results in better corrosion resistance.
  • Manganese, 0.5%: It increases the machinability of CTS XHP and the hardenability and tensile strength.
  • Silicon, 0.40%: Apart from ridding molten steel of oxygen bubbles, it also boosts strength and hardness. However, silicon needs to be in tiny quantities to keep its brittleness effect on steel in check.
  • Nickel, 0.35%: Enhances toughness, hardenability, and corrosion resistance of steel.
  • Vanadium, 0.45%: Increases the strength, toughness, and wear resistance of CTS XHP steel. It also boosts corrosion resistance.

CTS XHP Hardness

CTS XHP steel has a hardness range of 60 to 64 HRC. The range is way higher than your usual everyday carry knife (57-59HRC), but many manufacturers keep their blades at 60 HRC. Even so, knife makers can achieve any hardness level depending on their heat treatment.

The main reason for the high hardness is the massive carbon amounts in the alloy. The following are the recommended heat treatment temperatures:

  • Annealing: 1550-16000F
  • Stress relieving: 12000F
  • Austenitizing (high heat): 1850-20000F
  • Quench: Quench in a salt bath to 1000-11000F, and then air cool to 1500F.
  • Tempering: The recommendation for best results is tempering twice or thrice at a minimum temperature of 4000F and air-cooling to room temperatures between tempers. Watch the temperatures closely as tempering at temperatures above 8000F lowers the corrosion resistance of CTS XHP steel.

CTS XHP Physical Properties

Expect CTS XHP steel to have the following characteristics:

1. Great Wear Resistance

Hard steels are excellent in wear resistance. CTS XHP steel won’t wear down quickly even while under constant use in challenging cutting tasks. It ensures the abrasion of regular re-sharpening cycles outstandingly.

2. Terrific Edge Retention

If you have dealt with hard steels before, then you know that CTS XHP has what it takes to hold an edge for months. Simply put, this steel has excellent edge retention that lasts long, even under heavy usage. CTS XHP holds an edge better than the famous S30V steel.

3. High Corrosion Resistance

High corrosion resistance is another strength of CTS XHP steel. As earlier stated, its corrosion resistance is as high as that of 440C. Expect a CTS XHP steel blade to perform excellently in all weathers and wet environments.

4. Relatively Tough

Hardness and toughness in steel are inversely related. That means hard steels are less tough and chip easily under impact. But surprisingly, CTS XHP steel is way tougher than you would expect in steel that hard. Of course not tough enough for use in axes and longer blades, but it holds well to impact tasks while used in shorter blades.

5. Good Machinability

CTS XHP is not the most straightforward steel to machine but is way better than most hard steels. Its good machinability makes the knife-making process easier and less costly, translating to some cost-saving to the buyer.

6. Moderately Difficult To Sharpen

Hard steels are hardly sharpenable. CTS XHP steel is moderately difficult to sharpen compared to extremely hard steels. Standard sharpening tools such as a whetstone will barely give CTS XHP any edge. For some considerable results, go for at least a diamond stone and some lubricating oil or other modern advanced sharpening systems. Sharpening a CTS XHP steel knife is beginner unfriendly, and you better seek professional help if you’re a total novice.

CTS XHP vs. Steels

So, how does CTS XHP steel compare with other steel types? Let’s find out below.

CTS XHP vs. Maxamet

Both Maxamet and CTS XHP steels belong to the class of high-end steels. However, CTS XHP overall performance is better than that of Maxamet. CTS XHP steel can’t hold an edge as long as maxamet but has better corrosion resistance. 

CTS XHP vs. M390

These two steels are both in the premium category, but M390 is in the top-tier ultra-premier league. It offers better corrosion resistance and edge retention. It’s also pricier and more difficult to sharpen than CTS XHP steel.

CTS-XHP vs. S30V

CTS XHP and S30V are both premium steels and among the hardest steels popular in the knife industry. These two steels won’t give you an easy sharpening time but will hold an edge impressively. However, CTS XHP retains an edge for longer but is more difficult to sharpen. While both steels are great in corrosion resistance, S30V is better. Also, S30V is more common and more popular.

Is CTS XHP Steel Good for Knives

CTS XHP steel is not only good but also excellent for knives. CTS XHP steel is an all-around performer, with excellent edge retention, excellent corrosion resistance, and high durability. Its toughness is reasonable for its hardness, and the sharpening is not that difficult.

Even so, you will spend longer sharpening this steel than you would softer steels, but the effort is worth it. This steel is pricey but will undoubtedly serve you for a lifetime. Unfortunately, CTS XHP steel is not that common, and only a few big brands can barely get enough for their knife needs.

Best CTS XHP Steel Knives

  1. Spyderco Chaparral Prestige Folding Knife

Chaparral is a high-performance folding pocketknife from Spyderco. The build quality is solid, and the G-10 laminated handle ensures grips are always tight. Below is what the Chaparral Prestige features:

  • Overall Length: 6.40 inches
  • Blade Length: 2.80 inches
  • Closed Length: 3.60 inches
  • Edge Length: 2.30 inches
  • Weight: 2.3oz (65g)
  • Blade Thickness: 0.077 inches
  • Handle: G-10
  • Origin: Taiwan
  1. Cold Steel 27TLCTH Recon 1

If you are into tactical knives, then the Cold Steel’s 27TLCTH Recon 1 is for you. The 4-inch blade features the best of CTS XHP steel and DLC coated to reduce friction and consequently wear and corrosion resistance. Notable features of this masterpiece include:

  • 4 inches blade
  • 9 3/8 inches overall length
  • Attractive DLC blade coating
  • Durable G10 handle
  • Reversible pocket clip
  • Includes a lanyard hole

Users’ Review on Amazon

CTS XHP is premium steel designed for performance. Most knives made with this steel are from reputable knife makers like Spyderco and Cold Steel. So, the massive number of positive reviews shouldn’t come as a surprise. More than 71% of users’ rate CTS XHP knives 5-star and show appreciation for this steel’s excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance.

However, some users expressed dissatisfaction with faulty lock mechanisms and other design-related issues of specific knife brands.


CTS XHP premium steel offers an outstanding value for money and will undoubtedly last a lifetime if used properly. This knife steel scores highly in edge retention and corrosion resistance. Its toughness is sufficient for challenging cutting tasks without chipping or breaking.  Even so, you may need to hire a professional sharpener or get modern advanced sharpening tools for adequate re-sharpening of CTS XHP steel.

It’s a pricey investment, but you won’t regret it. Besides, this steel is a favorite for reputable brands like Spyderco and Cold Steel. If you can afford it, then we highly recommend you grab one for your collection.

See also:

Leave a Comment