N690Co Steel Review [The Complete Guide]

N690Co steel is a popular cobalt stainless steel with varying and sometimes opposing opinions on its strengths and weaknesses. You will certainly hear about it when knife shopping. Opinions in knife steel forums, from your friends, and on different websites may leave you confused. This review aims at giving you a clear picture of N690Co steel.

For a start, N690Co is a high carbon stainless steel developed by Bohler Steel Company based in Germany.  It’s popular and very good for folding, and fixed blades are meant for outdoor activities such as hunting, tactical, bush crafting, among others. Top knife manufacturers such as Spyderco, Fox Knives, Extreme Ratio, Wildsteer, and others rely on N690Co for their outdoor knives. Below is everything about N690Co steel.

At A Glance

Steel types used in knife making come in varying types and properties, and choosing the right steel for the job may be overwhelming. Certainly, a European-made high-end stainless steel popular in outdoor knives, kitchenware, surgical instruments, automotive trim and building, and other blade types may be closer to the ideal steel for your next knife. And that is N690Co steel for you. It’s closer to 440C with impressive hardness and durability.

Pros

  • Great Edge Retention
  • Easy to Sharpen
  • Terrific Corrosion Resistance
  • Reasonably Tough
  • Great machinability

Cons

  • Expensive

Common Uses of N690Co Steel

You will find N690Co steel in:

  • Knife blades for tough outdoor tasks
  • Cutting surgical instruments
  • Rotary knives for use in the meat industry
  • Fulcrums for plates and knife edges
  • Roller bearings
  • Valve needles
  • Pistons for use in refrigerating machines

Read also: Is 1095 CRO Van Steel Good For Knives?

Chemical Composition

Below chemical elements give N690Co steel its great properties:

  • Carbon, 1.07%: The high carbon content enhances the N690Co steel’s hardness to make it wear and tear-resistant while improving anti-corrosion.
  • Chromium, 17.30%: This is the main reason why N690Co steel has awesome anti-corrosion. Also, chromium increases the wear resistance, tensile strength, and edge retention abilities of this steel.
  • Manganese, 0.4%: Boosts the tensile strength of this steel.
  • Molybdenum, 1.1%: Normally, molybdenum boosts the steel’s strength in high temperatures, but when added to stainless steel like N690Co, it also enhances the corrosion resistance.
  • Vanadium, 0.1%: Improves fracture toughness and resistance to chipping and breaking under high-impact tasks.
  • Cobalt, 1.65%: Cobalt improves the strength of steel in high temperatures and makes it easier to work with. Also, cobalt permits quenching of N690Co steel at very high temperatures, which further boosts machinability.
  • Silicon, 0.4%: Improves strength.

Physical Properties

Very Hard

The N690Co belongs to the class of hard steels and has a hardness range of 59 to 61HRC. Typically, manufacturers dial the hardness down to 60HRC to reduce the risk of brittleness. The high hardness results from high carbon content coupled with the super-hard and heat-resistant cobalt metal. If you need a tough outdoor knife, the N690Co steel blade is the real deal.

Versatile In Cutting Tasks

Hard steel has the advantage of being strong enough to cut numerous things from plastic cords to frozen meat. With high carbon, molybdenum, and chromium contents, N690Co steel has great hardness and toughness balance, and you won’t have any problem cutting through anything you encounter outdoors.

Terrific Edge Retention

Generally, hard steels retain an edge very well. N690Co steel is not only very hard but also contains cobalt that ensures a fine and consistent edge. Whether you are hunting all day long or having a weekend camping, be sure this steel will handle all the cutting needs without the need for any resharpening.

You may check also: How To Sharpen a Pocket Knife [The Complete Guide]

Great Corrosion Resistance

N690Co is among the stainless steels with very high chromium composition, so you expect a great corrosion resistance even in wet conditions. The added vanadium, molybdenum, and manganese ensure this steel holds well to corrosion by salt, moisture, and high humidity. You want to go fishing, feel free to have an N690Co steel knife with you.

Very Easy To Sharpen

Typically, great edge holding trades off with the ease of sharpening. Easy to sharpen steels won’t hold an edge for long and vice versa. Surprisingly, N690Co steel offers the best of both abilities. It’s not that difficult to give an N690Co steel knife a sharp edge as with other hard steels, and you get to enjoy the sharpness for long.

Impressively Durable

Eventually, even the hardest of steel types wear down with time as you use and resharpen the knife. The great wear resistance of N690Co steel ensures you get many years of quality service from it even under heavy and frequent use.

Great Machinability

N690Co steel is relatively easy to work with thanks to its molybdenum content. Manufacturers and forgers can cheaply and easily shape this steel into different shapes and designs.

Good Toughness

N690Co steel exhibits better toughness than most hard steels. Although it isn’t the best in the stainless steel types, be sure this steel can handle outdoor abuse excellently without chipping or breaking.

N690Co Alternatives or Equivalents

N690Co vs. S30V

N690Co vs. S30V may not be a fair head-to-head comparison as they belong to different classes of steels. While N690Co is high-end steel, S30V ranks high in the premium-tier steels. They have matching toughness and corrosion resistance and can hold sharp edges for a long. However, S30V is costlier and more difficult to sharpen.

N690Co vs. VG10

These two steel types are both high-end stainless steels with matching corrosion resistance. VG10 retains an edge better but slightly harder to sharpen. Also, it’s not as tough as N690Co and will likely chip if subjected to the same outdoor abuse.

N690Co vs. D2

D2 is high-end steel that is harder than most steel types. It offers great edge retention and durability. Unlike N690Co steel, D2 lacks enough chromium to qualify as stainless steel. Apart from the better corrosion resistance, N690Co steel is easier to sharpen than D2. In fact, sharpening D2 is very beginner unfriendly. You better learn the skill first before sharpening a D2 steel knife.

N690 vs. N690Co

N690 is simply N690Co without or with less cobalt element content. You will get decent edge retention and corrosion resistance from N690, but you get better performance from N690Co due to the added cobalt.

N690Co vs. 154CM

These two steel types are in the high-end steel class with decent corrosion resistance, edge retention, and ease of sharpening. 154CM is easier to sharpen, but N690Co steel scores higher in all other aspects.

N690Co vs. AUS 8

AUS 8 is all-around upper-midrange steel that has performed well over the years. N690Co steel, though relatively newer, is better in edge holding and resisting corrosion. However, AUS 8 is cheaper and easier to sharpen.

N690Co vs. M390

The two steels match in toughness, but M390 has better corrosion resistance and edge holding. But M390 is harder to sharpen than N690Co.

Is N960co Steel Good For Knives?

Absolutely. It’s terrific for knives with a great balance in the properties you would wish in a premium EDC knife. Besides, all big companies in the knife industry have a knife featuring N960Co steel. Below are among the best and most popular N960Co steel knives:

Knife nameMain featuresPrice
JEO-TEC Nº1 Bushcraft Survival Hunting Camping KnifeBlade length: 4.53-inch; overall length: 9.84-inch
Sharpener stone included
High-resistant black Micarta handle
High-quality leather sheath
Check price on Amazon
Cudeman Survival Knife 251-JCBlade length: 4.7″
Blade thickness: 0.177”
Blade width: 1.37″
Hardness: 60 HRC
Orange G10 with black liners handle
Knife weight: 250 gr
Check price on Amazon
Spyderco Squeak Non-Locking Knife3.05-inch fiberglass reinforced nylon handle
Plain blade edge
2-inch blade
Includes a pocket clip
SlipIt locking mechanism
Check price on Amazon

Users’ Review on Amazon

Overall, users are happy with N960Co steel knives. More than 77% of users on Amazon give a 5-star rating to N960Co steel blades. Excellent reviews aren’t a surprise considering the superb qualities of this super-steel. Unusual toughness, terrific edge retention, and impressive wear resistance are among the highest positively rated N960Co steel properties.

On the other hand, a few users have reported edge chipping and cracking under high-impact cutting tasks. Also, some users expressed dissatisfaction with the high cost of N960Co steel knives.

Final Word

When it comes to super-steel types, performance is top-notch. They offer the most outstanding value for money, with great durability for many years to come. N960Co steel is super steel that scores highly in edge retention, durability, wear and corrosion resistance, and decent toughness. It’s a pricey investment, but you won’t regret having it with you in all your outdoor cutting needs.

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