S90V vs. M390–Which Knife Blades’ Stainless Steel is Better?

Do you want to know which knife blade material is the best for sharpness, strength, and durability, among s90v vs m390?

Both steel grades have exceptional performance, strength, edge retention, and corrosion resistance, but which is better?

It’s challenging to decide. 

Yet, this post has got you covered, whether you love to collect knives or you’re going to use them!

In this post, we’ll compare each steel’s unique characteristics and show you sharpness retention tests.

What is M390 steel?

M390 steel is a premium quality “specialty” stainless steel with incredible wear resistance, toughness, and corrosion resistance.

M390 stainless steel is a high-performance powder metallurgy stainless steel. It was developed by Bohler-Uddeholm, an Austrian steel company, in collaboration with Carpenter Technology, a US-based specialty metals company.

M390 was first introduced to the market in the early 2000s and quickly gained popularity among knife makers and enthusiasts due to its exceptional performance.

By composition, it’s a powder metallurgy steel with a higher ratio of chromium, vanadium, and molybdenum:

  • 20% chromium carbide
  • 3-4% vanadium carbide (1.9% total carbon has been split between chromium carbide and vanadium carbide)
  • 1% molybdenum 
  • 0.70% Silicone
  • 0.3% Manganese
  • 0.6% Tungsten

This percentage renders it its unique characteristic, making it suitable for high-end knives.

Some of the pros of M390 steel include:

  • M390 steel has exceptional wear resistance for maintaining sharpness much longer.
  • M390 steel has higher rust resistance due to high chromium and vanadium levels.
  • It also has toughness and durability because of its high hardness and wear resistance. It makes it a good choice for hard-use knives and cutting tools.
  • M390 steel can hold a sharp edge longer, making it a popular choice for sharpness-requiring tools like knives.
  • M390 steel features fantastic versatility. Therefore, it’s a first choice for cutting tools like knives and blades.

What is S90v Stainless Steel?

S90V steel is another high-performance, premium-quality stainless steel with exceptional edge retention, hardness, and toughness.

S90v stainless steel is also a member of the “super steel” family, known as “powder metallurgy” or “PM” steels. It was developed by Crucible Industries, an American steel company specializing in producing high-performance steel. The development of the S90v began in the late 1990s, with the goal of creating stainless steel with exceptional wear resistance and edge retention.

S90v was first introduced to the market in the early 2000s. In no time it became one of the most wear-resistant steels available. It’s widely used in the knife industry, as well as in other applications such as bearings, cutting tools, and industrial blades.

Just like M390 steel, it also has a high percentage of vanadium, chromium, and molybdenum in the following ratio:

  • 9% vanadium
  • 14% chromium
  • 1% molybdenum
  • 2.3% of carbon
  • 1.8% cobalt
  • 0.5% silicone
  • 0.5% manganese
  • 0.03% of phosphorus for extra strength
  • 0.03% of sulfur for extra strength
  • 0.4% tungsten

However, this composition of S90V steel can vary slightly depending on the specific manufacturer and production method used. 

Its high vanadium content makes the s90v steel extremely wear-resistant. Besides these, high chromium content ensures excellent corrosion resistance. 

It’s also noticeable that s90v steel has phosphorus and sulfur, which m390 steel lacks.

Some benefits of S90V steel include:

  • The high ratio of chromium and vanadium in S90V steel gives it high corrosion resistance.
  • S90V steel also has incredible toughness and durability. It makes it an excellent choice for knives and cutting tools for your daily use.
  • A blade made of S90V steel remains sharp for a long time. Therefore, they’re a popular choice for knives and tools that require long-term sharpness.

S90 Vs. M390 Steel–Quick Comparison Table

Sure, here’s a comparison table for S90V and M390 steel types used in knives:

CriteriaS90V SteelM390 Steel
Steel TypePowder Metallurgy Stainless SteelPowder Metallurgy Stainless Steel
Carbon (C)2.3%1.9%
Chromium (Cr)14.0%17-20.0%
Vanadium (V)9.0%2.5 to 4.0%
Molybdenum (Mo)1.0%1.0%
Tungsten (W)0.4%0.6%
Rockwell Hardness59-61 HRC60-62HRC
Edge RetentionHigherHigh
Corrosion ResistanceHighSlightly higher than s90V
Stain ResistanceHighBetter stain resistance than s90v
Wear ResistanceHighHigh
Ease of SharpeningDifficult to sharpenEasier to sharp than s90v
PriceHighRelatively low

S90 Vs M390 steel–Differences in Detail

So, both steels, because of their slightly differing composition, have the following differences:


Both S90V and M390 are premium quality stainless steels with an excellent combination of toughness and wear and corrosion resistance. However, because of chemical compositions, they differ in one aspect or another.

S90V steel has high-carbon, high-vanadium stainless steel, making it exceptional against wearing. 

It has a Rockwell hardness of about 59-61 HRC–extremely hard for stainless steel. However, this hardness can come at the cost of toughness. Yet, S90V is not tough when compared to other high-end steels. Therefore, it can chip off or break if not treated well — excessive impact or lateral stress are its enemies.

M390 steel, on the other hand, also has almost similar hardness(around 60-62 HRC), but a little toughness. The reason is a higher ratio of chromium, which keeps it from stains but also makes it softer than s90v to some degree.

Corrosion resistance

Both S90V and M390, despite being high-end blade steels somewhat vary in rust and corrosion resistance.

Chromium is a key element that provides corrosion resistance in stainless steel. And, it’s a game-changer when deciding between S90v vs M390. S90v has a slightly lower chromium ratio of about 14%, making this steel less favorable when used in challenging conditions like moisture. 

Unlike S90v, M390 steel has a high amount of chromium (around 20%). Besides chromium, like S90v stainless steel, M390 has a higher ratio of vanadium and molybdenum, further enhancing its corrosion resistance. 

To put it simply, the m390 is slightly more corrosion-resistant.

Edge retention

When it comes to edge retention between S90v vs. M390 steel, they’re both considered premium-grade stainless steel. Yet edge retention varies. This is because, compared to m390 stainless steel, s90v steel has more carbon (2.3%) and vanadium (9%). These two elements greatly help the blades with retaining the edge. 

So, when tested, it surpasses m390 by cutting the rope in 750 cuts.

In contrast, m390 loses retention after 250 cuts.

Ease of sharpening

Indeed, both prove challenging when comparing S90V vs M390 for ease of sharpening. However, the tough one is also hard to sharpen.

The M390 is considered easier to sharpen than S90V because of its lower toughness. You must be grateful for the lower vanadium content in m390 knife blades.

And, S90V is really a hard nut to crack. However, the right tools and techniques can also sharpen it to a razor-sharp edge.


What type of knives is the M390 stainless steel good for?

M390 steel is a high-performance stainless steel that is well-suited for a variety of knife applications, including:

  • M390 steel is a popular choice for high-end folding knives, for it can hold a razor-sharp edge for a long time. Therefore, it’s an ideal everyday-carry knife.
  • Because of its rust resistance, M390 steel is also an excellent option for fixed-blade knives mostly used for outdoor activities, e.g., hunting, camping, or survival. It can withstand heavy use and harsh environments.
  • If you see an upscale professional chef knife, you must doubt it features an m390 stainless steel. It needs to be sharpened less often when cutting tough foods like meat and vegetables.
  • Tactical knives like switchblade knives also have M390 steel. 

Hence, M390 steel is a versatile steel used for making a variety of knives that serve different purposes. 

What type of knives is the S90v stainless steel suitable for?

S90V steel is a high-performance stainless steel that is well-suited for a variety of knife applications, including:

  • S90V steel is also found in premium quality and expensive folding knives. The reason is its toughness and edge retention.
  • The S90v steel blade is also best for fixed-blade survival or hunting knives. (Yet, m390 makes a better choice for you due to its corrosion resistance).
  • S90V steel is sometimes used in specialty knives like filet knives or slicing knives. WHY? Its ability to hold a sharp edge for a long time is the answer. For this reason, it’s also used in carpet or other tough material cutting tools.

Hence, S90V steel provides a versatile blade for knives and cutting tools. Yet, it’s difficult to sharpen compared to other steels. Likewise, the corrosion resistance is also lower.

S90 vs. M390: Which knives are more expensive?

Both S90V and M390 steel knives are of premium quality and more expensive than knives made from lower-end steel.

Though, the price of knives made from S90V and M390 steel can vary depending on factors such as the brand, design, and quality of the materials used in construction. However, as a general rule, knives made from S90V steel tend to be slightly more expensive than knives made from M390 steel.

This is because S90V steel is more difficult to work with than M390 steel. Additionally, it requires more time and effort to manufacture a s90v knife. How could we forget that S90V steel is a rarer and more specialized steel than M390 steel?

In a nutshell, both are expensive, so you need good research on prices before picking any knife, either an S90v or M390 stainless steel blade.

Our Final Verdict on “S90v vs. M390: Which is the winner?”

Since you have come through a detailed comparison of both stainless steel knife blade types, we won’t take much of your time here.

S90v is an incredible pick in terms of edge retention and specialty usage. Yet it’s extremely hard to sharpen, needs some care against rust, and can break.

The m390 wins when you need a knife that can withstand challenging surrounding or weather conditions. It can lose edge retention if the maker has neglected the details during the heating stage. But you must remember it also needs an extraordinary knife sharpener, though it’ll take less effort to sharpen than an S90v knife blade. You must be thankful that it’ll not break because of some flexibility. 

For the price point, they’re closer.


You can put your hands on the m390 knife if you don’t mind sharpening it!

Cashmere M
Cashmere M

Cashmere M is a passionate culinary explorer and food writer with 25 years of home kitchen experience. This blog is a treasure trove of her insights into worldwide cuisine, cooking techniques, and expert knowledge of kitchen tools and gadgets. What's more... she's always seeking the healthiness of ingredients before putting them on her plate because she believes what you eat creates your internal environment: either healthy or unhealthy. So, to her, food isn't just a passion; it's a lifelong journey to taste and healthiness that you're welcome to join.

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