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N690 Vs M390 Knife Steel: An In-depth Analysis

Last Updated: June 16th, 2022

Knives are the most important kitchen tools. You can work with an average cast iron skillet or a cutting board from the dollar store, but an average knife is the last thing anyone needs in a kitchen. 

While the shape and the handle of the knife are important, the blade is perhaps the most important part of a quality knife. The quality of the blade depends on the materials used.

Different types of steel are used to create different types of knives, but the best types of steel for knife blades are undoubtedly N690 and M390. They both offer longer edge retention, corrosion resistance, and user comfort. 

As both of them are equally good, you may be wondering which one is ideal for you, in this N690 Vs M390 in-depth comparison, we will find out that answer for you. 

N690 Steel: Innovative, Affordable, And Tough 

The N690 steel was manufactured by Böhler-Uddeholm, an Austrian steel company famous for creating tough and durable knife steel. Most knife steel manufacturers follow the standard procedure of combining different elements and forming steel sheets.

However, with Bohler steel, the process is quite different. We believe it’s this process that makes a world of difference in durability. 

Once combined with different elements, the melted steel mixture is sprayed with the help of a gas-atomizing machine. This spraying technique allows the steel to become much finer and stronger than average. 

The N690 is created just like that. The chemical composition of N690 shows it has chromium, cobalt, vanadium, molybdenum, etc. All of these elements contribute significantly to the strength, durability, toughness, sharpness, and corrosion resistance of the steel.


Long Edge Retention 

One of the most important qualities of a knife-edge is edge retention. Knives with longer edge retention do not require frequent sharpening. And the edge doesn’t become dull for a long time either. 

It is due to the presence of cobalt in the elements, the N690 offers better edge retention and doesn’t get dull easily. And Cobalt in the composition ensures the blade is not slowly wearing out either. 

This is why knives made with N690 stainless steel can be used outdoor as well.

Toughness And Hardness 

Usually, toughness and hardness cannot be found in one steel. The toughness of a knife refers to its resistance to force. And hardness refers to its resistance to friction or abrasion resistance. 

But with the N690, you don’t have to choose between one of them. Due to the presence of Carbon, Chromium, and Molybdenum, and manganese in the composition, the N690 steel offers an optimal balance between toughness and hardness. 

And with both of these qualities on board, you will get a perfect knife packed with power that will last for a long time.

Corrosion Resistance 

Corrosion resistance in a knife is a must-have quality. The presence of Chromium in the components ensures the steel doesn’t rust or get dull. 

The N690 is corrosion-resistant stainless steel due to having 17% of Chromium mixed. It can be used in extreme weather conditions like high humidity, moisture, heat, and salt without rusting the steel. This is your perfect choice if you are looking for a knife to use in a corrosive situation.

Our Recommended N690 Knife

Knives made with N690 stainless steel take pride in their outstanding performance and durability. The Kizer EDC- V4458.2E N690 knife is our favorite N690 knife because-

  • The micarta handle of the knife makes it lightweight, ergonomic, and comfortable to use.
  • The N690 steel blade has a black titanium coating to make it more durable. 
  • Ball bearings and a solid liner lock ensure the utmost safety of the user.

M390 Steel: Elegant, High-end, And Fine-edged 

Just like the N690, the M390 was developed by Böhler-Uddeholm. 

Bohler M390 steel is considered one of the finest and toughest knife steels to date. The M390 was developed to make parts of jet engines with it. This alone can be a statement of the toughness of the M390. 

The extreme tear resistance of the M390 steel comes from its chemical composition. The M390 steel is made of Carbon, chromium, molybdenum, Tungsten, and a significant amount of vanadium, etc. 

Carbon adds the necessary strength and durability to the steel. Chromium increases hardness and corrosion resistance making the steel wear and tear-resistant. Meanwhile, Molybdenum adds the required sharpness of the edge.


Better Edge Retention

The most popular quality of the M390 is its edge retention. M390 blades don’t require frequent sharpening because the edges stay sharp for a long time. 

Frequent sharpening often dulls down the edge. It is impossible to sharpen a knife blade evenly. This means the edge will become brittle and thin while the rest of the blade will stay thicker and cause inconvenience. 

But with the Chromium, vanadium mixed in the components, the M390 can hold its sharp edge for a long time.

Wear And Tear Resistance 

The M390 stainless steel is undoubtedly one of the most durable knife steels. A high percentage of chromium and vanadium in the composition offers the right amount of toughness and hardness while increasing the tensile strength, wear, tear, abrasion, and corrosion resistance of the blade. 

If you are using your M390 outdoor daily, it will still outlast most knives available in the market.

Easy To Sharpen 

The M390 offers excellent edge retention. The edge of the blade doesn’t get dull even after using it for harder tasks every day. So, it doesn’t need frequent sharpening either. 

Many tend to think due to its chemical composition, sharpening the M390 might be a hard task. While the M390 is extremely wears and tear-resistant, chromium carbides and molybdenum in the components make it easier to sharpen.

Our Recommended M390 Knife

Now you know all about the M390 steel, but when it comes to picking a good knife made of it, the actual confusion arises. Thankfully we have a solution for that as well. The Lion Steel M4 M390 knife is our favorite M390 knife because-

  • The ergonomic wooden micarta handle offers a comfortable and strong grip. 
  • M390 blade can be used daily without frequent sharpening. 
  • Comes with a double stitched Italian leather sheath making it the perfect camping and outdoor knife.

N690 Vs M390: Which One Is Better?

Both N690 and M390 steel are stainless steels as they both contain 17% and 20% of Chromium. Both of them are equally great in their ways. But if we were to pick a favorite, we would certainly pick the M390 steel. 

N690 and M390 steels are used to create pocket knives, camping knives mostly due to their extreme durability. You may pick the N690 if you-

  • are looking for a hunting knife good for skinning. 
  • are in search of a camping knife at an affordable price. 
  • do not have a problem with sharpening knives frequently.

You may pick the M390 if you-

  • Are looking for a knife fit for hard tasks and a corrosive environment. 
  • Don’t want frequent sharpening.
  • Want a high-end and expensive kitchen tool.

Final Words

So, which one do you think won the N690 vs M390 debate? If you think it’s M390, then our ideal camping and hunting knife possesses the same qualities. And if you think the N690 was the winner in this debate, then don’t worry. It’s equally great as the M390. 

If you can afford the M390, then don’t hesitate to get it. We ensure it will exceed your expectations. The N690 is a great choice if you are looking for affordable camping and hunting knives.

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Steve Thampson

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