Steels, introducing 80CrV2

Which steel is the best, the eternal question when the subject is something about knives or blades in general. Ultra-modern powder supersteels, carbonsteels and stainless steels compete with each-other for the coveted title, the best.

In the real world though, the best is always a relative term. For anything to be the best it has to outperform all other similar products in either all aspects, or at least most of them. These aspects also include price, availability and workability. Doing a comparison between the legendary ZDP-189 from Hitachi and Thyssenkrupps 80CrV2, these aspects are all in 80CrV2s favor. 80CrV2 is approx. 10x cheaper per size, available in a multitude of sizes and is easy to harden. ZDP-189 is hardly ever available outside of Japan, demands an exact series of heating and cooling including a sub-zero treatment to perform at its best. This means that ZDP-189 is better than 80CrV2 only when money is no issue, you have found somewhere to buy it, and also have the tools, machinery and experience needed to work with it properly.

With these things in mind, 80CrV2 is the better option for most of us out of the two. It is cheap and available, can be hardened in a coal grill and hairdryer setup while judging the temperature with a magnet.

During the last 5-10 years or so, 80CrV2 has gained a lot of popularity among custom makers worldwide. Despite this, there is not a lot of official information online about the steel. The reason for this is that it was never designed to be a knife steel specifically, and thus marketing to the knife community has been at an absolute minimum. Even critical information as heat treatment is not available from the manufacturer.

Luckily though, the knife making community is not one to give up easily. 80CrV2 has been used in knifes for decades already, and the heat treatment schedules have been tested and perfected by many.

80CrV2 tool steel manufactured by Thyssenkrupp in Hohenlimburg Germany.

Thyssenkrupp is a leading steel manufacturer, who also have subdivisions manufacturing everything from military naval vessels to automotive components and elevators. With such a wide variety of products, it was just a matter of time before someone in the knife-world jumped on something.

The find was of course 80CrV2, which is a carbon tool steel, and was originally designed for springs, circular saw blade and various cutting tools. As such, 80CrV2 has excellent shock resistance even compared to much more expensive steels. Edge retention and wear resistance are also good, which makes this a serious contender for knives. The addition of Vanadium in the steel is even sought after because it produces extremely durable carbides at the molecular level. Ultimately, these carbides make up the cutting edge on every knife, and here durability is king.

The toughness of the steel has stood the test of time well. It is by far the most used steel in the Finnish Puukko industry. Predominantly in factory blades, but the steel has gained popularity among custom makers as well. Availability and price are two important factors for the success, but workability is maybe even more important. Here 80CrV2 shines as well as it is often recommended for beginners along with similar steels as 1080 or 1084+.

At the basic level, heat treating 80Crv2 is relatively easy. It will harden and be usable when heated to approx. 830-880C and dipped in oil. Then just temper in the oven for an hour or two at 200C to take down the hardness. This said, much better results will be achieved when applying annealing cycles and hardening at more exact temperatures. This is something everyone has to master with their own tools and machines.

Overall, 80CrV2 is a good balanced carbon steel that is well suited for large and small knives alike. With this steel, it is only your creativity that sets the boundaries.

80CrV2 heat treatment recommendations, unofficial. Collected online from various makers who have shared their experiences.

Normalizing cycles at 870C, 830C, 800C, 700C. Holding/soaking time 2 minutes.

Hardening at 830C into preheated 60C oil

Tempering, holding time 2 hours.

  • 150C – 63HRC
  • 200C – 60HRC
  • 250C – 57HRC

Chemical analysis, mass percentages




















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