We get questions all the time from our customers about which blade steel is best or how different finishes and coatings will affect the blade as it's used, so we've included information on the more common blade steels and finishes used in Benchmade's knives.
Blade finish refers to the surface treatment of the blade, which can be anything from the way in which the steel is processed, to a multitude of blade coatings which are applied to the blade itself. Benchmade uses a variety of finish methods to "dress" their blades.
SATIN FINISH: creates a low-luster sheen to the blade steel surface. Several common forms of satin finish include:
POLISHED FINISH: can be defined as any highly-reflective or glossy finish that refines and smoothes the metal surface. This finish aids in corrosion resistance as microscopic peaks and valleys of the blade surface are smoothed out, leaving less surface area exposed.
BEAD BLAST FINISH: can be defined as any non-reflective finish applied to the metal surface by bead blasting or sand blasting the blade with any of a variety of media. The intent is to roughen the surface for anti-glare. The trade off is it tends to be more susceptible to corrosion due to the increased surface area exposed. This finish is also commonly referred to as a "military finish".
When it comes to blade steels, Benchmade not only selects premium grades for their natural qualities, but they've also perfected their own custom heat treat process which maximizes each steel's edge toughness and cutting performance.
M390: A super-performance blade steel with exceptional cutting ability and wear resistance. Because of its uniform microstructure and stainless properties, M390 is often used in surgical cutting instruments and other applications that require a high finish.
CPM-M4: Special purpose, high-speed steel with a combination of high carbon, moly, vanadium and tungsten for excellent wear resistance and toughness. A powder-metal, non-stainless steel.
CPM-S30V: An American-made and developed premium grade stainless steel created especially for knives. It is a powder-made steel with a uniform carbide distribution and clean steel properties. As a blade material, it offers excellent corrosion resistance and superb edge qualities.
CPM-S90V: A unique tool steel, CPM-S90V is a martensitic stainless steel to which vanadium and carbon have been added for superior wear resistance. CPM-S90V offers substantial improvements in wear resistance over 440C and D2, and other high chromium steels, with corrosion resistance equal to or better than 440C.
154CM: An American-made premium grade stainless steel originally developed for tough industrial applications. Known for its best all-around qualities, it offers great corrosion resistance with good toughness and edge quality.
D2: An air-hardened tool steel that offers excellent wear resistance. A good choice for hard use applications.
N680: A chromium-molybdenum conventionally produced stainless steel with the addition of vanadium and nitrogen. Excellent corrosion resistance properties, especially in saltwater. Good hardenability and high obtainable hardness. High wear resistance and ability to preserve keenness.
440C: A high-chromium stainless steel with a terrific balance of good hardness and corrosion resistance. 440C takes a nice edge and is fairly easy to resharpen. An excellent value-priced steel for its performance.
DAMASCUS: A specially forged, layered steel made of a variety of steels. It offers remarkable toughness and edge quality. For finishing, the surface layers or lines are exposed through an acid etch which creates a very unique visual effect. Used in special applications due to its inherent high cost and artistic nature.
CERAKOTE: Designed and manufactured by NIC Industries, Cerakote has a unique ceramic structure that outperforms competitive coatings and improves performance in both laboratory and realworld settings.
BK1 COATING: BK1 coating is a matte black coating that provides excellent corrosion protection, which exceeds the ASTM-117 spec for saltwater while possessing higher scratch resistance.
BT2 COATING: A proprietary blade coating that is Xylan-based to provide excellent corrosion resistance which exceeds the ASTM-117 spec for saltwater and increases overall surface lubricity.
BP1 COATING: Black Pearl (BP) is a PVD (physical vapor deposition) coating made up of Titanium Carbo-Nitride (TiCN for short). It is a darker, near black, scratch resistant coating with nice decorative qualities.
TANTO: Most tantos seen on the American cutlery market are Americanized formats. Like the Japanese tanto, the Americanized tanto has a high point in-line with the pivot. A flat grind is applied to the point, leaving it very thick and extraordinarily strong. This thick area helps absorb the impact from piercing, as the tanto was originally designed for armor piercing. The front edge meets the bottom edge at an obtuse angle rather than curving to meet it as seen in the Japanese tanto. The only negative aspect of the tanto blade shape is the cutting surface area is sacrificed to gain tip strength.
DROP-POINT: A slow convex-curved drop in the point characterizes a drop-point blade. This blade format lowers the point for control but adds strength to the tip. It is a very popular blade shape that ranges from a slight drop to a radical downward curve providing endless styles. In fixed blades this blades shape easily sheaths. Usually coupled with plenty of belly for slicing, this format is often used for hunting knives. Drop points are a great all-around blade format.
CLIP-POINT: A clip point is technically a variant of a drop point. Instead of a “slow convex-curve” to lower the point; the profile is “clipped” to bring the point down. Sometimes a concave curve will be referred to as a “clipped point”. This is usually associated with bowie styles.
SHEEPSFOOT: This blade shape has no point on the tip, very little to no belly and the spine of the blade curves down to meet the edge. It is used in applications where slicing is the main requirement, and a point is either not needed or would actively get in the way. Emergency rescue blades are usually of this design. The lack of a point prevents the rescuer from inadvertently injuring a victim who is being cut free from something restrictive.