What is N690co Steel? (Complete Guide)

When it comes to high-end knives, most avid knife owners know that blade steel is everything. If you have seen knives like the Arno Bernard knife, tomahawks, or some knives made with a Cobalt Vanadium Stainless Steel known as N690co steel, you will wonder, “what is this steel?”

After extensive research, I have answered some of the common questions that you may want to know about N690co, from its chemical composition to its uses.

What Is N690co Steel?

The N690co steel is high-end stainless steel made in Austria by a company known as Bohler, popularly known for making steel used to make surgical instruments and sharp knives. It is also similar to 440C steel, and it has 1.07% carbon content, while N440C steel has a carbon content that ranges from 0.95% to 1.07%.

The N690co steel is high-end stainless steel with an alloy commonly used for making blades, outdoor knives, kitchenware, and automotive trim and building. Furthermore, it is very durable knife steel and wear-resistant.

Common Uses Of N690co Steel

The N690co steel is usually used for making very hard cutting tools with great wire sealing properties. Some of the uses of N690co steel are stated below.

  • For making blades of knives
  • To make fuls of plates and blades.
  • For making sharp surgical instruments
  • For designing rotating knives for the meat processing industry
  • To make needles for valves and pistons for refrigeration machines.
  • For building corrosion-resistant roller bearings

N690co Steel Chemical Composition

N690co steel is very high in Carbon, Molybdenum, and Chromium. Furthermore, the combination of these chemical compounds helps to give the steel a good balance when it comes to its hardness and toughness. The chemical composition of N690co steel with their functions are stated below.

  • It has 1.07% Carbon. Carbon helps to improve the hardness and wear or corrosion resistance of steel. However, if it is available in a high amount, it decreases strength.
  • It has 17.30% Chromium. This improves the edge retention and tensile strength of steel while enhancing corrosion and wearing resistance.
  • It has 1.1% Molybdenum. This helps to increase the strength and machinability of steel.
  • It has 0.4% Manganese. This increases the hardness and brittleness of steel.
  • It has a 0.4% Silicon. This improves the strength of steel.
  • It has 1.65% Cobalt. This boosts the individual effects of other components in steel.
  • 1% Vanadium. It improves the wear resistance and hardenability of steel.

N690co Steel Hardness

The N690co steel offers a great value when it comes to finding a corrosion resistant knife steel with excellent edge holding capabilities. The combination of vanadium and chromium helps in enhancing the steel holding capability, while cobalt and carbon can help the steel retain high hardness.

Furthermore, the maximum hardness of the N690CO is about 61HRC. However, it hardens and tempers to 57-59 HRC and 60-62 HRC with a deep freeze.

Properties Of N690co Steel

Based on the chemical composition and hardness of N690co stainless steel, some of its properties are stated below.

Edge Retention

The N690co steel has a hardness of over 60hrc, which means it offers great edge retention. This shows that knives made with this steel can hold sharpness during use whether you are dicing up cardboard boxes or hacking up sisal rope.

Here is a video showing the edge retention property of N690co (courtesy: Cedric & Ada Gear and Outdoors):

Corrosion Resistance

The N690co steel includes 17% chromium that offers great corrosion resistance. This means this steel can resist rust and corrosion, and you can use it in a humid, salty, or wet environment without any ill-effect on the steel.


Having a knife that can be easy to sharpen can be the difference when you are in a life and death situation in the wild. However, when it comes to N690co steel, sharpening is quite an easy and pain-free process when compared to harder steel.


Although N690co is not the best in the stainless-steel category when it comes to its toughness, it can handle outdoor damages and intense batoning sessions. This means it can resist chips and total failure when subjected to torsion, impact, beating, and twisting.

Wear Resistance

N690co steel has a great wear resistance because of its chemical composition, like the presence of chromium and vanadium. Furthermore, it is close to the premium steels, and you can use it for years before it can wear out.


N690co steel has molybdenum in its chemical composition, and this aids machinability. This means you need a little power to cut the steel and obtain a good finish. Furthermore, it does not war the tooling very much.

Here is a video showing the overall performance of N690co steel (courtesy: Caffeine Junkie):

N690co Equivalent Steels or Alternative

N690co is high-end steel that offers a balanced chemical composition that offers a wide range of properties from edge retention to toughness. However, some steels have a close chemical composition with the N690co.

In this section, we are going to compare N690co with other steels using four criteria, namely corrosion resistance, edge retention, toughness, and ease of sharpness, with a scale from 1-10

N690 VS S30V

Edge retention58
Corrosion resistance77
Ease of sharpness65

The S30V is similar to the N690 when it comes to corrosion resistance, but it offers better edge retention while its toughness and ease of sharpness are lower than N690.

N690 vs. VG10

Edge retention55
Corrosion resistance77
Ease of sharpness66

The VG10 is quite similar to the N690 as the edge retention, corrosion resistance, toughness, and ease of sharpness are the same.

N690 vs. D2

Edge retention57
Corrosion resistance74
Ease of sharpness63

There is a huge difference between D2 and N690 steel. D2 offers better edge retention and toughness, while N690 has better corrosion resistance and ease of sharpness.

154cm vs. N690

Edge retention55
Corrosion resistance57
Ease of sharpness56

The 154cm is quite similar to N690 when it comes to edge retention and toughness. However, N690 offers better corrosion resistance and ease of sharpness.

N690 vs. AUS 8

N690AUS 8
Edge retention53
Corrosion resistance74
Ease of sharpness68

The N690 and AUS8 are similar in terms of toughness, but N690 offers better edge retention and corrosion resistance, while AUS 8 offers better ease of sharpness.

N690 vs. H1

Edge retention52
Corrosion resistance710
Ease of sharpness68

There is a huge difference between N690 and H1 steels. H1 steels offer better corrosion resistance, ease of sharpness, and toughness, while N690 has better edge retention.

Is N690co Steel Good For Knives?

Yes, N690 steel is good for knives as it offers excellent corrosion resistance, edge retention, wear resistance, and good toughness.

If you are looking for great steel for your knife, the N690co is a perfect choice, especially if you are a fisherman or a hunter. This is because it can hold its edge very well, you can easily sharpen it, it is corrosion-resistant, and perfect for skinning.

It will also work perfectly if you are a diver or kitchen chef, but you should keep in mind that it is high-end steel and can look to be a bit overpriced.

Pros & Cons Of N690co Steel

  • It is extremely fine-grained, making it easy for it to retain its sharpness when used for a long period.
  • It can be used to make ideal hunting knives as it can thrive well in different conditions.
  • N690co can resist deterioration and corrosion like rust caused by external elements such as salt, humidity, and moisture.
  • It is very easy to sharpen N690co steel.
  • N690co steel is very hardy and can resist deforming when subjected to stress or applied force.
  • Because of the presence of molybdenum in steel, it is very good for machinability.
  • It is versatile as it can be used to produce a sharp knife or surgical instruments.
  • More works need to be done on their toughness.
  • Due to the high hardness level of steel, it can be difficult to sharpen with improvised tools.
  • Although it has a fine surface finish, it is not suitable for making mirrored surface finishes.
  • The steel is not suitable for beginners because its working degree of difficulty is average.

Best N690co Steel Knives

#1: Spyderco Squeak Non-Locking Knife

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This is a non-locking folding knife, and it is a perfect tool for cutting chores. It is also socially friendly and legally permitted in most places.

Furthermore, the knife has a blade ground with flat bevels which extends all the way to the cutting edge from the spine. This helps to reduce drag during cutting and to decrease the overall weight.

You will love the knife’s deep finger choil design, where you can position your index finger to block the blade from accidental closing when cutting. It also offers a grip position where you can choke-up closer to the cutting edge for more impact.

You will also appreciate the handle designed with fiberglass reinforced nylon, which makes it lightweight but with high strength. Furthermore, the knife has a smooth blade, which makes it easy to sharpen whenever you want.

  • You can easily close it with one hand.
  • It can fit perfectly in the coin pocket with the pocket clip removed.
  • The blade steel and blade grind are excellent.
  • It is super handy
  • It is legal almost everywhere.
  • The finger choil is wonderful and comfortable when you slip your finger inside.
  • It does not lock
  • It is harder to open with one hand, unlike a locking knife.
  • The screw holding the clip may come loose.

#2: Cudeman Survival Knife 251-JC

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This is a brand of sports knife made in Spain, and it is a perfect tool for hunting, fishing, and sports activities. You will love the design of the blade with its drop-point shape.

The Cudeman Survival knife is semi-handcrafted with great attention to design. You will also appreciate the knife’s long handle with its volume that allows you to work longer and without any pressure points.

It also comes with a black leather sheath for storing your knife while moving around. Furthermore, the knife comes with a sharpening stone for sharpening the blade and a signaling mirror that will come in handy when in the woods.

  • The handle is long with plenty of volume for working longer.
  • The blade is quite durable and will last for a long time.
  • Due to its ergonomic shape, it does not slip when you sweat.
  • It is resistant to wear and corrosion.
  • It is not expensive
  • It is non-retractable

#3: Spyderco Roadie Non-Locking Lightweight Knife

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This is among the best pocketknife that you can buy. The Spyderco roadie is a non-locking pocket knife, which means it is legally accessible in most places.

Furthermore, you will love the design of the knife, and most people that set their eyes on it will fall in love with it. The knife’s most significant feature is the double dent, a pair of symmetrical dimples on the blade for a fingernail-free two-handed opening.

You will also appreciate its index-finger choil, making it easy to control the knife during use and guard against unintentional closure.

  • It is lightweight and almost unnoticeable when in your pocket.
  • The blade is also razor-sharp.
  • You will appreciate its color, which makes it very visible when you lose it.
  • You can open your knife with a hand.
  • It has a non-threatening look, which makes it a perfect knife in the workplace.
  • It is legally accepted in most places.
  • It does not lock
  • It is too small, and you can easily lose it.


The N690co steel offers a great balance of hardness, edge retention, corrosion and wears resistance, and toughness due to its chemical composition. It is also great steel used for making premium and high-end knives. You will surely love the experience of using a knife made with N690co as it can hold its edge for long without any stains on it after an extended time using it.

If you have any questions regarding the N690co, you can leave a comment below, and we will love to discuss knives with you.

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