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Thread: Elmax v. s30v

  1. #1
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    Elmax v. s30v

    Can anyone give me a good comparison of Elmax and s30v?

    Edge stability? Ease of sharpening? Chip resistance?

    I'm unlikely to use it for prying, so "toughness" isn't a huge issue for me (I've got a breacher bar in my work bag for that kind of thing).

    I've been quite happy with s30v (my most common EDC for most of the past year was a Manix 2 in s30v). But now I hear that Elmax is the new hotness. Should I be looking to try it out?

    I do have an Elmax Mule, but no s30v mule, so I can't really compare. And I find the Elmax mule is a bit lacking compared with my two favorite (and most used) mules--but since those are k390 and s110v I can't really fault the Elmax for that.

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    Spyderco Forum Registered User xceptnl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomAiello View Post
    ..And I find the Elmax mule is a bit lacking compared with my two favorite (and most used) mules--but since those are k390 and s110v I can't really fault the Elmax for that.
    What other Mules do you have to offer a more closely related comparison? What tasks are you currently using them for to be the basis for your comparison?
    My 's:
    Native, Manix 2 (BD1,154CM,S30V,M4,XHP,S110V,Cruwear), Delica 4 (White,Red,Brown,Blue,BRG,G-10), Spyderhawk, D'fly (H1,G-10,SB), Police3, Volpe, Military (S30V,XHP,D2,M390,BG42,440V,Cruwear), Superleafs, Forager, D2 Para, Kopas, Kiwis, Caly (JR's,3,3.5), Para2 (XHP,204P), Stretch (SS,FRN's,CF), Rescues, Dyad Jr, Pingos, Southard, AIR, Jess Horns, Forum N5, Lil Matriarch, Barong, Superhawk, Chinook II, ATR, SPY-DK, Captain, Ti UKPK, Mules

    *Landon*

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    Quote Originally Posted by xceptnl View Post
    What other Mules do you have to offer a more closely related comparison? What tasks are you currently using them for to be the basis for your comparison?
    Exactly! K390 and Elmax are both great steels but intended for different uses. K390 maximizes abrasion resistance at the expense of corrosion resistance. Elmax is a more balanced steel. To address your "Elmax vs S30v" question, both alloys fill the "high end general purpose stainless niche" and I've been quite happy with both of them in Spyderco blades.

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    Elmax is better in edge holding but production companies haven't had as much luck getting it right. S30v is a safer choice unless going custom.

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    How does Elmax compare to S35V and XHP? I hate to complicate things, and assume, from earlier threads, that S35V should be similar to S30V, but a little tougher and less likely to chip. I wonder how XHP and Elmax compare to each other and to S30v. I haven't seen any tendency to chip in my S30V Chaparral, but I tend to baby my pocket knives.
    I have knives in S30V (pocket knives, including the Chaparral) and S35V and XHP (all thin bladed kitchen knives). For me, the blade geometry and stuff being cut are so different across these knives that I'm not able to come to any conclusions about edge holding. XHP seems to be a solid performer in the kitchen, but I can't say with any certainty that it will outperform VG10 at RC60.
    All of my knives in these steels are production knives, so that is a constant. I have read that S30v is chippy unless the edge is refined by stropping? Does this fit your experience?

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    Well, due to the lack of an S30V mule, I guess you can't compare perfectly 1 for 1. But surely you can draw some sort of meaningful conclusion from having both steels available to you? Or do you not have any knives in S30V? It's unlikely that anyone else has identical blades in S30V and Elmax to compare, and their experience may or may not translate to your uses. Remember that: material being cut, method of cutting, edge geometry, skill in sharpening, sharpening methods, frequency of use....all contribute to the factors you asked about. So get out there, hack some stuff up with both steels, and see which one floats your boat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TomAiello View Post

    Edge stability? Ease of sharpening? Chip resistance?
    These are very similar steels, any difference seen between them is far more likely to be due to :

    -geometry
    -sharpening
    -HT differences

    The only curious thing about it is that Elmax is a step backwards when you look at the original promotion of the CPM steels from Crucible. Crucible put a huge promotion into the fact they were minimizing Cr so as to minimize the chromium carbides (which are large/soft) and they would achieve necessary wear resistance through Vanadium as it makes smaller carbides. This means they could achieve a higher toughness at a given wear resistance. This was strongly promoted not only by Crucible but by makers/manufacturers (and a number of users) as being vitally important.

    This is not the case in Elmax and yet all of that promotion/argument is just carefully pretended to have never been said.

    In short, the steels are very similar and in the same class, to actually see the differences in the steels you would need a way to measure performance to high precision and accuracy. Now of course if you use one knife in S30V and one in Elmax you could see a large difference, but that isn't necessarily due to the steel.

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    Spyderco Forum Registered User Ankerson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomAiello View Post
    Can anyone give me a good comparison of Elmax and s30v?

    Edge stability? Ease of sharpening? Chip resistance?

    I'm unlikely to use it for prying, so "toughness" isn't a huge issue for me (I've got a breacher bar in my work bag for that kind of thing).

    I've been quite happy with s30v (my most common EDC for most of the past year was a Manix 2 in s30v). But now I hear that Elmax is the new hotness. Should I be looking to try it out?

    I do have an Elmax Mule, but no s30v mule, so I can't really compare. And I find the Elmax mule is a bit lacking compared with my two favorite (and most used) mules--but since those are k390 and s110v I can't really fault the Elmax for that.
    I have a good bit of experience with ELMAX and S30V...

    Both are great steels and in the same performance class edge retention wise in production knives, most of the differences people see would be in the knives themselves and not so much the steels.

    Both are about the same sharpening wise, what works for one will work for the other.

    As time goes on for more data points on performance as more knives are available and get into peoples hands we all will have a better understanding of what ELMAX does.

    ELMAX really starts to show at over 60 RC or in the 60-62 RC range with a CYRO Temper, drop it below 60 RC and the edge retention drops a lot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tvenuto View Post
    Or do you not have any knives in S30V?
    I have many knives in s30v. The knife I've used most often since really beginning to be aware of the differences is a Manix 2 in s30v. I've swapped over to the s110v as my EDC recently, though.

    Was there ever an s30v mule? I realize it wasn't part of the original idea of the Mule Team, but mules in very common steels would be nice so that we could have a better base line for comparison. I'd love to have a VG-10 mule and an s30v mule for that reason.

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    Mules are done at very specific hardnesses and only give you information for how a steel will perform at that hardness using that heat treat method.

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    There was no S30V mule team released for sale as far as I know.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cujobob View Post
    Mules are done at very specific hardnesses and only give you information for how a steel will perform at that hardness using that heat treat method.
    Fair enough, but if that's how Spyderco is going to HT that steel then it gives you some predictive power. Unless you're implying that the mule is treated differently than production knives?

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    Spyderco Forum Registered User Ankerson's Avatar
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    Just got done testing a ZT 0770CF in ELMAX and it did extremely well, not sure of the hardness range yet, but it performed much higher than the Mule Team did at 58.5 RC.

    I am guessing 60-62 RC range..... As it also beat S30V at 60 RC...



    Last edited by Ankerson; 05-15-2014 at 10:11 AM.

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    Spyderco Forum Registered User senorsquare's Avatar
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    Interesting Jim. Folks have complained about ZT's treatment of Elmax in the past but it seems like maybe they are getting their HT dialed in. I had a ZT 801 for a minute and I wasn't too impressed with the cutting ability but I think that was mostly due to the thick grind.

    It would be an interesting comparison to see how the Elmax Lionspy stacks up but that might not be apples to apples with the Lionspy having a 4.5mm blade.

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    Spyderco Forum Registered User Ankerson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by senorsquare View Post
    Interesting Jim. Folks have complained about ZT's treatment of Elmax in the past but it seems like maybe they are getting their HT dialed in. I had a ZT 801 for a minute and I wasn't too impressed with the cutting ability but I think that was mostly due to the thick grind.

    It would be an interesting comparison to see how the Elmax Lionspy stacks up but that might not be apples to apples with the Lionspy having a 4.5mm blade.
    It seems like it, the ZT was .025" behind the edge, same as the Military S30V, but the blade thickness somewhat thinner on the ZT.

    I tested another ZT along time ago in ELMAX and it also did well.

    But then I remove the factory edge and a good bit of steel reprofiling and sharpening before I test.

    I believe a lot of the complaints come from using the factory edge and or just poor sharpening on the peoples part.

    Yeah that LionSpy is thick....

    I have tested a lot of knives in ELMAX over the years and in different hardness ranges so I have a pretty good idea of what the steel will do.
    Last edited by Ankerson; 05-15-2014 at 10:50 AM.

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    The issues with ZT isn't simply the hardening, though they have admitted to compromising on performance for aesthetics. The knives have had repeated evidence of severe heat damage. LionSpy have had the same issues with their Elmax reported. The effects of heat damage are severe, they will easily reduce the edge retention to a fraction of the undamaged performance, less than 10% isn't uncommon.

    As for cutting ability, that has nothing to do with the steel, just how it is ground/sharpened.

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    Spyderco Forum Registered User Jeremy_A_Neel's Avatar
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    Just about every knife I've owned in S30V has chipped with normal use. I have a ZT 0620 pre-ordered, so eventually, I'll have some Elmax to use.
    "If you have a difficult task, give it to a lazy person - they will find an easier way to do it." -Hlade's Law

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    Spyderco Forum Registered User Donut's Avatar
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    I thought that I heard the Lionspy is made in the Fox factory. I thought I heard that ZT's are supposed to be USA made.

    Do the problems with Elmax have to do with factories being new with the steel?
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  18. #18
    Spyderco Forum Registered User Ankerson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donut View Post
    I thought I heard that ZT's are supposed to be USA made.

    Do the problems with Elmax have to do with factories being new with the steel?
    They are US made.

    Any steel that is newer to a maker will take some time to sort out what they need to do with it, get things dialed in etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy_A_Neel View Post
    Just about every knife I've owned in S30V has chipped with normal use.
    More so than say VG-10?

    How much have you used/sharpened them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Donut View Post
    Do the problems with Elmax have to do with factories being new with the steel?
    Steels grind differently,you have to adjust grinding speed, force and abrasive, if you don't you have problems. In general in the knife industry people do outright crazy things like grinding HSS hot and then water quenching it. There is therefore a big unknown as to how it is ground, but in general, very general, newer and high carbide steels are prone to this kind of issue.

    However there is also another factor which is likely to be even more significant which is bias in reporting. When a few reports are made and it becomes "known" that there is a certain type of problem then two things will start to happen immediately :

    -this problem is more likely to be reported by people who experience it
    -people can "see" it even if it isn't there

    For example if a guy has read/seen a lot of Elmax/over heating problems and his blade chips he is very likely to conclude his blade is damaged and report it as such. If the same guy using the same knife but in a different steel which has not had those problems reported and in fact the opposite was "known" he is very likely to conclude that he must have hit something hard and just sharpened it and doesn't report anything.

    This is why you have to be very careful of using anecdotal reports to conclude steel performance.

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    Jeremy, what kind of things are you cutting in "normal use"?

    My HG Manix hasn't had any chipping issues. I rarely hit metal with it though. Probably the hardest thing I regularly cut is zip ties. I do cut a lot of rope, and an above average amount of packaging (cardboard and fiber strapping).

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