N690 Steel (aka N690co) Guide
The N690 steel also known as N690co mostly used in medical instruments and sharp materials such as knives. The “N” stands for Nitrogen (please correct me if I’m wrong in the comment section) which is used in place of carbon for the basis of the steel matrix due to its advantages in corrosion while the “co” is used because of the cobalt composition of the material.
A Short History of N690 Steel
The N690 is an Austrian made stainless steel which is comparable to 440C in performance and value. Some may call it wooden horn steel because of the area which it is taken from the mountain. It has excellent edge qualities and corrosion resistance. (See ESEE 6 knife review)
N690 vs 440c Steel
440C (or 440F for some people) is quite common but it’s still excellent at holding an edge, but N690co is much better. Although very similar, it’s got added cobalt and what it does is it actually gives a longer lasting edge, improves the wear resistance and edge retention. The extra bit of cobalt it what makes N690 better than 440c.
The N690 is a go-to over 440c because of the extra corrosion resistance and better suited in harsher environments. You can try and leave both steel outdoors for a long period of time and you can see that the N690 has a better condition afterwards. (See Shirogorov knife review)
What Are The Capabilities of N690 Steel?
This is a strong steel with 50 to 60 on the HRC scale. The N690 steel has a great edge that is easy to sharpen with excellent corrosion and edge retention capabilities. It’s strong but it’s not brittle like s30v or other blade steels whereby the edge itself is not going to chip on you and it’s just gonna roll.
- 1.080 Carbon
- 17.300 Chromium
- 1.500 Cobalt
- 0.400 Manganese
- 1.100 Molybdenum
- 0.400 Silicon
- 0.100 Vanadium
The N690 steel is proven to be good because Spyderco and other knife companies wouldn’t use it on their mainstream knives if they don’t have faith in it. They’re obviously happy with the results from this steel.
This steel can be sharpen easily and keeps is sharp for a long period of time and it would rather roll than chip or break. N690 steel is not a chopping blade steel, it’s more of a skinning type of blade.
As of now, not many manufacturers are using it but they are starting to get a grip on this steel although its been around for a long time. The N690 is a go-to over 440c because of the extra corrosion resistance and better suited in harsher environments. (Check our best pocket knife reviews)