Elmax vs. M390

July 08, 2019

Elmax vs. M390

Elmax or M390? 

Pay close attention to the type of steel used in the blade and it will instantly give away the quality of that knife. That’s the truth, it’s no magic. Good steel spells out great knives.

New or not, it’s common knowledge that there are many variables to consider in choosing the best knife. Its value lies not only with the designs but also with the blade's natural capabilities. It’s toughness, hardness, edge retention, and strength are all very important and are just some to name the few.
Amongst the popular types of steel are Elmax and M390. Let us guide you through their profiles and know more about these so-called ‘Super Steel’.


Elmax is generally new until 2009 when it became very popular. It was declared as the "best all-around knife steel" and it has also been called the "super steel" at some point.
Produced by Bohler-Uddenholm, ELMAX steel is "high chromium-vanadium-molybdenum-alloyed steel," made of 1.7 percent carbon, 18 percent chromium, .3 percent manganese, 1 percent molybdenum, .8 percent silicon, and 3 percent vanadium. This composition allows for the metal to have high wear resistance, high compressive strength, superior corrosion resistance, and very good dimensional stability, or the ability to retain its size and form even after taking abuse.

Apocalypse by TRC in ELMAX
This steel is considered an upgraded version of stainless steel but acts in many ways like a carbon steel. It is the easiest of the super-steels to sharpen while maintaining a healthy resistance to rust. Knife enthusiasts find these qualities very convenient and savvy so perhaps, it is the best steel for making knives? Or at least this is the best steel for true outdoor knives designed for heavy use? For example our Apocalypse by TRC?

Elmax is from Bohler-Uddeholm, previously European Uddeholm.


This bad boy is called a "super steel" for a reason. It amazingly uses third generation powder metal technology which is then developed for knife blades. It exhibits excellent edge retention, corrosion resistance and very high hardness for excellent wear resistance. Chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, and tungsten are added to promote sharpness and outstanding edge retention. 

Universal by DED in M390

M390 hardens to 60-62 HRC.  Bohler calls this steel “Microclean” and it can be polished to achieve a true mirror.

Maybe this is the best steel for making knives?

Check our collection of M390 knives.

TO CONCLUDE, both are definitely super steels and can be the best steel depends on what you will be using it for. We ran a poll on BladeForums.com with this question and the results are very interesting. ELMAX looks more promising, easier to sharpen with the excellent edge retention and "toughness" for the practical knife users. When you need to use and abuse your knife - ELMAX will stand slightly better than M390. But perfectly sharpened M390 will hold the edge and CUT perfectly for the longest time if maintained properly. 

Considering the steel’s power is good and wise but keep in mind that the blade’s steel is not everything.

Don’t get caught up in the maze!

Thank you for reading.

Universals by DED in M390

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