CTS XHP, how is it compared to S30V?

Discussion in 'Spyderco' started by sogflash, Oct 12, 2014.

  1. tsdevanna


    Nov 2, 2005
    CTS-XHP is a powder metallurgy steel. Any Carpenter knife steel grade name ending in "P" indicates Micro melt = power metallurgy. I normally explain CTS-XHP as powdered D2 with an extra 4% Chromium. I have been using a CTS-XHP hunting knife for 3 years now and it has performed extremely well. CPMS30v does have more Vanadium than CTS-XHP which should equate to better wear resistance but both steels perform extremely well. The upside to CTS-XHP would be ease of sharpening compared to S30V. You cannot go wrong with either steel !!!
  2. rallyx99


    Feb 7, 2013

    XHP is about as far away from a "value steel" as you can get. I should know because I've made over 100 knives from it this year alone. It's consistently more expensive than other premium knife steels. In fact, only REX 121 beats it out as the most expensive knife steel I've used lately. That's really saying something because I've used S30V, CPM-M4, CPM-3V, CPM-10V, 13C26, 14C28N, O1 and A2 in addition to my XHP and REX 121 this year.

    Looking at alloy composition alone won't tell you if one steel holds a better edge than another. My findings, and the findings of many other custom knifemakers I know show that XHP takes and holds a better edge than S30V. Additionally, it's easer to sharpen and touch-up (probably because of the lower vanadium content).

    Full disclosure: I do all my own heat treating so that may be a factor. NEVERTHELESS, I've found XHP to be the best all around knife steel currently in existence if you balance edge-retention, toughness and corrosion resistance. I believe that it's not more commonly used in knives because of its high cost, comparably finicky heat treat response (makers that have made THIN blades from it know what I'm talking about) and lack of name recognition (95% of my customers don't know who Carpenter even is).

    Finally, as stated before, CTS-XHP IS A POWDER METALLURGY STEEL, just like S30V. Forging doesn't come into play at all here, BTW. I and every maker who has used XHP and S30V know from first hand experience that Carpenter's PM process is much cleaner than Crucible's. If you don't believe me, ask a maker if they've ever polished S30V ;-)

    As stated, both S30V and XHP blow 440 out of the water.
  3. Kirk_Ferentz


    Feb 16, 2010
    Everyone seems to agree that XHP is relatively easy to sharpen ... does that mean that I could sharpen it well on my Japanese water stones? Can it be sharpened on standard stones like say an aluminum oxide stone if that's all I have available? Some posts seem to indicate that special sharpening materials like diamond stones would be needed.

    Lost my delica on a hunting trip recently and am thinking about a replacement. I remember hearing a lot of great things about XHP and the domino has always appealed to me. But I try to stick to knives that I can sharpen on the go, even if I haven't been able to lug special stones along with me.
  4. arty


    Oct 18, 2003
    I have kitchen knives in S35V and XHP and haven't been able to see a difference in performance yet. Both work great.
    I have been using Spyderco ceramic stones to sharpen my stainless, high chromium steel. I can't comment on your stones, but I usually use Japanese water stones and aluminum oxide stones for carbon steel tool blades. I have no trouble sharpening VG10 or S30V on the Spyderco stones. I have only had to strop the kitchen knives so far. I can't see any difference, yet, in edge retention between the XHP and the S35V. Both do much better than my older kitchen knives in 440C. When you get to good steel, it may be hard to see a difference unless you are in extreme conditions...like cutting up lots of cord or boxes when moving. Frankly, I find it hard to see a difference in the kitchen between properly done VG10 and supposedly "better" steel. Any of these steels should outperform 440C, if given a good heat treat.
    You shouldn't need diamond stones for XHP. I have some,diamond stones, but don't use them. If you found it difficult to sharpen the XHP on your aluminum oxide stones, you could always use a silicon carbide stone. That should handle anything, and they are not very expensive, even if you go with Norton stones.
  5. rallyx99


    Feb 7, 2013

    I agree with arty: you shouldn't have trouble sharpening XHP. You can even use wet/dry sandpaper. The most useful thing though is a good leather strop. Or two. If you have two, put a polishing compound on one (I like Tormek) and leave the other naked. You can always get a nice piece of veg tanned leather and use that.
  6. Ankerson

    Ankerson Knife and Computer Geek Platinum Member

    Nov 2, 2002
    My sources show XHP cheaper than CPM S30V, CPM 3V, CPM 20CV, CPM 10V, CPM 154 and CPM M4.

    Not exactly expensive compared to some others like S90V and S110V.

    Lower alloy content, lower cost per pound, cheaper to produce, same price range as PD-1.

    XHP is basically the stainless version of CPM D2.

    It's a good steel for what it is, but not exactly a high end steel.

    It can give one a pretty good idea though because if the wear resistance carbides aren't there, they just aren't there.

    Easier to sharpen means less wear resistance and that equals less edge retention, you can't have it both ways, that's not the way it works.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2015
  7. rallyx99


    Feb 7, 2013

    Your sources are either mistaken or have a non-typical pricing scheme. My comment was based on empirical data gathered from keeping track of many, many thousands of dollars I've spent on steel purchased this year. Additionally, for every dollar I've spent, my friend that owns one of the biggest knifemaking supply houses (where I work in the AM a few days/week) in the world has spent 10. We get great prices because of our volume. XHP is consistently one of our most expensive alloys. I can go on and on about friends, acquaintances and business partners in the steel world, knife retail world and knife production world, etc,, but there is no need. The simple fact is that XHP is a great choice for knives in spite of its higher cost and lower name recognition. I often joke with other makers that I could sell twice as many knives and save production money if I would just start using S30V.

    About the carbides: there is a lot more to edge retention than "wear resistance carbides". This statement is based again on empirical data, my own study and the tutelage of a friend that is a metallurgist (that specialized in stainless steel alloys).
  8. unit


    Nov 22, 2009
    No offense, but your posts seem to be a lot more about you and attempting to establish your credentials than just answering the questions posted.

    The sources I have used seem to indicate that XHP is not overly expensive (looks to be on par with many popular steels). It is difficult at times to source unless you have a relationship with a supplier (so perhaps some people that don't, wind up paying a premium on the secondary market due to supply and demand?)

    My experiences with XHP are in line with being easier to sharpen (less strokes to remove the same amount of material) with the same abrasives as compared to something that harbors a lot of vanadium carbides. This observation follows into the edge performance also.

    The examples I have worked with seemed to have exceptionally refined grainsize and took very very fine edges (on par with a straight razor...in fact one example is a straight razor). They perform based entirely on the edge finish (i.e. no influence or cutting action from carbides, only from the wedging of the apex). Edge durability reflects this also. It is similar to D2 except (in my findings) capable of higher refinement.

    I hope this helps. Really XHP is a fantastic alloy, but like many things knife, it comes down to pesonal preference. Some guys like the edge retention and cutting action of carbides (they won't enjoy XHP as much as the guy that wants a very high level of sharpness and is willing to put in more time at the hones to have it and retain it)

    Something like S30V will get just as sharp in terms of how refined (high grit) you take it, but the difference is how quickly S30V will lose this refinemet...it degrades very quicly to a working sharp, then stabilizes. XHP, seems to follow a more linear trend as it looses its refinement.
  9. rallyx99


    Feb 7, 2013

    None offense taken. I agree with most of what you say.

    If I was trying to "establish credentials", I'd register an account under my business name like many other makers ;-)

    You give some very good info, BTW. The only reason I even responded to this thread was to put more info out there about XHP and to try to share my experiences. I hope what I wrote was useful for people that are trying to get a sense of the virtues of the steels named.
  10. blades&wrenches

    blades&wrenches Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 11, 2014
    XHP has been good to me. I. I carry a Chaparral 2 as my Sunday/dress knife. Sharpened it to a slightly polished (not mirror by any means) edge and in the year I've had it I haven't had to resharpen...and it will still pop a few hairs.
  11. Ankerson

    Ankerson Knife and Computer Geek Platinum Member

    Nov 2, 2002

    Actually once things are compared apples to apples in general edge retention follows carbide content (Alloy) right down the line for the most part from my own testing.

    That's assuming equal geometry, edge finish, RC hardness etc.

    I don't get surprised all that often, very rare actually.
  12. DREW78


    Feb 23, 2006
    I'm curious to know if the casual everyday user would notice any difference between these two steels on an edc role
  13. rallyx99


    Feb 7, 2013

    Most of my customers would say "yes". As ankerson (and others, myself included) pointed out, XHP is easier to sharpen. This often translates to the end user carrying a sharper EDC. The other differences are subtle.
  14. nccole


    Jun 2, 2011
    Jim, have you ever had any customs in XHP? I don't see any in the official testing. It seems there are a few steels that are worlds better when they go from what a production company can realistically heat treat to vs. what a custom maker can achieve on a single knife. ELMAX comes to mind, just curious if maybe XHP might fall in that category.

    To the OP, I am really liking XHP. To me, it holds its razor edge longer than most. I typically like to re-sharpen or at least touch up once that razor edge is gone, so the working edge kinves are not my favorite. It feels like some of my favorite non-stainless steels, but it is stainless. Also, it took a mirror polish easier than any steel I have re-profiled on my Edge Pro. I would possibly put it second favorite in SS behind S110V. I like it better than 204P, S30V, VG-10, ZDP-189, ELMAX, and H1. I would not complain at all if Spyderco replaced 90% of S30V with XHP in current production knives.


    Jul 23, 2014
    as others have said CTS XHP is similar to D2 but in my experience is better in many ways, but in the chap, s30v is the better choice in my opinion
  16. Ankerson

    Ankerson Knife and Computer Geek Platinum Member

    Nov 2, 2002

    Nope, never tested a custom in XHP, nobody ever offered to send me one that was thin enough to actually test.

    With a good HT at higher RC it should do respectably well I think like most of the thinner blades seem to do, something in the 62-63 range maybe, dunno though for sure.

    Start comparing things apples to apples scares some makers I think since i have some customs in the coarse edge section.

    A number of people have asked about certain steels etc in the testing thread over the years, I always say the same thing.

    If someone sends me one I will test it if it meets the criteria.

    I do have a custom in AEB-L coming soon though that will be added, it's thin and at 60 RC.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2015
  17. rallyx99


    Feb 7, 2013

    What are the criteria? I'm sending out a (kitchen) knife in the AM that was flat ground down to ~10 thou before sharpening. 61.5 is my target RC for my field knives, BTW.
  18. Seneca18


    Jan 2, 2015
    I'm still mixed on my Domino with XHP. I guess I should say I'm mixed when compared to S30V because I love the Domino and the blade has held an edge great. I do maintain my blades pretty often so I have not had to do any serious sharpening on it yet so that remains to be seen.
  19. Ankerson

    Ankerson Knife and Computer Geek Platinum Member

    Nov 2, 2002
    Something like 4 to 5 inch blade, flat ground, thin blade stock in the .145" or less range and no more than .025" behind the edge, being it's a custom I would say no more than .015" behind the edge ideally so .010" would be fine, that's after sharpening.

    Pry bars don't do well at all in my testing.
  20. Folding


    Feb 9, 2015
    I found CTS-XHP to be the steel of my choice.
    It is very hard. When being sharpened on stones it feels closer to ZDP189 than to VG-10 or m390.
    It has a ZDP-189-like "very hard steel" feel.
    My Spyderco's version of XHP is decidedly harder than m390 from BM, based on scratching
    one blade against the other. XHP cannot be scratched by m390, but XHP easily leaves marks on m390.

    Although ZDP-189 is harder, the key advantage of XHP is its much higher corrosion resistance. Oxidation
    eats up the edge of ZDP blades even during light kitchen use, so the razor-like edge is lost fast.
    The XHP does not suffer from this issue. I feel Carpenter has the #1 stainless steel right now.

    The only caveat is that XHP can rust slightly under some conditions. More so than VG-10. But compared
    to ZDP-189, XHP is virtually stainless.

    Sorry that I have no experience with S30V, but I hope comparison with m390 and ZDP189
    provides a useful reference anyway.

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