Knifemakers select knife steel that provides the best fit for the application of their range of knives. For knives and axes that need to be extremely tough with excellent edge retention 80CrV2 steel is an outstanding choice. 80CrV2 knife steel provides a cutting tool with extreme toughness and edge retention; provides a high value for performance vs. cost to manufacture. Due to its toughness, hardness, and availability, it is prized in the construction of tactical knives, hunting knives, tomahawks, and everyday carry designs.
80CrV2 steel is a traditionally cast, high-carbon tool steel that contains chromium as well as vanadium in quantities high enough to affect the strength and hardness of the crystalline matrix of the steel. Vanadium is an element that is added to steel alloys that are typically used to produce excellent edge retention. Vanadium is prized in knife-making because it produces very durable carbides at the molecular level of the cutting edge. Tool steel, heavy equipment, and even nuclear reactors use vanadium in their construction.
Take it from the expert:
Daniel Winkler, an ABS master bladesmith and owner or Winkler Knives, uses 80CrV2 steel in many of his designs, "because of the performance level I require for our knives and axes." According to Winkler, 80CrV2 steel is extremely hard and can be heat treated to have extremely strong properties, while still being serviceable in the field. The sweet spot 80CrV2 steel occupies in terms of hardness and toughness makes for a blade with incredible lateral strength, shock resistance, and wear resistance. In Winkler's workshop, shock resistance for 80CrV2 tested as well as S7 steel but with better edge retention. Winkler says "A knife that holds an edge for an extended period of time is worthless if it chips or can't be re-sharpened."
Winkler attests that he can heat treat his 80CrV2 knives to an HRC of 60 without resulting brittleness or chipping. Part of this is due to a salt-based heat-treating method which allows for extreme, consistent temperatures while eliminating oxygen, which eliminates carbon loss. Winkler also heat treats his blade stock after grinding to get the best results for performance and long field life. Chromium is one of the key ingredients of stainless steel, due to its reactivity to oxygen. Though 80CrV2 contains chromium, it is not considered to be in high enough quantities to be called a true "stainless" steel.
80CrV2 steel can rust unless you are properly maintaining it. The addition of coatings or finishes can help prevent oxidation. Winkler utilizes a Caswell finish to help prevent oxidation and produces a dark matte finish for his blades. All tool steels require some kind of care and maintenance. Cleaning, sharpening, and oiling your 80CrV2 knife (or any other knife for that matter) is par for the course for any steel.
Other knife makers which have used 80CrV2 steel include RMJ Tactical, and Varusteleka because of its toughness, hardness. According to Daniel Winkler, however, "If I find a better steel, I will use it. Right now, 80CrV2 is the best I have used."