Spyderco's S30V?

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by Buck268, Jul 13, 2020.

  1. Buck268


    Nov 5, 2006
    In brief, I somewhat recently upgraded from a E4 FFG VG-10 to a Sage 5 S30V for my EDC. Partially because I had the same EDC for almost a decade and partially because I wanted the increased performance of S30V. While over all I'm very happy with the Sage 5 my experience with the S30V have not shown it to perform significantly better than the VG-10. My application is fairly light duty mostly being mail and package opening where I am careful to avoid slicing the cardboard and opening by the tape seams most of the time. Additionally I like to keep a hair shaving sharp edge on my blades- not necessarily hair POPPING but it must shave or I'm not satisfied. As such my VG-10 required FREQUENT touch ups. While the S30V does seem to hold a working edge very well that shaving edge is lost about as quickly as VG-10 did and this echos my earlier experience with an S30V Native from walmart years ago.

    My sharpening routine is very simple and well practiced. I just use a sharpmaker with the 20 DPS slots on medium until it shaves a little then I put the fine stones in the 30DPS and do 5-10 LIGHT passes to debur and put a slight microbevel on the edge. This is prefaced by reprofiling to match the sharpmaker angles the first time the blade is sharpened- if necessary.

    Are my expectations of Spydie's S30V unrealistic? Is there something I am missing in my technique? Is there a better finishing grit (either coarser or finer) that I should be doing? Going to add stropping with diamond paste on leather once my paste arrives, probably 1micron but could do 0.5 or 3.5 micron as well.
  2. Alberta Ed

    Alberta Ed

    Jun 29, 1999
    Any abrasive material -- even paper -- will dull the hair-shaving edge of just about any steel in my experience. S30V holds up very well in general, although it's difficult to measure against other steels without going to a CATRA test. The best edge holding steel I have is S110V -- my Spyderco Military. But it's a bit more challenging to sharpen.
  3. bgentry


    Aug 3, 2009
    Your experience with S30V is very similar to mine: Disappointment. It takes a nice shaving edge. But after just a tiny bit of use, it's gone. Still cuts. But isn't impressive. Loses a bit of the "wow that's impressive" as you make cuts. It's just how S30V performs.

    I like taking mine to a more coarse edge than you are. I can get a very, very, very sharp edge using the gray/brown sharpmaker stones. I find that a more toothy edge in general works better for common cutting tasks. You might try lighter strokes as you finish on the grays, or maybe a very small microbevel with 2 to 4 strokes per side.

    There are several blades I would like to have from Spyderco, but as long as they are S30V, I'm really not tempted. If they produced a blade like the Tenacious, Delica, PM2, or similar in a more middle of the road steel like 154CM, I would love it. Or if they identified some steel formulation that would hold a shaving sharp edge for 5x as long as S30V, I'd be into that also. Unfortunately, I don't think steels exist that will hold a shaving sharp edge for that long. I would love to know the answer if there IS a steel that will do that.

    Alberta Ed likes this.
  4. kreisler


    May 11, 2012
    From your description i would guess that the apexes which you produce are not 100.0% deburred, that is micro-deburred. If you are 100% sure that the apexes are 100.0% micro-deburred, then please ignore this post, and no offense.
    I had been living for 1-2 years with the notion that i had fully deburred the bevels (S30V, VG10, etc) until i learned (somehow) that the apex was still bearing microscopic burr (which could be felt with a sensitive thumb after all!).
    A 100% microdeburred apex should stay shaving sharp for a surprisingly long time!

    Just following a standard set of Spyderco instructions and doing light passes are not enough to do the trick - even though the knife is indeed sharp after the Spyderco instructions! The trick is to really check for and totally eliminate the microburr. Again, it took me 1-2 years of freehanding and deburring to become honest to myself and recognize that there was microburr left. It was a revelation!

    Feel free to ignore my post. Your apexes might be 100.0% micro-deburred after all. I can't tell from the other side of the pond. My point being, imho i find that micro-deburring is the very most challenging part of the sharpening process (strops can help but only to some degree), and i am not good at it (i am taking too long imho). And i bet that 98 out of 100 amazon buyers of the 204MF still have microburr on their knife edges after following the Spyderco instructions. That's a massive number. And just my guess.

    My 1-2 years. That's also massive. Because i didn't have a teacher, and i was living in false beliefs. It took me so long omg.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2020
  5. S30V responds much better to diamond. I've not liked using ceramics for it, like the Spyderco SM rods. They 'sort of' work, in the sense that they'll remove some metal and leave the edge looking somewhat sharper in the short-term; but they don't handle the vanadium carbides very well in S30V. What you end up with is an edge where more of the matrix steel is honed away, leaving the carbides somewhat weakly supported and not thinned or shaped very effectively. This limits how much refinement can be done and also contributes to that quickly-dulling effect that so many have noticed with S30V.

    Try diamond alone, for S30V. Anything in the Coarse thru EF range (325 - 1200) works very well and leaves the edge much cleaner, better refined and more durable. S30V from Spyderco and others used to be a steel I didn't like very much, until I simplified my strategy for it, using just diamond. S30V gets very, very simple after that.
    pnsxyr, scottc3, MolokaiRider and 5 others like this.
  6. sickpuppy1

    sickpuppy1 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 27, 2018
    I wonder if that’s my issue with Benxhmade’s 154cm? I love my mini grip, but it won’t hold that pristine edge worth a darn ..... Gets sharp pretty easy on diamonds but won’t hold it long. Cuts still but noticeably not as good.
    Alberta Ed likes this.
  7. lonestar1979


    Mar 2, 2014
    Just use diamonds...thats all,its not hard to sharpen at all,even with silicon carbide.Spydercos s30v is softer so you shouldnt have any problems.
  8. lonestar1979


    Mar 2, 2014
    Benchmade 154cm is very good,maybe you need to thin the knife on stones first,form a burr and take it off,then youll see the difference.If you just touchup on sharpmaker or strops,after some time steel gets fatigued,you need to cut it off.
  9. sickpuppy1

    sickpuppy1 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 27, 2018
    I’m using a hapstone m2 with diamond stones at 20dps and can cut paper with 2 fingers holding the knife. I know THAT edge will go away fairly quick on cardboard, but it gets duller than I felt it should. Could be my expectations too.
  10. Jason B.

    Jason B. KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 13, 2007
    I think it was a steel that was marketed too hard and never lived up to the hype. Even with the quality HT Spyderco provides its just not a steel that cuts well, its not a steel that sharpens well and its not a steel that has the edge performance you would expect from your knife. I have literally sharpened nearly every makers, some custom and even some exotic brands and the HT is NOT consistent and some can be much better than others. In the end, the performance is just not there and somehow people easily believe it is. The S30V vs VG-10 debate has been going on since S30V was introduced and this findings ring true to this day. S30V ultimately has more edge retention but VG-10 has better edge performance AKA, giving you a sharper edge that bites better even as it starts to dull, and once dull its still easier to sharpen to a razor sharp edge. The amount of work a blade can do VS its ease of maintenance is in favor of the steel that best balances these two things. Unfortunately, most of the heavy carbide steels don't fit into this balance because their difficulty of maintenance is too high. Its why steels like Buck 420, 1095, A2, D2 and others have stood the test of time and are still liked today, they have a good balance of performance and maintenance and in the end that's what a lot of people look for.

    As for 154cm,

    154cm @60-61 is God-like in edge retention but at maybe 58 in a production blade its just ok and is just annoying to sharpen. Although, @60-61 its pretty difficult to sharpen so a part of me understands not running it that hard. 154cm also likes the coarsest edge you can put on it... with a little bit of polish... regardless of its hardness.

    I wish they would push XHP this much, walks circles around S30V all day long and is a pleasure to sharpen.
    scottc3, Blues and Eli Chaps like this.
  11. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    Thank you Jason. I don't have experience with VG10 at higher hardness but I love it in Spyderco's offerings. Damn shame so many people insist on declaring out of date.

    At the risk of thread stray do you have thoughts/experience with S35VN? I know it was intended to be tougher.
  12. Alberta Ed

    Alberta Ed

    Jun 29, 1999
    The little bit of niobium in S35Vn makes it easier to sharpen than S30V. I find my Sebbie 21 takes a finer edge than my knives in S30V, as well.
  13. Jason B.

    Jason B. KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 13, 2007
    Spyderco VG-10 is pretty good and probably just about right for the abuses of EDC. Mcusta runs it harder and it too performs well but there can be a loss in toughness. I really like Tojiro DP series of kitchen knives, little harder than a Spyderco but still very tough, if Spyderco did a laminated VG-10 like Tojiro the world would be a perfect place. Plus, you just can't deny how sharp VG-10 gets and how well that sharp edge cuts.

    S35VN is a little better but like lipstick on a pig. I think they probably corrected the brittleness of S30V and it does sharpen easier but the edge is just ok. It's not that I can't get it sharp I just feel it takes a lot of effort and the result is just ok, and like most of these steels it is just never as good as VG-10, XHP, N690, AEB-L etc. The keen sharpness of these steels still stands above the "extended wear" qualities (in most cases) of the high carbide volume stainless steels.

    And an FYI if anyone was wondering... I base opinions on 12 years of hard use with S30V and also sharpening thousands of knives in this material. I have a Toothpick of a Spyderco Military and my current work knife is a Buck 110 slim pro with Bos S30V, which is really good BTW but I still don't like its edge or edge holding. It can get nice and sharp but the keen sharpness I need is usually gone when I need it so I have to force my knife to do things and I'm not a fan of that. Because my work is more construction oriented I actually need the greater toughness and edge holding of a PM steel but with S30V basically becoming the Go-To steel it's not always easy to find a knife I like in the steel I want, so I settle for what I have loved to hate.
    scottc3 and Eli Chaps like this.
  14. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    I agree about Spyderco's VG-10 and XHP. Sharpens up so nice! As much as I've ogled Tojiro over the years I've always avoided laminates as I don't do water stones and have worried about proper thinning/maintenance.

    I have one Spyderco and one Buck in S30V but I've barely sharpened them.

    ZDP-189 and beer seem to be my Achilles heels of sharpening greatness. :D
  15. scottc3

    scottc3 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 11, 2014
    Reprofiling Spyderco s30v with sharpmaker must have taken a long time?
    Microbevel certainly can clear burr from edge. How do you test or look or feel for burr?
    Can you define "it shaves a little"?

    I come from a flatter knife universe with few options and lots of high carbon blades, as in whatever makers produced, completely satisfied with Bos 420 on my 110, my only folder. D2 is amazing and was a sea change for me, s30v has become my standard, again amazing, but I only have Benchmade. I will say that I fight myself for wanting to make s30v a minimum standard or floor now a days. It is a false dichotomy that fails to see, and thus restricts uses of other perfectly great steels mentioned already. For me use-case impacts my perception of steels: sportsman, finish meat cutter, master gearhead, tech, etc., and know light duty. I love S30v but use diamonds to reprofile.

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