Which Multi Tool has the Best Knife Blade: A Detailed Guide


The knife blade is the core of any personal tool so you want one made from a quality steel. To get a premium knife blade on your multi tool Leatherman is your only option. Victorinox, Gerber, SOG, and CRKT use various steels on their knife blades that all fall into the ‘standard’ category, if they even publish the steel used.

Only Leatherman offers premium steel knife blades on just a few models. The multi tool with the best knife blade is the Charge+ TTi 2.9 inch clip point blade made from S30V steel. Three models are available with 154CM steel: the Charge+, Skeletool CX, and Skeletool RX.

Here are ALL the multi tools with premium knife blade steel:

ModelBlade SteelDesignBlade LengthHardness
(HRC)
Toughness
(CVN)
Corrosion
Resistance (mV)
Difficulty Sharpening
Leatherman Charge+ TTiS30VClip point2.9 in | 7.37 cm59102506
Leatherman Charge+154CMClip point2.9 in | 7.37 cm582.51505
Leatherman Wave+420HCClip point2.9 in | 7.37 cm562.51204
Leatherman Skeletool CX154CMClip Point2.6 in | 6.60 cm582.51505
Leatherman Skeletool RX154CMSerrated clip point2.6 in | 6.60 cm582.51505
Leatherman Skeletool420HCCombo clip point2.6 in | 6.60 cm562.51204

Leatherman has three levels of blade steel: 420HC, 154CM and S30V. Both 154CM and S30V are made by Crucible Industries.

Conveniently, Leatherman produces multi tools with the same design where only the materials change (blade steel and handle materials). The Charge+ TTi with S30V steel is the premium version of the Charge+ with 154CM steel. The Charge+ is the upgraded version of the Wave+ that has 420HC blade steel. Similarly the Skeletool lineup has the Skeletool CX and RX with 154CM steel as the upgraded versions of the base model that comes with 420HC steel.

If you are looking for the multi tool with the largest knife blade check out 15 Multi Tools With the Longest Knife Blades.

Multi Tool Blade Steel Properties: What You Need to Know

Since only Leatherman offers premium blade steels in their multi tools we will keep this content to just the Leatherman steels: S30V, 154CM, and 420HC.

  • S30V steel is currently the top of the line blade steel for multi tools. Formally known as CPM-S30V (CPM stands for Crucible Powder Metallurgy), this steel is made from sintered powder that produces a very fine grain. S30V is known for its excellent edge retention, corrosion resistance, and sharpenability. Knife blades made from S30V are very well balanced. Link to S30V datasheet
  • 154CM steel is a premium steel that has improved sharpness and corrosion resistant properties compared to 420HC. 154CM steel is based on 440C stainless with added molybdenum. Link to 154CM datasheet
  • 420HC steel is the benchmark stainless steel used for multi tools with an all around good balance of hardness, edge retention, and corrosion resistance. Link to 420HC datasheet

Knife Blade Steel: Hardness, Toughness, Corrosion Resistance, and Ease of Sharpening

Hardness is the ability of steel to withstand abrasion – when rubbed against other materials how well does the steel hold up? Hardness is measured by the Hardness Rockwell C method (HRC scale goes from 0-65). Higher hardness means better edge retention. Knife edges with insufficient hardness will require frequent sharpening and can deform by bending or deflecting.

Toughness is the opposite of brittleness. A diamond is extremely hard so you might think it would make an excellent knife blade, but a diamond is not tough. Hit a diamond with a hammer on an anvil and it will shatter – not a good property for knife blades. Hardness needs to be balanced with toughness. We want our knife blade to flex or even deform slightly and not fracture under stress. Testing steel for toughness commonly uses the Charpy V-Notch test (CVN) but it is not standardized across the industry like hardness. There can also be differences from lab to lab so be careful when comparing results from different sources.

Corrosion Resistance is the ability of steel to resist attack in high humidity, damp, and salty environments. Chromium content is the primary indicator of corrosion resistance. More chromium gives improved corrosion resistance and a steel must have at minimum 10.5% chromium to be considered ‘stainless’. Water spray and salt spray testing at controlled temperatures is used to quantify corrosion resistance based on the electric potential required to initiate pitting.

Difficulty Sharpening is the final factor to consider when choosing the right blade steel. This one is equal parts the intrinsic properties of the steel as it is your skill and available sharpening equipment. Hard, tough steels make excellent knife blades but are also more difficult to sharpen properly to the correct geometry. A multi tool that will need to be field sharpened using crude equipment my be better served by 420HC steel. However, this is a rare case – anyone that uses a controlled angle sharpener will benefit from the premium steels.

Blade Steel Above S30V

If S30V steel is not good enough you will have to look for a dedicated knife, S30V is a good as it gets for a multi tool blade. There are hundreds of different blade steels all with their own set of pros and cons. But if you are looking for what widely regarded as the best all around knife steel then get a blade made from Bohler M390, CTS-204P, or CPM-20CV. With nearly identical composition and performance, the only real difference between the three is which manufacturer you source it from.

Before multi tools, people carried pocket knives since at least 500 BCE and adding pliers only increased their utility. Find out why we switched our EDC from a pocket knife to a multi tool.

Dan Sawyer

I'm the guy behind Multi Tool Mountain. I grew up in Wisconsin with a love for the outdoors. I currently live in Texas with my family where DIY home improvement projects keep my and my multi tools busy.

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