15N20 Steel Review: What Is It & Is It Good?

By Ryan Leavitt •  Updated: 01/24/21 •  5 min read

If you’re familiar with Damascus knives, you’ve probably heard of 15N20 steel.

When constructing a Damascus knife, craftsmen usually hammer multiple layers of steel over a tough core.

And one of the most popular steel recipes for this process is 15N20.

This recipe was developed by the European company, Bohler.

15N20 is very high in nickel, which is highly necessary when constructing a Damascus knife.

Because of its nickel content, 15N20 is one of the toughest materials out there.

However, it isn’t stainless steel, so 15N20 knives will require more care than ones made of stainless steel.

When choosing the right knife for you, it’s critical to pay close attention to the steel used to make the blade.

In this 15N20 Steel Review, we dive deep into the features of this recipe, so you get a clearer picture of the pros and cons of 15N20.

Read on to learn more.


What Is 15N20 It? And What Is It Used For?

It is known to be one of the common metallic materials nowadays, together with iron and carbon components. The amount of carbon added into the alloy makes steel different from iron as it provides more strength and fracture resistance.

It appears in a variety of types, from carbon steel to alloy steel or even stainless steel. 15N20 is a form of alloy steel mainly made by the European – Bohler. It is in the top hardest steel in the market as it contains a larger amount of Nickel than others.

Plus, as 15N20 has a high nickel component, that will allow this type of steel to make a sharper edge of the blade than many other kinds of high-carbon steel. Due to that special characteristic, 15N20 steel is popular in cutleries production, especially Damascus knives.

Chemical Composition

As mentioned above, steel is generally made up of a few carbons, iron, and other added elements. But each specific kind of steel has a different chemical formula based on the amount of carbon existing.

Its chemical composition contains:

Carbon is the element deciding the hardness and wear resistance of it. Still, too much carbon can lower the strength of that steel.

With 0.75 % of carbon in 15N20 steel, it can prove that this one is a dense and durable one.

As said earlier, this one owns a bigger amount of Nickel than others. This trait will help give it some extra toughness for making good cutleries.

15N20 It Review: Heat Treating

Speaking of heat treating, there are various kinds of heat treating processes that are available to make steel. The three most common ones are quenching, annealing, and tempering.


Annealing is mainly about heating it to an adequately high temperature to reduce the material‘s internal stresses and strains. There are three stages of annealing: recovery, recrystallization, and grain growth.


The quenching process contains heating it to make an austenite form and then quenching that steel in oil or water. This action will help give a hard yet brittle texture.


Tempered is a special kind of annealing that is used to lessen the brittleness. It would help for a bendable and fracture-resistant steel.

And in the process of making this perfect steel, you will need to heat it to just above critical temperature about 1500°F (816°C). Then, you quench it in warm oil.

However, you have to temper it twice and each time is a 2-hour cycle. Remember to let it cool to room temperature between each cycle.

15N20 It Hardness

The Rockwell scale is used to measure its hardness based on scaling the indentation hardness of one material. There are various scales with different loads or indenters used to do this test.

People do the Rockwell hardness test by comparing an indenter’s penetration depth under a big load to the penetration under a minor load. The result will come in a dimensionless number, and a unit noted as HRB, HRA, HRC, etc. The last letter of the unit will identify the particular Rockwell scale.

And as stated by Alphaknifesupply, this product has a hardness of maximally 61-62 HRC.



Stainless steels are the most favorite steel on the market as they are oxidation-resistant and corrosion-resistant. However, to have that specialty, it has to have an additional 11% chromium.

Therefore, the 15N20 isn’t stainless as it has 0 chromium according to the chemical composition.

Edge retention

This is firm steel with a fine edge retention ability. It is the best of all, but it’s good enough for making knives.

Corrosion Resistance

Since it contains 0 chromium in its alloy, it means the 15N20 only owns a low corrosion resistance. Compared to the 1095 steel which is corrosion-prone steel, the 15N20 will get rusty very soon.

Wear Resistance

As it contains Manganese and Silicon, the 15N20 is proved to have great wear resistance capability.


As mentioned earlier, with a high amount of Nickel, 15N20 can produce a sharper blade than other rivals. Plus, because it is tempered twice for four hours, this one is bendable and easy to sharpen.


15N20 comes with a great toughness owing to the high Nickel amount that it has. Moreover, Nickel also provides brighter parts in making Damascus steels.

Is 15N20 Ideal For Making Knife?

We can rest assured that 15N20 is great for making cutleries, especially Damascus knives.

The first reason why we recommend you to use this unit to make knives is it comes with high toughness. The second one is that it has great edge retention ability and is easy for heat treating.

Although it has low corrosion resistance, 15N20 is easy to get sharpened. So if you are a knifemaker, make sure that you don’t miss the 15N20 in your list of knife making material.

Ryan Leavitt

Hi my name is Ryan Leavitt a Marine Corps Veteran and currently an over the road trucker (Long Haul). I am no expert chef but am enjoying preparing my own meals on the road and testing all the different knives.