3CR13 Steel: What Is It & Is It Good?

By Ryan Leavitt •  Updated: 01/24/21 •  6 min read

Most knife enthusiasts out there have at least heard of 3CR13 steel once.

And if you’re new to the world of knives, you’ve probably stumbled across the name once or twice yourself.

It’s a low-end Chinese martensitic steel known for quality wear and corrosion resistance.

Despite being classified as low-end, this recipe is actually used by a wide variety of knife manufacturers worldwide.

And while it doesn’t have the same qualities as the premium steel recipes out there, most manufacturers know the steel as having great value for the price.

If you have a knife that was cheap but is good quality, there’s a chance that it was made using 3CR13 steel.

3CR13 steel is a perfect recipe for knives as it is affordable and has most of the qualities you’ll need from good knife steel.

And in this 3CR13 review, we dive deep into the features of this steel recipe to help you figure out if it’s the right one for you.

Read on to learn more.


The Composition of 3CR13 Steel


This knife steel’s chemical composition contains 0.3% of carbon, helping improve its hardness. Nevertheless, harder types come with a higher price. With a low-dense amount of carbon steel, the knife tends to be more breakable, causing a greater risk of fracturing while you apply pressure.

Breakability likelihood is one limitation of this knife steel that it imposes a compromise when offering barely enough hardness to manage.


This 3cr13 steel has 13% of chromium, which contributes to pushing its hardness besides ensuring its corrosion resistance. 10% is the minimum amount of chromium all types of stainless steel entail. So with 13% chromium, it’s’ over the bare minimum level of chromium needed.


With around 1% silicon combined with 0.3% of carbon, you can have this 3cr13 steel’s strength boosted at the minimal risk of brittleness.


Considered a versatile constituent, 1% of manganese helps increase both the non-brittleness and its hardness.


Nickel plays as a component that counteracts its hardness. With its 0.6%, nickel minimizes the risks of chipping when used.


Although this 3cr13 steel entails only 0.04% phosphorus, this minuscule amount helps counter the fragility.


Each production stage ends up costing a lot without a sulfur component, which helps it machine more easily. However, 0.03% of sulfur is enough; otherwise, it will become more breakable.

3CR13 Properties

Edge Retention of the Steel

Because of its decent compositions, its edge retention seems less influential compared to many high-end types. But with an affordable price, its ability to hold an edge is pretty good. Besides, you can sharpen it easily when it does become dull.

Steel Hardness

Carbon is one of many contributors to this 3cr13 steel’s hardness. Therefore, it makes sense that it exhibits a balanced hardness when its carbon content is much lower than other premium types.

Steel Toughness

Because of its robustness, it does not break easily. So, one of many properties it should be proud of is its complete toughness. Different types compete with each other in two areas of toughness and hardness. From that, we can conclude which steel is far more durable.

In essence, it tends to be more brittle as it gets harder, leading to a decrease in its overall toughness. Therefore, this stainless steel featuring a moderate hardness shines in the toughness area. You can take advantage of this property to use it for tomahawks, machetes, or axes.

Steel Corrosion Resistance

Due to a decent amount of carbon and chromium content, it withstands corroding situations fairly well. Contrary to stainless steel’s rustic after-effects caused by continual exposure to drastic conditions, this steel can even tolerate a good bit of abuse.

3CR13’s Sharpening Ability

As aforementioned, it holds an average hardness, that’s why it’s easier to re-sharpen whenever it gets dull.

3CR13 Pros

3CR13 Cons

Who Should Use This Stainless Steel?

In the search for a good type of knife material, knifemakers and knife companies can use this 3Cr13 steel to manufacture many metal items, such as bearings, bolts, or springs. They even can employ its outstanding properties to use it for wear parts or high-strength parts.

Additionally, this stainless steel type is a great option for those who learn to hone their knives without any complex tool because of its sharp feature. Once they perform the sharpening properly, it can attain a razor-sharp edge.

FAQ’s About the Steel

What Is The 3CR13 Stainless Steel Hardness (HRC)?

The makers of this stainless steel do not aim at the maximum hardness; instead, they reduce hardness to achieve non-brittleness.

On account of a hardness-brittleness compromise desire, the makers produced it with a hardness rating of 52 to 55. So, 54 HRC is its average grade, which exhibits the hardness level of many affordable knives nowadays.

Is 3CR13 A Good Knife Steel? Would The Knife Be Sharp And Durable?

This 3Cr13 steel type is still a great choice to manufacture knives for an affordable price no matter how tougher and harder steels there are on the market. It features good corrosion resistance and conditions users to sharpen if it gets dull.

You can find this steel used in many knife-making endeavors including EDC knives, kitchen knives, surgical, or even outdoor knives for different camping and hunting purposes. Although it is low-priced steel, we guarantee every dollar you spend on it is worth it.

What Is The Steel’s Alternative For Forging Knives? What If I Want Harder Knives?

People often compare this stainless steel with 420J, whose naming convention is popular in America. Besides, it alongside 2cr13 is widely workable in more industrial operations (welding for example) because of its similar properties. The primary distinction is that it entails a little higher hardness than 420J and 2cr13 steel.

In some applications, AUS-4 can be an alternative to this steel since they exhibit several similarities. However, it contains a lower carbon content compared to AUS-4 steel.

What Is The Steel’s Equivalent?

It is the most equivalent to the United States ASTM, besides ISO standard, UK BS, France NF, Japanese JIS, and Germany DIN.

Is The Steel Originated From China?

Yes, this tool steel is.

How Are The Reviews About This Steel?

They are quite balanced. So far, so good, I must say.

Final Verdict About The Steel

After you read this full 3cr13 guide with full details, you can drop a comment in the box below, sharing your opinion or experiences if you have had as working with this steel. We hope our paper is useful for your buying option.

We thank you for your interest in this steel review.

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.