The ULTIMATE Guide to SK5 Steel [Full Review]

If you’re into survival knives, then you’ve probably seen the SK5 survival knives by Ontario Knives or Cold Steel Knives. If you’re curious as to what kind of steel SK5 steel is, then you came to the right place!

 This is a comprehensive guide to SK5 steel, so that you can make the best decision based on all the right facts!


What is SK5 Steel?

SK-5 steel is a low to mid-range carbon steel from Japan. It is mainly used in various tools such as razor blades, scalpel blades, cutting tools, and utility knives. Its main advantages are its workability, hardenability, and price.

SK5 Steel Composition 

When trying to understand steel, you need to understand the composition. Knowing its composition can give you a clear idea of where it is meant to be used and whether it is worth using. 

Here is the composition of SK-5 steel.


Carbon is the most important element when considering the hardness of steel. It contributes the most to its continued strength and durability. This being said, excessive amounts of carbon in steel can make it very difficult to produce knives.

SK5 steel has about 0.9% carbon. Generally, 0.8% of carbon in steel is considered to be on the higher end, so 0.9% is a significant amount of carbon. 


Chromium is important for edge retention, corrosion, and wear resistance. Over 12% of Chromium makes its stainless steel! SK-5 is not stainless steel as it has 0.30% of Chromium is nowhere close to 12%!


Nickel in steel improves the toughness of the material. SK-5 contains 25% of Nickel. 


When steel needs to be more rigid and more brittle, Manganese is added. SK-5 is made up of 0.50% Manganese.


Silicon improves the strength of steel as well. There is 0.35% of Silicon in the steel. 


Copper is an important ingredient that prevents surface oxidation. There is 0.25% of Copper in SK-5. 


Phosphorous, too, increases the strength of steel. SK-5 steel contains 0.03%. 


Sulfur in steel is meant to increase machinability. There is 0.03% of Sulfur in SK-5 steel. 

SK5 Steel Features 

The composition can tell you a lot about the steel, including its features! Based on the composition mentioned above, here are a few features of the SK-5 steel. 

Edge Retention 

SK-5 is what is known as carbon steel. This kind of steel is tough and comes with good edge retention.

Corrosion Resistance 

While not the absolute best, the SK-5 steel has decent corrosion resistance for its price. It will require more maintenance to be free of rust. 

Wear Resistance 

The carbon carbides combined with the fine grain make for excellent wear resistance. The steel is great for survival knives because of this reason. It may not be incredibly corrosion-resistant, but it is extremely wear-resistant.


As a rule, the harder the steel is, the more difficult it is to sharpen. The SK-5 steel is on the harder side of the spectrum, making sharpening the knife harder than your average kitchen knife.


SK-5 is mainly used in survival knives, which need to be tough and resistant to impacts. The steel is extremely tough and comes with brilliant impact resistance. To get these two factors, you will, unfortunately, have to give up corrosion resistance. 

Is SK5 Steel good for knives? 

Combining chemicals that make SK-5 tough and resistant is also what makes it good carbon steel for knives. It works exceptionally well for survival, hunting, and kitchen knives! You never know when you’ll need a little toughness in your kitchen.

The only downside to this type of steel is the lack of corrosion resistance. It needs to be carefully maintained if being used in a wet or humid environment. Improper care will have it rusting over exceptionally quick.

SK5 Steel Alternatives 

When looking at alternatives for SK-5 steel, you’ll need something with a similar composition and price. The closest options are the carbon steel W2 and 1084. Both other options are extremely similar in chemical compounds and fall under the same price range of low to mid-range.

Apart from the price and chemical compound, all three types of steel have good edge retention and toughness. These are characteristics that Carbon Steel is well-known for!


If you’re looking for your next survival or hunting knife, then one made of SK-5 steel is the right choice. While it isn’t premium, it still fulfils all the necessities of good carbon steel. It is tough, has good edge resistance, and has excellent impact resistance. These qualities are also great for kitchen knives!

While it is an excellent steel, it is crucial to maintain it well because of its lack of corrosion resistance. Apart from this issue, it is sure to be a fan favorite for cheap carbon steel!

Sk5 is a Japanese low/mid-range Carbon steel. It’s used in a wide range of tools (Razor blades, utility knives, scalpel blades, long edged tools, cutting tools) due to its workability, hardenability, price, and other features.