440-C is the Steel for Me ;)

Oct 3, 1998
I just ordered and received three new knives lately. A Klotzli, Boker/Nealy Specialist, and a VBM Mini-UDT.
ALL were sought out and researched for 440C blades.
I've grown tired of the care needed to keep ATS-34/154CM rust free and stain free.
True, you can get a better edge on some of the higher carbon content knives. But, I can also get a very servicable edge on 440C.
Reeves BG-42 seems to have even better edge holding qualities and appears to be very resistive to rust and stains too.

I recently went camping. I used a Wegner Jr for almost everything around camp, including slicing steak cubes to cook over the campfire. My buddy used a 440C S&W Police Issue.
Anyway, we would slice a piece of raw meat, skew it on a sharpened stick and drink a beer while cooking it. This went on all evening and well into the night.
So, I find myself around midnight tipsy on beer and having to clean and maintain the Wegner's then nasty blade. Not a really safe practice when under the influence.
My buddy just left his knife on the table top all night and cleaned it the next morning. It layed there all night nasty with blood and steak juice, and was covered with dew that morning. He just wiped it down with a paper towel and went on his way. NO RUST-NO STAIN. Think of what would have happened had I left the Wegner out all night in that condition ?
I'm a 440C convert, but I still hate clips.
I like 440C too. It takes a nice edge and can be pretty tough for a stainless. I like cast 440C (namely BDS - Boye Dendritic Steel)even more because it will hold an edge like tool steel and resist staining too. You should give a David Boye Basic a try Bill, and if you like it, go full hog and get a custom hunter.

Gotta jump in here. I've got a Boye folder and talk about holding an edge! When I first got it I just kept using it until it lost it's edge. It took 3 weeks of very hard use (construction work)and even after I could see the edge when sighting down it, it was still cutting as if it had serrations (well that might be a bit of an exaggeration). I'm very impressed with this steel.
No, you're not going crazy ;-)
440C is a good steel, not just a decent one, or a so-so one. True, it may not hold an edge as long as ATS-34, but its tougher, easier to sharpen, and takes a real nice polished edge if you know the technique to get it there. Especially since the advent of multiple tempering cycles and cryo treating, the edge holding is better too than its reputation. There is a reason that some makers used it for larger knives and even swords, since tempered a bit softer it has shock resistance and flexibility too.

I do a few knives in it now and again for customers that want a display knife, or a using knife that they know they aren't going to be fussy with. You don't have to be meticulous with it to keep it looking good.

Thanks Amacks
I also got sick with ATS-34/55 and truely believe that 440C is a much better compromise between edge-holding and rust - resistance. No matte what I do ATS-34/55 blades will stain and rust even under indoor storage conditions. My breaking point was with my new ATS-55 Spyderco Civilian - I usually protect my blades with Break-Free CLP or Tuf-Cloth, this time, as just gothome proud of my newly bought Civilian I had to rush so I just wiped the blade with a WD-40 cloth and put it in a nylon bag. After few days I took it out and was amazed to see stains around the opening hole - I was so pissed ! and this wasn't after cutting steaks and leaving it outdoors for the night - Then I made a decision: I am no longer going to buy ATS-34/55 blades (Bye bye for now Benchmade and Spyderco). My last purchases were: Spyderco Military 440V, Ontario-Bagwell Hell's Belle Bowie 440C and Chris Reeve Sabenza BG-42.

Lets all stop incouraging the industry to promote ATS-34/55 by not buying them. If I will ever be in a situation where I'll have to put so much effort in rust protecting my blades I would prefer to use a high carbon steel that really holds an edge or tool steel (A2, Carbon V etc...) and not the "stainless" ATS-34/55.
I'm with you on avoiding 154CM/ATS-34.
That's exactly why I DIDN'T buy a MT baby Socom auto, anymore MOD's,anymore Benchmades,
or any other fine knives with this crappy steel.
I do more with my knives than just get them razor sharp and shave my arm hair. I USE THEM !!!
However, I have had good luck with coated (black-T or clear-T) ATS-34. Also, none of my REKAT Pioneers have stained or rusted, and they are working knives. They are ATS-34, but have a stonewashed finish like Reeves Sebenzas. They are also hard as hell to get an edge, but once you do, it has lasting power.

Coated blades still get scratched, and when it happens, you are open to rust again.
I, too, really like 440C, but apparently for some different reasons than many here.

For the past few weeks I've been carrying both a Browning mdl 609 with two locking 440C blades and an original BM Eclipse in ATS-34. Originally, when I got the Eclipse, a couple years ago, I thought that it was clearly going to superceed all my other daily carry knives except the SAK on my keyring. It was clearly superior to my previous carry Spyderco Enduras and Mariner.

Now the funny thing is that altough I keep reading about folks having all kinds of trouble with ATS-34 staining and spotting, and although I live in a state where 90-100% humidity is the norm, and although I take absolutely no pains to keep my work blades rust free, I've NEVER had an Eclipse or an AFCK or miniAFCK rust or spot in any way whatsoever.

When I first heard of all the problems with spotting of ATS-34 I used an AFCK to slice tomatoes, onions, garlic etc. and left it out on the cutting board over night to see what would happen. .... Nothing happened. In the morning it was as shiny and pristine as it was the night before. I've done the exact same thing with my Eclipse more times than I can remember, with the same results. Nada. So I don't know if I'm just lucky, or if it's simply a matter of only ever having smooth, (not bead blasted) ATS-34 blades or what, but for me, that's not where ATS-34 lets me down.

For me the issue is one of resharpening quickly at work and most importantly the issue of brittleness. Granted, the points on AFCKs and Eclipses/Ascents are really too fine for what I use them for, but still it seems that the alloy as done by BM is a bit too brittle for heavy work use. Yesterday I was using my 440C Browning to pry out heavy metal box staples and today you can't even tell it. When I've tried that with the Eclipse, it's meant considerable time spent honing the dings out of the edge. To be fair, the Browning blade I was using is a heavier drop point shape, but still, for my uses it's more versitile.

To me, 440C is miles and miles ahead of Aus8 in terms of edge retention and seems to beat ATS-34 in terms of toughness. It's not a bad compromise at all. Also, as Mel pointed out, 440C can be made into longer tougher shapes than what many knowledgeable knifemakers feel is ATS-34 upper limits in terms of length/strength.

I'm woefully ignorant regarding knives, and have improved on that marginally through practical experience. I live on Puget Sound and fish fanatically. My only outside-the-kitchen use for knives is filleting fish. I've gone through Gerber, Kershaw, and Buck. They would all lose there edge after filleting 3 or 4 dinky fish. It seemed impossible that sawing on the soft bodies of fish could possibly be wearing off the cutting edges. The only other possibility would be chemical action. The Gerber in particular would develop small stained spots no matter how carefull the blade was wiped down between fish. Where these spots formed on the cutting they would flake out when the thing was sharpened again. It would produce knicks on the cutting edge perhaps as large as 1/16". I'd have to grind the blade down that much to restore the edge. I found that you can get thrown out of the house if you scrape a blade on a sharpening stone long enough! The Buck is I think 425M. I don't know what the Gerber or Shrade are, but they aren't 440. I picked up a Dexter Russel, and another knife which is 440A, both of which are cheap crap compared to the others but hold an edge an order of magnitude longer under the conditions I use them. The 440 series is about 17% Cr. While the Cr content is not the sole reason for a steel's rust resistant, is it the most important? I'd like to get something better than the knives I'm using but there aren't many 440C fillet knives out there. I think Browning makes one. I've looked at an ATS-34 custom fillet knive for $325? I'm kind of glad I didn't bite on that. I suspect it would have lasted about 10 minutes on my cutting board - just about the amount of time it would have taken me to get tossed out of the house again. If the 440C resists rust as well as the A, and the Cr content is indeed the same, it looks like it would be the very best choice for a fillet knife. I can tolerate less edge holding (fish are soft) if I can get the corrosian resistance. If there is anyone out there with useful information I'd love to hear from them.


Have you tried any Sandvic 12C27 Scandinavian filet knives? They are some of my favorites in the thin filet shape. They don't hold an edge forever but are super easy to touch up on a ceramic rod sharpener and resist rust incredibly. Normark/Rapala markets the J. Marttiini Finnish Filet knives, and for my $$ they are probably amongst the best out there. Beware, though, Normark has also started marketing some other filet knives that may or may not be as good as the orig. Rapalas.

Another one you've got to try is the filet knife that Jim at Custom Cutlery makes. Jim claims it's 440A, but it's actually a custom blend that is more like 440A on paper, but performs a lot like 440C. His filet knives retail for only about $45, and while I didn't care for the slipperiness of the handles on the original Dymondwood ones, he now offers rougher finish Micarta as a handle option. Check him out at www.customcutlery.com

Additionally, I beleive Bob at Holly Knives will make you one out of 440C if you're stuck on that. It's been a while since I checked, but if I remember right, his prices were similarly quite reasonable. (Sorry, I don't have the url at hand.)

I'm looking to obtain a Polkowski Gaunt which is semi-polished 440C. Since it's a neck knife, this steel and finish make a more rust resistant choice than bead blasted ATS-34.

Gentlemen; feel welcome to add your input to the thread I started on the General Forum, New Alloys, Hot or Hype (or something like that).

We are going to discuss the advantages of
any and all ferrous and non ferrous alloys.

We have several prominent posters, including a new one, the CPM metallurgist, and a Materials Engineer.

So, come on over, and bring your 440C with you. It is tough stuff, I will give you that; but how does it compare with other alloys in edge holding? Let's find out. Walt
I work primarily in the stock removal method and use 440-C only for these blades. For the past 3 years I have been fortunate to be able to provide knives for a couple of the competitors in the Iditarod Classic Sled Dog Race in Alaska. Not having made any knives for cold climates before, I pulled the temper back on these knives to 54-56 rockwell instead of my normal 58 in hopes that the blades would not cause any problems in the extreme cold temperatures. I figured at the least the users would have to sharpen them at some point during the race and the softer temper would aid in this. I have received back from these racers the knives they have used each year. One even held on to his until after the next deer season during which he took 5 deer and proceeded to use the knife to skin these and field dress them. Upon the return of the knife I was extremely surprised to find that the knife showed NO sign of distortion or stress in the way of chips or rolled over edge etc. The knife would still shave. I asked the person who had the knife if he had touched up the edge and he responded that the edge on the knife was the edge I gave it to him with. He then went on to tell me that during the race he used the knife for everything from cutting the baling wire on the bales of hay for his dogs to chopping the harness traces out of some pack ice during one of his stop-overs on one of the frozen lakes. There are some scratches on the blade but other than that the knife is in excellent condition. So, I would have to agree 440-C is the steel for me.
I have to agree with mps on the rust resistance of ATS-34. I have had an Eclipse for abuot 4 years now. I have carried it in my pocket, in a flight suit, and IWB, living on the coast in the summer when the humidity rarely drops below about 95%. And I sweat a lot. I have never cleaned it, and oiled it for the first time about 2 months ago (yep, that's right, never oiled it before). There is one spot (ONE) on the blade, about half the size of the head of a pin, that is discolored (can't tell if it is actually rust). Other than that, no problems.

My only experience with 440C is a Gerber BMF and and EZ-out. That BMF is a really nice knife. While I have not used it much at all (where do you use a knife like that?!), I did go to the trouble of putting an edge on the clip portion. It took a REALLY nice edge using just a fine file. Don't know how long it will last, though. The EZ-out has only been used to slice bagels. It used to shave, but not anymore (well, until I touched it up). It doesn't seem to hold an edge that well, but it takes a new one very easily. It doesn't stain either.

I need them all (440C, ATS-34, CPM440V, and even ATS-55).


ps - Does a little surface rust actually hinder the usefulness of a blade for the purposes that it is most used for? I have had a couple of knives that got very badly discolored blades (almost rust) that still cut like 'the dickens.'

[This message has been edited by Outlaw_Dogboy (edited 16 March 1999).]