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ATS-34 vs. 154CM

Discussion in 'Blade Discussion Forum Archive' started by Tommi, Feb 4, 2000.

  1. Tommi


    Jul 1, 1999
    Many companies have changed from ATS-34 to 154CM. Why?

    ATS is vacuum melted and 154CM is not -> ats should be cleaner and thus better one. If they wanted better ats-34 variant why not use paricle mealurgy ats-34 = RWL-34. That should be a tiny bit better.

    Orginally ats-34 was improvement over 154CM. Now some companies use 154CM in more expensive models and ats-34 in cheaper. Trying to make 154CM look next step in blade steel performance?

  2. Knife Outlet

    Knife Outlet

    Jan 4, 1999
    The reason is simply that 154-CM is made in America and using it supports an American company. ATS-34 is made in Japan. The two are virtually identical in terms of performance. Benchmade was the latest to take the plunge. All the new models incorporate 154-CM. Take care.

    Knife Outlet
  3. Lynn Grififth Knives

    Lynn Grififth Knives

    Jul 30, 1999
    Bob Loveless was the major proponent of 154CM for knife blades. He felt that the quality control of 154CM had gotten bad. In other words, the quality was not consistant from one batch of steel to the next. He worked with Hitachi in Japan to come up with a similar steel, that would have better quality control. That is what ATS-34 is. Bob Loveless was not the only one to desert 154CM (for ATS-34), in fact most knifemakers and factories that were using it made the switch. In recent times some knifemakers have started using other steels. I believe in an effort to sell there knives, they have stated superior performance from these steels, over ATS-34. This makes ATS-34 look to be inferior (thus giving it an undeserved bad wrap). ATS-34 is now less "in vogue" then it once was. The factory's know it is a good steel for the money, but they need to stay away from any thing that has a diminishing reputation. For that reason they go back to 154-CM (which is nearly identical), after everyone has forgotten about the original quality control problems (with 154-CM), then they put a positive spin on there decision by selling it as "American made". In other words, I believe (i.e. it is my opinion) that it has more to do with marketing, then with quality. It is also my opinion that that what makes a knife superior or inferior has as much to do with heat treat as it does with the steel.

    Lynn Griffith-Knifemaker

    BG-42 is now an option

    [email protected]
    Griffith Knives Forum
  4. Steve Harvey

    Steve Harvey

    Oct 16, 1998
    My only experience with the new 154CM is on the SpeedTech Synergy folder. It seems to have all the edge holding and toughness of any ATS-34 blade I have plus, it seems to be finer grained. The edge goes to that grabby, razor sharpness very easily without much of a burr to polish off. It is more like tool steel in that respect than ATS-34. It could be that SpeedTech is just heat treating it differently, I suppose. My Black Cloud ATS blades don't grow burrs to the extent my Benchmade blades do either. I like ATS-34, but that Synergy blade is remarkably different from my ATS-34 blades in sharpening characteristics.

    [This message has been edited by Steve Harvey (edited 02-04-2000).]
  5. jeegeet


    Jan 2, 2000
    Yeah, I'd second Steve after comparing my MTs having 154cm and other knives with ATS-34. Seems finer grained and holds edge as well.

  6. lbwheat


    Feb 24, 1999
    I have 4 Micro Tech knives and they seem to take a finer edge than the ats-34. If BENCHMADE changes over to the 154Cm I hope they won't temper it as hard as the ATS-34 blades that come out on some of there knives. I have a couple of theirs that can't be sharpened except on a belt.These knives will actually cut the Spyderco Grey stones.

  7. Spark

    Spark HPIC - Hatas gonna Hate Staff Member Administrator Super Mod Moderator

    Oct 2, 1998
    I haven't noticed a major difference between the two, but if there isn't, then buy American. It's that simple.


    Kevin Jon Schlossberg
    SysOp and Administrator for BladeForums.com

    Insert witty quip here
  8. Tommi


    Jul 1, 1999
    'coz I'm not american I don't have any reason to prefer 154CM over ATS-34 if there isn't gain in performance.

    Thanks for all for your opinions.

    I think that Fred and Lynn are right; This change is all for marketing.

  9. cerulean


    May 26, 1999
    I remember reading a big "Blade" article about ATS-34 a few months ago. The article said that the price of 154CM became unreasonably high, so makers started to look for a similar steel that was cheaper. 154CM was American made, but it was also monopolized. ATS-34 was a lot less expensive, even though it came from Japan.

    I don't know how the prices of ATS-34 and 154CM compare today. I would guess that 154CM is still a least a bit more expensive, as it seems that only high priced knives use it.
  10. Joe Talmadge

    Joe Talmadge

    Oct 3, 1998
    Hi guys,

    I do believe 154CM is now manufactured using a high-quality process, including vacuum melting. That's why makers have switched back to 154CM -- it's American, *and* it's at least as good as ATS-34.

  11. misque


    Jul 9, 1999
    Now, thats what I remember reading about 154CM. That it is now "Double-vacuum smelted resulting in a cleaner steel with less impurities and finer grained".
    I cannot remember where I read it, but it stuck in my brainpan, amongst myriad other useless facts and tid-bits of worthless info.
    If someone can elaborate on these steels, please do! Inquiring minds need to know. [​IMG]

    My new bumper sticker:

    Let me tell you about my SIFU!
  12. ROBB


    Nov 14, 1999
    Another reason custom makers switched years ago to ATS34 was the Japanese company would make the steel in different sizes.The American company would'nt offer as many thickness stock.
  13. Joe Talmadge

    Joe Talmadge

    Oct 3, 1998
    I asked Crucible about this, and here is the reply from one of their metallurgists:

    Let me give you a time line of where this grade was and where it is

    Our steel mill is a rod and bar mill. 15 or more years ago, we did
    not produce sheets of steel, but instead rolled thin bars. Thin bars
    were the preferred material for stock removal blades. 154CM was a
    bearing material produced primarily in round bar form for that market.
    The cutlery end of the grade was a side market and since the stainless
    bearing market is not huge kept the volume up. Crucible marketed this
    grade primarily through knife supply houses and really didn't come
    into direct contact with the knife industry.

    One myth from that time that continues to plague the grade is that
    154CM was vacuum re-melted. This grade was never produced with vacuum
    re-melt technology. At the time it was air melt material. Today it
    is melted differently, but I'll cover that later.

    As the stainless bearing market continued to shrink, it became more
    difficult to justify an 80,000 lb heat of 154CM, especially for the
    smaller cutlery industry. At the same time, the industry converted to
    using sheet product, which allowed lazer cutting and more versatiliy
    of widths. Put all this together with Crucible having no direct
    contact with the market and guess what, we were out of the business.
    Take a note of how many supply houses carry sheets of steel. None.

    A little over 10 years ago the distribution part of Crucible became
    it's own divison. The number of warehouses doubled and this division
    became very intimate with its markets. The Service Center Divsion is
    not limited by the mill's production and can convert material using
    outside sources (i.e. sheet products). With this in mind we entered
    back into the 154CM, 440V, 420V,etc. business and intend to stay there
    for quite a while. We dove back in about 3 years ago with the help of
    one of the larger knife producers and have been getting better every
    year. The mill still melts the material, but we stock the sheets in
    our warehouse system for cutting into various sizes.

    Now this brings us to the material production. Like I said earlier,
    many years ago, this material was produced by air melt technology.
    Today it is produced by the Argon/Oxygen/Decarburization process
    (AOD). This is the primary way to produce quality stainless steels.
    It is not as clean as re-melted steels but is about as close as you
    can get and is much cleaner than 15 years ago. 3 years ago when we
    entered back into the 154CM market we were concerned that the ATS-34
    was cleaner than ours. We found just the opposite. They do not
    re-melt their material either and in numerous tests with knife makers
    and polishers our material was much cleaner. Based on our sales and
    responses from our customers, the myth of the dirty 154CM is behind us
    for good.

    Now for the future. We are still adapting to the needs of the market.
    Many of the larger companies purchase full sheets and this is easy for
    us. Cut strips and pieces are another story. Since we can't possible
    stock sheet product in every district (We have 26 warehouses in North
    America) we are setting up one of our warehouses to handle the small
    piece business for the whole country. This project is currently in
    motion and will be completed by year's end. As soon as you see our ad
    in the magazines you will know we're ready.

    If anyone wants to meet us we will be at the Oregon knife collectors
    show in April and we will be at the Blade show, also.

    I still feel we are not completely where we want to be service wise
    but we get better each month. We urge the knifemakers to give us
    feedback good or bad so we can continue to improve.

    I hope this answers your questions, Sorry for being so windy.

  14. misque


    Jul 9, 1999
    OK, go ahead and color me stupid. [​IMG]
    So, does this "cleaner" steel translate more favorably in cutlery applications? ie. less impurities=finer grain structure, finer edges, greater flexiblilty and so on?

    My new bumper sticker:

    Let me tell you about my SIFU!

    [This message has been edited by misque (edited 02-29-2000).]
  15. cerulean


    May 26, 1999
    Hmm... that's really interesting; it explains quite a bit. Thanks for the great info, Joe and Crucible!
  16. Knife Outlet

    Knife Outlet

    Jan 4, 1999

    The two steels are virtually identical. There is no meaningful performance difference between them. If you could measure a performance difference, that difference would get lost in the variable of heat treating. Or perhaps one could say one of them has one more angel on the head of its pin. Think of them as the same thing. Take care.

    Knife Outlet
  17. narruc1

    narruc1 Banned BANNED

    Oct 19, 1999
    Too much talk about these two steels... I say the Hell with the both, and start using D2, or RS30. [​IMG]

    BC...Semper Fi
  18. Tommi


    Jul 1, 1999
    Joe, Thanks.

  19. misque


    Jul 9, 1999
    Sounds like a plan to me. I know I read that crap about "DOUBLE-VACUUM SMELTED" somewhere, but it was obviously mis-information.
    Joe and Crucible, Thank You for setting the record straight, once and for all.
    154CM=ATS34 or ATS34=154CM. Got it...

    My new bumper sticker:

    Let me tell you about my SIFU!
  20. volvi


    Jan 2, 2000
    "ATS-34 used to be a great steel, but every batch of steel was not of the same high quality. It depends on whether you get a good batch of steel or not. That's why I no longer favor it, and why Microtech, along with other companies, switched over to 154CM." - Walter Brend

    This was personally told to me over the phone by Walter Brend last year.


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