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ATS-34 VS ATS-55 (Brian Post)


Apr 14, 1999
This is Brian, the vacuuum guy, not Marty{aka V-1}. Just to give you a preview of why the question, I own a BM Emerson designed F\S knife that I have literally beat the living piss out of ie, punching through steel doors, stabbing into what I thought was just drywall and finding out that there was concrete block behind it, cutting through swiss steel by hammering through it etc. I just recently recieved a Spyderco Standard {which I love} but the first time I stab it into a wooden door frame about 1\32 of the tip is gone. I know that the knives are not intended for such use, but I was always told that Spyderco had better steel.
Has anybody got anykind of opinion on this other than the obvious of not stabbing or cutting almost anything?
Brian Hines
The difference probably has less to do with the two knives' respective steels than their blade designs. I'm not familiar with the BM Emerson, but I would guess that it is a tactical-style folder with a thick tip designed for stabbing. The Spyderco Standard, like all of the co's midsize folders (I believe) have sharp, thin points designed for precise, fine work; hence, the spine slopes down to meet the edge, rather than vice versa.

Another way to look at it: a $3 awl or chisel with cheap steel will likely outpunch your BM Emerson, long after its tip is duller than a key. Doesn't mean the chisel/awl has better steel, just that it excels at what it is designed for.

If you want to test the quality of the steels in your two knives, put them thru some equivalent *cutting* tests!

My .02 --
Syoryville is correct. The blade geometry, not blade material is the reason the Emerson
was able to stand up take the punishment you
subjected it to. The tanto blade is especially strong at the tip. In fact the it is often referred to as an "armor piercing" tip.

Joe Liguori
I have a Wegner with ATS-34 and a Rookie with ATS-55. I use the Rookie A LOT, and it sharpens rather easily and holds a great edge. Although I am certainly not as experienced as others here on BF, I notice no discernable difference between the two.
There was a review of ATS-34 vs ATS-55 in Blade Magazine (I think it was Blade, might have been KI) a couple years ago. The reviewer found little difference between the performance of the two steels. ATS-55 does have some nice qualities for the knifemaker however. It has added components, like copper, that improve machinability.

Interestingly, about a year ago I bought some steel marked ATS-34, but it cut and ground like butter. Really easy to work. When the blades were hardened, I couldn't see any difference between that steel and what I was used to. Likely it was ATS-55.

I agree with the above concerning geometry having more to do with your findings than the steel used. Spyderco's are good cutting machines but lousy screwdrivers.

Jerry Hossom

Speaking of the article on ATS-55 wasn't there a thing in it that Loveless used to work with it and at the time thought it was fantastic?
To my knowledge, only Spyderco uses ATS-55 in production knives.

I like 55 a lot. It will spot if you keep it damp, but I found a little Metal-Glo polish seems to help prevent that without the need for my Tuf-Cloth. It takes and holds a very good edge, and it resharpens nicely.