BLADE Magazine published my letter - please respond!

Oct 2, 1998

Hello all,

In posts below, you can see my letter to BLADE Magazine about ATS-34 and how they hype this mediocre blade material.
They published portions of my letter in the new issue of BLADE mag and I would appreciate it if everyone read it and responded to BLADE about how they personally felt about what I said and about ATS-34. Since my letter was a bit inflamatory, I am sure that they will get opposite reactions from people that "love ATS-34" out of ignorance. If you agree with me that there are better steels to be had and that we need to push the makers to use better steels, then now would be a good time to contact BLADE and let them know that I am not the only one out there that finds ATS-34 to be lacking compared to the new alternatives.
I have already gotten supportive email from people, and since BLADE published my email address (a little spitefulness?) I am sure I will be getting much more email in the future!

Now is the chance to be heard, if there ever were a chance. Let your opinions be known, whether they agree with mine or not, because in a way this issue is on the table. I got the editor's attention, now it is up to everyone else to pitch in and be heard. This is exactly what these forums have the power to do - to unite the common buyers so that we have a voice in the industry. Now let's use it!

thanks all,
I have an idea, don't use or buy any ATS-34 and get on with your life. There are more important things to worry about then stainless steel and if you like it or not.
Tom Militano
to quote my favorite DEXTERS LABORATORY saying " O-BOY O-BOY HERE IT COMES"

Unless your the lead dog,The scenery never changes!!!
Gregg Lane
Peddler,of fine Goods

I don't know if you have posted your reasons for hating ATS-34, but I'd be interested in hearing it. I have many folders made from it, as well as some custom fixed blades, and I find it to live up to it's claims. High carbon- holds it's edge, and pretty easy to sharpen, and stain resistant. Sure there are better steels, but there are a lot worse ones too.
I believe some of you missed the earlier thread on the notion of the recent BLADE magazine article which basically promoted ATS-34 as the current miracle steel and made absolutely no mention of other available steels that have eclipsed ATS-34.

Thaddeus simply took issue with BLADE allowing an article to see print that had such glaring omissions. ATS-34 is indeed a fine steel but there are alternative choices which many hold as being far better.

So before you take Thaddeus to task, hold yer water and do a search to check out the older thread with key antecedent information.


I did NOT escape from the institution! They gave me a day pass!

I picked up the May issue and couldn't find your letter. Was it the April or May issue and if the May, what page is your letter on?

I have to say, I like ATS-34 in a ahlf hearted sort of way. It's not a BAD steel. (For bad, you need something like D2. Yeechh!)
I really WOULD like to see something OTHER than ATS-34 offered by the major makers. Seems like this is somehow becoming the UNIVERSAL knife steel.
When I picked up the May issue of Blade, I also bought a copy of KI. Now I remember why I quit buying those rags in the first place!
Check out KI's April issue, page 41. There's a couple of pictures of the CS Gunsite being used. I qoute from the caption,
"...the Gunsite was also put to use by the author to harvest produce in the garden. The wide, hollow ground AUS-8 blade slices quickly and cleanly, severing the lifeline between produce and plant."
WOW! Talk about exhaustive testing! I am IMPRESSED! You mean that the CS Gunsite with it's little bitty 5 inch blade that's only partially serrated can actually cut all the way through a cucumber vine in only ONE CUT! WOW AGAIN!
Can anyone here say, "Puff piece?"
The sad part is, that CS doesn't really NEED puff pieces, and it's demeaning to both CS, the reader, and most of all the "rag" that prints such mouth breathing drivel.

(Damn, where's that "Rant Off" button?)

Hi Baldy! You posted while I was writing. Yeah, I read Thad's earlier post and I agree with most of it. My biggest problem is with the Knife mags more than the makers though.
The makers (and manufacturers) are going to make only what they can sell. The Rags are going to try and tell us what we want. That's why I usually avoid buying them. Made an exception because I wanted to see Thad's letter.

I cut it, and I cut it, and it's STILL too short!

[This message has been edited by Ken Cook (edited 03 April 1999).]

I agree entirely as I stated elsewhere.


Here are my reasons. It rusts far faster than say D2. It does not hold an edge as well as some would like you to believe. It seems to like to snap on folks. It loads up bench stones like crazy when sharpening. Not unlike other stainless steels. To all big fans of ATS. I say buy something in D2 or 440V or 420V or Stellite or Talonite or A2 or..... The list goes in. A knife I would recomend is the Spyderco Military in 440V. I am willing to bet you will change your views on ATS. Now I know many of you have not had the problem I have had with ATS rusting. I have several theorys on that. I have never had a knife break in ATS, but have seen it happen many times. It does not hold an edge like so many other materials do. In fact I will take a knife in AUS8a over one in ATS any day. Why you may ask? In my expierence AUS8a will take a sharper edge. It does not rust or stain as fast as ATS and it is not as brittle. It is also easier to resharpen. I have found that if you take say a Viele in AUS8A and an AFCK in ATS. The Viele and AFCK well get to a point that I consider to be dull at about the same time. Why? Well I believe it is for the simple fact that "people will disspute this" the Viele is sharper. This is just an example. I have tried similar comparisons several times and with several knives. I have a dealer friend with a large shop. He will take Aus8a over ATS everytime for the same reasons I will. I think that ATS is the most over hyped steel on the market today. You can generally buy cheaper knives that will IMO, perform as well if not better for less money by going with AUS8a, or you can spend the same money, or slightly more for a knife with say 440V, which will blow ATS away. I have used knives in just about every material that can be used for a blade so I feel that I can make the above statements. Before anyone blasts me try a knife in one of the other materials first and see if you agree with me, on at least some of the points I have made.


Tom Carey
Very well said. I agree totally with your conclusions of AUS8. The longer I'm into this knife stuff the more and more I rather have AUS8....I think my Cold Steel knives convinced me of that.


I half to agree with T. Militano, get over it, jeeze, obsess much?

P.S. in regards to your pushing makers to use the "better" steels, if you want to pay for them, I'll try anything.

[This message has been edited by Kisu (edited 04 April 1999).]
I remember being surprised when I read the article (I like ATS-34, but it's not THAT good), so I can relate to what Thaddeus said in his earlier post. My main objection to Thaddeus's post has to do with his tone, which I thought was overly contentious.

David Rock
I agree that ATS-34 isn't the world's greatest blade material. There's something for everyone out there that's better, depending on what each person wants to do with their knives. On the other hand, I don't think the majority of the population is going to even care. ATS-34 isn't necessarily a bad material, and it's quite user-friendly. For most, that's probably good enough.
I agree that ATS does rust, it's just more rust resistant than other high carbon steels. I love my BG-42 Sebenza, holds a darn fine edge. But have yet to have any problems with ATS-34. Just callin' it as I see it
By the way, I think you'll all agree: There is NO ONE perfect blade steel. All of them have their place. Especially when use and cost are taken into consideration. Buck just discontinued their BG-42 line. Why? I think expense and demand had a lot to do with it. Just my opinion, and just like, well- you know the saying: Everyone has one!
OK, time somebody said it: the heat-treat matters too. I have an ATS34 custom, The Outsider, I know everybody's probably sick of hearing of it. BUT: it's "outermost tip" is more slender than that of an F/S dagger, and in brutal prying tests the last 2mm bent slightly but didn't fail, and straightened back to undetectable. Understand, this was "prying with the TIP, putting pressure only on the tip", possibly the harshest pry testing possible. The secondary "spike" tip (much tougher structure) survived full-power slams through a coconut and neither it nor the cutting edge was harmed in any way.

This piece was given a cheapo-type cryo-treat (dry ice in an old freezer for 24 hours) and heat-treated with the Ernie Mayer low-temp recipe. For what the knife was designed for, combat and nothing else, I consider the steel more than adequate. Three hours sheathed open-carry during a rainstorm while I was on a motorcycle caused no rust; once home I dried it, let the Kydex sheath drain and dry seperately. I've never oiled it, I seldom even wash it even after putting fingerprints on the blade, it shows absolutely zero corrosion of any type. And it's no "drawer queen", it's carried *frequently*, especially on weekends.

Granted, this is close to perfection in terms of carefully and individually monitored heat-treat on a cold-ground blade, with a mediocre cryo cycle...but I feel it's pretty solid proof ATS34 *can* perform. A full-tilt liquid nitrogen cryo cycle might do even better.

See also my earlier post "Outsider versus Coconut" on the main forum for more details of the "testing".

Jim March
Thank you JIM..All ats..154cm steel is not created with any steel..I have many knives in ats and cm...You have to work it right! My Microtech Mini Socom rocks for edge holding and my Spydie98 military with ats34 also holds an excellent edge.(I also have a 440v Military to compare it with) I've also had some,(won't mention the names) That plainly sucked....Don't put your eggs in one basket..There are lots of better steels in my opinion.But not for the money. AUS8,GIN1 are both good,But IMO, slightly less to offer in edge holding ability. The comments by the magazine(Blade april98) said nothing about it being a wonder steel! Just that it was the most used by factories and custom makers! I got from the article that ATS, was a good all around best, for the money steel. It also mentioned that tempering was itself more important than the steel used to make a knife! And mentioned several times that it required more maintenance! Thad you also are over looking the comments by some of the most knowledgeable knife makers in the world, Loveless,AG Russell,R.Maxwell,W. Goddard,ect. ect.
I think you just over reacted to this article...Maybe you should read it again, before you send that letter!! As I said before ATS.& 154CM have probably contributed as much to change the future of knives as any other factor we have. (except for the pocket clip,we all know who started that)

So doesn't it stand to reason we owe a little praise and respect for this steel? Will it go away? Who knows..As someone else stated in your previous topic..We the people control the trend in knives. What will be the next most popular steel? We will have to wait and see!! I'm not ignorant either,(as you stated)
thank you for your time!! Bart
Kit, didn't you start it 28 years ago?...Well actually maybe it should have read (we all know who made the clip popular).....Not sure who the very first person or persons were to put a clip on a knife. Does anyone really know, let us know!!! Theres probably a number of answers!
When we have so many different desires in a knife steel, we will never get one that is perfect for all.

The most important factor in my opinion is the heat treating process. This is with any steel, if you dont heat treat it properly you will get mediocre to poor performance.

Ive used some ATS 34 blades that worked great, and were really tough.

Thaddeus, I respect you a lot, but I won't be writing to Blade or any other magazine to support your opinion of ATS34. That's because I don't buy those mags anymore. They're useless, especially to someone who has access to the forums. Reading their fluff is pointless. Yes, they have pretty pics, but those can also often be found online. This is not meant to offend anyone who enjoys reading the magazines, just to make a point. Someone above made the point that there are much more important things to worry about than whether some magazine gives accurate info or not.
That said, I do think that Thaddeus' choice to make an issue of this is fine for him, because who reads the magazines? That's right: newbies. Having been a newbie, I can attest that newbies don't have the info to judge an article like that one, so Thaddeus is doing a good thing. It's just that I have decided to vote with dollars by not buying the magazines, so I figure I've forfeited the right to criticize them in their own forum.
BTW, is the CS Bushman AUS8? I picked one up (for 11.95!) on spring break and used it to chop up some semi-green Osage Orange (wood that thinks it's steel, for you city folk.) Even jammed the tip in and yanked chips out of the stumps, and no damage to the edge or the tip. Still sliced free hanging newsprint without tearing. I spent awhile on a Lansky with it, and got it to shave hair with a 30 degree bevel on each side.