BLADE Magazine published my letter - please respond!

Well GEE! let's see.

CPM 440V, and 420V both have longer lasting edge and equal to better impact resistance and offer more corrosion resistance by a long shot.

BG-42, holds a better edge and appears to be tougher.

D-2 holds an edge longer, is much tougher and has only slightly less chrome in it.

440C is easier to work and forge, holds an edge almost as long and is infinitelly more corrosion resistant.

440A is tougher by a long shot and offers more corrosion resistance, but less edge holding(big deal).

440B- same as 440A

AUS-6 and 8- both offer more toughness, more corrosion resistance and of course less edge holding.

Out of all the above stainless or near stainless steels, I can't see how ATS-34 would be at the top.

In a folder I would prefer 440V, 420V, and BG-42.

In a large fixed blade I would prefer D-2, 440C, 440B, AUS-10, 8, 6, due to toughness and anti-chipping issues.

This is all my opinions only of course. I like ATS, but do not consider it any big deal. Is it exotic? Well, when companies like Buck and Gerber are offering folders in it, in mass production, how exotic can it be?

OK... you guys are kiddin about the pocket clip, right?....Hint...Well how about the company that owns the patents on the round blade hole!! Thought everybody knew that..Oh boy hang on to your hats.....
well...i have been using it since its inception and i like it a lot....i find that although it doesnt hold an edge as well as some other knives i dont have a rust problem, p.s. i live in hawaii....humidity is high all the time...and it is tough beyond belief...i have made some machetes that people pound on concrete steel in the world is any better than the heat treat....paul bos has told me many, many, many times...these guys who heat treat their knives at home in their little furnaces and wrap them in foil and then stick it in the freezer are kidding themselves...the temps are very precise on these type of alloys.. and they must be tempered precisely also... so i think thats where the big problem is, most of the complaints i read about are from the guys who buy knives from the larger companies....they just cant control the temps like a small one man operation like paul' harvey mcburnette once told me, the big companies have big furnaces... they stick a bunch of blades in there...the ones in the middle get too hot and are too hard, the ones on the outside arent hot enought and are too soft...and there is a magic circle where the temp is right...if they are very careful....i have only had positive feedback from ats for almost 12 years.... what can i say.....i dont agree with you...p.s. i use 440v for most of my hunting blades...straight and folders....have been playing with bg42 for almost a year now, have a bunch in stock, and have a few pieces of 420v that are about to turn into knives, so i am not stuck on ats...but i use it exclusively for combat/military knives that i want to outlive the well as camp knives, machetes, and such......

[This message has been edited by tom mayo (edited 04 April 1999).]
Gwinney....Your Bushman is made from a single piece of cold forged 2.5mm thick SK-5 high carbon steel according to the CS Special Projects catalog.


Right, the Bushman is a simple high-carbon.

The high-carbon steels are dirt cheap and offer a LOT of performance for the dollar, often better than any of the stainlesses. 1095/1084/1060/1050 series are the most common, where the last two digits are the percent carbon (as in, 1095 is .95% carbon).

5160 is the other common simple high carbon steel, found in auto leaf springs and the unbelievably tough Himalayan Imports Khukris.

The old Kabar USMC knives are 1095, many good swords are made in 1050 through 1084 plus 5160. Cold Steel's new Cutlass is 1050, which makes sense since it's a stock-removal blade versus "heat'n'beat"...the proper NET carbon for a sword is between .50 - .60% but heating and pounding lowers it, so many sword makers start with 1084 knowing the carbon content will "pound down".

Newt Livesay makes excellent value handmade working knives, mostly in 1095.

The only thing "wrong" with these steels is they're not stainless. They're dirt cheap as metal costs go, and not expensive in terms of abrasives and such.

The third main steel choice between stainless and high-carbon are the complex alloy tool steels. A2, D2, L6 and 01 are more expensive to work and unless the heat-treat is dead perfect they're not tough enough for swords. Mad Dog and Phil Hartsfield are two that CAN use tool steels in both knives and swords, there may be others but I can't think of any off the top of my head. Oh - Howard Clark does L6 Katanas, L6 is "borderline" between tool and high carbon.

ATS34 is "bordering on tool steel territory" but still considered stainless (sometimes not very) and D2 is "just the other side of the border" and "doesn't want to rust" although it's not stainless.

But again: a good heat treat can give D2 better stainless properties than bad ATS34. Bob Dozier works *miracles* in D2. Treat ATS34 right, you'll almost get a "stainless tool steel".

Some makers specialize in a given steel to such a degree it'd be stupid for 'em to switch. Mad Dog knows 01 better than *anybody*, Ernie Mayer is an ATS34 wiz, etc; The Outsider was done using Ernie's recipe.

Another thing: per some sources, the more complex alloys such as ATS34 need to be ground without overheating, as localized "burned spots" in the steel won't be visible but will result in weak spots after the heat treat/temper/cryo cycles. OTHERS DISAGREE, I'm only a customer not a maker so I dunno, I'm only passing what I'm hearing.

Jim March
I've also found ATS-34 to be brittle compared with AUS-8A or D2 or BG-42, but when I hear about how good ATS-34 can be if it's "done right", I wonder if it's more a QC issue than anything else. In any case, I'd definitely like to see more D2 or BG-42 blades out there. Never had any problems with those steels.

I like the Sebenza with BG-42 a lot. It seems to have better toughness AND better edge-holding than any of my ATS-34 knives. And it is definitely more stain-resistant.


Knife lover, Philosopher, Humanitarian, and All-around nice guy
(all right, so I'm just a knife lover)
When I saw that cover story about the "new ATS-34 Super Steel" I checked the date of the magazine, then checked it again. I thought for sure it must have been an issue that was a few years old!

ATS-34 is pretty good general use stuff, but 440V is so much better (in my own personal uses).

Plus, why not promote 154CM, which is almost identical to ATS-34 but American Made?

Ok Jim I got one question. Why does it have to be stainless?

I think people are so worryed about there knives rusting, that the fears are way way over blown.

Case in point I have been studying swords of late, and do you know where most of the swords, about 90% where found. In water, lakes streams, rivers and such. And some of those swords looked very good. Some were found in a bog. They say the bog helped preverved them. But one of them was dated 300bc that is over 2000 years and it looks great, the handle is gone but that is all you could put a handle on it and use it. It is that good.
I am willing to bet that now of those swords were stainless.

What I am trying to say is with just a little care you will not have a problem with carbon steel rusting.

Again I say I think most people are way overly worryed about rusting. But that is just my opinion. But I will take carbon steel everytime.

-Greg Johnson

That was a great "steel in a nutshell" lesson. Thanks, I got a lot out of it.

I think you have something there. I would venture to say that most people on this forum are so careful with their knives anyway that rust would probably not be a problem. Heck, I take better care of my knives than my car.


Greg DOES have a point. The main reason I was interested in stainless for The Outsider was that I wanted a frequent carry piece including long trips on a motorcycle in the rain and open carry, AND the sheath design I had in mind to go with it was unusually "open", allowing water in. And on a long trip, that means all day in the wet without drying once.

So overall, I had a good reason to want stainless.

Jim March
Just a side note. I took some knives with me on my vacation to the Big Island(mo betta), one was ATS-34, Ti-MPK and my rambo knife in 440C. I went diving with all of them. The Ti-MPK and the 440C knife should no signs of rust. The ATS blade was covered with surface rust after one full day of swimming. I let the rust stay on the blade the rest of the week and took it off when I got back. It did not pit the blade in any way, but there is a big difference between it and the 440 series steels.
I don't like ats-34.Every reason has already
been mentioned.Untill 420v or equivalent is
being used in production (not custom) knives,
I will stick with 440V or non-stain-resistant
blades.{AUS-X is o.k.}. What I want to know is ,
why is Benchmade leaving the M2 option off its flagship folders? It would be the same if
Chevy was to bring out a new Corvette without using their most powerfull engine.Just does not make since to me.
Jim in reference to your comment about needing stainless - Marine Tuff Cloth will leave a perm. layer of protection on a blade. You can leave it out in the rain for days with no effect (yeah I have done this). It does wear off as you use the blade but fairly slowly. This is of course not an issue with a knife that is primarly intended for self defence. If you had the outsider in a high carbon steel, rusting would not be an issue with decent protection. Now if you were looking for a heavy use utility knife in humid conditions then stainess might be something to consider.

One of the reasons that stainless steels are used in general in not because of actual advantage but quite simply because most people think that "stainless steel" is better than "not stainless steel" i.e. there are only two kinds.

A lot of people are missing the point of Thaddeus's post. He was not stating that ATS-34 is a baseline for poor steels but quite simply that there are better choices and Blade promoting ATS-34 as being a top choice was seriously flawed.

Like Doug said, when I saw the article, I wondered where Blade had its collective editorial head stuck for the last three or four years. Though I consider properly heat treated ATS-34 a good knife steel, it is time to move on to the superb knife steels like BG-42 and CPM420V.

I also noticed that Blade is just now catching on to the popularity of tactical folders. What's next, an article on those newfangled liner-locks?

I have a Terzuola and a Terzuola Jr. as well as a SOG knife with ATS-34, and I like them all! There may now be better steels, but don't you think that you have gone a lttle overboard here?

Walk in the Light,

Thanks all for filling in the ignorant who speak without understanding what the topic is (called chronic "foot-in-mouth" disease). And also, opinions such as Tom Carey's took many of the words right out of my mouth on how I feel about ATS-34 and why I actually prefer AUS-8 (which is not a compliment to either). You have saved me from repeating many of the reasons why I hate ATS-34. For more diatribe, do a search and find my original thread.

Yes I agree: I do feel that maybe I slammed them a bit hard, and for some reason I take it personally when a monopoly tries to program the populace with misinformation. Okay, we are just talking about steels here and it is really not that big of an issue (believe me, I lose no sleep over it). But, the fact remains that BLADE knows there are better steels out there, and I truly feel that they are pandering to their advertisers by promoting a mediore steel. This is known as "Puff" or "Fluff" and is common in the magazine industry. They write articles to promote the products of their biggest advertisers, and "everybody wins". When the only source of info for most people repeatedly states a lie, then the people that depend on that media hold that as truth. Once again, I realize this is a small issue, but I still find it very offensive for a publication to promote false claims just to please it's advertisers. Most of the the advertisers use ATS-34 and have us convinced that any knife made in ATS-34 with a liner-lock is "tactical" and "hi-tech". Now BLADE comes along and writes articles in the same line of thought, and so the manufacturers can benefit because the readers are misinformed. To me it smells of a big monopoly where both parties benefit by selling lies.
Maybe it is my college-student-activist kind of fervor, but I like to speak out when I see blatant corporate monopolizing such as the fact that the rags are trying to convince us that ATS-34 is the best, thereby making a stagnant knife market and robbing us of advances in the industry. (Yep, I go to a UC: a sister school of "UC Berzerkely", where we have protests daily. So maybe I have been taught to be a little more verbal about my protests than some, and I realize that. But, I feel it is better than sitting by and letting a lie be perpetuated.)

Most people look to the rags for pure info and do not come to the fountain of knowledge like this forum. If the mags say that "ATS-34 is king" then the buyers will be convinced of it, and the makers will never improve. The only chance is for informed people to speak out and force the mags to be less biased so that we can get a demand for better steels.
Let's face it, overall, I am just selfish: Like many of you, I want more folders made of better steels, and the only way to get makers to make them for me is to create a demand! Once people realize that they are being ripped off by the over-hyped ATS-34, then the demand will be there for better steels, and "viola!" we will have more folders made in better steels!
The few people on these forums do not make that big of a difference in worldwide knife sales. We can boycott liner-locks and ATS-34, but it will not affect the market because the average person and even store owner does not tap into the information sources we have. Most people, even shop owners, will continue to think ATS-34 is the best there is, as long as their only source of information (the mags) tell them so. So, the only way for the knife-buying public to learn that there are better steels out there and that ATS-34 is second-rate, is for the magazines to be honest.
The fact is, if we are all complacent and accept whatever the makers throw at us, then they will give us whatever is cheapest and easiest to make. BLADE's response to me verified that the only reason that makers are using ATS-34 is because it is easy to get and they already have the setup for it. Custom makers have stated the same thing: they already know where to get ATS-34 and how to work it, so if there is no demand for better, then why change? If you don't care about what your blade steel is, then go buy a cheap import. I care. I want better blade steels in my folders, and the only way to get it is to speak up and ask. (My personal favorite is a teflon coated tool steel, which IMO gives you the best of all worlds, but I would be happy with any of the new stainless steels.)

Just like voting, whatever your opnion is, why not take a moment to let it be known (even if you think I am wrong)? Below is BLADE's email address. Why not drop them a quick line and let them know what you thought of the article. Please remember, this is all stemming from the article praising ATS-34. If you haven't read it and don't know what we are talking about, then please read it first so that you know what this issue is about.

In the interest of better knives!
Ps- The article that I found overly offensive and got entirely too worked up about is on page 12 of April 99 Blade. The cover says "ATS-34: Real Meal Steel" and the article is called "ATS-34: Stainless Steel of Choice". The last paragraph says that 'ATS-34 is the best material available' and "ATS-34 is the stuff to have" along with "ATS-34 is king". There is no doubt that the article overall leaves the average reader with the impression that ATS-34 is absolutely the best steel out there and any knife with it is "hi-tech" and exotic.

My letter to BLADE in response is published in the June 99 issue on page 10.

I have a subscription so I got that issue a week ago. I will not be renewing my subscription, if no other reason because what was stated above by others: these forums are a much better source for accurate info.

First of all I agree with alot of what Thad has said. But I really think he is blaming to much on the steel 'ATS'. ATS really is a good steel.
Think about this for just a minute. Take your wonder steel of choice, I will say BG42. Now everyone next year comes out with their knives made of BG42. You will start to see people haveing some problems, knives dulling, knives rusting,and knives chipping and breaking. In the next two years alot of you will start saying you hate the steel and that steel X is better. Just wait it will happen.
My point is like it has been said already it really is in the heat treatment. Some do well. Some do it poorly. And then some do it both ways.
I will again state that i have been using ats 34 since it began to come into this country and i consider it an excellent steel, i am using bg 42 and 440v and i really like both of these...but for a combat/survival and or camp/axe type i believe it is the best stuff on the market.. and that comes solely from one i said in my post mid way up the page...who is heat treating these knives your are moaning about.... you are wrong in your assessment of this steel. end of soap box mode.....
1.As Jim stated, proper heat treatment is important for any steel. If you improperly heat treat 440v(or any of the new wonder steels) they will suck also.

2.It takes a little while for the knife industry to catch up with new developments. When ATS-34 was getting popular in handmades the knife industry was using 440C (or worse).

3.The magazines are usually behind the times, partially due to press run times. Blade is constantly putting knives that have been around for a year or more in the "What's New" section.

4.Blade really seems to have become a mag for the general public to pick up at the newstand, not real buffs. I have been disappointed lately but I still have a subscription. They did print your letter BTW Thaddeus. It was Blade though that got me back into knives hardcore again about 8 years ago. Think of it as training wheels.

5.I'm not sure which monopoly you are talking about. Bill Gates has a good one going (good for him) but I don't see anyone in the knife industry with a monopoly.

6.The surface finish has a lot to do with rust. I have a early AFCK with ATS-34 and it started getting rust spots almost immmediately, because it had a coarse finish. I have other ATS-34 knives that have never shown a speck. I am one of those people that seems to have more corrosive than average sweat. I've had bead blasted 440C rust on me in no time.

7.If steel rusts, coat it in oil or something. People have been doing that since steel was invented. Samurai did not have SS Katana.

8.I have an old style Sebenza with the ATS-34 blade and a newer small one, and an Umfaan with the BG-42. I tend to like the BG-42 better though I can't tell a real discernable difference in performance. None of them have shown a speck of rust. I suppose CRK must think that BG-42 is better or they wouldn't have switched but my old Sebenza is still as sharp as the day I bought it (well almost anyway) and it has been used quite a bit as it is my favorite for use in the woods or when camping. It has an ultra thin edge and I've only had one ding put in it and that was when I was scraping old dry adhesive off the bottom of an old sink. I don't think the sink put the ding in it but something stuck in the adhesive.

9.The new steels are getting better and better but as I understand it things like 440V or 420V or any of the new wonder steels are not produced in huge quantities and are still pretty expensive compared to some of the older ones. That will probably keep a lot of people from buying it until they can get the price down.

10.Rust never sleeps! (Any Neil Young fans out their? I like Neil but hate that Southern Man song though!)

Thadddeus, I read your letter before I did your post and agree with you that the mags do not always do things the way we would like. The truth of the matter is they are in the business of selling magazines and will continue with what they are doing as long as it is successful ($wise).

The best thing is that you have your opinions and you weren't afraid to express them and back them up with reasons. The world has too many sheep and I respect a person that will stand up and say whats on their mind. I really wish that the forums were even more open than they are. Some of the things that get called flames on some of the forums are merely people trying to express some discontent with a person or company. Ever see Mad Dog explain himself to someone that disagrees. Can we say locked thread. Great knives those Mad Dogs, but Moderation is not so great(is that a flame?, not to me). OK I'm digressing to one of my pet peeves, but I guess what I am trying to say is that everyone has an opinion and the important thing is that we can express them. Obvioiusly some people love ATS-34 and some don't. Some people are satisfied to drive an old Chevette and some people have to have a Dodge Viper. 90% of the people buying knives probably don't even know what kind of steel is in their knives or what goes into making steel blah blah blah. The main reason that ATS-34/154CM got popular is that some big names in customs (Bob Loveless for one) started using it 20+ years ago. Now the hot names are using the new steels and 20 years from now we may wonder what we ever saw in 420V or its kin.

Thaddeus good job on keeping them on their toes and getting people thinking.