BLADE Magazine published my letter - please respond!

Tom Mayo,

Do you consider ATS-34 better than BG-42 for camp/combat knives because it offers a better compromise between edge performance and stain resistance?


I don't have any knives in BG-42, but have many in ATS, 440V, 440C, 440B, 440A, AUS-8 and AUS-6. Assuming that they are all processed correctly, the edge retention goes something like this for me; 440V, ATS, 440C, 440B, 440A, AUS-6 and AUS-8 last(I assume it may be an inferior process blade).

As for corrosion resistance; All my blades are polished slightly, not bead blasted. 440C is at the top and ATS is at the bottom.

Impact resistance goes to 440C. I have used my 440C knife for chopping with no effects on the blade. I have used a custom ATS at Rc=59 and had some edge chipping, however, when I used the United ATS machete with an Rc=56, it did not chip, but also would not hold an edge as well as my 440C blade or my Rc59 ats blade. The charpy value for 440C is much higher than ATS.

Like I originally stated if I had my choice in stainless steels for folders it would be 420V, 440V, BG-42, 440C, ATS-34.

In fixed blades it would be D-2(almost stainless), 440C, 440V, BG-42, ATS-34. Since I consider impact resistance top priority in a big blade, edge is secondary, I will go as I mentioned.

I have to say though, that I would be happy with any of these steels as they are much better than what was available many years ago. I also think that just like 440 series got a bad rap because of the Taiwanese junk being made in it's name and bearing no resemblence to good 440, ATS may be suffering from the same malady. For example, my gerber ATS blade cannot hold any were near the edge that my Benchmade and spyderco and rekat ATS blades can. Similarly my AUS-8 meyerco blade cannot hold anywere near the edge that my CS AUS-8 blade can.

This is an opinion from a USER not a maker.

once again...for all to read...i am sure that any problems with ats can be traced back to the heat treatment....
This thread has grown a little long now, and some points have been made repeatedly, but I must cast my vote with the "heat treatment" brigade.

To get the most from ATS-34 one needs to go the extra mile when heating it up, and cooling it down. This involves top class equipment, time, effort and money. Anyone who has tried to brush finish an ATS-34 blade truly hardened to 61 Rockwell C will understand the meaning of time, effort and money!!

Not all custom makers know how to get the best from ATS-34, and few production makers can afford to get the best from ATS-34. This is understandable given the law of diminishing returns, but it gives ATS-34 bad press.

When treated to its fullest potential ATS-34 is a brilliant blade steel, but unfortunately in the bulk of the blades we see ATS-34 is used in name only.

Regards, HILTON
Here is an example of the "superiority" of properly heated treated (Paul Bos) ATS-34 over that other new wonder steel 1095.

The following is from a post made to rec.knives by long time stainless steel fan - Alvin Johnston ( :

I just reconfirmed the test results last weekend. First for the most part
they use Norton Crystalon comination stones, is that proper? The knives
are a Bob Engnath Kitchen #2 ATS-34 heat treated and cold treated by Paul
Bos, is that poor quality? I hollow ground it thin -without- drawing any
of it's temper... it never turned -any- colors not even straw. I used a
dry grinder to take most of the metal off then switched to a wet grinder.
One thing about stainless is it "hogs" off easy!
Yep, even Paul Bos'
ATS-34! No kidding about that. Check out Bob's catalog and see what he
says about ginding O1 after grinding ATS-34 or 440-C.

The other two knives they were compared to was, one an old butcher knife
made by "Lakeside Chicago" which isn't near as hard as it could be but
much harder than any factory butcher knife I've ever seen. I hollow
ground it for the cowboy too. The other knife was just a buffalo skinner
blade with no handle and nothing special about so I couldn't identify the
maker other than it's a cheap factory made, 1095 steel knife. The full
tang, slab handle was not tapered and I didn't bother to taper it either.
All I did was reheat treat it (drawn at 325F for one hour after a cold
treatment for a few hours at -5F that leaves it about 65-67RHC which is
a -full-file-hard
. The sorry ol' stainless couldn't keep up worth
anything although the consenses is that it's the best stainless knife
they ever used it still wasn't what they would call good. (whoops as an
after thought it dawned on me the other knives they are comparing to are
HSS power hacksaw bladed knives made from the -all- hard ones not the
"un-breakable" ones)

Hilton and Cliff....Right on....while these points have been made previously, you guys capped it all off, very nicely!
Hats off to Thad for being persistent in his beliefs...very interesting once again as controversy always is!!!!!
My best to all