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Emerson Explains 154 Steel

Discussion in 'Emerson Knives' started by Ernest Emerson, Jul 25, 2018.

  1. Ernest Emerson

    Ernest Emerson

    Apr 5, 1999
    Dear Members,

    Why do I use 154CM steel when there are other "super steels" out there? First, you need to understand why I build my knives the way I do. I build hard-use tools - that's it in a nutshell.

    Believe me, I know all about all of the "super steels." I even know the metallurgists and the scientists personally and I have very frank and open dialogues ongoing with all of them. Why do I use 154CM? We do not push the Rockwell on any of our knives. They finish at 57 to 59 RC, well below the high limits. Do any of you own a real Marine Ka-Bar knife? Test the Rockwell on it and you'll see what I'm talking about. Our knives may get dull, but rarely if ever get broken. That's exactly what I want, and exactly what I don't want. I could tell you dozens of customer stories of knives that self-destructed in hard use in extreme situations, knives made by other companies - not mine. You see, most users never push their knives to those extremes, no matter how hard they claim. Ask any soldier about combat or deployment use. You find out what breaks and what lasts real fast, and I'm not talking about hand-to-hand combat. I'm talking about every day, beat the shite out of stuff, use.

    We've had edges chip and tips break off, but in over 40 years and hundreds of thousands of knives, I can count on one hand the number of my knives that users have broken, and that's always been doing something really dumb. One guy broke a Roadhouse trying to pry open a manhole cover. He wedged the knife in the crack and then stepped on it with his foot. Now having said all that, I have to admit that we do use some other steels for specific orders from customers and for some special editions that we make, but you see, we don't even push 154CM, which is an outstanding steel for its intended use, so there's no real reason or need to go for any of the so-called upgraded steels, because we would still only heat treat them to 57 or 59 Rockwell also.

    It seems like everyone is always trying to put me in the box with all the other companies. I've never marched to their drummer, and I never will. It's not who we are, and it's not how we are. Emerson Knives Incorporated was the first, foremost and only tactical knife company in the world for a very long time. Younger members of this forum would never even know that fact. I created that market, and I've owned that market for almost 40 years now. Everything from us is done for a purpose, and that's what our customers expect. Not a rant, not a bash, just an explanation.


  2. 115Italian


    Nov 13, 2015
    I love the steel. Love the way it’s heat treated. Keep doing what your doing.
  3. gotgoat

    gotgoat Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 2, 2016
    Thanks for the info
    love your knives and designs
  4. Officer's Match

    Officer's Match Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 23, 2013
    Love hearing these from you Mr. Emerson, particularly the philosophy behind the designs.
  5. Yo Mama

    Yo Mama

    Sep 25, 2011
    It's why I bought my first and second Emerson! The reasoning is purposeful and necessary.
    tgh likes this.
  6. Aias


    Aug 1, 2012
    I've heard this before, in other interviews and write-ups... and now, just as then, I was convinced that yours was the knife I needed in my pocket. Well done, sir--keep making them the way you do. We'll keep using them! Anthony

    P.S. Now how about another run of El Banditos. The blacked out ones particularly! Thanks ;)
    Jamesh Bond likes this.
  7. Ruzster


    May 7, 2001
    Thanks for some insight into your knife making philosophy, Ernest. Always informative to hear from a master bladesmith. Cheers!
  8. Stelth


    Jul 15, 2007
    Mr. Emerson, I gotta tell you I love the A100. I've carried it constantly for a year. If you made a "super" version, I'd buy it.
  9. ndmiller

    ndmiller Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Nov 30, 2015
    Re-release the Mini-A100...............Just for a day or two.
    VernonRemington likes this.
  10. tgh


    Jul 16, 2018
    Exactly, this is why I'm on my 5th Emerson already, with more to come, hopefully :rolleyes:
    Yo Mama likes this.
  11. Lapedog


    Dec 7, 2016
    Love 154cm. I would love to see Emerson switch to CPM154.

    There are also other stainless steels that have the high toughness of 154cm but offer more wear reistance like Elmax.

    Still, I will always be glad Emerson didn’t switch to s30v.

    While we’re requesting knives, release an HD7 with the lockbar insert but on teflon washers and with backspacer plz!
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2018
    Officer's Match likes this.
  12. Officer's Match

    Officer's Match Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 23, 2013
    Perfect, but wait until my wallet recovers.
  13. PirateSeulb

    PirateSeulb Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 6, 2017
    I will say this echoes my thoughts and curiosities. I can't say for certain what steel(s) I would say fit the Emerson ideals for use but I do think there are some options that could be used weather or not they really are better for the purpose I couldn't say. The 154CM vs CPM154 is a little puzzle to me as I understand it 154CM and CPM154 are the same but the PM method improves the steel overall in a way that could only be viewed as beneficial.
  14. Lapedog


    Dec 7, 2016
    Yes, cpm154 is the particle metal version of 154cm. The composition of the steels are the same but because cpm154 is a powdered steel the carbides are more evenly distributed throughout the steel.

    I don’t see why Emerson shouldn’t be able to afford the upgrade. They basically already produce some of the most expensive g10 linerlocks on the market. They even only use one titanium liner. The non-locking liner is just stainless steel.

    Honestly though I could live with all of that if it weren’t for the locks Emerson uses being entirely substandard and inconsistent. You will get Emersons that lock up perfectly; wear in to about 50-70% percent and stay there. However I have also got plenty of Emersons where lock almost instantly goes all the way over to the opposite side and lockrock begins.
    awooga142, jux t, ZT0620OWNER and 2 others like this.
  15. VernonRemington

    VernonRemington Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 6, 2016
    I’ve found 154 more than adequate for my uses and while I enjoy the super steels, I feel like most users don’t need them.

    I noticed you started using S35VN in some models. Any reason? And how does it compare to 154cm?
    Jamesh Bond likes this.
  16. shqxk


    Mar 26, 2012
    Then it would be real interesting why you switche to CPM-S35VN on some model?

    154CM is great steel but there are always some benefit to changing to CPM154... Due to better distribution of alloy element/carbide the PM154 going to has better response to heat treat, this higher toughess at similar HRC and slightly better corrosion resistance.

    I know in real world use people wouls not be easily notice the difference about all of these... But by using the best version of 154 would shut the mouth of most hater when it come steel argument.
    ponykid likes this.
  17. willc

    willc Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 13, 2013
    This explains exactly why I own 1 Emerson and rarely carry it.
    I don’t need to pry manhole covers and if I did I would have the correct tool.

    154 cm is a more than adequate steel but you may as well use Victorinox steel the way it is treated.
    I love Victorinox steel but I won’t pay Emerson prices for it.
    John_0917 and StuntDouble like this.
  18. Murindo

    Murindo Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 4, 2010
  19. mt666tm


    Nov 20, 2012
    This explains why I own 18 Emersons, off the top of my head, and carry one daily.

    Big fan of 154cm here. Takes a beating and so easy to maintain.

    Ive had numerous super-steel knives and ended up selling them all eventually. They are too high maintenance for my manhole prying ways.

    Well, I won't pry a manhole, but a 7 pops the lid off a paint can with ease. And makes holes in it just as easily ;)
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2018
    Jamesh Bond, Lapedog and Aias like this.
  20. ponykid


    Sep 14, 2015

    Exactly!! that's like saying we only put small low horsepower engines in our cars because people would drive stupid and smash the car up by driving to fast if we put a better engine in it. we do what we do cause people are stupid. and everyone cheers and thumps their chest. give me a break seriously

    use the right tool for the job. I don't use my wrenches as hammers. You know why? cause someone taught me as a kid to use the right tool for the job.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2018

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