Is ATS-34 easy to sharpen?

Aug 24, 1999
How sharp can you get ATS-34, and how easy is it to sharpen?

Compare it to 1095 if you have experience keeping both steels sharp.

I don't want my children fed or clothed by the state, but I would prefer THAT to their being educated by the state.
I prefer diamond stones for sharpening because they make any steel easy to sharpen in the field. Back home in the shop I use a belt sander.
ATS will sharpen to shaving sharp with a diamond stone and a little time on a leather strop with green polishing compound will improve it even more.

[This message has been edited by george tichbourne (edited 09 September 1999).]
I have a few knives in ATS 34 steel and each is different. Some (Kershaw Ti ATS 34) are easy to sharpen and hold the edge very well.

On the other side my BMs are different story...

It depends on the heat treat.The over the counter varity usually requires a change in
the factory angle to take the kind of edge
particular folks demand.Even then they are very sensitive to angle change and require a
steady hand.You can have it 99% done , make
just one more pass and be right back where
you started . I really believe that those who like factory rc59-61 ats-34 were luckey
and got a blade closer to the 59 side.When I
get my Benchmades just right , I hate to use
My Spydies in ATS34 are just fine to sharpen, but I have problems with the SOG knives in ATS34 that I have. I suspect that the question is, as others have said, the heat treating.

Walk in the Light,

I have a Spuderco Terzuola C19 in ATS-34 (thanx Tom S!) that is easy to resharpen, I also have a mini-AFCK that is about as easy (the thin edge helps here), but I also have a BM mini-stryker that is much more difficult to resharpen. It benefits from thinning the edge geometry a bit (thanks Joe), but it is still more difficult to be made to cut as well as the Terzuola (that also has a thick edge profile).

Bottom line: all the above use ATS-34, but each is different, which lends me to think that heat treating makes a lot of difference for this particular steel.
I'm not sure I've seen any stainless as easy to sharpen as 1095, but that doesn't mean they're all very difficult, either.

For ATS-34, the answer is "depends." I can't stand sharpening Benchmades. Feels like I'm sharpening glass - it's gritty, feels and sounds unpleasant compared to softer steels. Takes ages for me to get a good egde, at least compared to steels like G-2 or AUS-8. Chipping has also been a problem for me and my friends with these knives. Spydercos in ATS-34 don't give me quite as much trouble, maybe they're a bit softer. I make my own knives in ATS-34 and they are treated slightly softer by Texas Knifemaker's Supply. I don't have the same troubles sharpening them and I've seen taht the edge will deform rather than chip in several tests.

In short, I think it's a fine steel but maybe shouldn't be as hard as some companies make it. Benchmade is my principal concern there.

-Drew Gleason
Little Bear Knives
I find my Benchmade Mel Pardue is hard to sharpen. On the other hand, I find my own knives are quite nice to sharpen even compared to 440C. My knives are tempered using the lower temperature range to RC59-60. The 440C knives are RC 58-58. I really feel it comes down to heat treat including the tempering temperature.

I have some further information from Hitachi about ATS heat treat on my webpage if anyone is interested.

The answer for any steel, to some extent, is "it depends on the heat treat". But when it comes to ATS-34, it seems like there's wild swinging variations. Partially because the stuff is so ubiquitous, but I think it's also partially because the stuff must really perform differently based on only slight differences in the heat treat. And that's with ATS-34 that all uses the high-cycle temper -- now you throw in the low-cycle temper and you get something very different. This stuff is getting more and more difficult to generalize about.

Bill, I'm not sure what your original objective in asking the question was, but if you're doing a search for a steel for some application you have in mind, I'd suggest taking a different approach. Tell us the application, and then we can probably point you at someone who heat treats ATS-34 with those characteristics!

I forgot, regarding how sharp you can get ATS34: At this year's Canadian Art Knife Show in Bayfield Ontario, Brian Lyttle had a carving knife made from ATS34. It was 8" or so long, 1/8" stock and heat treated by Brian using salt pots and the lower tempering range. They did cutting tests on dropped paper. That is, hold one or more sheets of typing paper by a corner, drop it and swing the knife at it. A successful cut will cleve the paper in two. This knife made it to 7 sheets simultaeously. It was used to carve a whole rosted pig that night, and afterward would still cut multiple sheets of paper (sorry, i forgot how many).

This cutting performance is obviously influenced by blade length, edge geometry, and stock thickness. This knife was flat ground, and Brian has found that warpage is not a problem using his heat treat method, so the edge is very thin, and slightly convex.

I know now that Brian is doing my heat treat, I am going with much thinner edges than I used to with no problems.


[This message has been edited by Matt Harildstad (edited 09 September 1999).]
My knives are diffcult for most to sharpen. They are also difficult to dull. To counter the sharpening dillema, I offer lifetime free sharpening on my knives. Great deal for me and my customers. Evertime I see a customer at a show, or talk to them, I ask if ther are ready to have there knives sharpened. I usually get the same respnse. There knives don't need it. As for the brittleness concern. I random test my knives by hammering them (4 lb. sledge) through a 16 penny nail. I never have any problems with dulling, denting or chipping. This has a lot to due with the heattreat, and with the edge thickness. My knives are thicker than a knife intended primarily for skinning. Although, I sell many to hunters, who just can't compliment them enough.

Any way, those are my ATS-34 experiences.

Lynn Griffith-Tactical Knifemaker
Winner of "Best Tactical Knife" at 1999 PKA show
My website
See my award winning "Spec Ops Tanto" in Gallery 3 of my website

The original reason for my post had to do with my trying to decide whether to go elk hunting with my trusty 1095 skinner, or step into the next century with something high-tech.

My 1095 blade will get razor sharp easily and it holds an edge well. Its only problem is that it rusts so readily. What I'm eager for is a blade that takes an edge with equal ease, holds it well, and doesn't rust.

Is ATS-34 a contender, or will I spend half my trip sharpening it?

I don't want my children fed or clothed by the state, but I would prefer THAT to their being educated by the state.

[This message has been edited by Uncle Bill (edited 09 September 1999).]
Uncle Bill, ease of sharpening (and just about everything else) has a lot to do with edge geometry. Have someone who knows how to grind a nice thin cutting edge like Mel Sorg, Phil Wilson etc., and you will have no trouble sharpening them due to the fact that almost no metal needs to be removed.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 09 September 1999).]
If you like your 1095 blade keep using it, just figure out a system to keep the rust off. One drop of BreakFree spread on the blade with a finger, or a quick wipe with small piece of silicone or othersuch treated cloth that gun owners sometimes use should work fine in most cases. Or don't worry too much about a spot of rust and wipe it off with some fine steel wool, real or synthetic, soaked with a bit of oil or BreakFree. WD40 works ok for shorter term protection, EEZOX for longer term. I haven't heard of anyone doing it but it also seems possible, maybe reasonable, to put some brush like material on the sheath, soaked with a bit of oil or such, so that when you sheath and draw the knife it gets a touch of oil deposited on it. If you don't clean your knife after skinning and before sheathing you'd probably want to be able to replace the pads when they start stinking. The sheath too :^)
Uncle Bill, please contact me from a working email address, emails to you are bouncing left and right and I've got a mailbox filled with bounced email to you because you have requested to be notified every time someone replies to your posts.

Until you get a working email address, I'm turning off your posting priviledges.


Kevin Jon Schlossberg
SysOp and Administrator for

Insert witty quip here
With 1095 you can blue the steel.

A local maker puts a selenium oxide??? coating on carbon steels, that he says limits corrosion to staining but very little rust.

Any makers care to comment?

Marion David Poff aka Eye, one can msg me at If I fail to check back with this thread and you want some info, email me.

My site is at: Including my review of the Kasper AFCK, thougths on the AFCK and interview of Bob Kasper.

Most of the variations in the qualities of ATS-34 you see are from the high temerature tempering. It is well-established that tempering in the 700 - 1100 degree range produces unpredictable lowering of toughness and corrosion resistance. Grain growth is also sometimes present, with more variations in final properties.
ATS-34 is the hardest steel that I've ever sharpened, factory & custom. I would stick with your 1095 blade and use the Tuff-Cloth or something similar. I use mostly carbon blades and have no trouble whatsoever with rust! I just wipe them after use and always rinse off the blade if blood or something similar gets on the blade.
Also, I totally agree with the other posts about edge geometry and heat-treats are vital to a good steel.
ATS-34 hasn't been too hard for me to sharpen; it's been relativly good with me. I'm using a Cuda, Genesis EDI and Benchmade Stryker. Cuda might be the hardest of the 3, but still not that bad...