Steels: What're the differences?

Apr 24, 1999
Though the subject may seem stupid to some of you, my question actually deals with specific steels. What's the difference between 1095 and ATS-34? For a neck knife, which would you recomment, for all-around low maintenance, edge keeping, and rust resistance? What about O-1, or D-2, or BG-42, or M-2? What the hell's the difference, and which is the most expensive, and why? You see, I own a few knives, and always see these ads about which steel's superior, blah blah blah. But I really can't tell the difference, and I've got knives in ATS-34, AUS-8, AUS-6, and 1095. The only thing that's different to me is price. Then again, I'm not a guy who uses my knife heavy duty everyday. In any case, I'm thinking of getting a REKAT Fang in ATS-34 and was wondering how it would be better than its 1095 counterpart. Help in this matter would be greatly appreciated.
Thrawn -- you might want to do a search on "REKAT Fang". Also, you might want to check out the Knowledge Base on the front page. Here's a link

"It is better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot." -- Anonymous

[This message has been edited by Titan (edited 03 May 1999).]
Well I know only a little about the differences in steels.You could look up probably on the net what are the"ingredients" in each particular type of steel.It actually gets pretty technical,but basically more carbon and it is easier to sharpen and probably stays sharp longer.The more carbon the less rust resistance.Lets say you add chromium and molybdenum,that would make it more rust resistant increase hardness and strength.However the more you have of that, the more you'll be resharpening and more diffulculty sharpening.0-1 steel has 0.40-0.60 of chromium,but ats-34 has 14.00 of chromium.ATS-34 of course would be more corrosion resistant,but theres always trade off's.When buying a knife ask yourself,will I need a corrosion resistant steel.Near saltwater or just not the type of person that likes to keep your knives cleaned and oiled?Then stainless steel is for you.Want to easily sharpen your knives and hold and edge longer than maybe a tool steel might be better for you.Then there are steels somewhere in the middle of the happy median.If anybody has anymore to add to this or correct me if I'm wrong go ahead and let us hear ya.Thanks,RS
You might want to start with the Steel FAQ, which is archived here on rec.knives. By memory, I think you go to the front page of Bladeforums, click on "knowledge base", then it's fairly obvious how to find the FAQs.

Many folks whose opinions I respect prefer high-carbon and/or tool steels for toughness, edge holding, and ease of sharpening. Stain-resistent steels such as ATS-34 and AUS 8 offer the advantage of greater corrosion resistence. How important is corrosion resistance? Are we talking about a little minor discoloration, or the virtual rusting-away of the cutting edge?

Here's my take on this controversial subject: If I'm not going to use the knife very much, but carry it just for occasional or "dire emergency" use, long-term edge holding isn't all that important. Moreover, the knife will probably be in contact with your sweaty body more than it will be in contact with stuff you're cutting, and rust can definitely be a problem, especially in the case of a neck knife.

As a matter of principle, I tend to place a greater value on performance than aesthetics. A bit of purely cosmetic discoloration would not bother me very much in a "using" knife. On the other hand, there are situations wher I actually prefer stainless steel:

1. "survival" knives, for situations where I might not have access to the usual maintenance products (oil, sharpener, etc.)
2. if I anticipate using the knife in a very wet environment, such as on a canoe trip, etc.
3. kitchen knives, which tend to come in contact with acidic fluids, blood, and dishwater.

In most cases I don't care about minor spotting, but if the edge corrodes, the knife won't cut very well. All things considered, I might prefer stainless steel in a neck knife.

I hope this helps.

David Rock