As a knife maker, you are well aware of the quality of Japanese steel. ATS 34 is also Japanese steel that is formulated by Hitachi steel which is a well-known Japanese steel company. Japanese steel is popular amongst knife makers for the manufacturing of customized knives. We will be exploring the amazing properties of the steel that makes it good knife steel.


What is ATS 34 Steel?

Formula wise ATS 34 steel is high carbon steel that you can use for the making of various sorts of knives including customized knives, and kitchen and EDC knives.


The Japanese steel is a close replication of the American steel which is known as 154CM which is made by the famous Crucible company. Both of these steels show similar performance in all aspects and have a similar chemical composition with high carbon and chromium content. Furthermore, both 154CM and ATS 34 sheets of steel are popular amongst knife makers for manufacturing high-end customized knives.


The main intention behind formulating 154CM was for manufacturing blades for jet turbines. But Crucible discontinued the making of 154 CM steel. Hence, Hitachi steel company designed a replication of 154CM steel and named it ATS34 steel, which shows the same steel properties. Knife manufacturers like Bob Loveless switched to using ATS34 steel once 154 CM steel was discontinued.


Chemical Composition

  • 1.05% of Carbon: Brings improvement to hardness level, corrosion and wear resistance of the steel.
  • 14% of Chromium: Aids to bring improvement to corrosion resistance, tensile strength, hardness and toughness level.
  • 4% of Molybdenum: Works for adding hardenability, steel strength, hardness and toughness level of the steel.
  • 0.4% of Manganese: Decreases brittleness of steel and works for increasing forge ability and hardenability of the steel.
  • 0.35% of Silicon: Improves steel strength.
  • 0.03% of Phosphorus: Brings improvement to hardness level, machinability and tensile strength of the steel.
  • 0.02% of Sulfur: Brings improvement to the machinability of the steel.


The hardness of the steel: 


According to the reading on the Rockwell C scale, the hardness rating of ATS34 steel ranges between 60 to 61 HRC. The reason behind the high hardness level of the steel is because of the high carbon percentage in the chemical composition.


Steel Properties: 

  • Decent Toughness: ATS34 steel does have a high hardness level which leads to an assumption of the steel being brittle and having less toughness. Yet, exceptionally ATS34 has a decent toughness level even after having a hardness rating reaching up to 61 HRC. The reason behind decent toughness is the presence of molybdenum carbides in the chemical composition. The carbides work for tackling impact without breaking and chipping. You can consider making thin blades with steel without worrying about breakage.
  • Great Wear Resistance: The levels of wear resistance and hardness are directly proportional to each other which states why ATS34 steel has great wear resistance. Elements like carbon, chromium and molybdenum work for providing ATS34 steel with great wear resistance capacity. Knives that are made out of ATS34 steel have longevity to tackle heavy duty and regular use.
  • Great Edge Retention: Along with great wear resistance, edge retention is the next property that makes the Japanese steel stand out. The steel blade is capable of gaining razor sharpness and holds it for a long time. You will not need to sweat about frequent sharpening between work. Great edge retention capability is because of the presence of carbon in chemical composition that ensures the blade stays in proper shape for a long time.
  • Decent Corrosion Resistance: The presence of 14% chromium in the chemical composition of the steel makes it stainless and great at corrosion resistance. This makes ATS34 ideal for the manufacturing of outdoor knives like camping knives along with kitchen knives. But the corrosion resistance of ATS34 steel does not perform in its best way while in contact with salt water. You also need to maintain ATS34 steel to ensure the blade stays away from rusting.
  • Ease of Sharpening: Sharpening the edge of ATS34 steel can be a challenge as the steel has a high hardness level. Yet, getting a razor-sharp edge for the steel is not something impossible. All you have to do is choose the right type of sharpening stone that will ensure you don’t face difficulty.


Comparing ATS34 steel with other knife steel options: 


ATS 34 vs 440C

Both the steel types have the same carbon percentage in their chemical composition. Yet, there are some differences because of chromium and molybdenum percentage. This brings a difference between the steels in terms of corrosion resistance and toughness. You will find 440C better at corrosion resistance than ATS 34 and on the other hand, ATS34 is tougher compared to 440C.


Now depending on your needs, you can choose 440C if you are looking for better corrosion resistance or you can choose ATS34 steel if you are looking for toughness and wear resistance.


ATS 34 vs S30V

S30V is designed and formulated by Crucible for the manufacturing of high-end premium knives. S30V wins over ATS34 steel in terms of edge retention and corrosion resistance. But it is easier to sharpen the ATS34 and it has better wear resistance compared to the S30V.


ATS 34 vs VG10

VG10 steel has a different chemical composition because of the presence of vanadium in it. Because vanadium VG10 is better at toughness level, corrosion resistance, and edge retention as well. However, it is difficult to sharpen VG10 compared to ATS34 steel.


ATS 34 vs D2

D2 works efficiently in edge retention for a long time, on the other hand, you will find ATS34 steel better at rust resistance and gaining a sharp edge. Both the steels are difficult to sharpen.



So, is ATS 34 Steel Good? 

Yes, you can take using ATS34 steel into consideration for using it as a knife steel. The steel has features like edge retention, and decent toughness, and performs efficiently in many other steel properties. The only issue with steel is that it is difficult to find and costly to manufacture. Yet you can consider using it for the manufacturing of high-end premium knives.


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