Looking for a high-quality stainless steel for blade-making? ATS 34 may be the end of your quest. An imported Hitachi steel, ATS 34 is a chrome molybdenum alloy that has very small grain size and excellent edge retention.
Similar to some domestic products, ATS 34 is available in stock sizes useful for blade makers. Originally, blade makers used very similar steel developed for aerospace engines. When engine makers turned to titanium, the steel supply dried up. Frustrated blade makers took the formula overseas to find a manufacturer who would put out a chemically identical metal. Targeted to the quality blade making market, it experienced some quality problems in years past due to low volume. Those issues have long since been resolved, leaving quality steel available for custom blade making and other applications requiring hard, long wearing steel. It is abrasion resistant, sufficiently hard and corrosion resistant for knife making.
ATS 34, although stainless, is not as corrosion resistant as some other alloys. It is not an ideal selection for applications where long exposure to wet or salty atmospheres can be anticipated. On the upside, it makes superb custom blades. The alloying elements require that it be heat treated at higher temperatures than other blade steels. But if the heat treating process is carried out correctly the steel will take an excellent, long wearing edge.
This steel is used by many hand knife makers and quality manufacturers. It was the measure of knife steel for a decade or more. Today there are other steels available that provide different attributes attractive to knife makers. These are starting to make inroads among custom knife makers. However, the sheer number of knives made from ATS 34 will ensure that they are around for many years to come.
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The primary choice between ATS 34 and domestic steels, either long-established or new, comes down to personal preference and price. There have been many gallons of ink spilled in the debates among aficionados between domestic and imported versions of this stainless steel. Quality issues among manufacturers and tariffs have played roles in one or the other being more popular at any given time. The bottom line is that ATS 34 will satisfy most requirements for quality custom blades.
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