What is AUS-8A Steel?

If you are shopping for a new knife, you will see that there are tons and tons of steel types on the market. What makes one type of steel better than the other? What is AUS-8A steel and how does it differ from other steels in the market? This post will cover these questions.

Stainless vs. High-Carbon Steel

There are two broad categories of steel: stainless and high-carbon. Stainless steel resists rust very well but it can dull easily. High-Carbon steel keeps an edge really well but it rusts easily.  Another comparison would be that stainless would have a tendency for sharp edges to curl, bend or warp under pressure, while high-carbon steel would chip or splinter.  Most mass-produced steels are somewhere in between.

However, if you read the marketing on knives, it’ll talk about how the steel used to make a certain knife is very “special” compared to others on the market. Don’t be fooled. Almost all steel used for knives come from a handful of steel suppliers. This rule applies to the US as well as foreign knives. Most knife-makers temper the steel to add additional qualities but it won’t drastically change the steel’s properties.

(See our review of Balisong knives).

What is AUS-8A steel

AUS-8a is almost the same thing as AUS-8. It is often called 8a steel as well.  It is a stainless steel with a relatively low carbon content.  You’ll appreciate how well it resists rust and how easily is sharpens.  What differs AUS-8a from AUS-8 is that it has been heat-treated. They are the same steel with the same makeup of metals, however. Both AUS-8 and AUS-8a are very similar to the 440 line of steels. The 440 line is made by an American company whereas the AUS line is made by a Japanese company. Some AUS steel is made in China.

Strengths and Weaknesses of AUS-8A Steel

AUS-8 Steel is similar to 440 steel. It has Vanadium to give the steel more hardness. AUS-8a steel is very easy to sharpen to a razor edge but it will dull relatively quickly compared to high-carbon. Some reviewers online say that it’ll dull by just being out in oxygen. Others say that they have used it daily at work and only sharpen it once a week. The quality of the blade does depend a lot on use and tempering techniques from the manufacturer. AUS-8a will withstand rust very well. It is similar to 440 steel in this regard as well.

It is REALLY important to understand that even a steel with the same designation (ie. AUS-8 or D2) will have differing qualities depending on how they are forged.  The same steel can be harder or softer than another with the same label.

AUS-8A ranks between 58 and 59 on the Rockwell Hardness scale. It’s a respectable rank considering its excellent stainless ability. The higher the number, the harder the steel.

Knives that Commonly Use AUS-8A Steel

The SOG Knife company uses AUS-8 steel regularly. Kabar uses it in their dozer series of knives. Cold Steel uses it in the SRK series. All of Ontario Knife Company’s RAT Model 1’s are made with AUS-8.  CRKT uses in their Van Hoy series as well as many other knives. Some Gerber knives use AUS-8a as well.

Our Favorite AUS-8A knife

We like the name and quality of Cold Steel, and this Finn Wolf is nicely within the financial grasp of the average American!

This design was inspired by the classic Puukko Finish hunting knife. The Finn Wolf represents a collaboration with custom knife maker Andrew Demko.  The shape of the blade is a highly functional Puukko design, but the Finn Wolf is a heavy duty folding EDC.  It utilizes Cold Steel’s Tri-Ad lockback mechanism that adds new levels of safety and security. As we mentioned, the blade is made from Japanese AUS-8A steel with an easy to sharpen zero grind edge. The Finn Wolf offers dependable quality and a classic blade design at a price that is too good to pass up!  Seriously, you won’t believe the price!  Just click the photo….go ahead, do it!!

Cold Steel 20NPRYZ Finn Wolf, Blaze Orange
  • Blade length: 3.5 inch
  • Overall length: 7.875 inch
  • Steel: Japanese AUS-8 stainless steel

Conclusion on AUS-8A Steel

8a steel is great if you are looking for a good quality knife. It won’t perform as well as high-end tool steel and you won’t find it from knife makers like Benchmade. However, this low carbon stainless steel does give you a great bang for your buck. It is very similar to 440 steel and is often used in many mass produced knives. 440 steel is also used in machetes.

Do you have any other questions about steel types? Ask it in the comment box below. One of our knife experts will be glad to assist you.

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31 thoughts on “What is AUS-8A Steel?”

  1. I hear alot about edge retention but not about blade strength, as in the ability to keep a tip on the blade without chipping when thrust-ed into something solid. Is it possible Aus8 isn’t as good in the edge retention category as vg-10 but can be stronger in its trusting capabilities, I heard it said that the head person in a heat treating company was surprised people pulled towards vg-10 because he said aus8 was more robust.

  2. AUS-8 is referred to as being an equivalent to 440B Stainless.It is very durable and takes a razor edge so in this aspect it does remind me of a 420 Series stainless.In edge retention I’d describe AUS-8 as approaching 440A in edge retention but not quite there…more like a harder edged improvement over 420HC.It’s similar in 440A in the sense of maximum content yet it crosses over to the base carbon content of 440B…0.75% in carbon.It has less than half of the molybdenum content found in the 440 Series of stainless steels so it lacks the wear resistance and shoves it back into being an upper scale 420 Series steel.AUS-8 is a very functional steel though.No stainless that’s easy to sharpen can hold an edge as good as cheap 1095 tool steel though.

  3. The category that you are asking about is called toughness, the ability to bend and not break. There is a trade off between harness and toughness. If you look online there are many places that will explain the different knife steels to you. The same thing with the super steels. The harder they are usually the longer it holds the edge. the trade off is that the harder the metal the more prone to snapping and chipping also The harder it is makes it harder to sharpen. Different companies heat treat differently and this affects the properties of the metal tremendously. Cold steel is known for there proprietary cryogenic quenching process that makes there Aus 8 very durable. They have now upgraded there metal to CTS-XHP. Aus8a is a cecent economy metal. and very easy to sharpen but most companies are upgrading there metals like Ontario Knife is now making the Rat 1 in D2 steel. ( a tool steel) All in all it is a decent economy metal usually used in the $10-$20 range. I hope this info has helped you.

  4. Hi! I have a cold steel Rajah II and a Voyager that got burnt badly in a house fire. I want to rebuild these knives with new handles, but I am not sure about the tempering on the blades. Do I need to do heat treatment again? If so, how should I do this? Also how should I do the tempering? As far as I can remember, both these blades were made from AUS 8A

  5. Hi there

    Some time ack I brought a cold steel Rajah 2 , for the price I was expecting it to have an exceptional steel.

    So fare I’ve struggled in getting a razor edge the blade seeming so hard as my micro bevel tends to round. I was using a diamond rod for this however not a articulately good one.

    Before I pass judgement I’m wondering if I’m going about things the wrong way and should invest in a sharpening guide I guess with sharpening rods.

    And advice on what kinda rods sharpen this steel the best ?

    Many thanks Michael

  6. Question: Which material knife set is good to buy for a regular knife set in the range of $35 and not very heavy, it should be rust free ?

  7. If I am going to make a damacus knife from two metals and I am looking for retaining a sharp edge and rust resistant. Which two metal should I pick. I am a beginner at making knives but I have expert help. I have been told 1084 and 15n20, but what about 1095 and 15n20. Whats the best?

  8. I Have owned a few Kabar mules I love them I out put them through abuse. The blade is slightly thicker than most knives, which works well for what I do with it. The edge retention is decent the durability is great for what I use it for. I have hammer them in to wood, dug into the ground, and haven’t an issue with them. But being stupid one time I did try to pry something once and tipped it. The spyderco holds an edge alot better extremely sharp but since it has a thinner blade I cant put it through the same abuse as my Kabar for a fear of tipping it.

  9. I am holding a Benchmade knife made with AUS-8 made in Taiwan. It is a big knife designed by Mel Pardue and it takes a razor sharp edge and holds it well enough for me. I prefer Carbon steel like 1095-CV that Case used to use on their knives, so I don’t mind sharpening the blade or keeping it oiled. I prefer them after a patina has formed. Heck, all knives should be made with that steel, but if they were most custom knife makers and a bunch of customers that want knives made with all those special high-end steels would be disappointed. I own a bunch of those knives and I’m not impressed with the steels or their price. I don’t know what kind of carbon steel the Germans used to make at Solingen but it made the best knives I have ever used. AUS-8 and AUS-8A are fine steels and make a blade that is good enough for me.

    • Sorry about that my friend! When my partners and I took over the site in 2018, this was one article I did not update and re-edit. I’ve fixed that problem now and you’ll see plainly in the article that it’s a soft stainless steel. Thanks for calling me out on that so we can get a good, accurate site happening here!

    • I purchased one recently and I like it. But you could probably find one cheaper than 50. I got mine for $35 shipped to my front door. It even came with a Kydex sheath. The safe maker II off of bladehq.com

  10. I enjoy my Cold Steel Kobun I take it everyday to work and the tip is very durable and won’t snap. I like the AUS 8A steel much more than 440 in my opion

  11. Blades stamped AUS-8A do not indicate that the grade of steel AUS-8 has been heat treated…ALL AUS-8 is heat treated. AUS-8 and AUS-8A blades are marked differently because they are processed in two completely different ways post heat treatment.

    -AUS-8 marked or mentioned blades will get a cryogenic soak to this steel grade post heat treatment which will hold that current Rockwell hardness straight from the furnace. In turn, AUS-8 will have better edge retention but is a little more prone to micro-chipping.

    -AUS-8A marked or mentioned blades are the same steel obviously but go through a process of annealing, the indication of an “A” beside the steel grade. It’s a cost effective measure where they take the blades out of the furnace after heat treatment and let them cool at room temperature. The steel does lose a few Rockwell points from becoming softer as it slowly cools. Softer though does mean it will be more durable and chip resistant.

    There are definite selling points between the AUS-8 and AUS-8A variants. Some demand cryo treatments while others find lower hardness from annealing to be more beneficial.


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