Is ATS 34 steel good?
Are you looking for more information about ATS 34 steel and how suitable it is for making knives? If yes, you have come to the right place. The ats-34 steel has been around for pretty long and has gained popularity among custom knife makers for its high toughness and great edge holding capabilities.
In our complete ATS-34 steel review below, we’ll dive deeper into the specifics of this steel and bring out a clearer picture of how it performs, its key properties, and help you whether it’s ideal for making your knives.
What is ATS 34 Steel?
ATS-34 is a high carbon stainless steel developed by Japan’s Hitachi Steel. It’s almost identical to the 154CM in terms of chemical composition and properties/performance. Mind you 154CM has for long been considered as the benchmark steel grade for high-end performance stainless steel.
Just like its equivalent, Japan’s ATS-34 steel was popular among custom knife makers. The renown knife maker Bob Loveless himself was using this steel to make his custom knives.
But there’s a story behind Bob using ats-34 for making knives…
Long before this steel was created, he used to favor 154CM to make his knives. But Crucible stopped developing this steel. And he decided to reach out to Hitachi to see if they could make their own version of this steel with the same characteristics. And that’s how 1ts-34 was born.
ATS 34 steel composition
ATS-34 is a high carbon stainless steel which means it contains high carbon content and at the same time features more than 12% chromium volume in its chemical composition which makes it stainless. Other alloying elements for this steel are outlined below.
Percentage composition (%)
1.05% Carbon increases the steel hardenability and wear resistance. but high amounts can decrease toughness.
14% Chromium improves tensile strength, wear resistance, toughness, hardness, and corrosion resistance.
4% Molybdenum improves deep hardening and toughness. It also adds hard and anti-wear molybdenum carbides to the steel.
0.4% Manganese was added to reduce brittleness but improve forgeability and hardenability. it also helps reduce deformation.
0.35% Silicon acts as a deoxidizer and improves the steel hot-forming properties.
0.03% Phosphorous volume has been kept low as high amounts tend to make the steel brittle and less tough. The low amount helps increase the tensile strength and machinability of this steel.
0.02% sulfur is also used in fewer amounts to improve steel machinability.
ATS 34 steel hardness
The steel attains a Rockwell hardness of 60-61HRC. This is such a high hardness and is what you find in high-quality knives. Knives bearing this kind of steel have one thing in common—they tend to remain sharp for considerably long but are challenging to sharpen than knives with lower HRC hardness rating.
ATS 34 steel properties
This steel offers high wear resistance levels, thanks to high levels of carbon (more than 1%) and chromium in its chemical composition.
One of the top features of this steel is the ability to take an excellent edge and hold it for long. The ats-34 blade won't dull easily, which means you can use them for days without worrying about sharpening them in the middle of the job. The secret to its terrific edge retention lies in the high hardness it yields which keeps the edge in good shape for long.
ATS 34 toughness
Despite the high hardness, this steel isn’t that brittle. It delivers decent toughness—decent enough to withstand most cutting tasks without the blade chipping off or breaking.
ATS 34 corrosion resistance
ATS 34 steel offers great corrosion resistance. If you ever wondered why knife makers favor ATS 34 steel for making camping, hunting, or even kitchen knives, now you know the reason. With up to 14% Chromium content, this is stainless steel and puts up a great fight against stains, corrosion, and rusting. That said, you might still need to accord your knife the necessary care to ensure maximum corrosion resistance.
How easy it is to bring the edge back if your knife dulls? Sharpening ATS-34 will be a bit challenging for you. You might have a tough time sharpening it while out in the field. But it’s not the worst to sharpen compared to other knife steels available today. With the right equipment at home, you’ll get to sharpen your knife without much problem.
ATS 34 steel equivalent
154CM is the ATS 34 steel equivalent. As we mentioned earlier, Ats-34 Japanese steel was developed as a Japanese version of the US 154CM steel. Both steels contain a close chemical composition, characterized by high carbon and chromium contents. We can also mention 154CPM (the CPM version of 154CM) as another ats-34 equivalent as they also share a pretty close chemical composition. The only difference would be Vanadium and Tungsten in CPM 154 which makes it harder and more wear-resistant than 154CM and ATS-34.
ATS 34 vs other steels comparison
ats-34 steel vs s30v
S30V is a product of US Crucible industries and is considered a premium grade of steel in the knife world. It’s used to manufacture high-end kitchen and pocket knives. In comparison it hats 34, s30v offers better edge retention and anti-corrosion properties. ATS 34 would be, however, easier to sharpen.
ats-34 steel vs vg10
While ats 34 has great corrosion resistance, vg10 offers you even better corrosion resistance and is quite common with kitchen knives. It also offers better edge retention than ats-34. Mind you VG10’s edge retention is comparable to that of s30v. VG10 is also harder to sharpen than ats-34 steel.
ats-34 vs 440c
ATS 34 beats 440C by yielding better edge retention and higher corrosion resistance. However, you’ll like that both are easy to sharpen. Also worth mentioning is that 440C steel knives are more affordable than ats-34 knives.
ats 34 vs d2 steel
Like ats-34, d2 also sits in the high-end steels realm. it’s popular for its high hardness degree which translates to greater edge retention than ats34. But the steel is quite hard to sharpen, especially if you don’t have the skill. D2 contains less chromium (12%) than ats-34, making it more vulnerable to rust and corrosion.
Is ATS 34 steel good blade steel?
ATS-34 is a really good steel for knives that holds its edge excellently and delivers great toughness. It’s one of the top high carbon, stainless steels that offer a good balance between edge retention and sharpenability.
You’ll find this high-performance steel in high-end knives for kitchen or field which perform reliably well. You’ll also find it in many custom knives.
The fact that Bob Loveless, the renowned custom knifemaker, uses ATS-34 stainless steel is a good gesture that this is a good steel for knife blades.
What is ATS-34 Used for?
If you’re wondering what kinds of knives this steel from Japan can make, this is your part. We searched for some of the most common types of knives you’ll find bearing this steel and found the following list:
That’s all there is to know about ATS 34 steel. The Japanese high carbon stainless steel excels at getting a terrific edge and holding it for a really long time. It also offers good toughness and offers great corrosion resistance. It might be a bit challenging to sharpen, but you can get through it with the right sharpening equipment. ATS is high-end steel and a great choice for making a wide range of knives ranging from custom to kitchen, EDC, and field (camping or hunting) knives.