Is RWL 34 a Good Knife Steel? My Analysis and Insights

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At A Glance
RWL 34 is a premium stainless steel popular for knife making due to its excellent blend of hardness, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and edge retention. Developed by Damasteel, this steel offers consistent performance across the blade thanks to its balanced alloy composition and fine microstructure. While it may not be the perfect choice for every application, RWL 34 is a compelling option for a high-performance knife that can withstand the test of time. Its competitive performance when compared to other popular knife steels, ease of maintenance, and notable use by manufacturers like Damasteel, Spyderco, and AGRussell all contribute to its reputation as a reliable and versatile knife steel.

RWL 34 is a premium stainless steel that has gained popularity in knife making due to its impressive blend of characteristics. Developed by the Swedish company Damasteel, this steel provides excellent performance in terms of hardness, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and edge retention. As a result, many knife enthusiasts and collectors have been drawn to its combination of performance and overall durability.

The steel’s composition includes well-balanced amounts of carbon, chromium, and molybdenum, making it a reliable choice for various types of knives, including kitchen knives, hunting knives, and folding knives. Its fine microstructure, attributed to the powder metallurgy process, leads to a more homogeneous distribution of the alloying elements, ensuring consistent performance across the entire blade.

In summary, RWL 34 has earned its reputation as a high-quality knife steel due to its combination of hardness, toughness, and corrosion resistance. While it may not be the perfect steel for every application, it certainly offers a compelling option for those looking to invest in a high-performance knife that will stand the test of time.

Properties of RWL 34 Steel

Hardness and Strength

One of the key features of RWL 34 steel is its hardness, which gives it high edge retention and tensile strength. With a carbon content of 1.05%, it is considered a high-carbon stainless steel. The carbon content contributes to increased hardness, making knives with RWL 34 steel maintain their sharpness for longer periods of time. Moreover, knives made with this steel exhibit impressive strength, ideal for demanding applications.


RWL 34 steel also offers good toughness, thanks to its powder metallurgy (PM) process. This processing method ensures uniform grain structure and minimizes the occurrence of defects, allowing the steel to perform well even under considerable stress. Knives made from RWL 34 steel are known to be durable and resistant to chipping or breaking.

Corrosion Resistance

As a stainless steel, RWL 34 provides a solid level of corrosion resistance. The chromium content in the steel composition helps protect it from rust and corrosion, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. This means that knives with RWL 34 blades can withstand exposure to moisture and humidity without suffering from degradation.

Wear Resistance

Wear resistance is another important property when considering knife steel. RWL 34 steel offers good wear resistance, which is a result of both its hardness and the PM process employed in its production. When a blade is made from RWL 34 steel, it can withstand regular use and resist wear, thereby prolonging the life of the knife and retaining its cutting performance for an extended period.

Alloy Composition

RWL 34 steel is a popular choice for knives due to its combination of properties, which include high attainable hardness and excellent edge retention. It is a type of stainless steel developed using the latest powder metallurgy process, resulting in an alloy specifically designed for demanding applications.

The alloy composition of RWL 34 steel consists of several key elements:

  • Carbon (C, 1.05%): Adds to the hardness, tensile strength, and edge retention. The higher carbon content results in a more durable knife that can maintain a sharp edge for a longer period of time.
  • Chromium (Cr, 14.00%): Provides corrosion resistance. The high chromium content means that the steel is highly resistant to rust and other forms of corrosion, making it suitable for various environments.
  • Silicon (Si, 0.50%): Enhances the strength of the steel and contributes to its wear resistance. The addition of silicon helps keep the knife blade sharp and resistant to wear over time.
  • Molybdenum (Mo, 4.00%): Increases the steel’s toughness and hardenability. Molybdenum also improves corrosion resistance, particularly in chloride-containing environments.
  • Vanadium (V, 0.20%): Enhances the steel’s wear resistance and refines its grain structure. Vanadium plays a role in improving the overall performance of the knife, ensuring that it maintains its sharpness and durability.

These elements work together in RWL 34 steel to create a well-balanced alloy that performs optimally for various applications, particularly in the realm of knife making. The alloy’s composition results in a steel that is hard yet tough, resistant to wear and corrosion, and able to retain its sharp edge, making it a popular choice for both everyday carry and special purpose knives.

Comparison with Other Knife Steels

When discussing RWL 34 steel, it’s important to compare it with other popular knife steels. RWL 34 is a martensitic stainless powder steel produced by Damasteel that offers exceptional performance in the knife-making industry.

154CM is an American-made, high-carbon stainless steel, known for its good balance between corrosion resistance, toughness, and edge retention. While RWL 34 performs similarly to 154CM, it has a slightly better corrosion resistance, making it a better choice for kitchen knives or outdoor use.

S30V is a highly popular knife steel that offers excellent edge retention due to its higher alloy content, specifically vanadium. It is considered tougher than RWL 34, but the difference in toughness may not be significant enough to affect everyday use.

S35VN is an upgrade to S30V, offering increased toughness and improved resistance to chipping. While it outperforms RWL 34 in terms of edge retention and toughness, it may not be the best choice if corrosion resistance is a priority.

CPM 154 is a powder metallurgical version of 154CM, with better corrosion resistance and toughness due to the more homogenous distribution of alloying elements. RWL 34 performs comparably to CPM 154 in terms of edge retention and corrosion resistance.

Magnacut is a new high-performance stainless steel developed by Crucible Industries. It boasts excellent edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance. While not as widely available as RWL 34, Magnacut is a strong contender for those seeking a well-rounded knife steel.

LC200N is a nitrogen-enriched stainless steel that offers excellent corrosion resistance, making it ideal for use in saltwater and marine environments. It has lower edge retention than RWL 34, but its exceptional resistance to corrosion may be more important in certain applications.

Vanax is a premium, nitrogen-enriched stainless steel, designed for use in high-performance knives. It boasts superior corrosion resistance, toughness, and edge retention compared to RWL 34, but its higher price may be a deciding factor when choosing between the two.

ATS 34 is a Japanese-made stainless steel that performs similarly to 154CM. It offers a balance between corrosion resistance, toughness, and edge retention. While RWL 34 has a slight edge in corrosion resistance, their performance is generally comparable overall.

In summary, the performance of RWL 34 is competitive with other popular knife steels, offering a good balance of corrosion resistance, toughness, and edge retention. Depending on specific application requirements, the choice of steel may come down to factors like price and availability.

Edge Performance and Maintenance

RWL 34 steel is known for its excellent edge performance, which is crucial for a quality knife. This steel exhibits a good balance between edge retention and ease of sharpening, making it a popular choice for many knife enthusiasts.

Edge retention is the ability of a knife to maintain its sharpness after prolonged use. The Chromium content (14.00%) in RWL 34 helps increase the blade’s hardness, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance. Additionally, Vanadium (0.20%) enhances the steel’s strength and toughness while improving wear resistance through carbide formation. These factors contribute to RWL 34’s impressive edge retention capabilities.

When it comes to sharpening, RWL 34 steel is relatively easy to work with compared to other high-performance steels. The fine grain structure and corrosion resistance properties make it receptive to various sharpening techniques, allowing you to maintain its sharpness without much trouble. This ease of sharpening makes it an ideal choice for those who want a knife that can withstand frequent use and still maintain a fine edge.

The sharpness of a knife is vital for its cutting ability. RWL 34 steel is known for providing superior sharpness and cutting performance, making it an excellent choice for various knife applications. The high presence of Chromium and Vanadium, along with its fine grain structure, allows RWL 34 to deliver a sharp and durable edge, suitable for both heavy-duty and delicate cutting tasks.

In summary, RWL 34 steel offers exceptional edge performance and maintenance capabilities. Its ability to maintain a sharp edge for extended periods and ease of sharpening makes it a popular choice among knife enthusiasts. The fine edge and sharpness delivered by RWL 34 ensure optimal cutting ability across a wide range of applications. Always exercise proper care and maintenance to keep your RWL 34 knife performing at its best.

Notable Knives and Manufacturers

Damasteel is a renowned company that produces RWL 34 steel, which is an exceptional knife-making material, known for its blend of toughness, edge retention, and resistance to wear and corrosion. With a carbon content of 1.05%, RWL-34 demonstrates high attainable hardness for demanding applications. The steel is manufactured using a modern powder metallurgy process, ensuring consistency and quality.

One of the most popular manufacturers utilizing RWL 34 steel is Spyderco. This company has a long-standing reputation for producing high-quality knives with premium materials. Spyderco’s collaboration with custom knife maker Peter Rassenti is famous for the Spyderco Paysan. This knife, designed with a sleek, integral titanium handle, uses RWL 34 steel for its blade, offering users superior cutting performance and durability.

Another company that plays a significant role in producing knives with RWL 34 steel is A.G. Russell. They offer a variety of knives using this steel, which is named after world-famous knife maker Robert (Bob) W. Loveless. Bob Loveless, who popularized and invented many knife-designs and trends, favored using the Japanese ATS-34 steel, which eventually evolved into RWL 34. Bringing the legacy forward, AGRussell’s knives exhibit excellent edge retention, sharpness, and quality.

Overall, RWL 34 steel is highly regarded in the knife-making industry. Renowned manufacturers like Damasteel, Spyderco, and AGRussell have worked extensively with this material, producing exceptional knives with versatile capabilities. For knife enthusiasts and users alike, knives made from RWL 34 steel stand out in terms of quality, performance, and durability.

Robert W Loveless Influence

RWL 34 steel is named after the legendary knife maker, Robert W Loveless. This esteemed craftsman was well-known for his innovative approach to the knife-making industry, which led to the development of high-quality knife blades. Loveless is also famous for popularizing the hollow ground drop point blade and the use of full tapered tangs and screw-type handle scale fasteners within the art of knife making.

RWL 34 steel stands out in the knife-making industry due to its exceptional qualities. This steel offers incomparable toughness and strength, making it an ideal choice for creating high-performance knives. Additionally, RWL 34 provides excellent edge retention, ensuring that knives remain sharp and maintain their cutting ability over time.

Another notable feature of RWL 34 steel is its outstanding corrosion resistance. This attribute makes knives made from this steel highly durable, easy to work with, and increases their overall functionality. Consequently, the influence of Robert W Loveless on the development of RWL 34 steel has left a lasting impact on the knife-making realm.

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