What is RWL 34 Steel?

RWL 34 steel knife

What is RWL 34 Steel?

RWL 34 steel is Martensitic stainless powder steel produced by Damasteel. The steel is named after Robert W Loveless, a world’s famous knife maker recognized for his innovative approach to the knife-making industry.

RWL 34 is exceptional steel in the knife-making industry. It offers all characteristics any knife makers would ask to make high-quality knife blades. It offers extreme edge retention, excellent corrosion resistance, is easy to work with, attains a mirror finish polish, and guaranteed wear resistance.

RWL 34 is an ideal steel for knife makers who aim for nothing but excellent knives. Damasteel has also used RWL 34 steel with PMC27 steel to make a patterned Damascus DS93X steel.

RWL 34 was developed after the decent ATS34 steel, and This was done using the latest powder metallurgy process that resulted in stainless steel with high attainable hardness for demanding applications.

RWL 34 Steel Composition

  • Carbon C 1.05%: Increases edge retention, hardness, and tensile strength. It also improves steel resistance to wear, abrasion, and corrosion.
  • Chromium Cr 14.00%: Formation of Chromium carbides. Increases the blade’s hardness, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance.
  • Vanadium V 0.20%: inhibits grain growth during elevated temperature processing and heat treatment, which enhances the strength and toughness of steel. It also forms carbides that increase wear resistance.
  • Molybdenum Mo 4.00%: increases toughness and hot hardness. It also improves hardenability and forms carbides for wear resistance.
  • Phosphorous P 0.04%: Considered an impurity but may Increases the strength and improves machinability of steel
  • Manganese Mn 0.50%: improves the strength and hardness of steel. When the steel is heat-treated, hardenability is improved with increased manganese.
  • Silicon Si 0.50%: Increases strength and heat resistance.
  • Sulfur S 0.03%: Improves machinability but is regarded as an impurity in high quantities.

Properties of RWL 34 steel

RWL 34 Steel Hardness

RWL 34 has a hardness of 58-64HRC as per the Rockwell hardness scale. The hardness varies depending on the hardening temperature and the tempering temperature used. The high hardness is associated with Carbon, Chromium, and Manganese in its composition, which forms high amounts of carbides.

RWL 34 Steel Wear Resistance

Another area of excellence for RWL 34 knife steel is wear resistance, thanks to the Vanadium and Molybdenum in its composition.

Blades made from this steel can withstand wear from sharpening and challenging applications. They can serve you across generations if well cared for.

RWL 34 Steel Edge Retention

As a result of the high hardness, one of the areas of excellence for RWL 34 steel is edge retention. Blades made from this steel maintain a sharp edge for a long time.

The powder metallurgy process produces high amounts of fine and uniform carbides, which contribute to its ability to hold an edge longer. You can use RWL 34 knives for days without the need to sharpen them.

RWL 34 Steel Corrosion Resistance

RWL 34 features 14% chromium, which makes it stainless steel. Therefore, it offers good resistance against rust and stains. However, any steel can rust without proper care and maintenance, and this is true with the steel of the day.

RWL 34 Steel Toughness

Having already said that this steel is hard, you can almost be sure it is brittle. Hard steels offer low toughness as a rule of thumb, but this is not the case with RWL 34 steel.

It offers a perfect balance between hardness and toughness, and this feature makes it exceptional knife steel. Knives made from this steel do not chip or break easily.

Sharpening RWL 34 Steel

Being hard steel, you must be worried that RWL 34 steel is hard to sharpen. Unlike other hard steels, this steel is straightforward to sharpen. Also, you can get a razor-sharp edge using simple sharpening tools. Therefore, you do not have to invest in sophisticated and expensive abrasives.

RWL 34 Steel Heat Treatment

RWL steel heat treatment is also easy and can take different techniques to achieve desired hardness from 58HRC to 64HRC. Official RWL datasheet clearly outlines the recommended heat treatment that will not affect the corrosion resistance for knife applications. Check more on the heat treatment here.

RWL 34 vs CPM 154 (RWL 34 steel equivalent)

Apart from ATS 34 steel that RWL 34 steel was developed after, RWL 34 is equivalent to CPM 154 steel. Their chemical composition is very close, with the same amounts of Carbon, Chromium, Vanadium, Manganese, and Molybdenum. They offer the same range of hardness, and therefore most of their properties are close or similar.

These two steel also offer the same level of corrosion resistance and toughness. There is no difference between the two in terms of performance, and their alloy composition is well-balanced to offer hardness, toughness, and corrosion resistance all in one package.

RWL 34 Steel vs M390

Bohler M390 steel was designed to be a high corrosion resistance steel while maintaining higher hardness and wear resistance. M390 surpasses RWL 34 steel corrosion and rust resistance by a significant margin; it contains a higher percentage of chromium in its alloy hence offering excellent corrosion resistance. M390 corrosion resistance can be beaten by only a few steels like MagnaCut, LC200N, and Vanax.

M390 steel does offer better edge retention than RWL 34 steel. M390 is considered super steel in the knife-making world; its edge retention is among the best when subjected to proper heat treatment.

It is also highly wear-resistant and will last for long even after constant use.

The reduced wear resistance will make sharpening an RWL 34 knife blade much easier than sharpening an M390 knife blade. An RWL 34 steel knife will also offer better toughness than Bohler M390 steel.

Its high purity composition is more balanced to offer great toughness even at higher Rockwell hardness. Its toughness is similar to CTS XHP and S35VN steel.


Elmax is another steel that is highly comparable to RWL 34, only that they differ in their strongest areas of performance. Elmax stainless steel offers excellent corrosion resistance; it beats RWL 34 knife steel by a minor margin as it contains a higher percentage of Chromium elements in its alloy.

Despite RWL34 and Elmax steel identical attainable Rockwell hardness. Elmax contains slightly higher chromium carbides and vanadium carbides.

The increased carbide volume improves its edge holding property over RWL 34 steel knife; you will thus get better edge retention with an Elmax knife.

While the increased carbide volume in Elmax works to its advantage in edge retention and corrosion resistance, it significantly lowers its toughness compared to RWL 34 steel.

The large Chromium carbides are known to be highly brittle, making the blade prone to chipping and cracking.  Elmax toughness is still better than N690 and BD1N steel but slightly lower than RWL 34 steel.

Is RWL 34 good knife steel?

RWL 34 steel combines all the characteristics that make good knife steel. It is steel with high hardness and toughness combined with the extreme edge retention and excellent corrosion resistance. RWL steel is perfect for bushcraft knives, folders, and fixed blades alike, it is easy to work with and sharpen.

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