4034 Steel: Is it a Good Knife Steel?

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Super steels are in trend these days, but no knife user will dishonor a reliable low-end steel option available at a competitive price tag. This is what 4034 steel is all about. It is not the most sought, but its wide availability, reasonable price, and adequate performance make it a convenient choice for many knife users.

What is 4034 Steel?

Smith & Wesson M&P SWMP1B 7.1in 4034 Assisted Folding Knife with 2.9in Clip Point Blade and Aluminum Handle for Tactical, Survival and EDC
Smith & Wesson M&P SWMP1B

4034 is a low steel alloy. It is made in Germany by Thyssen-Krupp, a reputed steel brand. Many regard it as Germany’s budget alloy, similar to the American 420 steel. Due to the moderate carbon amount, it is a softer steel grade.

This steel belongs to the lower end of the knife-making steel scale. Thus, it is typically used in making affordable fixed knives and folding knives. Many users rely on a 4034 blade for their daily use.

Due to the good hardness level and corrosion resistance, 4034 is used for making kitchen, utility, and diving knives. Brands such as Boker, Schrade, Cold Steel, and Smith & Wesson use this steel for producing some of their knives.

Chemical Composition

This low alloy steel features a simple composition of only three other elements with iron. However, as the chromium content is over 13%, this steel is stainless.

  • 0.5% Carbon: For greater hardness as well as the ability to keep corrosion and wear away than usual
  • 14% Chromium: For superb corrosion resistance, tensile strength, toughness, hardness, and edge retention
  • 1% Manganese: For great wear resistance, forgeability, and hardenability

It is worth knowing that some makers add around 1% silicon to this composition to make the steel stronger and ensure better resistance to corrosion than usual.

In terms of chemical composition, 4034 is closer to 420J2 and 420HC, both low-end steels. However, these two options have more alloying than the  German steel.

Steel Hardness

On the Rockwell scale, the hardness rating of 4034 ranges from 54 to 58 HRC. This is also what many other softer steels obtain. As the hardness range is not high, it is moderately tough. High-hardness steels usually get a rating of 60 HRC and above.


Smith & Wesson SWMP6 7.7in 4034 Assisted Folding Knife with 3.4in Clip Point Blade and Aluminum Handle for Outdoor, Tactical, Survival and EDC
Smith & Wesson SWMP6
  • Excellent Toughness: This is the best quality of 4034 stainless steel. Although there are not many elements contributing to toughness, it has a good level of toughness to withstand heavy-duty use because of its high Chromium content. Another reason is low carbon content, which means less hardness and more toughness.
  • Great Corrosion Resistance: This is another commendable property of this soft steel. It can easily resist rust and corrosion. This is attributed to 14% chromium content. Still, it is wise to maintain this steel by keeping it clean and dry after every use.
  • Good Wear Resistance: As 4034 is not hard, its ability to resist wear is not the best. Hardness and resistance to wear are directly proportional to each other. It can handle some wear impact without compromising performance, provided it is maintained well. With proper heat treatment, the hardness level of this steel can go beyond 60 HRC. Hence you can find 4034 blades good at resisting wear.
  • Ease of Sharpening: Being a soft option, 4034 is easy to sharpen without any issues. If you do it right, it can give you an ultra-sharp edge.
  • Okay Edge Retention: Being a soft steel grade, 4034 will not retain a sharp edge for a very long time. This is compensated by the fact that it is incredibly easy to sharpen it.

Comparison With Other Knife Steel Options

Let’s now compare this steel with its peers against properties such as corrosion and rust resistance, toughness, hardness, and ease of sharpening.

4034 vs. 440C

440C is also stainless but features higher chromium content than 4034. Thus, it is more resistant to rust as well as corrosion. Even the quantity of carbon is more than this German steel, making it a stronger and harder option. However, if you are on a strict budget, you can go for a 4034 knife. Otherwise, 440C is a better option.

4034 vs. AUS 8

AUS 8 is a Japanese budget option known for its balance in hardness, machinability, toughness, and resistance to corrosion. It is harder, retains a sharp edge better, and resists wear and corrosion better than this German steel.

4034 vs. 1.4116

Both the steels are budget-friendly, low-end options. However, 1.4116 has a bit more chromium content than 4034. 1.4116 wins in terms of toughness and edge retention. Its corrosion resistance is excellent and is preferred for making knives used in wet and marine environments.

So, is 4034 Steel Good?

Yes, if you are on a budget and are not looking for the sharpest, most durable, and the poshest knife. A knife blade made of 4034 stainless steel will not rust easily and is easy to sharpen. It is a decent choice for pocket knives used mainly for opening boxes or cutting strings.