15 or more years ago, we did not produce sheets of steel, but instead rolled thin bars. Thin bars were the preferred material for stock removal blades. 154CM was a bearing material produced primarily in round bar form for that market. The cutlery end of the grade was a side market and since the stainless bearing market is not huge kept the volume up. Crucible marketed this grade primarily through knife supply houses and really didn't come into direct contact with the knife industry. One myth from that time that continues to plague the grade is that 154CM was vacuum re-melted. This grade was never produced with vacuum re-melt technology. At the time it was air melt material. Today it is melted differently, but I'll cover that later. As the stainless bearing market continued to shrink, it became more difficult to justify an 80,000 lb heat of 154CM, especially for the smaller cutlery industry. At the same time, the industry converted to using sheet product, which allowed lazer cutting and more versatiliy of widths. Put all this together with Crucible having no direct contact with the market and guess what, we were out of the business. Take a note of how many supply houses carry sheets of steel. None. A little over 10 years ago the distribution part of Crucible became it's own divison. The number of warehouses doubled and this division became very intimate with its markets. The Service Center Divsion is not limited by the mill's production and can convert material using outside sources (i.e. sheet products). With this in mind we entered back into the 154CM, 440V, 420V,etc. business and intend to stay there for quite a while. We dove back in about 3 years ago with the help of one of the larger knife producers and have been getting better every year. The mill still melts the material, but we stock the sheets in our warehouse system for cutting into various sizes. Now this brings us to the material production. Like I said earlier, many years ago, this material was produced by air melt technology. Today it is produced by the Argon/Oxygen/Decarburization process (AOD). This is the primary way to produce quality stainless steels. It is not as clean as re-melted steels but is about as close as you can get and is much cleaner than 15 years ago. 3 years ago when we entered back into the 154CM market we were concerned that the ATS-34 was cleaner than ours. We found just the opposite. They do not re-melt their material either and in numerous tests with knife makers and polishers our material was much cleaner. Based on our sales and responses from our customers, the myth of the dirty 154CM is behind us for good.
Tom's Knife Info / firstname.lastname@example.org