I've been researching different brands of blades and was fascinated by the history of Vniti blades and the reasons why they developed their technology, different from that of other blade vendors. The story behind, in case someone does not know (I learned about it this evening, after spending several hours searching the net), is that VNITI - which was a Russian acronym for Federal Research Institute of Technology - in the Soviet time, a giant research and development organization with multiple sites across the Soviet Union which was developing technology for making steel for tanks and artillery - was converted to a public company in the early 1990s, then was spun off, broken in pieces, and ended up as a small company in the suburbs of St-Petersburg, with about 150 employees, lack of funding, without well defined products, right in the middle of a major economic crisis. Russian Fencing association approached them with a request to develop blades for fencing which Russian fencers could afford. At that time, Russian currency was heavily devaluated. A $100 price tag of a western-made FIE blade was too high of a price for an average fencer. VNITI engineers thought it could be a good application for their expertise and tools. The task was to develop a FIE-certified blade, produced at a lowest possible cost from materials which they could get. In order to reduce the cost of processing, they used cold rolling - simply because this tool was available in-house. To reduce the cost of materials, they decided to use maraging steel for the blade or at least the top part of it, a cheap high carbon steel for the tang or perhaps the lower part of the blade, and weld them together. Magaring steel was picked from the steels available on the market - not the top of the line, but close to it (about one or two steps down) - an "off-the-shelf" type of maraging steel usually used for heavy duty machinery - axes, gears, rotors of helicopters, parts of submarines, etc. The steel they used is similar to grade 300 US maraging steel. Likewise, they picked a common cheap high carbon steel which was easy to get in rods. It was basically like tinkering in one's garage: grab what is available, try to make something out of it. The difficult part was to create a strong welded connection. This, essentially, became the essence of their patent which describes in details the technology used to make their blades. The patent even specifies the steel which they use.They start with two rods, about 12-13 mm in diameter, and weld them together into one longer rod (actually, in the patent, they describe the method of welding three rods, maraging steel rod in the center and two high carbon steel at both ends, to make two blades from it in one pass). Next, they would carefully cold-roll the welded area(s). They learned, through trial and error (and failed initial attempt to get FIE certification) that there should be a certain, relatively small level of compression and deformation during the initial rolling of the welded area, to make the welded connection very strong and avoid cracks and breaking at the seam during bending of the blade. Once this is done and welded area is strengthened through cold rolling, they would cold-roll the whole rod in multiple passes until the blade takes the desired shape and dimensions. The patent has all those details, including parameters of cold rolling. Another part of processing, which can easily be a part of the reason for durability of their blades, is that they bake cold-rolled blades at 480 C for 9 hours followed by air cool. This is an additional martenistic aging step. Martenistic aging is typically 820C for 30 min to an hour followed by air cool and additional bake at 480 C for 3 hours. This is done to create a dispersion of tiny intermetallic (Ni, Cr, Mo, Ti, Al) clusters along existing dislocations and in the bulk. This arrests propagation of dislocations, thus decreasing likelihood of propagation of dislocations and subsequent breakage. This is how maraging steel can withstand so many bends without breakage, as opposed to high carbon steel, where carbon is added for strength but is not nearly as efficient in trapping dislocations. This is very similar to impact of oxygen precipitates (BMDs) on hardness of semiconductor grade silicon wafers and their resistance to slip during processing. With this ingenious value engineering, they were able to achieve the manufacturing cost of $20 to $22 per blade... to only learn how hard it is to penetrate the Western markets to sell their capacity of close to 10k blades per year (the Russian market was not large enough for their capacity). They fought for several years with their European (German) distributor, very well known company which I am hesitant to name here - but it is all in the internet! - who was their first distributor outside of Russia, to get paid $30 per blade wholesale, and went as far in this battle as threatening to dump the price to $15, below the manufacturing cost, and flood the market with ultra-cheap FIE blades (It is amazing how much interesting information one can find in Google...). VNITI could not make a lot of money by selling several thousands of blades per year in Europe and in Russia while making literally just a couple of dollars per blade, until they became known and established themseves as a brand world-wide, so this side business did not prevent VNITI's bankruptcy in October of 2013. They still cannot get out of bankruptcy. The good news that a new trustee was appointed last week for the next 18 months, per court order. This means, for what it is worth, that they will stay in business for at least 18 more months. Even though their blades sell well now, blade making is not the primary business of VNITI. Their main business has always been designing large tools for building train cars or heavy machinery or developing manufacturing methods for steels. Evidently, it is still not profitable enough. I can only assume, without knowing for sure, that the technology developed and patented some 10 years ago is still used as it was described. Anyhow, I was looking at the Vniti blades and was trying to find where the welded area was. I found a consistent color transition pattern in two areas: one transition in about 1/2 to 3/4 inches from the tang, the second transition in about 2-3 inches from the tang, into the blade. This approximately coincides with the area where the blade starts tapering off. I took some pictures but have to figure out how to post them. The questions to which I could not find answers - but I hope someone on this forum knows - are: 1) Is VNITI the only manufacturer which uses two different materials in the same blade, maraging steel welded with high carbon steel? 2) High carbon steel used for the tang has a 3-4% lower density, i.e., lighter than maraging steel. Could this lead to a shift in center of mass and a heavier feel? 3) Is it beneficial or detrimental that tang is made of high carbon steel (like non-FIE blades)? Does it make it easier to bend the tang, does it make it more brittle or, just the opposite, less likely to break than if it was made of maraging steel? 4) Does anyone has an educated guess where the transition from high carbon to maraging steel really is? In theory, maraging steel is more or less stainless steel, so it should be less affected by rust and corrosion than the high carbon steel. Blades which were in use for a long time and which were partly neglected might start showing this. As I said, I see some color transitions consistent across multiple blades, about 1 to about 3 inches from tang into the blade, but I am not certain if they are indeed indicative of the area of transition from one type of steel to the other.