Is W2 steel good for knives?

You’ve probably heard knife steel nerds praising the carbon steels for their incredible strength and how they make strong and durable blades. W2 is one such steel and you’ll find it in a variety of knives made for different applications where high strength is required.

Today, W2 carbon steel has become a favorite for knife users and customer knife makers. If you’ve never used this steel before, we have prepared this in-depth W2 steel review to educate you on everything you need to know about the steel including What is W2 tool steel, its chemical composition, properties, comparison with other steels, and more.

What is W2 stainless steel?

W2 is a water hardening tool steel popular among beginner and seasoned custom knife makers. It’s also regarded as high carbon steel with its high carbon content of more than 1% (up to 1.15%, to be precise).

The knife makers love this steel for its incredible toughness and great edge-holding properties. This steel can be left at high hardness levels, up to 65HRC, and still, deliver high toughness especially when used in larger knife models with thicker spines.

What is W2 stainless steel

So, how does W2 gets its name? The “W” in the steel’s name means its water quench steel while the “2” means it’s a little different from its predecessor, the W1. Other water hardening steels in the same class as this W2 high carbon steel include W1 and W3.

Fun Fact: The tool steel is considered the perfect steel for creating Hamons—the visual effect created on blade surfaces as a result of the hardening process. This process is usually popular with Japanese swordsmithing.

W2 steel composition

As we have just mentioned above, W2 is high carbon steel since it contains more than 1% of the carbon needed to make a steel high carbon. The following table reveals the W2 steel carbon content as well as the other elements used in its alloy and their respective volumes.

Element

Composition (%)

Carbon

1.15

Chromium

0.15

Molybdenum

0.10

Vanadium

0.15-0.35

Tungsten

0.15

Nickel

0.20

Manganese

0.25

Silicon

0.25

Copper

0.20

Sulfur

0.025

1.15% Carbon content improves hardness, wear, and corrosion resistance. But too much of it can lead to decreased strength.

0.15% Chromium increases the alloy tensile strength and edge retention. it also enhances its corrosion and wear resistance.

0.10% Molybdenum increases the steel strength and machinability.

0.15-0.35% Vanadium boosts the steel hardenability, toughness, and resistance to shock loading.

0.15% Tungsten improves hardenability while adding strength and toughness to the steel. It also retains hardness at elevated temperatures.

0.20% Nickel improves the steel strength

0.25% manganese facilitates increased hardness. but too much of it can increase the steel brittleness.

0.25% Silicon improves W2 tool steel strength.

What is W2 steel hardness?

The W2 steel registers a working hardness between 62 and 65 HRC. This makes it quite hard steel which means better edge retention and excellent cutting performance, even with a thin edge. However, keep in mind that the amount of hardness in different W2 steel samples can vary depending on the amount of carbon used.

What is W2 steel hardness

W2 tool steel properties

In this section, we’re going to get into details about the key W2 steel characteristics that you should expect a W2 blade to exhibit.

W2 steel edge retention

Hard steel is often associated with good edge retention. And this is the exact case we have in W2 steel. With its high hardness level of up to 65HRC, it tends to hold its edge perfectly well. Many knife makers swear by W2 when it comes to making a knife that can offer you efficient cutting performance all day long.

W2 steel toughness

Though this steel features high levels of hardness, it manages to offer you decent toughness and won't chip easily. But you can escape the fact that toughness and hardness are indirectly proportional. this is to say, that if you try to achieve hardness levels above 63RC with steel, its toughness will get worse.

W2 corrosion resistance

W2 performs poorly in the rust-resistant department. It delivers quite low resistance to corrosion. The low amounts of chromium used in its composition do nothing much to keep away staining, rust, and corrosion

What is a W2 steel equivalent?

W2 is equivalent to 1095 steel. Both use the same elements in their alloys and have an almost similar chemical composition. Both steel grades are high carbon and deliver excellent hardness and good toughness…though W2 is a bit harder and tougher than 1095. They also deliver great edge retention. But due to low chromium levels in both steels, they perform poorly in terms of resistance. Their abrasion wear resistance performance, too, lies below average

What is a W2 steel equivalent

W2 steel vs other steels

so far so good! Now that we already know the W2 equivalent, let’s discover how it compares to other popular steels used by knifemakers today.

W2 steel vs 5140

Due to the low carbon content in 5140 steel, it doesn’t offer good edge retention and wear resistance than W2. However, the low carbon content makes it softer steel that’s easier to sharpen even for absolute beginners.

W2 steel vs 1084

1084 features lower carbon content than W2. This explains why W2 performs better in terms of edge retention and wear resistance than 1080. However, 1080 has an easier sharpening experience.

W2 steel vs other steels

W2 steel vs D2

D2 is high-end steel and delivers better edge retention and corrosion resistance than W2. However, the premium steel is a pain to sharpen and you might need to be an expert to be able to sharpen it. This is unlike W2 is which is pretty easy to sharpen.

W2 vs W1 steel

These two steels also come from the same family of water quenching tool steels. They are almost the same, with only the exception being that W2 contains vanadium which increases its hardenability and wear resistance. W2 is much more prefers by knife makers who want to decorate their blades with fantastic hamon effects.

Is W2 steel a good blade steel?

The high carbon steel offers superior edge retention and good toughness than most of the carbon steels available. It also features pretty high carbon content and will make a knife that cuts efficiently well.

With its ability to make hamon effects, W2 is also good steel for knife makers who want to decorate their knives.

Is W2 steel good for knives

If such are the qualities you’re looking for in a knife, W2 is a great steel for you.

Final Verdict

Incredible edge retention and decent toughness are the key properties that make put W2 steel on the map. But it performs low on rust resistance and wear resistance. The W2’s ability to create hamons on blades makes it ideal for decorating your custom-made knives. After going through this guide, it will now be easy for you to decide if W2 steel will meet your needs or not.

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