One of the most known knife materials is W2 steel. Even some of the most inexperienced knife makers know about W2 steel. Interestingly, few people know much about W2 steel in terms of its composition and properties, despite its popularity. Not knowing about the specifics of the material can make it difficult to know if it is right for you.
If you want to learn more about W2 steel, read on. In this article, we cover everything you might need to know about W2 steel in knives. This includes its composition, hardness, difficulty to sharpen, and more. Without further ado, let’s get started.
What is W2 Steel?
W2 steel is a type of water hardening carbon steel. Any type of water hardening steels are classified within group W. This includes W1, W2, and W3. Of the three options, W2 steel is what is used in the knife industry. In comparison to the other W steels, it has good edge retention and toughness.
Like other water hardening steels, W2 steel has a main alloying element of carbon. As a result, this material is considered high in carbon. A little bit of chromium is added to increase the hardness and resistance of the blades.
W2 Steel Composition
As we mentioned above, W2 steel is classified as a high carbon and low chromium steel composition. Below is a complete list of W2 steel’s chemical composition:
- 1.15% Carbon: Improves hardness and corrosion resistance but decreases strength
- 0.15% Chromium: Improves tensile strength, edge retention, corrosion resistance, and wear resistance
- 0.10% Molybdenum: Increases strength and machinability
- 0.20% Nickel: Improves toughness
- 0.25% Manganese: Increases brittleness and hardness
- 0.25% Silicon: Improves strength
This chemical composition makes W2 steel similar to 1095 steel.
What Are W2 Steel Properties?
The exact chemical composition within W2 steel allows it to have specific properties that separate it from other W groups, as well as other steel in general. Below is a quick look at W2 steel properties:
- Corrosion Resistance: The biggest downfall of the W2 steel is its low corrosion resistance. Because it has so little chromium, it does not withstand corrosion easily.
- Edge Retention: W2 steel will typically have a 62 HRC rating. This makes the steel incredibly strong with great edge retention. You can expect this blade to not dull around the edges as quickly.
- Sharpness: W2 steel is considered a relatively strong material. The harder a material is, the more difficult it will be to sharpen. As a result, W2 steel is considered one of the more challenging materials to sharpen.
- Toughness: W2 steel has moderately good toughness. The harder the blade is, however, the less tough it will be.
- Wear Resistance: W2 steel can moderately handle wear resistance, but there are certainly better steels than this one. Be proactive and take proper care of this steel material so that it lasts.
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W2 is generally considered a good blade material for knives, but the intended usage will definitely affect how useful this material is. Because this is considered a hard and tough steel material, W2 is great for high impact jobs. Its extreme toughness means that it can handle a lot of impact and damage.
However, while W2 excels in hardness, it lacks in corrosion and wear resistance. This means that it will rust or dull rather quickly. As a result, W2 knives aren’t necessarily the best options for cutlery, surgical, or diving knives. You can certainly find better steel materials for corrosion resistance.
Even despite these downfalls, W2 steel is often used in knives. Because W group steels are pretty inexpensive to make, knives with W2 steel are inexpensive as well. This is another reason why you will often see W2 steel used in knives. It simply is economically feasible.
Will W2 Steel Rust?
One of W2 steel’s biggest downsides is that it is not considered very corrosion or wear-resistant. This means that W2 steel will rust, especially if it is exposed to many elements and not maintained correctly.
The reason that W2 steel rusts pretty easily is that it has a low chromium amount. The low chromium certainly makes it tougher, but it makes it less corrosion resistant. If you need a blade to withstand rust, you need to select an option with a high chromium content.
How Strong is W2 Steel?
The Rockwell hardness scale measures hardness. According to the scale, W2 steel can have a hardness rating of 65 HRC. This is a relatively high rating, meaning that W2 steel is incredibly strong and tough. If you need a knife that withstands a lot of impact and damage, W2 steel will be able to withstand it pretty well.
Remember that the strength will also affect the toughness of the blade. A well hardened W2 will typically be 62 HRC. Anything above this rating will sacrifice toughness a bit. In contrast, the less hard a blade is, the tougher it will be.
Is it Easy to Sharpen W2 Steel Blades?
As we have already mentioned, the harder a material is, the more challenging it will be to sharpen. Given that W2 steel blades are substantially hard, they are not the easiest blades to sharpen. You will likely need tools and specific techniques to sharpen the blades adequately. The difficulty of sharpening W2 steel is even more apparent for those who are new to sharpening knife blades.
What Are The Best W2 Steel Knives in the Market
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W2 steel is a highly popular material for blades. It is incredibly hard with great edge retention, making it a great option for knives that undergo a lot of impact and damage. Not to mention, the blades are inexpensive to make, making them a popular option for many.
The main downside is that W2 steel corrodes pretty easily, and it is not very wear-resistant. Though this is a downside in some circumstances, it doesn’t make the material undesirable or inefficient. So long as you use a knife with W2 steel smartly and maintain it well, you should have a lot of luck with it.