Knife makers have commonly selected A2 steel for the manufacturing of knife blades. Well-known knife makers like Aaron Gough, John Fitzen, Mike Snody and Rob Criswell used the steel for the making of outdoor knives like custom combat knives, camping knives and survival knives.

A lot of infamous companies like Black Wolf and Bark River are known to use the A2 steel for their knife blades. We are here to enlighten you about the amazing properties of the A2 steel. Keep on reading to know more.

What is A2 Steel?

The AISI A2 steel is an American tool steel that is designed and formulated by Crucible. The steel belongs to the A series of the company since the steel is an alloy steel that has been through an air-hardening medium. The A signifies the air hardening treatment done on the steel.

A2 is loved by knife makers because of the high toughness level, satisfying wear resistance and easy machinability. The A2 steel is commonly required for accomplishing cold work applications because of the moderate resistance to high abrasion. Steels that have high chromium and carbon are vulnerable to chipping and cracking during cold work applications.

In the tool-making industry, A2 steel is used for the manufacturing of various tools like chuck jaws, hammers, dowel pins, wood cutting tools and dies. Knife makers use A2 steel for manufacturing various outdoor knives like camping, combat, hunting, hiking and survival knives.

Chemical Composition:

You can classify A2 steel to be high carbon steel and not stainless because it has a high percentage of carbon but not enough chromium to be stainless. However, the amount of chromium it has is enough to provide the steel hardness and stability to tackle heat treatments. There are more elements in its chemical composition that we have listed down below.

  • 05% of Carbon: Improves resistance of the steel to wear and abrasion and increases tensile strength and hardness of the steel.
  • 50% of Chromium: Increases toughness of the steel, tensile strength and corrosion resistance.
  • 40% of Molybdenum: Increases hardness and toughness of the metal.
  • 00% of Manganese: Adds more hardenability, tensile strength and wear resistance.
  • 50% of Silicon: Improves corrosion resistance and strength of the steel.
  • 30% of Nickel: Increases toughness of the metal.
  • 25% of Vanadium: Increases strength of the steel, wear resistance and toughness.
  • 25% of Copper: Improves corrosion resistance and prevents oxidation of the steel.
  • 030% of Phosphorus: Improves hardness, machinability and steel strength.
  • 030% of Sulfur: Improves machinability.


Steel Hardness:

According to the rating on the Rockwell C scale, the hardness rating of A2 steel lies between 57 HRC to 62 HRC. The hardness rating of the steel can vary depending on the heat treatment that is done on it. As the rating goes above 61 HRC you can claim that the steel has a great hardness level with high amounts of carbon, manganese and molybdenum in its chemical composition.


Steel Properties:

  • High level of Toughness: You would expect poor toughness from A2 steel since the hardness level is above 61 HRC and both of these factors are indirectly proportional. Surprisingly, A2 steel has great toughness and it has proven to not break, chip and crack upon heavy duty. The reason behind such a high level of toughness is because of the presence of high amounts of nickel and vanadium present in its chemical composition. Knife makers easily choose A2 steel for the making of knife blades that will be required for tough use.
  • Great edge retention: A2 has great edge retention capability because of the great hardness level. The steel has a high amount of carbon even distribution of chromium carbides that ensures it can hold sharpness for a long time.
  • Moderate wear resistance: Even though A2 steel has a high hardness level the wear resistance of the steel is moderate and not very high. You can say the steel has traded its wear resistance for great toughness. The wear and abrasion resistance of the steel is not poor but just moderate and the level is between steels like O1 and D2.
  • Weak Corrosion Resistance: As the chromium content of the steel is low, A2 steel has weak corrosion resistance. For maintaining the steel you just have to keep dry any moisture remaining on the surface and use knife oil to provide a protective layer on the blade for safe storage.
  • Ease of Sharpening: A2 steel has a high hardness level and yet it is easy to sharpen as the number of chromium carbides on its surface is low. This allows you to easily grind, sharpen and polish the edge and surface of the steel with an inexpensive knife sharpener.


Comparing A2 steel with other knife steel options:


A2 vs O1

A2 steel has greater edge retention than O1 steel as it can hold sharpness longer than O1. A2 steel also beats O1 in resisting corrosion and wear.

A2 vs D2

A2 steel beats D2 steel in terms of sharpness and it is also easier to sharpen A2 steel compared to D2. On the other hand, D2 steel has great edge retention compared to A2 steel.

A2 vs 1095

A2 wins over 1095 steel in toughness level, resisting stain and edge retention as well. However, it is easier to sharpen 1095 compared to A2 as it has a high hardness level than 1095 steel.

So, is A2 a Good Knife Steel?

Yes, you can easily use A2 steel for manufacturing knife blades because of the amazing properties that it is withholding. The A2 steel has levels of hardness and toughness perfectly balanced, even though its wear resistance is moderate it has great edge retention and is easy to sharpen. The only negative fact is the low chromium content that does not make it stainless but proper care and maintenance can protect the steel from rust and corrosion.


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