You will witness a lot of high-quality steel knives claiming durability but failing to last long and give desired performance. But you will see D2 steel performing exceptionally in terms of performance, it is affordable and better than a lot of well-known premium knife steels.


What is D2 Steel?

D2 is air-hardening steel with the highest percentage of carbon in its chemical composition compared to other tool steels in the market. Along with carbon, steel consists of a high percentage of chromium, molybdenum and vanadium.


The chromium percentage is between 11.5 to 12 which makes D2 a semi-stainless steel. For pure stainless steel, the percentage of chromium has to be above 13%. The steel has a polish-like finish on its surface giving the stainless steel look.


The unique chemical composition of D2 allows it to belong to the cold work category. You can shape the tool steel after cooling and also use oil and air quenching on the steel while maintaining the hardness level of the steel.


D2 was created as an alternative to D3 steel. The chemical composition of D3 consists of 2.2% carbon, which is then decreased in D2 and manufacturers added elements like molybdenum and vanadium to increase the hardenability and toughness of the steel. For these steel properties, manufacturers get to make deformation tools and cutting tools using D2.


Chemical Composition:

  • 1.5% of Carbon: Increases the hardness of the steel and improves the resistance of the steel towards wear and corrosion.
  • 12% of Chromium: Adds tensile strength, increases edge retention and resistance to corrosion and wear.
  • 1.1% of Vanadium: Brings improvement to steel strength, corrosion and wear resistance, and increases toughness.
  • 0.9% of Molybdenum: Increases hardness, hardenability, steel strength and toughness.
  • 0.45% of Manganese: Increases forge ability, hardenability and wear resistance.
  • 0.40% of Silicon: Adds steel strength.
  • 0.03% of Phosphorus: Boosts strength.
  • 0.02% of Sulphur: Improves machinability.


Steel Hardness: 

According to the Rockwell C scale, the hardness of D2 steel ranges between 55 and 62 HRC. The hardness rating of the steel shows great wear resistance and superior edge retention capability. The rating can vary depending on the heat treatment provided to the steel.


Steel Properties: 

  • Toughness: Since D2 has a hardness rating above 61 HRC, this shows it has a high hardness level causing the toughness to be low because of an inversely proportional relationship. Yet, the toughness is not the least, as the steel can tolerate abuse and resist breaking and chipping. But D2 is not tough for tasks like batoning.
  • Terrific Wear Resistance: This property makes D2 steel stand out in the market. A lot of manufacturers call D2 the king of wear resistance. The extreme wear resistance of the steel is because of the presence of elements like carbon, chromium, manganese and vanadium. D2 beats many stainless and high carbon steels in abrasion and wear resistance.
  • Excellent Edge Retention: Due to the high hardness level of the steel, it has an excellent capacity for edge retention. The high percentage of carbon and chromium also contributes to excellent edge retention. You can go for a long time without sharpening the edge of the steel which beats the performance of a lot of well-known knives.
  • Okay Corrosion Resistance: The chromium percentage of D2 is quite close to the threshold making it perform better compared to non-stainless steels. Even if the steel is vulnerable to rust, that will not happen easily. Keeping the knife dry after use is the best way to rust prevention.
  • Ease of Sharpening: Sharpening D2 is not easy due to such a high hardness level. You will need time and effort behind sharpening and also you will need to get sharpeners having diamond abrasives for efficient sharpening.


Comparison With Other Knife Steel Options

D2 vs. 440C

Due to the higher percentage of carbon and chromium in 440C, it performs better in case of corrosion resistance. But D2 wins over 440C in case of edge retention due to a higher hardness level.


D2 vs. S30V

S30V is a well-known steel made using a powder metallurgy process. The steel beats D2 in corrosion resistance, edge retention and toughness because of the finer carbides on its surface. But due to the manufacturing process, the price of the S30V is expensive compared to D2.


D2 vs. AUS 8

AUS 8 is pure stainless steel with better capability in corrosion resistance compared to D2. But AUS 8 gets defeated by D2 in case of edge retention as it has a lower hardness than D2.


D2 vs. 1095

1095 is easier to sharpen and has a higher toughness level compared to D2. But in the case of other parameters, D2 stands out.


D2 vs. VG10

VG10 is better at corrosion resistance and is easier to sharpen than D2. But D2 defeats VG10 in the case of edge retention.


D2 vs. S35VN

Both of the steels perform well at edge retention. But S35VN has higher toughness and better corrosion resistance than D2.


D2 vs. 8Cr13MoV

D2 has a higher hardness level making it better at edge retention than 8Cr13MoV. But in terms of toughness and corrosion resistance, 8Cr13MoV is better.


D2 vs. N690

Both of the steels deliver similar performance but the N690 is much better at corrosion resistance.


D2 vs. 154CM

Both of the steels perform similarly. But in terms of corrosion resistance 154CM performs better.


D2 vs. M390

M390 is a premium quality steel with better performance than D2 in corrosion resistance, edge retention and corrosion resistance.


D2 vs. 14C28N

D2 is better at edge retention and hardness compared to 14C28N. But D2 gets defeated by 14C28N at corrosion resistance and toughness.


D2 vs. S90V

S90V is a high-end steel that performs better than D2 at corrosion resistance, edge retention and hardness.


D2 vs. A2

A2 is also an air-hardening tool like D2. But A2 is tough than D2 but it gets defeated by A2 in terms of corrosion resistance, edge retention and hardness.


D2 vs. 420HC

420HC defeats D2 in corrosion resistance and toughness. But D2 is better at the hardness and edge retention than 420HC.


So, is D2 Steel Good?

Yes, undoubtedly you will find D2 steel perfect for making knives that require superior edge retention and wear resistance. The only issue is the low toughness that makes it not suitable for tasks like batoning.




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