Infamous knife-making companies like Benchmade and Gerber have used M2 steel for making knife blades with amazing properties. Unfortunately, in recent times you will not find knives made out of M2 steel easily. Yet, you will still see the use of M2 steel for accomplishing several industrial tasks because of its properties. Keep on reading to know if you should use it for knife steel.


What is M2 Steel?


M2 is a high-speed tool steel that is also well known to endure high temperatures without the hardness of it getting affected. Steel is popular for the presence of high amounts of tungsten and molybdenum in its chemical composition.


M2 is a medium alloy steel that has all the properties balanced including hardness, toughness, machinability and wears resistance. The steel has even beat the T1 steel in terms of manufacturing costs and also performance.


You will see the usage of M2 steel in various cutting tools because of its high-speed nature. Some manufacturing tools like milling cutters, knives, reamers, saws, taps, and twist drills are also created using M2 steel. As M2 can endure high heat without getting tempered the steel is also used for cutting chores that require high heat.


Knifemakers previously used M2 for manufacturing knives with premium quality blades that are either custom-made or limited versions. Now, knife makers opt for M4 steel for the manufacturing of knife blades as it is the better version of M2 with improved hardness, toughness, and edge retention than M2.


Chemical Composition:


M2 cannot be categorised as stainless steel because of its low chromium content. The elements below are present in the chemical composition of M2 contributing to various features.


  • 85% of Carbon: Enhances hardness, tensile strength and resistance toward corrosion.
  • 15% of Chromium: Adds hardness, and toughness improves tensile strength and increases corrosion resistance.
  • 15% of Tungsten: Increases hardness of the steel at high temperatures, hardenability, toughness and strength of the steel.
  • 00% of Molybdenum: Improves hardness, toughness, and strength of the steel.
  • 85% of Vanadium: Improves strength of the steel, toughness and aids in resisting wear.
  • 45% of Silicon: Adds strength to the steel.
  • 30% of Nickel: Adds toughness.
  • 280% of Manganese: Increases resistance to wear and hardenability.
  • 25% of Copper: Prevents oxidation of the steel by increasing corrosion resistance.
  • 030% of Phosphorus: Improves machinability, hardness and strength of the steel.
  • 030% of Sulfur: Adds machinability.


The hardness of the steel:


According to the scale of Rockwell C, the hardness grade of M2 steel ranges between 62 to 65 HRC. Depending on the heat treatment done on the steel, the range can vary. As the reading on the scale is above 61 HRC you can deduce that the steel has a high hardness level. The reason behind such a high level of hardness is because of the presence of carbon, manganese and molybdenum.


Properties of M2 steel:


  • Satisfying Toughness: It is pretty obvious to expect a low level of toughness from M2 steel because of the high hardness rating that the steel has. That is because toughness and hardness are indirectly proportional to each other. Yet, M2 surprisingly has satisfying toughness that makes it suitable for use while manufacturing straight knives, jointers and planers. For manufacturing these things the steel has to have enough toughness to take on impact. Furthermore, slight tempering of the M2 steel also increases the toughness level of the metal which helps the steel to hold sharpness for a longer period. You will not witness any sort of cracking or breaking because the toughness of M2 steel ensures it can take on impact.
  • Excellent Wear Resistance: Since M2 steel has a high hardness rating, it also has excellent wear resistance because the resistance to wear increases with hardness. The chemical composition of M2 steel ensures an even distribution of the carbides on the surface that provides excellent wear resistance. The presence of high amounts of molybdenum and tungsten in the chemical composition also increases the wear-resisting capacity of the steel.
  • Great Edge Retention: M2 steel is well known in the world of knives because of its great edge retention. Knife makers have witnessed M2 steel beating much high-end steel in terms of edge retention. With increasing resistance to wear the edge retention also increases.
  • Fair Corrosion Resistance: As the chromium content of M2 steel is low, that results in M2 steel acting poorly while resisting corrosion. The steel is not stainless which results from it is vulnerable to rust and corrosion. Yet, you will see some fair performance of M2 in corrosion resistance.
  • Ease of Sharpening: Due to the high hardness level of M2, sharpening it is not that easy. You will only need a good quality sharpener for it with diamond abrasives.


Comparing M2 steel with other grades:


M2 vs D2


The hardness level of M2 and D2 are quite similar as both of these steels receive the same sort of heat treatment. But, M2 has better toughness, edge retention and wear resistance compared to D2. But in corrosion resistance, D2 wins over M2. Both of the steels are not the easiest to sharpen.


M2 vs M4


M2 and M4 are both manufactured to work as tool steels. M4 is the improved and better version of M2 with the same hardness rating. The amount of carbides present in M4 is greater than in M2 with even distribution to allow better edge retention. Sadly, both of these steels are poor at corrosion resistance as both of them are not stainless.


So, is M2 good knife steel?


Yes, you can undoubtedly consider using M2 for knife steel because of its amazing performance in retaining edge and resisting wear. The knife steel made out of M2 will not crack or chip upon heavy duty. You just have to make sure that M2 steel does not come into contact with humidity or salt water conditions.

Write A Comment Cancel Reply