When the matter is about manufacturing katana-style swords and Hamon, knife makers choose carbon steels with their eyes closed. For the making of these two knife types, you will need high-carbon steel like W2 because of the incredible craftsmanship that is required. Carbon steels like W2 are admired for having high levels of hardness which makes them adequate for manufacturing heavy-duty tools.


We will be exploring in-depth details regarding the chemical composition of the steel, and the properties that W2 has to offer.


What is W2 Steel?

The W in W2 steel signifies water quench and 2 signifies the version of the steel. This unique steel type allows both experienced and beginners in knife making to work with ease. Due to the arrival of many popular carbon steels in the market, companies stopped the production of W2 steel. But soon NJSB brought back the production of W2 in recent times for the amazing properties that it withholds.


W2 is put to use for the manufacturing of large and tough knives that tend to require thick spines in their structure. The water-quench steel has a shallow hardenability which results in the thick core of the blade spine having a moderate amount of hardness. The steel can also be used for the manufacturing of hand tools, machine dies and customized knives that feature decorated blades.


The steel type of W2 makes it ideal for the manufacturing of knife blades using a unique Japanese swordsmithing process called Hamon. Doing Hamon on the blade surface allows the creation of an upshot.


Chemical Composition: 

W2 is categorized as high-carbon steel because of the presence of a greater amount of carbon and a low amount of chromium. We have listed below details regarding all the elements that build up the steel.

  • 1.15% of Carbon: Boosts the hardness and capacity of the steel towards wear resistance.
  • 0.25% of Manganese: Improves forge ability of the steel, hardenability, tensile strength and wear resistance.
  • 0.25% of Silicon: Increases steel strength.
  • 0.20% of Nickel: Increases the toughness level.
  • 0.20% of Copper: This brings improvement to the corrosion resistance of the steel.
  • 0.15% of Vanadium: Increases the resistance of the steel towards hardenability, shock impact, and toughness level.
  • 0.15% of Chromium: Increases the corrosion resistance, hardness level, edge retention, tensile strength, toughness level, and wear resistance.
  • 0.15% of Tungsten: Adds more strength and increases toughness level.
  • 0.10% of Molybdenum: Boosts machinability and also adds steel strength.
  • 0.025% of Sulfur: Makes machinability better and increases the capability of the steel to take on impact.


Steel Hardness: 

According to the Rockwell C scale, the hardness rating of W2 steel ranges between 62 to 65 HRC. The range signifies the extreme hardness of W2 steel which ensures the steel can deliver continuous performance even if the edge of the blade is made thin. The hardness range can differ depending on the heat treatment provided and the carbon content.


Steel Properties: 

  • Decent toughness: It is expected for W2 steel to have no toughness considering the high amount of hardness range. Surprisingly, W2 steel still decent level of toughness that protects the blade from easily chipping. Yet, the inversely proportional relationship of hardness and toughness does show an effect when the steel is at 65 HRC hardness. As at that hardness you will see the blade getting damaged.
  • Great edge retention: Due to the high level of hardness the W2 steel shows great performance in terms of edge retention. Even if you use a blade made out of W2 for a whole day you will see the edge holding sharpness for a long time. The great edge retention capability of W2 allows the blade to deliver efficient performance even after heavy duty.
  • Great wear resistance: The high amount of hardness of W2 steel increases the wear resistance so it can take on impact easily. The reason behind the high level of wear resistance is because of hardness and the presence of elements like carbon, chromium and manganese as well.
  • Poor Corrosion Resistance: In the case of corrosion resistance you will not see W2 steel excelling much. The steel is prone to catch corrosion, rust and stains very easily. The reason behind that is the low percentage of chromium in the chemical content.
  • Ease of Sharpening: The high amount of hardness results in increasing difficulty of sharpening the edge of the steel. It will take longer to give the edge of the blade’s desired sharpness.


Comparing W2 With Other Knife Steel Options: 


W2 vs W1

Both of the steels are water-hardening tool steels with similar types of chemical compositions as well. But there is the presence of vanadium in W2 which increases its hardness resulting in a boost of wear resistance and hardenability compared to W1. Knifemakers tend to opt for W2 more often for giving blade Hamon designs.


W2 vs 1095

W2 beats 1095 steel in terms of hardness even though 1095 was the innovative version of 1080 steel. Furthermore, you will see W2 showing better performance in terms of edge retention and wear resistance which is expected because of the high hardness rating. Both of them are not resistant to corrosion. However, 1095 has a higher amount of toughness and is more resistant towards chipping and also there is not much difficulty that you will face while sharpening.


W2 vs 5140

5140 steel has a lower percentage of carbon compared to W2. This states why W2 steel performs better when the matter is about to wear resistance and edge retention. On the other hand, you will witness 5140 giving better performance in case of ease of sharpening.


W2 vs 1084

1084 gets beaten by W2 in terms of edge retention and wear resistance due to less amount of carbon in its chemical content. But in terms of ease of sharpening the 1084 steel excels.


So, is W2 Steel Good?

Yes, W2 steel is a great choice if you are looking for steel that is perfect for Hamon. W2 steel has the required hardness that allows you to use it for Hamon designing and also provides the required edge retention and wear resistance. However, when the matter is about corrosion resistance you will honestly get better steel options that are proven to show excellence in all required properties.



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