Is W2 Steel Good for Knives?

The quality of knives is determined by the type of steel used in making it. Water steels are common in the market but what type of product do they make?

Wondering about the W2 steel? Well, you are at the right place, read on to get all insights about the W2 steel and knife making.

What is W2 Carbon Steel?

The W2 steel forms part of the water-hardening tool steel series (commonly called group W steels). It is the second among the three W steel grades which are W1, W2, and W3. The W2 steel is low-chromium steel made through heat treatment and quenching in water.

Chemical Composition of the W2 Steel

The W2 steel is composed of the following elements:

  1. Copper
  2. Carbon
  3. Chromium
  4. Sulfur
  5. Silicon
  6. Nickel
  7. Manganese
  8. Molybdenum
  9. Vanadium
  10. Tungsten

Roles of the Chemical Elements in the W2 Steel

Each chemical constituent in steel is added for a purpose. So, we focus on the purpose of the elements in the W2 steel.

1. Chromium

It has a small percentage of 0.15%. Chromium is responsible for the corrosion resistance but for the W2 steel, it is added to increase its hardenability. Moreover, it improves the wearing resistance, edge retention, corrosion resistance, and tensile strength.

2. Sulfur

It has the least composition of 0.025%. It adds to the machinability of the W2 steel. Sulfur is added in small amounts since large portions of it decrease the toughness of the steel.

3. Carbon

Among the minor elements, carbon has the highest percentage of 1.15%. Carbon is responsible for the hardness and wearing resistance of the steel. It increases the corrosion resistance too.

4. Molybdenum

Molybdenum has a composition of 0.10% in the W2 steel. It adds to the hardenability, machinability, and tensile strength of the W2 steel.

5. Tungsten

Just like chromium, tungsten takes up 0.15% of the W2 steel. Not only does it boost the hardenability of the steel but also the toughness and strength too.

6. Vanadium

Vanadium is added to the steel in different compositions between 0.15% and 0.35%. It adds to the toughness and hardenability of the W2 steel.

7. Copper

It has a composition of 0.20% which increases the corrosion resistance of the W2 steel.

8. Nickel

Nickel enhances the steel strength and toughness of the W2 steel. It forms 0.20% of the W2 steel.

9. Silicon and Manganese

These two elements constitute 0.25% of the W2 steel. They both enhance the hardness and tensile strength of the W2 steel.

Features of the W2 Steel

The edge retention

The high carbon content in the W2 makes it hard steel. Therefore, it has great edge retention meaning it can retain its sharpness for a long time.

The Corrosion Resistance

Chromium accounts for the corrosion resistance in steel. However, the W2 steel has a very low composition making it vulnerable to corrosion by items such as water, food particles, acids just to mention but a few.

The Wear resistance

The high carbon content in the W2 steel gives it moderate wear resistance. Additionally, chromium adds to its wear resistance.

The ease of sharpening

Being hard steel, sharpening the W2 steel won’t be an easy task but it can still be sharpened.

The Hardness

The W2 steel hardness will range from 62HRC to 65HRC (Rockwell Hardness). The different figures are determined by how it is hardened during the heat treatment.


The toughness of the steel is okay. However, this will vary depending on its hardness. An increase in the Rockwell Hardness decreases its toughness.

Is W2 Steel Good for Knives?

The W2 steel has a series of features that are good for knives: edge retention, wear resistance, toughness. Therefore, it can make good steel for knives but this depends on the type of knife you want.

Its low corrosion resistance makes it a disadvantage when targeting outdoor knives. Additionally, it cannot perform many tasks as it will wear out easily. However, you can work your way around the low corrosion resistance through good maintenance:

  1. Cleaning after use.
  2. Oiling and sharpening the knife regularly.
  3. Using the knife for the right purpose.

The Bottom Line

With the above review, we can see that the W2 steel can make a good choice for knives. It is also an affordable knife for you. However, this will all depend on your purpose for the knife and other preferences in your list.

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