420J2 Steel: Is it a Good Knife Steel?

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If you are searching for affordable knives, chances are high for you to spot knives made of 420J2 steel. It is among the popular steels known to resist corrosion satisfactorily. It’s cheaper than all the other steels in the 400 series. You will not buy it just because it is cheap; you will buy it only if it suits your requirements without compromising your budget. So, let’s explore it!

What is 420J2 Steel?

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420J2 refers to a type of low-end, general-purpose steel. It is a stainless-steel alloy that is identified using other names such as EN56D, SAE 51420, and AISI 420. In the 400 series known for sharpening ease and high corrosion, its alias is 420B.

This material belongs to the family of surgical steels, as it is used in making surgical devices on a large scale. It is attributed to easy machining ability as well as good corrosion resistance. It is also easy to grind and features a smooth, fine polished surface.

Although used in making surgical tools, 420J2 is not a type of tool steel, unlike what most knife makers claim. The reason why it is used for making surgical tools is its set of favorable properties: Corrosion resistance and good machinability (processing power).

The steel is also used in making a variety of cutting tools such as swords, daggers, diving knives, budget knives for outdoor and kitchen use, scissors for cutting hair, and domestic scissors. It is widely used in making knife blades meant for light to medium use as well as daily applications.

All alloys in this series are magnetic. Thus, devices and tools made using the 420J2 stainless steel can benefit. For example, a screwdriver made using this material makes it easier to pick screws.

Although not made initially for making blades, this steel finally reached the hands of knife makers due to its great machinability as well as high affordability.

Chemical Composition

420J2 has more chromium content and relatively less carbon content. Due to high chromium content, it belongs to the category of stainless steel. Similarly, due to less carbon content, it is recognized as a low-end steel option. Following are the different constituents of this low-end stainless steel:

  • 0.32% Carbon: For more resistance to wear and corrosion as well as more hardness
  • 14% Chromium: For as high as possible tensile strength, toughness, hardness, edge retention, and resistance to corrosion and wear
  • 1% Nickel: For improved toughness
  • 1% Manganese: For great resistance to wear, hardenability, and forgeability
  • 1% Silicon: For better strength
  • 0.04% Phosphorus: For better strength
  • 0.04% Sulfur: For better machinability

In terms of chemical composition, 420J2 seems to be quite similar to the Chinese 3Cr13 steel. So, both ensure high toughness and good resistance to corrosion. However, they are not that hard due to which wear resistance is not high. However, both belong to the same price range.

Steel Hardness

On the Rockwell C scale of hardness, 420J2 steel gains a rating of up to 56 HRC. However, this is only possible with proper heat treatment. Still, this hardness rating is considered neither too low nor too high.

However, considering the low carbon content, it is tagged as a low level of hardness. This is because the higher the carbon content, the greater is the hardness gained at the time of heat treatment. This is also the reason why this steel is cheaper than other steels in the 400 series.

Steel Properties

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The chemical composition of the J2 steel aids in identifying its properties. So, let’s check them out!

  • Incredibly Tough: The 420J2 knife steel is an unbelievably durable option. This is because of its low hardness level, which directly means more toughness. This is beneficial because your 420J2 knife will not chip or break when put to tough use or under impact.
  • Good Corrosion Resistance: This is another area where 420J2 stainless steel glows. The issue of corrosion is a critical one when it is a matter of metals. However, if the metal is stainless steel, this issue hardly exists. This steel resists a variety of acids, ammonia, detergent liquids, crude oil, vinegar, steam, and several petroleum products. This is even though carbon reacts strongly to acids. It is the low quantity of carbon that ensures such resistance. Another reason for good resistance to corrosion from these elements is high chromium content. These attributes make it a good candidate for tools to be used in corrosive conditions. Further, the steel’s strength is good and has good impact-resistant properties in tempered or hardened conditions.
  • Ease of Sharpening: You can resharpen a 420J2 edge easily. This is because it is a softer steel. You can quickly get a sharp edge by using any standard sharpener. Just as it becomes dull quickly, so does it transforms itself into razor-like sharpness. Remember, knife reliability is directly dependent on its ability to remain sharp in any environment even if it covers quick sharpening.
  • Poor Wear Resistance: You cannot expect this steel to resist wear and tear when put to hard use. The reason for this is again low carbon content that brings down its hardness rating.
  • Poor Edge Retention: This is where this steel lacks in performance. The credit goes to the low carbon content in its composition due to which the edge holding ability is poor. Still, it is not a bad option, as there are many other lower-end steels.

420J2 vs. Other Knife Steel Options

To measure the performance of any steel or metal, it is imperative to compare it with their competitive options.

420J2 versus 420HC

The latter steel has better edge retention ability and better resistance to wear than the former. This is because of its higher carbon content. Nevertheless, 420J2 is tougher and has more corrosion resistance properties. Both steels are easy to sharpen.

420J2 versus 8Cr13MoV

The latter Chinese steel has more carbon content hence it can sustain a sharp edge for a longer time and resists wear better than 420J2. Although corrosion resistance is ensured by both steels, 420J2 is tougher and easier to sharpen. Both are cheap steel options but 8Cr13MoV is more affordable and does not compromise performance.

420J2 versus AUS 8

Both steels come from Japan but AUS8 has better edge retention ability as well as hardness than 420J2. While the toughness level is the same, AUS 8 is more resistant to corrosion as well. However, it is an expensive option to consider.

Top 420J2 Knives

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So, Is 420J2 Steel Good?

Yes, it is suitable mainly for knives like fillet knives, boning knives. This is because of its good resistance to corrosion property as well as good toughness that keeps chipping away. Indeed, a 420J2 steel knife will not retain its sharp edge for long, but it is easier to sharpen it. Thus, if you are looking for a knife with a limited budget, this steel can be a decent choice for your knife blade.