D2 Steel: Is it a Good Knife Steel?

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Many steel knives swear by maximum durability. However, when used frequently, they just do not last. This mostly applies to cheap knives. However, there are exceptions here. You will be able to find steel knives that are affordable but last truly long.  D2 steel knives are known to be extremely durable than some high-end premium knives and affordable.

What is D2 Steel?

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D2 is air-hardening tool steel having high chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, and carbon elements.  It refers to a die type of material, which is evident from the letter D in its name.

In the category of tool steels, D2 has the highest content of carbon. Its typical appearance of a high-polish finish gives a feeling of it being a type of stainless steel, although the chromium content being 11.5% to 12.0%.

According to many experts, any steel to be a type of stainless steel must have at least 13% chromium. Therefore, the D2 tool steel is, at times, called semi-stainless steel.

To avoid confusion, D2 officially belongs to a tool steel group named high carbon, high chromium steels. It is also a part of the cold-work category of tool steels, as it is given the desired shape after cooling. As this steel is also made using the process of oil quenching or air quenching, it can retain its hardness.

Steel grades having high chromium, high carbon were introduced as alternatives to high-speed steels in the early 20th century. They were similar to the D3 tool steel featuring 2.2% carbon. However, the amount of carbon was then brought down to 1.5%, and vanadium and molybdenum were added to boost hardenability and toughness.

This tool steel differs from CPM-D2, a relatively novel grade of steel following the CPM methodology of the Crucible brand. This new steel was introduced to reduce the carbides’ size in D2 for boosting corrosion resistance and toughness.

This high-carbon alloy steel is considered ideal for tools for which the users would prefer less frequent sharpening. At present, it is used for making deformation and cutting tools.

Chemical Composition

Following are the components of this high carbon, semi-stainless steel:

  • 1.5% Carbon: For more hardness level as well as better resistance to wear as well as corrosion
  • 12% Chromium: For more tensile strength, edge retention, and prevention of corrosion and wear
  • 1.1% Vanadium: For better strength, wear and corrosion resistance, and toughness
  • 0.9% Molybdenum: For more hardenability, strength, hardness, and toughness
  •  0.45% Manganese: For more hardenability, forgeability, and wear resistance
  • 0.40% Silicon: For more strength
  • 0.03% Phosphorus: For more strength
  • 0.02% Sulfur: For improved machinability

Steel Hardness

The hardness level of D2 steel ranges from 55 to 62 HRC on the Rockwell scale of hardness. This range of hardness ensures boosted edge holding ability as well as wear resistance. The exact level of hardness varies as per the heating treatment applied.

Steel Properties

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The chemical composition of the D2 steel governs its properties. Let’s explore them!

  • Toughness: As D2 can have a rating of 62 HRC, it is considered quite hard. Thus, its level of toughness is low. The harder the steel, the less tough it is! However, the toughness level is not too low; it is enough to withstand some abuse without breaking or chipping. If you are looking for heavy-duty tasks such as batoning, it is ideal to consider other tougher steels.
  • Terrific Wear Resistance: This what makes D2 tool steel quite popular in the world of knives. It is considered the king of wear resistance by many knife users. The credit for this goes to the ideal mix of carbon, chromium, vanadium, and manganese. Due to extreme resistance to wear, a D2 steel knife is highly resistant to abrasion, unlike most carbon and stainless steel types.
  • Excellent Edge Retention: This is another commendable property of the D2 tool steel. Because of high hardness, you can expect great edge retention. The credit goes to the high carbon as well as chromium content. This high level of hardness is a major factor contributing to sustaining a sharp edge for longer than most affordable steel. D2 steel knives will not disappoint you if you wish to get rid of frequent sharpening.
  • Okay Corrosion Resistance: Although D2 is not a pure stainless-steel option, the chromium content is quite close to the desired amount. Thus, when it comes to corrosion resistance, D2 doesn’t perform as well as stainless steel. However, it resists corrosion better than many other non-stainless steels. Although susceptible to catch rust, this steel will not rust very easily. Consider drying the knife every time after using it.
  • Ease of Sharpening: The high hardness level makes it tough for anyone to sharpen a D2 knife. However, this does not mean you cannot sharpen it at all. What it means is that you will end up spending more time and effort in getting an ultra-sharp edge than that spent in sharpening softer steel grades. You will also need a diamond-based sharpener for better results.

Comparison With Other Knife Steel Options

D2 vs. 440C

440 resists corrosion as well as wear better than D2, because of more chromium and carbon content. However, in the case of edge retention, D2 wins as it is harder.

D2 vs. 400 Series

D2 vs. S30V

Made using the process of powder metallurgy, S30V has finer carbides ensuring terrific, uniform toughness. It is a premium-grade option that ensures better corrosion resistance and edge retention than D2. It is also easier to sharpen. Due to the complicated metallurgy process, S30V is costlier.

D2 vs. CPM-S30V

D2 vs. AUS8

The latter one is a stainless steel alloy. Thus, AUS8 can resist corrosion a bit better than D2 and is very easy to sharpen. On the other hand, D2 has better edge retention due to its high level of hardness.

D2 vs. AUS-8

D2 vs. 1095

As a carbon alloy, 1095 is easier to sharpen than D2. However, it cannot resist wear. Due to higher carbide content, D2 resists wear better than 1095. Nevertheless, 1095 is tougher because of finer carbides. Thus, D2 is at more risk of chipping than 1095.

D2 vs. 1095

D2 vs. VG10

D2 wins over VG10 in terms of edge retention. It is also a bit tougher. However, VG10 is better when it comes to rust resistance and ease of sharpening.

D2 vs. VG-10

Top D2 Steel Knives

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So, is D2 Steel Good?

Yes, the D2 tool steel is a good choice for knives not intended for heavy-duty tasks such as batoning. It is known for its superb edge retention and extremely high wear resistance but offers relatively poor corrosion resistance compared to stainless steel.