Knives in the kitchen should have the highest resistance to corrosion. You don’t want to be throwing away your knives in frustration because they rust easy.
420J2 is a cheap steel made for a lot of things and one of them is knives. Our goal in this 420J2 steel review is to give you information about why this stainless steel is good. Especially in the kitchen.
What is 420J2 Steel?
420J2 steel is a stainless-steel grade alloy. It’s known by other names like AISI 420, SAE 51420, or even EN56D. There are actually 9 more designations but we’re not going to list all of them.
The 420J2 steel’s alias is 420B in the 400 series of stainless steels. The 400 series is a popular choice for knife makers because of its high corrosion and ease of sharpening.
All of the alloys in the 400 series are magnetic, so tools made from 420J2 steel can benefit from this property. One good example would be for Philipps screw drivers. It’s going to make picking screws up easier.
Common Uses of 420J2 Steel
Here are some of the things 420J2 steel is best suited for:
- Surgical knives, including forceps, clamps, and specula
- Barber shears or hairdressing shears
- Budget knives for the kitchen or outdoor use
- Diving knives for cutting fish lines that get stuck
420J2 Steel Chemical Composition
Ever wonder what really goes into 420J2 steel? You got that right! As with many other steels in the 400 series, they have carbon. The following is the chemical makeup of 420J2.
- Carbon (varies from 0.15% to 0.36%)
- Chromium (14%)
- Manganese (1%)
- Nickel (1%)
- Phosphorus (1%)
- Silicon (1%)
- Sulfur (0.03%)
Carbon (varies from 0.15% to 0.36%):. This is a low amount of carbon, and carbon leads to hardness. With the lower hardness you get, you enjoy greater toughness (resistance to chipping).
Chromium (14%):. This is more than enough chromium to qualify the steel as stainless steel. That makes it very resistance to corrosion, so it’s great for wet settings and kitchen work.
Manganese (1%):. Most steel types contain at least 0.30%, as it’s like carbon in enhancing hardness. It also boosts tensile strength. This is a bit more manganese as usual, to compensate for the low carbon level.
Nickel (1%):. There’s a lot of nickel here, and it helps in many ways. It enhances notch and fracture toughness, and even boosts corrosion resistance too.
Phosphorus (1%):. The low level of carbon here also allows for more phosphorus in the mix. It increases the strength of the steel, while it also enhances corrosion resistance.
Silicon (1%):. The main purpose of silicon in steel production is to take out oxygen bubbles in the molten steel. It helps in increasing the hardness and strength of the steel, but this effect is not as great as with the manganese.
Sulfur (0.03%):. This small amount boosts the machinability of the steel, and enhances its notched impact toughness.
The values presented may vary depending on the manufacturer. It’s already standard that for most stainless steels, they will have a high amount of chromium. It’s what gives the “chrome” finish.
All of the metals here except for silicon and sulfur are direct components of the steel. This means they contribute directly to the makeup. Silicon and sulfur are deoxidizers. They will fuse with the oxygen that gets mixed in during the heating process.
The compounds formed by silicon and sulfur will drop from the alloy. This happens at some point in the manufacturing process. Deoxidation is important in a metal as oxygen makes the metal weaker.
420J2 Steel Hardness
The 420J2 or 420B has a hardness of 40 in the HRC scale. It’s not surprising that the 420J2 scores only 40. The other 400 series steels have a higher carbon content. The higher the carbon that an alloy has, the higher hardness it gains during heat treatment. This also makes 420J2 relatively cheaper.
Properties of 420J2 Steel
For this section of our 420J2 steel review, we’re going to discuss the qualities that make a steel good.
The 420J2 has a carbon content of 0.15% to 0.36%. The 440A, for example, has a carbon content of at least 0.60%. That’s twice as much carbon. The 440A scores an average of 60 on the HRC scale. This means 420J2 will be “softer” and easier to bend than 440A. Chipping on the blade edge will be more frequent on a 440A than on a 420J2.
Due to the lower hardness 420J2 has, it’s not going to be as stiff as a 440A. Metal “flexibility” is important. It’s a well-known engineering fact that better bridges will bend or sway with the wind.
The same thing goes for knives or small steel tools. If more than enough pressure deforms a blade, then it’s a guarantee it will not break.
Here’s a picture of a bridge. The carbon present in the alloy acts like the steel cables that allow the bridge to bend.
This part is where low carbon alloys shine most. Corrosion is a big issue for any kind of material. For metals, it’s an even bigger problem. Knife reliability is only as good as its ability to stay sharp in any environment. 420J2 can resist most acids. Diluted forms of nitric and carbonic acids do not compromise the 420J2.
Watch this video of different metals dipped into acid. The farther an element goes to the right of the periodic table, the more reactive it will be to an acid. Carbon is one of these elements that react strongly with acids.
Easier to Work With
A lower carbon doesn’t limit its benefits to toughness and resistance to corrosion only. The 420J2 will be easier to mold and shape than its 440 cousins. This makes 420J2 steel easier to manufacture. The general rule is if it comes out “tougher”, it is because it was “easier” to mold.
420J2 Equivalent Steels or Alternative
So, we know the 420J2 excels in toughness and resistance to corrosion. Let’s see how these qualities stack up to other kinds of steel.
420J2 vs 440C Steel
The 440C is cousin to the 420J2 as they belong to the 400 series. Both have carbon but one has an advantage over the other. 440C has a higher hardenability during heat treatments. This is because of the higher amounts of carbon. We’ve made comparisons for 420J2 and 440A and we found that 420J2 isn’t exactly hard metal.
It’s tough metal for sure. The 440C will have better edge retention and can withstand point-impact due to its high hardness. The tradeoff for this is the lower resistance to corrosion.
420J2 vs 420HC Steel
Still in the same category as the 400 series, 420HC is the closest stainless steel to 420J2. The 420HC has 0.45% carbon. A slight alteration in the alloy actually makes a difference in the manufacturing. With a more complicated process, the price is bound to be higher. The 420J2 is the cheaper of these two options.
The 420J2 still has lower hardness, but it still has more resistance to corrosion than the 420HC. The advantage 420HC has over 420J2 is its ability to retain an edge longer.
420J2 vs VG10 Steel
One of the best all-rounders, VG10 prides itself with ease of machinability. This is only true when comparing it to 440C steels which can reach HRC’s of 60. The 420J2 doesn’t have this kind of hardness, so the 420J2 actually is easier to mold.
420J2 steel compared to VG10 is like comparing an emerald to a diamond. Both are beautiful, but diamonds are more expensive and for good reason. If people would want to work with an easier metal, they should go for 420J2 instead of VG10.
Is 420J2 Steel Good for Knives?
Yes. The 420J2 steel is good for KITCHEN knives. Or any knives that require prolonged exposure to corrosives. That’s why most diving knives will have 420J2 or any other alloy that has lower carbon or no carbon at all.
Food in the kitchen will have all sorts of acids and enzymes. This is what makes food great – a variety of acids make food palatable. And acids aren’t exactly friendly with carbon. In addition to corrosion, you wouldn’t want your food tasting like steel, would you?
So, for chefs or home cooks, (or fishermen), read this: steel knives from 420J2 are your friends!
Pros & Cons of 420J2 Steel
- Extremely resistant to corrosion because of the very low carbon in the alloy
- Will bend, but not break (it’s literally tough as nails, iron nails to be specific)
- Doesn’t give food a metallic taste (great news for chefs and cooks)
- Most 420J2 steel knives will be cheaper, as a consequence of easier manufacturing
- If you’re a metal worker, 420J2 will be easier to make because of a lack of complex elements.
- Doesn’t retain an edge longer unlike its 440 cousins because of the lower hardness.
- Striking it on any harder surface will instant dull the blade. (Use only wooden chopping boards!)
Best 420J2 Steel Knives
We present two of the best 420J2 steel knives you can buy from Amazon. Read more about these great 420J2 steel knives.
#1: CRKT Snap Lock Folding Pocket Knife
- Blade Length: 2.55″ (64.87 mm)
- Blade Edge: Plain
- Blade Finish: Bead Blast
- Blade Thickness: 0.12″ (3.15 mm)
- Overall Length: 6.25″ (158.75 mm)
- Closed Length: 4.21″ (106.86 mm)
- Weight: 2.50 oz. (70.87g)
- Style: Folding Knife w/Snap Lock
This knife is straight up steampunk. It doesn’t have a solid handle but employs a skeletal handle. We suppose it helps with the weight because the knife weighs 2.4 ounces. Not bad if we’re talking about portability.
The see-through gimmick for CRKT Snap Lock knife lets you watch the lock mechanism in action. You will spend some time appreciating how locks work in pocket knives with this product.
The handle is also made from the same material the blade uses. 420J2 will work its corrosion resistance while in your hands. It doesn’t bother with the occasional sweat at all. It’s a good knife for both indoors and outdoors. It’s good people who spend time adventuring in the wilds as it’s easily portable.
Personally, we’d keep this in a glass box for display. It’s too beautiful to use.
- Very lightweight due to less build material.
- Corrosion resistant from handle to blade. (with emphasis on the unique handle)
- Unique skeletal build that lets you see the locking mechanism in action.
- Cam lever mechanism for flipping the knife open. (it’s very easy to use, just press it down while you flip the blade out)
- The knife might slip from your hands due to the skeletal frame.
- You won’t be able to hold this from the side because of the lack of grip.
#2: Buck Knives 0371BRS Stockman 3 Blade Pocket Knife
- BLADE SHAPE: Multiple Blade Shapes
- WEIGHT: 3.1 oz. (88.3 g)
- HANDLE: Woodgrain with nickel silver bolsters
- CARRY SYSTEM: Pocket
- ORIGIN: Imported
This knife is perfect for the handyman. It’s a multi-blade, and multi-function knife. Let’s say it’s a step down from a Swiss army knife but with reliable build quality. The knife measures 3.88 x 0.5 x 1 inches and weighs about 3.04 Ounces. A bit heavier than our skeleton knife.
People who want to make delicate slices with the main blade will be able to. The handle has ample surface from the sides for better control. It’s a good outdoor cooking knife. We know we said you’d be expecting kitchen knives for 420J2. These two products are better than kitchen knives.
The craftsmanship on the knife is good too. The wooden handle complements the silver mirror finish. We’d love to see the finish in gold too. It has a more classic and expensive look to it. It’s still beautiful nonetheless.
- Three blades for three different functions. (All of them can chip wood easier than a Swiss army knife)
- Wood handle provides excellent control over the knife
- Even with three blades, this knife is light on the hands.
- Whole knife is comfortable to use, whether you have big hands or small.
- The blades are on rivets and secured to the handle.
- Not really a collector’s item despite the beautiful wood handle. (not exactly a complaint)
- The place of the third blade would have been more convenient.
The 420J2 is a good steel that is ideal for kitchen knives and outdoor knives. It’s very resistant to corrosion when compared to its 400 series siblings. With a lower carbon content, knife makers will appreciate how easy it will be to shape the steel.
For chefs and divers, the knife will resist harsh salty water and acids. It will not affect the taste of the food or have seawater damage. It can retain an edge, although not as better as more premium knives. It’s also a lot cheaper.
We recommend the Buck Knives 0371BRS Stockman because of its functionality. Do you think we should feature kitchen knives for our steel reviews? Comment down below.