Sometimes, you find yourself replacing knives more often than not. There are knives that promise extreme durability but they don’t seem to last. This is very true for knives that are on the cheaper price range.
D2 knives are cheap but still have good wear resistance. Most D2 steel knives are easy to manufacture.
D2 steel knives like the Leatherneck can be your next forever knife.
What is D2 steel?
D2 is a high-chromium, high-carbon alloy tool steel. Its high-wear resistance is ideal for tools that need less frequent sharpening. It’s ideal for cutting and deformation tools. D2 has the highest carbon composition among tool steels. Its high-polish finish makes it look like stainless steel despite a chromium content of only 11.5%. Because of this, the D2 is sometimes known as a “semi-stainless steel.”
D2 steel belongs to the cold-work group of tool steels. This means the D2 steel undergoes shaping after cooling. D2 steel is also made by using air-quenching or oil-quenching. The result will allow the D2 steel to keep its hardness.
Common Uses of D2 steel
D2 steel’s high hardness is ideal for manufacturing equipment. It’s also good for knives. Other than those, D2 is good for:
- tire choppers (or tire shredders, whichever you fancy)
- forming dies (to manipulate metal sheets)
- scrap choppers (click for a demo video)
- hydraulic punches (an industrial version of your office puncher)
- slitters (thin wheels that press onto metal sheets to cut them)
D2 steel Chemical Composition
The D2 steel’s chemical makeup is very like other tool steels. The numbers shown here are averages. They may not reflect other manufacturer’s specifications for D2. Variations in makeup may happen for each manufacturer.
- Carbon, 1.55%
- Manganese, 0.35%
- Molybdenum, 0.75%
- Chromium, 11.75%
- Silicon, 0.30%
- Phosphorus, 0.20%
- Sulfur, 0.005%
Carbon, 1.55%: Compared even to other “high carbon” steels, this contains a lot of carbon. It’s this amount of carbon that accounts for much of the D2 steel hardness and edge retention.
Manganese, 0.35%: It helps with hardenability and tensile strength, and boosts the machinability of the steel.
Molybdenum, 0.75%: It increases hardenability, strength in elevated temperatures, and creep strength, and also helps with corrosion resistance.
Chromium, 11.75%: This falls short of the required chromium content for what’s considered “stainless steel”. But it offers better corrosion resistance among the non-stainless-steel types. That’s why D2 steel is regarded as “semi-stainless” steel.
Silicon, 0.30%: Like manganese (but to a lesser extent), it boosts hardness and strength. But only a little is needed, as too much silicon can lead to cracking issues.
Phosphorus, 0.20%: You shouldn’t have too much phosphorus, since it makes steel brittle. But you have just enough here that it helps with boosting machinability and tensile strength.
Sulfur, 0.005%: Why so little sulfur? Too much and it’s bad for the steel. It’s why it’s generally regarded as an impurity. But this very tiny amount can help with impact toughness, ductility, and machinability.
D2 Steel Hardness
The D2 steel hardness scores differ depending on the heating treatment. At 150 degrees Celsius, it’s 62/61. At 200 degrees Celsius, it fluctuates between 61 and 60. At 250, it scores between 60 and 59. It drops to 56/57 at 300 degrees Celsius. It continues to drop a point for every 50-degree decrease, down to 400 degrees Celsius.
Properties of D2 Steel
You can expect the following characteristics when you have a knife made with D2 steel:
Fantastic Edge Retention
This isn’t really surprising, when you consider the hardness of D2 steel. The sharp edge will remain sharp for a quite a long time, when other blades have already dulled.
Difficult to Sharpen
This is the main drawback of the hardness, though. We put this near the top of this list of properties because you need to prepare for this issue. The D2 steel is exceedingly difficult to sharpen.
You better be an expert at sharpening, or else you need to have an expert sharpen your D2 steel blade for you.
Not Quite Stainless Steel
It doesn’t have enough chromium to technically qualify as stainless steel, but it’s close. So, for corrosion resistance the stainless steels will perform better than the D2 steel.
But compared to other steels who also aren’t stainless steels, the D2 steel resists corrosion much better than anything else.
D2 Equivalent Steels or Alternative
Now we know that D2 steel can resist wear in extended periods. But how does it fare against other kinds of tool steels? In this part of our D2 steel review, we’re going to look at other tool steels. Let’s check if D2 is better, or worse, than 440C, S30V, AUS8, or 1095.
D2 Steel vs 440C
Let’s talk about corrosion. 440C resists corrosion well. There’s a trend in tool steels for corrosion. If the tool steel has lower hardness, it will resist corrosion better. 440C in this case has a lower hardness, thus, it’s more resistant to chemical wear.
D2 has better edge retention. You won’t need to resharpen a D knife2 as often as you would the 440C. But it will lose sharpness. The upside of “soft” tool steels are they are easier to sharpen.
D2 Steel vs S30V
S30V manufactures the steel using powder metallurgy. The finer carbides in the S30V will provide excellent toughness. This will allow an S30V to have a uniform distribution of toughness. S30V’s more complicated manufacturing process also means it’s more expensive.
D2 has a more simplified process. Manufacturing D2 does not need powder metallurgy, hence, is cheaper. Although the D2 has a decent hardness, it’s almost on the same level as the S30V’s. In this case, D2 performs close to S30V. The only difference is material quality.
D2 Steel vs AUS8
AUS8 is like 440C in that it is also stainless steel. D2 scores higher on the hardness scale despite the extra vanadium on AUS8. The extra vanadium on AUS8 increases resistance to corrosion. Toughness is also an advantage in the AUS8.
D2 wins better edge retention because of its innate hardness. There will be a minor difficulty in whetting the D2 blades. The advantage is re-sharpening is not going to be frequent. D2 blades will be sharper for a longer time.
D2 Steel vs 1095
1095 is a carbon alloy. The advantage of carbon alloys over regular tool steels is ease of sharpening. 1095 alloy can cut sharper. The problem with carbon alloys is their inability to resist wear.
D2 has bigger carbide inclusions than 1095. This is both a weakness and a strength. D2 will resist wear longer than a 1095. A 1095 is tougher due to finer carbide inclusions. That’s why D2 steel knives sometimes chip.
Is D2 steel good for knives?
If you’d like to KEEP your blades sharp for a long time, then yes, D2 is good material for knives. One only has to sharpen D2 knives less frequent than carbon alloy blades. We recommend this cheaper alternative if you’re looking to spend less.
What makes the D2 great is its price. True, it may not be on par with premium knives. But it is worth the investment if the knife edge doesn’t wear on every use. Some may not like the patina or stain on a D2. For any tool, taking care of it is the key. This is unless you like the rustic (no pun intended) appearance on a D2 when it “ages.”
Pros & Cons of D2 steel
Best D2 Steel Knives
The best D2 Steel Knives review shows the best and most relevant knives only. We’ve handpicked some knives which may be good for your needs.
#1: Cold Steel Leatherneck Sf Tool Knife, One Size
- Weight: 11.7oz
- Blade Thickness: 5mm
- Blade Length: 6-3/4″
- Handle Length/Material: 5″ Griv-Ex™
- Overall Length: 11-3/4″
This D2 knife by Cold Steel industries looks powerful. It’s long, it’s black, and it’s sharp. The grip has a scaly texture and should make handling the knife easy. Measuring 6-¾ and weighing only 1.4 pounds, it’s a portable knife.
This knife is ideal for hunting. Cutting, slicing, or stabbing should be a breeze with the long blade. The black dusting on the blade also works as a secondary protection. Leatherneck has the logo on the blade and should add aesthetic. The Coldsteel brand is also indented to the handle.
The knife comes with a standard plastic sheath. The matte finish on the blade gives a dull sheen in direct light. The cross guards provide some kind of protection. The pommel is also made of steel and functions as a hammer. It can break a hollow block with enough force given. The blade cuts through most material.
#2: CIVIVI Knives Elementum Folding Pocket Knife
- Overall Length: 6.99″ / 177.6mm
- Blade Length: 2.96″ / 75.2mm
- Closed Length: 4.03″ / 102.4mm
- Blade Thickness: 0.12″ / 3mm
- Handle Thickness: 0.43″ / 11mm
- Weight: 2.89oz / 82g
- Blade Material: D2
- Blade Hardness: 59-61HRC
- Blade Finish: Satin
- Handle Material: G10
The Elementum folding knife looks pretty. The olive green handle is reminiscent of outdoors. The Elementum Folding pocket knife handle is also made of fiberglass. It’s a good basic knife for a day in the woods. Miniature scales on the handles should provide a fair amount of grip.
Locking mechanism is a flipper mechanized with steel ball bearings. This should make flipping the blade effortless. It’s a very decent pocket knife. The blade measures almost 3 inches. Folded, it fits into the 7” handle.
There’s an even weight distribution along the knife body. The metal counterweight in the handle should assist in handling the knife. The blade has a satin finish that is beautiful and “calming” to look at.
The blade edge is simple, not serrated. It curves into a tip that can be useful for prying. The curvature at the last quarter of the blade should ease blade on entry when piercing.
#3: KATSU Handmade D2 Steel Blade knife
- Total Length: 7.5 inches
- Closed Length: 4.5 inches
- Blade Length: 3 inches
- Blade thickness: 3.5 mm
- Blade: Damascus Steel
- Handel: Damascus Steel
- Item weight: 96g
- Imported from: USA.
This bamboo-inspired knife is a work of art. It has one of the most unique handles we’ve ever seen. The shape of the blade matches the handle. It has oriental vibes and has the Katsu logo on embossed on the blade.
A protrusion on the neck of the knife should make it easy to flip it open. The blade is also cut in a diagonal fashion. It doesn’t have the usual rounded or tipped edges we see on other blades. This blade is all sorts of geometrical.
Katsu crafted the handle with fibreglass. It’s the lightest on our D2 steel knife review. Weighing at 3.36 ounces, it should be comfortable to use. The 3” blade fits well into the 4” casing. It’s the most balanced blade on this list yet.
The shape of the blade isn’t accidental either. Japan calls this type of blade a “higonokami.”
We found out what sets D2 apart from other tool steels. In this D2 steel review, we mentioned some products. Three great knives with three distinct features. One of these knives looked deadly. The second one was simple and efficient. The third one was a piece of art. And the third one is the best. It’s beautiful and functional.
Click here for an in-depth look into higonokami and why we liked it. Which one do you think deserves the most attention? Let us know in the comments section.
The D2 steel is a cheap and great alternative for tool steels. You can save a lot of money if you buy D2 steel knives. It’s worth the investment.