Is D2 Good Knife Steel? (Quick Answer For Non-Experts)

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Last updated on July 10th, 2023 at 12:05 am

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D2 steel, known for its high wear resistance, hardness, and good toughness, has become an increasingly popular choice for knife makers. Its affordability compared to high-end steel knives and versatility makes it an attractive option for those looking to invest in quality knives for various tasks. With a high carbon content and large carbides, D2 steel excels in wear resistance, but its toughness may be a point of concern for some users.

As knives made with D2 steel are becoming more prevalent in the market, it’s essential to understand its properties and performance to determine if it meets your specific needs. The selection of a knife steel depends on factors like personal preference, the intended use of the knife, and, of course, budget. This article will delve into the characteristics of D2 steel, its advantages, and its disadvantages, helping you make an informed decision for your next knife purchase.

Overview of D2 Steel

D2 steel is a high-carbon, high-chromium tool steel that is known for its hardness and wear resistance. It is commonly used in making knives due to its balance of toughness, edge retention, and ease of sharpening. In this section, we will discuss the composition of D2 steel, as well as its properties and performance.

Composition of D2 Steel

The composition of D2 steel is as follows:

  • Carbon: 1.4-1.6%
  • Chromium: 11-13%
  • Manganese: 0.2-0.6%
  • Silicon: 0.2-0.6%
  • Phosphorus: ≤0.03%
  • Sulfur: ≤0.03%
  • Vanadium: 0.5-1.1%

The high carbon and chromium content in D2 steel make it a popular choice for knife making, as they contribute to its hardness, wear resistance, and stain resistance.

Properties and Performance

Hardness: D2 steel has a hardness ranging from 55-62 HRC, making it one of the harder tool steels available. This hardness allows for excellent edge retention and the ability to withstand wear and tear.

Wear Resistance: Due to its high chromium content, D2 steel offers good wear resistance. This means that knives made from D2 steel can maintain their cutting edge longer, even after extended use.

Toughness: While D2 steel is not known for its exceptional toughness, it still possesses adequate toughness for most knife applications. The addition of small amounts of manganese, silicon, and vanadium contribute to this toughness.

Corrosion Resistance: Though not fully stainless, the high chromium content in D2 steel provides a level of corrosion resistance that surpasses many other tool steels. This makes it suitable for use in knives that may be exposed to moisture or other corrosive environments.

Overall, D2 steel offers a good balance of hardness, wear resistance, and toughness for knife making. Its high carbon and chromium content make it a popular choice for knives that require edge retention and stain resistance. While not the toughest tool steel available, it still possesses enough toughness for most knife applications and provides a level of corrosion resistance that exceeds many other tool steels. Its qualities make it a popular choice for both custom and industry knife makers.

Benefits of D2 Steel in Knives

D2 steel is a popular choice for knife makers due to its unique properties, which make it an excellent choice for a variety of applications. In this section, we will discuss the key benefits of D2 steel in knives, including its edge retention, toughness, and wear resistance.

Edge Retention

One of the key benefits of D2 steel is its excellent edge retention. This is due to its high carbon content and the presence of other elements such as chromium and molybdenum. The high carbon content allows the steel to maintain a sharp edge for a long time, even under heavy use. This makes D2 steel an ideal choice for knives that require a sharp and durable edge, such as everyday carry knives and outdoor survival knives.


Another advantage of D2 steel is its toughness. While it may not be as tough as some other popular knife steels such as 5160 or 52100, D2 offers a good balance of toughness and hardness. This means that knives made from D2 steel are less likely to chip or break during use, making them a reliable option for individuals who use their knives frequently. The adequate toughness of D2 steel ensures that the knife can withstand the rigors of daily use without sacrificing performance.

Wear Resistance

D2 steel is also known for its impressive wear resistance, which is due in part to the presence of chromium and molybdenum. These elements help to increase the steel’s hardness and resistance to corrosion, as well as improving its overall performance. Knives made from D2 steel can maintain their sharpness and overall functionality even after prolonged use, making them an excellent choice for individuals looking for a long-lasting and low-maintenance knife option.

Overall, D2 steel offers a combination of desirable properties for knives, making it a popular choice for knife makers and users alike. With its excellent edge retention, good toughness, and impressive wear resistance, D2 steel is a versatile and reliable option for a wide variety of knife applications.

Comparing D2 with Other Steels

In this section, we will compare D2 steel with other popular knife steels, including S30V, Carbon, and Stainless Steels. We will analyze their properties, advantages, and disadvantages to help you understand the differences between them.

D2 vs S30V

D2 steel is a tool-grade steel with good edge retention, while S30V steel is a high-end stainless steel known for its wear resistance and toughness.

D2 Steel:

  • Good edge retention
  • Decent toughness
  • More difficult to sharpen
  • Less expensive

S30V Steel:

  • Excellent edge retention and wear resistance
  • Superior toughness
  • Easier to sharpen
  • Better corrosion resistance
  • More expensive

While D2 may be more affordable, S30V steel is generally preferred for its superior overall performance, especially when considering corrosion resistance and ease of maintenance.

D2 vs Carbon Steels

Carbon steels, such as 1095, are known for their excellent edge retention, toughness, and durability. Let’s compare D2 with carbon steels like 1095:

D2 Steel:

  • Good edge retention
  • Decent toughness
  • Good wear resistance
  • Not as easy to sharpen

Carbon Steels (1095):

  • Excellent edge retention
  • High toughness
  • Durable
  • Easier to sharpen

Carbon steel knives are easier to sharpen and offer better toughness, although D2 steel has better wear resistance.

D2 vs Stainless Steels

Stainless steels, like VG10, are known for their corrosion resistance and overall balance of properties. Here’s a comparison of D2 steel with stainless steels:

D2 Steel:

  • Good edge retention
  • Decent toughness
  • Good wear resistance
  • Less corrosion resistant

Stainless Steels (VG10):

  • Good edge retention
  • Excellent corrosion resistance
  • Easier maintenance
  • Slightly less durable

In comparison, D2 steel knives may require more maintenance due to their lower corrosion resistance than stainless steel knives like VG10. However, D2 steel offers slightly better durability.

By understanding the differences between D2 steel and other popular steels like S30V, carbon steels, and stainless steels, you can make an informed decision when choosing a knife based on factors such as edge retention, toughness, durability, and corrosion resistance.

D2 Steel and Corrosion Resistance

D2 steel is a popular choice for knife making, largely due to its combination of toughness, wear resistance, and relatively good corrosion resistance. In this section, we will examine the specific factors that contribute to D2 steel’s corrosion resistance and rust resistance.

Rust Resistance

D2 steel is not a true stainless steel, as its chromium content is around 11.5%, just under the 12% threshold required for classification as stainless steel. However, it still offers good corrosion resistance, especially when compared to other tool steels. This resistance is a result of the chromium content, which forms a protective layer on the surface of the steel, reducing the potential for oxidation and rusting.

Key factors in rust resistance of D2 Steel:

  • 11.5% chromium content
  • Protective chromium oxide layer
  • Comparatively high corrosion resistance for a tool steel

While not as rust-resistant as true stainless steels, D2 steel’s level of corrosion resistance makes it a suitable choice for applications where some exposure to moisture or corrosive substances is anticipated.

Factors Affecting Corrosion Resistance

The corrosion resistance of D2 steel can also be influenced by several factors, including proper heat treatment, blade geometry, and surface finish.

  • Heat treatment: D2 steel is an air-hardening tool steel, which means that its full potential for corrosion resistance is dependent on a proper heat treatment process.
  • Blade geometry: The design and shape of a D2 steel knife can impact its ability to resist corrosion. Thicker blades or those with fuller grinds tend to have better corrosion resistance, as they provide a larger surface area for the formation of the protective chromium oxide layer.
  • Surface finish: The finish applied to a D2 steel knife can also play a role in corrosion resistance. A polished or mirror-like finish can improve corrosion resistance by reducing surface imperfections and trapping moisture, while rougher surface finishes may be more susceptible to rust.

In summary, D2 steel offers a good level of corrosion resistance for a tool steel, and its rust resistance can be affected by factors such as heat treatment, blade geometry, and surface finish. Knowing these factors can help knife makers and users optimize the properties of their D2 steel knives.

Heat Treatment and Hardening of D2 Steel

Heat Treatment Procedures

D2 steel is known for its impressive longevity and strength, making it a popular choice for many knives and tools. One of the crucial aspects of maximizing its potential is through proper heat treatment. The process involves a series of heating and cooling steps designed to increase the hardness, toughness, and wear resistance of the steel.

To begin, D2 steel should be annealed, which helps to soften the steel and prepare it for further heat treatment. Typically, this process involves heating the steel to around 1850-1900°F for 30 minutes, followed by a plate quench to ensure rapid cooling. After annealing, cryogenic treatment (cryo) is done to improve the steel’s wear resistance. Finally, tempering is a crucial step, which requires heating the steel to a temperature between 300-500°F, depending on the desired hardness and toughness balance.

D2 steel is known as an air-hardening steel, meaning it hardens when cooled at air temperature. As a result, air cooling is often used after tempering to achieve the desired hardness.


The hardenability of D2 steel is influenced by its chemical composition. With 12% chromium content and 0.8-0.9% molybdenum, D2 steel offers an excellent balance of hardness and toughness. Tungsten, another key element in D2 steel’s composition, further contributes to its hardenability and wear resistance.

The Rockwell hardness of D2 steel can vary depending on the heat treatment applied. Generally, D2 steel can achieve a hardness range of 58-62 on the Rockwell C scale, with a higher hardness typically resulting in better wear resistance, at the cost of decreased toughness.

Here are some key points of D2 steel’s hardenability:

  • High chromium and molybdenum content contribute to hardness and toughness
  • Tungsten enhances wear resistance and hardenability
  • Rockwell hardness range of 58-62 HRC

As with any steel, the key to achieving the desired balance of hardness, toughness, and wear resistance in D2 steel lies in choosing the appropriate heat treatment procedures. Factors such as heating temperature, cooling method, and tempering temperature all play a crucial role in developing the steel’s characteristics, ultimately determining its performance in a knife or tool.

Sharpening and Maintenance of D2 Knives

Ease of Sharpening

D2 steel is a popular choice for knives due to its durability and strong edge retention. However, its toughness also makes it slightly more difficult to sharpen than some softer steels. That being said, it is still relatively easy to sharpen D2, especially with the right equipment and technique. To achieve a sharp edge, it’s essential to use high-quality sharpening stones, diamond plates, or sharpening systems specifically designed for tool steels like D2. Regular maintenance of your D2 knife will not only keep it sharp but also ensure a longer lifespan.

Edge Geometry

The edge geometry of a D2 knife plays a crucial role in its cutting performance and ease of use. D2 steel is typically used in knives with a high flat grind or a full flat grind, which provides a balance of edge retention and cutting ability. A higher grind angle, usually around 20-25 degrees per side, is often used for D2 knives due to its hardness and edge-holding capabilities. This means that D2 knives can have a slightly thicker edge than some other steels, which can be beneficial in terms of edge durability but may also impact the cutting performance and require more effort from the user.

In summary, although D2 steel knives may require extra attention when it comes to sharpening and maintaining edge geometry, their qualities provide robust performance suitable for various applications. With regular care and proper technique, you can keep your D2 knives in top shape and enjoy their enduring sharpness and reliability.

Popular D2 Steel Knife Models

Fixed Blade Knives

D2 steel is renowned for its high wear resistance and durability, which make it a suitable choice for fixed blade knives. One noteworthy example of a fixed blade knife with a D2 steel blade is the Ka-Bar Dozier. This knife features an ergonomic handle and a versatile drop-point blade design. Its excellent edge-retention properties and overall toughness have made it a popular choice among knife enthusiasts seeking a reliable, high-performing fixed blade knife.

Pocket Knives

When it comes to folding or pocket knives made with D2 steel, there are various models available on the market. For example, the Rat II is a compact and efficient folding knife offering a well-balanced combination of affordability, quality, and utility. Its D2 blade is known for superior edge-retention and durability, while its ergonomic handle design ensures a comfortable and secure grip.

Another popular D2 steel pocket knife is the SOG Terminus. This knife’s sleek and lightweight design, combined with its reliable Ball Bearing Lock system and reversible deep carry pocket clip, make it an excellent choice for everyday carry (EDC) tasks. The Terminus’ D2 blade is engineered to hold its edge through prolonged use and demanding conditions.

In addition to the above-mentioned models, here are some other D2 steel pocket knives to consider:

  • CRKT Squid XM: This upgraded version of the CRKT Squid boasts a full-sized D2 steel blade and G-10/stainless steel handle, offering enhanced performance in a compact package.
  • CRKT Bona Fide: Designed by Ken Onion and inspired by the shape of Hawaiian canoes, this slim and sleek pocket knife features an aluminum handle and a D2 steel blade.
  • Kershaw Cannonball: This sturdy and versatile pocket knife showcases D2 steel’s durability and edge retention, making it an excellent choice for a wide range of cutting tasks.

These D2 steel knife models offer a variety of designs and functionalities, allowing you to find the perfect fit for your needs. Whether you’re seeking a dependable fixed-blade knife or a versatile pocket knife, D2 steel provides the toughness, wear resistance, and edge retention necessary for demanding tasks and prolonged usage.

Conclusions and Recommendations

D2 steel is a popular choice for knife manufacturers due to its unique properties and high performance. As a low alloy tool steel, it combines durability, wear-resistance, and reasonable corrosion resistance, making it well-suited for various knife applications.

For those seeking quality on a budget, knives made from D2 steel can be an attractive option. These knives offer high-edge retention and remarkable hardness compared to other choices in the same price range. Its performance is comparable to certain high-speed steels, without demanding top-tier pricing.

However, it’s important to recognize that D2 steel may not be suitable for those who prioritize corrosion-resistant blades. While it offers some level of protection against rust, it falls short of stainless steel options. Additionally, sharpening D2 steel knives can be more difficult, and investing in a silicon carbide whetstone or diamond stone is recommended for sharpening purposes.

When choosing a D2 steel knife, it’s crucial to determine how the blade will be used, and what qualities are most important to the user. For those who need sharp, durable knives for everyday tasks and can compromise on corrosion resistance, D2 steel is a great fit. In contrast, individuals who prioritize rust prevention and easy maintenance might want to consider alternatives such as stainless steel options.

In summary, D2 steel has distinct advantages and disadvantages that must be weighed by the consumer. As a reliable material for budget knives, it excels in wear-resistance and edge retention. However, sharpening can be more challenging, and corrosion resistance is less than ideal. When selecting a knife, understanding these factors can lead to an informed decision that aligns with individual needs and preferences.

When you visit a merchant by clicking a link on this site we may make a commission on anything you buy (at no additional cost to you).   Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to Amazon Associates and the eBay Partner Network.”