W2 steel is a water hardening low alloy steel. It is categorized as high carbon steel because it contains more than 1% carbon in its composition. Being a tool steel, it can be used to make machine dies and hand tools.

Water hardening steels are referred to as W steels hence the W in the name. The W stands for water quench steel, while the 2 differentiates it from its sibling W1 steel. Other steels in the W grade include W1 steel and W3 steel.

W2 carbon steel is used to make decorative knife blades that is achieved through the hardening process. Knife makers use this steel to make paring knives, blades for collectors and large swords.

W2 Steel Composition

  • Carbon C 1.50%: Increases the edge retention, hardness and tensile strength. It also improves steel resistance to wear, abrasion and corrosion.
  • Chromium Cr 0.15%: Chromium Increases hardness, tensile strength and toughness of the blade.
  • Molybdenum Mo 0.10%: It improves machinability and hardness.
  • Nickel Ni 0.20%: Adds Toughness to the blade.
  • Manganese Mn 0.40%: Increases Hardness and brittleness.
  • Silicon Si 0.40%: Increases strength and heat resistance.
  • Phosphorus P 0.02%: Improves machinability and hardness.
  • Sulfur S 0.02%: Improves machinability.
  • Copper Cu 0.20: It is added to slightly improve corrosion resistance.
  • Tungsten W 0.15: Helps in formation of carbide that increase overall hardness of the steel.
  • Vanadium V 0.35: vanadium improves the w2 steel toughness by keeping the grain size well maintained.

Properties of W2 steel

W2 Steel Hardness

W2 has a high hardness of 62 to 65 HRC, which differ with heat treatment and amount of carbon used by the manufacturer. Tempering and quenching techniques are most critical in achieving the different HRC.

With this hardness level, knives made from this steel deliver high performance even with a thin edge.

W2 Steel Edge retention

Hard steels deliver good edge retention, and this is true with W2. With a maximum hardness of 65HRC, this steel does not become dull quickly.

If you are on the market for a knife that will cut all day and retain its sharp edge, you will not be disappointed by W2 steel edge retention.

W2 Steel Toughness

Steels will either give you high hardness or toughness but not both, however, this is not the case with W2steel. Although it offers high hardness, it manages to give you decent toughness. It will make knives that won’t chip and break easily.

Although the hardness of this steel does not directly affect its toughness, frequent tough applications on the knives will result in chipping and breaking.

W2 Steel Corrosion resistance

W2 steel does not give its blades good corrosion resistance. This is one of the sectors where this steel scores poorly.

The inability to resist rust is due to the low chromium contents in its composition.

If you are looking for a knife to use in humid and salty environments, stay away from any model made from W2 carbon steel and look for other high chromium stainless steel like the AISI 440C.

W2 Steel Wear resistance

The high hardness of this steel contributes to its excellent wear resistance.

The high carbon, chromium, and manganese in its composition takes all the credit for the ability of this steel to resist impacts and tough applications that would result to its damage.

Sharpening W2 Steel

Because it is hard steel, sharpening W2 is a tough task, especially to knife users without sharpening experience and proper sharpening tools.

Using standard sharpening tools, you will have to spend a lot of time and energy to get a razor-sharp blade.

However, you can use modern sharpening methods, which will be more costly but save you the sharpening stress.

On the contrary, this steel maintains an edge for long; therefore, you will not need to sharpen the knives frequently.

W2 steel equivalent

W2 vs W1

Both steels belong to the water hardening steels, and they are almost similar in chemical composition.

However, W2 tool steel is harder and better in wear resistance because it has vanadium in its composition. Also, W2 steel make blades with better Hamon effects.

W2 steel vs 1095

1095 steel is known to contain high amounts of carbon just like W2, but it does not beat the hardness of W2. W2 is better in application due to edge retention, corrosion resistance and wear resistance. However, 1095 beats W2 in toughness and is easier to sharpen.

1095 Damascus steel will on the other hand provide an aesthetically pleasing blade than that of W2 steel and 26C3 Steel

For a more aesthetically pleasing Damascus Stainless Steel with great hardness and lots of patterns straight from the factory check Damasteel DS93X Steel.

W2 steel vs 5160

W2 is harder than 5160 steel hence better in edge retention and wear resistance. However, 5160 steel is easier to sharpen and tougher than W2. The added advantage of w2 steel is the hamon effect.

W2 steel vs D2 steel

W2 steel is a water hardening steel while D2 steel is an air hardening high carbon steel. D2 knife will offer better corrosion resistance as its alloying elements contain more chromium elements than that of W2 steel

Is W2 steel good blade steel?

Due to the high amounts of carbon in its composition, W2 steel knife will provide good edge retention and incredible toughness, higher than most steels on the market. It is also a good option for a knife maker who wants to make a custom knife with decorated blades due to its ability to make Hamon effects.


W2 steel has been around in the knife making realm for quite a long time. It has a large following particularly with custom knife makers who prefer carbon knives. It’s stain resistance is not the best and so long as you are not making a diving knife with it, it should hold up just fine when not exposed to an environment that will speed up rusting. Proper care and maintenance like oiling and cleaning is important after use for a w2 blade.

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