M2 steel is a high-speed tool steel with molybdenum and tungsten as its main elements. These elements give it outstanding wear resistance, toughness, and hardness.

The steel has been used to make high-end and custom knives since the 90s, but recently it was replaced by M4, which offers better properties.

What’s more, M2 high speed steel is suitable for cold work applications like pressing tools, punching, and forming.

M2 Steel Chemical composition

  • Carbon C 0.88%: Increases edge retention, hardness, and tensile strength. It also improves steel resistance to wear, abrasion, and corrosion.
  • Chromium Cr 4.50%: Formation of Chromium carbides. Increases the blade’s hardness, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance.
  • Molybdenum Mo 5.50%: It improves machinability and hardness.
  • Vanadium V 2.20%: inhibits grain growth during elevated temperature processing and heat treatment, which enhances the strength and toughness of steel. It also forms carbides that increase wear resistance.
  • Nickel Ni 0.30%: improves strength and toughness. It increases hardenability but not as much as some of the other alloying elements in steel. It can improve corrosion resistance in significant amounts
  • Phosphorous P 0.03%: Increases the strength and improves machinability of steel
  • Manganese Mn 0.40%: improves the strength and hardness of steel. When the steel is heat-treated, hardenability is improved with increased manganese.
  • Silicon Si 0.45%: Increases strength and heat resistance.
  • Sulfur S 0.03%: Improves machinability but is regarded as an impurity in high quantities.
  • Copper Cu 0.25%: added to steel  alloy in small amounts, it enhances the chemical properties of steel by increasing its corrosion resistance.
  • Tungsten W 6.75% Improves wear resistance and hardness, mostly added to tool steel.

M2 steel properties

M2 steel Hardness

AISI M2 steel has a hardness of 62-65HRC as per the Rockwell hardness scale. This high hardness gives this steel high edge retention and wear resistance capabilities.

M2 Edge retention

One of the best properties of M2 steel is the ability to stay sharp for a long time which is expected from very hard steel used for high-speed cutting. Therefore, if you have been on the market for a knife that stays sharp for the longest time, you are in the right place because M2 blades will give you exactly that.

M2 Wear resistance

Another property that is influenced by high hardness is wear resistance. The 62HRC hardness gives this M2 high speed steel excellent wear resistance. What’s more, the evenly distributed carbides in their composition promote wear resistance.

Do not be surprised to realize that this steel offers better wear resistance than some steels in the high-end category.

M2 steel Toughness

With its high hardness, you must be expecting this M2 to offer poor toughness, as is the case with other hard steel. However, M2 goes against the rules and offers good toughness. Even more surprising is that it provides better toughness for blades with a hardness of more than 63HRC.

With its high toughness, M2 steel can withstand shocks and impacts from very tough applications. It is for this reason that it is used in making knives for jointers and planners. If you are in the market for the best knives in batoning, flexing, or breaking, look into the varieties of M2 steel.

M2 steel Corrosion resistance

Is M2 steel stainless? M2 steel is not stainless steel because the amount of chromium in its composition does not qualify it as stainless steel. The good news is, the small amount of chromium offers considerable corrosion resistance.

However, its corrosion resistance cannot be compared to stainless steel like CTS-XHP steel, and in fact, it is one of the downsides of this steel. If you are keen on knives with an excellent ability to resist rusting and staining, you will have to skip on this one. M2 steel is highly susceptible to rust.

To improve the corrosion resistance of M2 knives, some manufacturers add antirust coating, which enables the knives to last longer without rusting.

Sharpening M2 steel

Another downer for M2 is that it’s hard to sharpen, which is expected because of its high hardness. If you do not have the right sharpening skills and tools, you will struggle to get an edge. However, experts can attain a razor-sharp edge that lasts.

M2 tool steel comparison

M2 vs. M4 tool steel

As already stated, M4 steel comes in as a replacement for M2. M4 contains higher carbides in its composition due to increased carbon content, making it better in edge retention, wear resistance, and toughness. However, they offer the same hardness.

M2 steel vs. D2 steel

D2 tool steel is the closest steel to M2, and they offer the same hardness. However, M2 provides better toughness and wear resistance, and it is easier to sharpen. On the other hand, D2 beats M2  in corrosion resistance as it is often regarded as semi-stainless tool steel.

Is M2 steel good for knives?

Yes! AISI M2 steel offers excellent edge retention, toughness, wear-resistance, and remains sharp for long. With these properties, M2 makes good knife steel but not for people keen on knives with excellent corrosion resistance, it easily stains and rusts if left in corrosive environments.

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