W2 Steel Review: What Is It & Is It Good?

By Ryan Leavitt •  Updated: 01/24/21 •  5 min read

Any knife enthusiast knows that the steel used for a blade is one of a knife‘s most important characteristics.

That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with the type of steel being used for a particular blade.

And one of the most popular choices for knife manufacturers out there is W2 steel.

It comes from the “W” steel family, which stands for water hardening.

W steel is known for great edge retention and hardness, and the W2 recipe is no exception.

W2 has a very high carbon content, which is the reason the steel is very hard and can hold its edge for a long time.

It’s a great material for knives, but since it isn’t stainless, W2 knives require a lot of extra care and attention.

In this W2 steel review, we dive deep into the specifications and features of this steel recipe.

And by the end, you’ll be able to decide if this is the right steel for you!

Read on to learn more.

Related: Types of knife steel (ultimate guide)

What Is W2 Steel?

Before getting to know what exactly is W2 steel, why don’t we take a look at its family- the W steels group?

As mentioned, this material falls into group W steels, which entail three types, namely, W1, W2, and W3. These types of steel have the letter W because they are all water-hardening tool steels.

In W steels, the most crucial element discovered is carbon. Moreover, to heighten the hardenability( corrosion resistance) and the W steels’ wear resistance, people can put a small amount of chromium into the alloy.

In terms of toughness, vanadium or nickel can keep the grain’s size maintained to increase the toughness of its. Besides, the group W steels are not expensive and have a low resistance to softening at high temperatures.

These days, people mostly use this material in the knife-making industry because of its well-known features in toughness and edge retention.

W2 Steel Review

In the following section, we will break the properties of this material into two parts: hardness and other properties.

The reason is that hardness is the most trivial property when it comes to evaluating any steel. Moreover, hardness is mostly determined by carbon, which can influence other properties at different proportions in it composition.

Hence, it would be best if we uncover hardness first.


To know how hard this material is, we need to know what proportions of each element are included in it. Let’s find out.

In this material, there are 1.15% of carbon, 0.15% of chromium, 0,10% of molybdenum, 0,20% of Nickel, 0,25% of Manganese, and 0,25% Silicon. To reach a certain hardness, the manufacturers can not forget the most crucial element- carbon.

While the carbon proportion is usually fixed within certain range limits, differences within this range can change the mechanical properties and its cutting ability. One more thing to bear in mind is that the more carbon it has, the less strength it possesses.

In the case of W2, its carbon content is pretty high( 1.15%), leading to the working hardness of it increases as well. As estimated, it can reach 65 HRC (the Rockwell C) maximum, a perfect level for cutting tools, such as knives and blades.

Other Properties

Based on the composition and the hardness of it, W2 has the following properties.

First of all, when the HRC is 62( HRC is maximum at 65), the edge retention is at the greatest level it can get. If for some reason leading to the HRC exceeds 62, its edge retention can be reduced a bit.

Moreover, with the percentage of chromium of 0.15% within the composition, it receives greater strength and edge retention and increases its wear resistance and corrosion resistance a little bit.

Regarding wear resistance, W2 has fairly good wear resistance, but not the best when compared to other kinds of steel. Hence, users should carefully take care of any tools made of this material to avoid being dull.

Speaking of corrosion resistance, even though there is a small amount of chromium in the composition, the corrosion resistance is low.

How about sharpness?

Well, a sentence says the harder it is, the harder it is to make it sharp. In this case, that sentence is correct. As mentioned, this material falls on the list of the hardest steels. So, it is not easy to sharpen any tools that are made of it.

Finally, the toughness is fairly good compared to other steels. However, if you are going to raise the HRC above 62 hardness, it will diminish toughness considerably.

What Can Replace It

As researched for years by many steel manufacturers, it is widely known that has fairly the same chemical composition as the 1095 steel as they are both sheets of steel that have a high proportion of carbon.

Of course, we can not consider W2 as 100% alike to the 1095 steel, but the two kinds of steel both provide great toughness and hardness even though W2 is a little harder and tougher than 1095.

Besides, the brother of W2- W1 steel can be a good substitute for W2 as the only difference between them is the hardening temperature of W2 is a bit lower than W1 a bit. The other properties of the two kinds of steel are quite similar.

Is It Good For Making Knives?

Well, the answer to this question depends on the usage, but generally, Yes. The steel has great toughness and hardness. As a result, if you want to have a fixed blade that can allow you to handle lots of damage, W2 may be a good option.

But as it has low corrosion resistance and medium wear resistance, it would be best if you can take some time to take good care of the tools to keep them from being dull and dusty.

And about kitchen knives, diving knives, and fishing knives, W2 steel is not the best option as there are better steels for these knives.

Ryan Leavitt

Hi my name is Ryan Leavitt a Marine Corps Veteran and currently an over the road trucker (Long Haul). I am no expert chef but am enjoying preparing my own meals on the road and testing all the different knives.