Those that have been searching for low-cost knife sets may have noticed knives made from 420J2 steel.
This type of steel is known for its lower price, but you may be wondering if its expense is indicative of lower quality. After all, there’s no point buying cheaper knives if they’re going to break down easily later!
If you’re wondering if this stainless steel is good or not, you’re in the right place! We’ll cover more about 420J2 steel in this article.
You’ll learn whether this steel is strong or not, including whether you should bother with 420J2 knives, or spend a little more on better quality ones.
420J2 Stainless Steel: Is It Good?
The first thing we need to know about 420J2 steel is what the metal is. It’s a stainless steel alloy that’s also known as EN56D and AISI 420.
420J2 steel is part of the surgical steel family, which is why it’s often used to mass-produce surgical devices. The steel can be ground easily, has a smooth surface, and stands up to corrosion well.
Despite being used for surgical tools, 420J2 steel isn’t a ‘tool steel’, even though some knife makers may say differently. This steel is used to create tools due to its processing power and corrosion resistance.
It’s also used to make shearing tools, like budget kitchen knives, hair scissors, and even swords and daggers. The steel is often used for knife blades needed for light to medium daily tasks.
All alloys in the surgical steel family are magnetic, including 420J2 steel. This is an advantage, as it makes it easier to pick up and collect misplaced screws or tools.
While 420J2 steel wasn’t created to make blades, its machinability and low cost made it a popular material for knife makers to make their products.
420J2 Steel Chemical Makeup
420J2 steel is low in carbon, but higher in chromium, which is why it’s classed in the stainless steel category. Its lower carbon content is also why it’s known as a lower-end type of steel.
420J2 Steel is made up of the following elements:
Carbon makes the steel resistant to corrosion and is responsible for the metal’s hardness level. 420J2 has 0.32% carbon within it.
14% chromium also makes the steel corrosion-resistant, but it also delivers tensile strength and toughness.
Nickel makes steel tough and durable, though 420J2 only has 1% nickel within it.
Manganese keeps metals hard and resistant to wear, but steel only has 1% of manganese within it, so it isn’t very wear-resistant.
Silicon keeps the steel strong. 420J2 has 1% of silicon within it.
420J2 has 0.04% of phosphorus within. Phosphorus makes metal durable and strong.
420J2 is made from 0.04% sulfur. Sulfur gives metals better machinability.
420J2’s chemical makeup resembles 3Cr13 steel, Chinese steel that’s also tough and resistant to corrosion. They’re also similarly priced, but as they aren’t very wear-resistant, both of the metals aren’t very hard compared to others.
How Hard Is 420J2 Steel?
The Rockwell C scale of hardness places 420J2 steel at 56HRC, but only when the steel has been treated with heat. Even so, 56 HRC isn’t very low or very high.
Despite this, as 420J2 steel has a lower carbon content, it’s known as a metal with a low hardness level. The greater the carbon content of a metal, the greater the hardness level gained during heat treatment.
Its lower hardness level is why 420J2 steel is lower in price compared to other 400 series steel.
420J2 Stainless Steel Features
420J2 steel’s chemical makeup gives it particular properties, such as corrosion resistance. However, its composition also means it has less desirable properties too. We’ll cover these in more detail below.
As mentioned above, 420J2 steel has lower carbon levels, meaning that it’s not as hard as other steel. Lower hardness levels in a metal equate to greater toughness.
420J2 is very strong and durable. You can trust that tools like knives or surgical tools won’t break under pressure from everyday tasks.
Corrosion resistance is an important matter when deciding if a metal is ‘good’ or not. In the case of stainless steel, like 420J2, poor corrosion resistance isn’t an issue.
420J2 can resist many substances, like vinegar, ammonia, and petroleum products. Carbon does react on contact with acid, but the steel has such a low amount of carbon within, adding to its resistance.
One other reason why 420J2 steel is corrosion resistant is due to its chromium levels. Chromium is often used to make tools that are necessary for a corrosive setting.
For instance, you’d find chrome-plated cutlery in restaurants where food is prepared, as it prevents rust.
It’s generally easy to sharpen 420J2 steel edges as its low hardness makes the steel soft. Most standard sharpeners will be able to sharpen the steel easily. Despite this, as the steel is so soft, it will soon become dull again.
This is an important factor when choosing knives, as better-performing knives need to maintain their sharpness. If your knife becomes dull quickly, you’ll have to spend time resharpening them or buying new ones again.
Low Wear Resistance
As mentioned previously, 420J2’s low hardness rating makes it a soft metal. The steel may be strong, but you can’t rely on it to stand up to wear and tear after harder tasks.
Poor Edge Retention
Edge retention is another property of 420J2 steel that makes it unsuitable for some uses. As the steel has a lower carbon content, it is soft, so it won’t hold onto an edge well. The steel will require frequent honing or sharpening to keep it sharp.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t make 420J2 a bad choice, as it can be sharpened easily, making it stand out against other low-end steels.
The Verdict: Is 420J2 Steel Good?
As lower-end steel, 420J2 is great for affordable knives and tools. It’s tough nature and corrosion resistance are perfect for options like filet knives, as they won’t degrade on contact with food or liquids.
420J2 steel may not keep sharp for a while, but it is easy to sharpen. If you’re on a budget, 420J2 steel is great for knives or surgical tools.
However, if you need tools for heavy-duty tasks, you may want to look for ones made from a stronger metal, like 440C.
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