The Best D2 Steel Knives And What Makes Them Great 

The Best D2 Steel Knives And What Makes Them Great

We all know knives are made out of metal, but few of us understand just how much the type of metal used can impact their performance. 

Most knives are made from steel, and while this sounds simple enough, not all steel is made equal. When forging any metal object, the temperature of the furnace, the folding of the metal and several other factors can impact the quality of the final product.

When researching knives, you will come across different grades of steel, some of which are much better than others. 

D2 steel has been a popular choice for making tools for several years and is commonly used to make utility knives.

This is a budget steel and as such, doesn't cost a lot to produce, yet some craftsmen will swear by its value and efficacy. In this list, we will be looking at some of the best D2 steel knives and telling you exactly what makes them so great. 

The Composition And Qualities Of D2 Steel

Before we get into our picks for the best D2 knives, we thought we would go a bit more into depth about what D2 steel is and how it is made.

This is an air-hardening steel that is commonly used for tools including, punches, tire shredders and knives. In this section, we will cover a few details on the composition of this steel and the process used when forging it. 

Composition

All steels are made from a combination of different metals to give them their unique properties.

D2 steel is a high carbon and high chromium steel, which is what makes it so hard and resistant to abrasion. Below is a list of the different metals that make up this variety of steel. 

  • 1.5% Carbon 
  • 12% Chromium 
  • 0.9% Molybdenum
  • 1.10% Vanadium 
  • 0.45% Manganese 
  • 0.40% Silicon
  • 0.03% Phosphorus
  • 0.02% Sulfur

All of the above percentages are rough estimates and may vary slightly between different samples of D2 steel. 

Common Features 

Thanks to its unique chemical composition, D2 steel has several properties that set it apart from other grades of steel. For one, it is a remarkably hard steel, which means it retains its edge for a long time.

With a hardness grade of up to 62HRC on the Rockwell scale, you would expect this steel to have a low toughness, but it is in fact only slightly less tough than S90V steel. 

Its composition gives D2 steel great edge retention, so that when you sharpen it, you can expect it to stay sharp for a long time.

This is what makes it a great choice for tools and utility knives that need to cut through various thicknesses of material without losing their edge. 

D2 is a highly durable steel that is resistant to corrosion and abrasions. This is another feature that makes it great for tools, which need to be able to withstand a fair bit of punishment.

It also has good machinability, which means it is easy to cut into specific shapes such as drill bits or screwdrivers. 

Forging Process

The iron used to make D2 steel starts the forging process by being heated gradually up to 700 °C (1292 °F) and then brought rapidly up to 900 or 1040 °C (1904 °F).

You need to keep stoking your forge to keep it at the appropriate temperature. After forging, you should let the steel gradually cool before annealing. 

Annealing is the process of removing impurities from the steel by heating it up and letting it cool again. For D2 steel, you need to heat it uniformly to 843/871 °C (up to 1599 °F).

It then needs to cool at a rate of no more than 10 °C (50 °F) per minute. The annealing process is essential to help D2 steel reach its maximum hardness. 

Next comes the hardening process, which involves heating the metal back up to critical temperature before rapidly cooling it in a controlled manner.

For D2 steel, it needs to be heated gradually up to 780 °C (1436 °F) and kept at this temperature until the desired internal structure is achieved.

This process is called soaking. After soaking, the steel must be brought up to 1030 °C (1886 °F) before being quenched in oil or allowed to air cool. 

The final stage is the tempering process, which involves heating the steel back up to a specific temperature depending on its thickness and how hard you want it to be.

You should heat the metal slowly and uniformly, leaving it in the heat for 25 seconds for every cm of thickness. Below, you will find a list of how long you need to temper your steel to achieve different grades of hardness: 

  • Heat at 400 °C (752 °F) to achieve a hardness between 55 and 56 HRC 
  • Heat at 300 °C (572 °F) for a hardness of 56 or 57 HRC 
  • Heat at 250° C (482 °F) for a hardness of 59 or 60 HRC 
  • Heat at 200° C (392° F) for a hardness of 60 to 61 HRC 
  • Heat at 150° C (302° F) for a hardness of 61 to 62 HRC

Provided you temper your steel at the right temperature and for the right amount of time, it should come just as hard as you want it to be. We will explain more about hardness and what effect it will have on a knife in our buyer's guide section later on.

As you can see, forging this type of steel correctly requires a great deal of care and precision when it comes to managing the temperature of your forge.

When made properly, D2 steel can easily outperform other more expensive types of steel, but if the forging process is rushed it will inevitably lead to a shoddy product. 

Now that we understand a bit more about the process of making D2 steel, and the unique properties it offers. Let's jump right into our picks for the best DS steel knives. 

Best D2 Steel Knives

OUR TOP PICK

Ohta Knives FK5 Folder Cocobolo OFK5CO

This little foldout knife won't make the perfect tool for anybody cutting through thick materials on a daily basis, but it is still a superb all-purpose pocket knife.

You can use this handy little blade for slicing through thin sections of cord and even some woods, or you could simply keep it for opening your letters.

With a reverse tanto blade, and a wooden handle, this knife is very stylish and will make a great collector's piece, even if it isn't the most functional. 

The FK5 will hold its edge for a very long time, provided you don't use it to cut through anything too tough.

The hollow blade grind makes it very good for opening packages or boxes, since it slices cleanly through paper, cardboard and tape. It is also very compact making it easy to carry on your person or fit in a tool bag for safe keeping. 

You can rest the tip of this knife on a hard surface, and it will dig in rather than pushing the blade closed.

There isn't a proper locking mechanism, but the friction offered by the wooden handle ensures that the blade won't pop out or back in unless you want it to. 

That said, for heavy-duty work such as cutting through thick pieces of wood, we would recommend a knife with a proper locking mechanism or fixed blade. 

Specs

  • Overall Length (in): 5.5
  • Blade Length (in): 2.125
  • Blade Thickness: 0.08
  • Blade Shape: Reverse Tanto
  • Blade Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Wood
  • Style: Folding (friction lock) 
  • Weight (oz): 0.87

Pros

  • Stylish aesthetic.
  • The blade is sharp yet small, making the knife easy to carry in its leather sheath. 
  • Great all-purpose knife for opening letters and packages. 

Cons

  • Not the best for cutting through very thick or tough materials. 

Also available at: BladeHQ

EDITORS CHOICE

Cold Steel Leatherneck-SF, One Size

The Cold Steel Leatherneck-SF is a fixed blade that is considerably longer than the Ohta FK5.

This is a versatile survival knife that can be used to cut through almost anything you put in front of it. 

Due to its size and fixed blade, it is more of a collector's knife than a utility one, but camping enthusiasts will probably find it to be a very useful piece of kit. 

This is a popular knife for people in the armed forces, which should tell you enough about its durability and edge retention.

Made from German D2 steel, this blade is razor sharp and will cut through most materials from wood to leather with ease.

The blade is coated in a non-reflective, black powder finish that is highly scratch resistant to keep your blade looking pristine even after heavy use. 

With a handle made from checkered Griv-Ex, this knife won't twist in your hands while you are using it.

There is also a solid steel finger guard, so you can have better control over the blade and protect your hands while using it.

The butt of the knife is also made from machined steel, which means you can use it as an improvised hammer should the need arise. 

Specs

  • Overall Length (in): 11.75
  • Blade Length (in): 6.75 
  • Blade Thickness: 5.0 mm 
  • Blade Shape: Clip Point 
  • Blade Grind: Hollow 
  • Handle Material: Griv-ex fiberglass plastic composite.
  • Style: Fixed blade 
  • Weight (oz): 11.7

Pros

  • Durable and versatile survivalist knife.
  • Grip on the handle gives you complete control over the blade. 
  • Machined steel finger guard and butt cap. 

Cons

  • May be too large to carry around with you for everyday use. 

Also available at: KnifeCenter

BEST VALUE

Kicker Recoil Lock Green J1915GN

The Kicker J1915GN has a flat grind that makes it great at slicing through most materials with ease. It is a good choice if you want something that looks stylish without being too bulky.

The clip point blade has a razor sharp edge that provides a smooth cutting experience through wood, paper, and thick cord. 

This product has an ergonomic handle that is comfortable to hold and a slight texture to prevent it slipping out of your hand.

On the back of the handle, there is a small clip that will allow you to attach this knife to your belt or pocket, so you can carry it on your person safely. There are also holes in the handle for attaching a piece of string or a lanyard. 

With a recoil locking mechanism, the blade on this knife opens smoothly and quickly, making it easy to access whenever you need it.

This mechanism can rattle around a bit while you are walking with the knife, and the tab for flipping it open does tend to get in the way when trying to fold the knife back into its handle.

However, overall, this is a versatile and compact utility knife that you will find very useful for a wide variety of purposes. 

Specs

  • Overall Length (in): 8.25
  • Blade Length (in): 3.5
  • Blade Thickness: 0.13in
  • Blade Shape: Clip point
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: G-10 Glass based epoxy resin laminate
  • Style: Folding (recoil lock) 
  • Weight (oz): 4.55

Pros

  • Compact yet effective folding utility knife.
  • Ergonomic handle for comfort and better control over the blade. 
  • Clip on the back for attaching the knife to your belt or pocket. 

Cons

  • The locking mechanism rattles, and the tab can get in the way of folding the knife into its handle. 

Also available at: BladeHQ

RUNNER UP

Off-Grid Knives - Alpha-Dog Heavy Duty Fixed Blade Knife, 5mm Thick Cryogenic D2 Blade Steel, Full Tang, G10 Scales, XL Handle

This is another fixed blade knife that is excellent for bush craft and camping enthusiasts. It features a full tang construction that allows it to hold up well against heavy-duty usage.

The drop point blade on this knife has been specially treated to improve all the natural qualities of D2 steel including excellent hardness, edge retention and resistance to corrosion. 

It comes with a black G-10 handle that feels sturdy enough to withstand some rough handling. There are grips up the handle which ensure that you can control the blade without it flying out of your hand.

Good thing too, as this flat-ground knife can be used for hacking through pieces of wood, hammering with the spine as well as preparing food while camping. 

The Alpha-Dog is a heavy-duty tool and as such it is quite heavy. Thankfully, the kydex sheath makes it easy to carry on your belt or inside a backpack without it slicing through anything you don't want it to.

If you are looking for a practical survivalist knife that can cut through almost anything, then the Alpha-Dog is just what you have been looking for. 

Specs

  • Overall Length (in): 9.75
  • Blade Length (in): 4.5
  • Blade Thickness: 5mm 
  • Blade Shape: Drop Point
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: G-10 Glass based epoxy resin laminate
  • Style: Fixed Blade
  • Weight (oz): 15

Pros

  • Full tang construction for better durability. 
  • Wide blade that can be used to hack or slice through wood as well as other tough materials. 
  • Comes with a kydex sheath for securing it to your belt. 

Cons

  • Some users may find it hard to make precise cuts with this knife.

Also available at: OffGridKnives

RUNNER UP

KATSU Handmade D2 Steel Blade G10 Handle Bamboo Style Japanese Razor Pocket Folding Knife with Pocket Clip

At first glance, you may think this is another knife that prioritizes form over functionality. This Katsu folding razor has a beautiful G10 handle that is designed to look like bamboo.

The blade also sports a beautiful reverse tanto shape that makes this a brilliant knife for any collector. 

Don't be fooled by its pretty appearance though, as this Katsu knife has a razor sharp edge that is great for preparing food, or cutting open letters and packages.

It won't be able to hack through pieces of wood, but for most crafting projects or day to day tasks, you will find this to be a reliable and sturdy little knife.

The blade shouldn't wobble at all while cutting, but if it does, it is easy to fix by turning the screw at the top with a small hex wrench. 

This knife has a handle with a small hole at the top that you can attach a key ring or lanyard to. There is also a small clip on the back for attaching it straight to your belt or pockets.

Sadly, the nylon sheath that comes with this product is a bit too small and breaks easily, although with such a high quality blade, you can always just buy a different case. 

Specs

  • Overall Length (in): 7.5
  • Blade Length (in): 3
  • Blade Thickness: 3.5 mm
  • Blade Shape: Reverse Tanto 
  • Blade Grind: Hollow 
  • Handle Material: G-10 Glass based epoxy resin laminate
  • Style: Folding (line lock) 
  • Weight (oz): 3.35

Pros

  • Beautiful design with a G-10 bamboo style handle. 
  • Razor sharp blade straight out of the box. 
  • It is easy to tighten the blade and remove it from the handle for regular maintenance. 

Cons

  • The nylon sheath is fragile and too small to fit the knife. 

Also available at: KatsuKnife

RUNNER UP

SOG Terminus XR G10 Folding Pocket Knife- Ambidextrous EDC Knife with Adjustable Belt Clip, G10 Handle, and Stonewashed Hardware- Crimson (TM1023-CP)

At first glance, you may think this is another knife that prioritizes form over functionality. This Katsu folding razor has a beautiful G10 handle that is designed to look like bamboo.

The blade also sports a beautiful reverse tanto shape that makes this a brilliant knife for any collector. 

Don't be fooled by its pretty appearance though, as this Katsu knife has a razor sharp edge that is great for preparing food, or cutting open letters and packages.

It won't be able to hack through pieces of wood, but for most crafting projects or day to day tasks, you will find this to be a reliable and sturdy little knife.

The blade shouldn't wobble at all while cutting, but if it does, it is easy to fix by turning the screw at the top with a small hex wrench. 

This knife has a handle with a small hole at the top that you can attach a key ring or lanyard to. There is also a small clip on the back for attaching it straight to your belt or pockets.

Sadly, the nylon sheath that comes with this product is a bit too small and breaks easily, although with such a high quality blade, you can always just buy a different case. 

Specs

  • Overall Length (in): 7.5
  • Blade Length (in): 3
  • Blade Thickness: 3.5 mm
  • Blade Shape: Reverse Tanto 
  • Blade Grind: Hollow 
  • Handle Material: G-10 Glass based epoxy resin laminate
  • Style: Folding (line lock) 
  • Weight (oz): 3.35

Pros

  • Beautiful design with a G-10 bamboo style handle. 
  • Razor sharp blade straight out of the box. 
  • It is easy to tighten the blade and remove it from the handle for regular maintenance. 

Cons

  • The nylon sheath is fragile and too small to fit the knife. 

Also available at: KatsuKnife

RUNNER UP

Kizer/Maverick Customs Harpoon Fixed blade Knife D2 Blade with Black Micarta Handle - 1040

At first glance, you may think this is another knife that prioritizes form over functionality. This Katsu folding razor has a beautiful G10 handle that is designed to look like bamboo.

The blade also sports a beautiful reverse tanto shape that makes this a brilliant knife for any collector. 

Don't be fooled by its pretty appearance though, as this Katsu knife has a razor sharp edge that is great for preparing food, or cutting open letters and packages.

It won't be able to hack through pieces of wood, but for most crafting projects or day to day tasks, you will find this to be a reliable and sturdy little knife.

The blade shouldn't wobble at all while cutting, but if it does, it is easy to fix by turning the screw at the top with a small hex wrench. 

This knife has a handle with a small hole at the top that you can attach a key ring or lanyard to. There is also a small clip on the back for attaching it straight to your belt or pockets.

Sadly, the nylon sheath that comes with this product is a bit too small and breaks easily, although with such a high quality blade, you can always just buy a different case. 

Specs

  • Overall Length (in): 7.5
  • Blade Length (in): 3
  • Blade Thickness: 3.5 mm
  • Blade Shape: Reverse Tanto 
  • Blade Grind: Hollow 
  • Handle Material: G-10 Glass based epoxy resin laminate
  • Style: Folding (line lock) 
  • Weight (oz): 3.35

Pros

  • Beautiful design with a G-10 bamboo style handle. 
  • Razor sharp blade straight out of the box. 
  • It is easy to tighten the blade and remove it from the handle for regular maintenance. 

Cons

  • The nylon sheath is fragile and too small to fit the knife. 

Also available at: KatsuKnife

RUNNER UP

RAT II Linerlock Desert Tan D2

The Rat II is considered by many blade experts to be the best knives available for those working on a tight budget.

While there are certainly better cutting tools out there, none of them offer quite the same value for money that you get with the Rat II. 

This is a slim and compact all-purpose utility knife that can cut through cord, wire and thin sheets of wood with no problem at all. 

The handle on this blade has a deep finger choil similar to the one on the Harpoon we looked at earlier. This protects your finger while using the knife and gives you excellent control over the blade, allowing you to make very precise cuts.

The hex screws on this knife can be easily undone for when you need to take the blade apart and clean it, or re-sharpen it. 

There are holes at the top of the handle that will allow you to feed in a lanyard or other piece of cord.

This is the only means of securing the knife to your person, as unlike some other folding designs, there is no pocket clip.

As such, you will need to be careful not to lose this knife and always keep it somewhere secure and safe when not using it. 

Specs

  • Overall Length (in): 7
  • Blade Length (in): 3
  • Blade Thickness: 0.09in 
  • Blade Shape: Drop Point
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: Nylon-fiberglass composite 
  • Style: Folding (liner lock) 
  • Weight (oz): 5.0

Pros

  • Deep finger choil on the handle for better control of the blade. 
  • Easy to disassemble and maintain. 
  • Compact and slim design. 

Cons

  • No pocket clip. 

Also available at: BladeHQ

RUNNER UP

Lion Steel Hunter

This knife has a solid wood handle and a wide blade that makes it perfectly suited for bush craft and camping. It has a full tang blade that can withstand a lot of punishment before needing to be honed.

As such, you can use this knife to prepare fire-wood, hack through dense patches of undergrowth and prepare food. 

The blade has a flat grind that allows it to slice through most materials like butter. This is combined with the heavy weight and thick blade to create a knife that is immensely satisfying to cut with. It comes with a leather sheath to protect the blade.

While this sheath is durable and reasonably high quality, you may find it makes drawing the knife a little difficult since it travels so far up the handle. 

The handle is made from olive wood, which offers great grip in wet or dry conditions. The finger choil and jimping on the back ensure that your hand won't slide down the blade while you are using it.

There is also a hole at the butt of the handle for looping a piece of string or a lanyard through. 

Specs

  • Overall Length (in): 7.68
  • Blade Length (in): 3.54
  • Blade Thickness: 0.16
  • Blade Shape: Drop point
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: Olive Wood
  • Style: Fixed Blade
  • Weight (oz): 7.05

Pros

  • Wide blade with a thick spine for hacking through wood and almost any other material. 
  • Full tang construction for better durability and power. 
  • Olive wood handle looks great and provides good grip in wet conditions. 

Cons

  • The sheath covers too much of the handle, making the knife difficult to draw. 

Also available at: BladeHQ

Buyers Guide

Knives made from D2 steel are often considerably cheaper than those made with better grades of steel. However, they are still high quality, durable tools that can be used for a number of different functions thanks to their tough blades and excellent edge retention. 

In this section, we will cover a few things to watch out for when shopping for a D2 knife. 

What is Sk5 Steel (Complete Steel Guide)

Hardness And Toughness

The hardness of a knife indicates how well it will hold its shape when subjected to sudden impacts or forces. It is measured using the Rockwell C Scale (HRC) 

D2 knives have an average hardness rating of 58 HRC, but can reach as high as 62 HRC. As such, most D2 knives will be suitable for cutting through soft materials such as rope, paper, cloth and soft woods like cork.

However, some of the more durable ones can also be used for hacking through pieces of wood and even cutting through metal wire. 

If you aren't going to be using your knife for anything particularly strenuous, then you can afford to buy one made of slightly softer steel.

However, if you want a heavy-duty tool for camping or bush craft activities, then it will be worthwhile investing in a D2 knife with a hardness rating above 60 HRC. 

While hardness indicates the ability of the blade to resist deformation, the toughness of the knife shows how likely it is to chip or fracture.

Most D2 knives have great toughness that allows them to withstand a fair bit of punishment without sustaining much damage. Thanks to their high toughness, many D2 blades have excellent edge retention, which means they will stay sharp for longer without needing to be honed. 

However, any blade will need resharpening eventually, so you will want to buy a knife that makes this easy to do so. 

Folding vs Fixed Blades

There are two main styles of knife that you can buy, including folding and fixed blades. Fixed blade knives have a handle that is firmly attached to the bottom of the blade.

Since the sharpened edge can't be retracted, you need to carry these knives in a sheath at all times to prevent them from slicing through your clothes or you. 

Folding knives, as their name suggests, are attached to a hinge that allows them to fold away into their own handle.

Fixed blade knives are often better for bush craft or camping, since they are strong and can have a full tang for better durability. 

As such, you can use them for much more rigorous tasks, such as hacking up firewood, without risking the blade breaking off. 

If what you are looking for is a compact and portable everyday carry (EDC) knife, then a folding design will probably work better for you. These are typically much smaller than fixed blades and can be safely carried on your person since the blade isn't exposed.

The hinge where the blade attaches to the handle is the weakest point of these knives and as such, they are rarely as durable as fixed blades. 

The Handle

When buying any knife, you want it to have a handle that offers a good grip. If the knife slips in your hands while you are using it, it could result in a nasty injury, or a broken blade, or both.

As such, you want to look for textured handles that will offer good grip in both wet and dry conditions. 

Some handles may look smooth but actually be rough to touch, so remember to read reviews to see how other users felt about the handle.

If you want full control over your blade for making precision cuts, then it will help to have an ergonomic handle design that fits the shape of your hand. 

Some fixed blade knives will even have metal butts on the end of the handle. The idea behind this is to make the knife more versatile and allow you to use the bottom of the handle as a hammer when necessary.

This is a great feature to have for any bush craft knife, since you can use it for knocking tent pegs into the ground. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does It Mean When A Knife Has A Full Tang? 

The tang is the metal part of a knives’ blade that extends into the handle. Knives with a full tang will have the metal of the blade continue all the way to the butt of the handle.

The advantages of full tang construction include better durability, and the ability to exert more force onto the knife without snapping the blade. 

Can I Resharpen D2 Steel? 

D2 steel can be resharpened or honed using almost any kind of hard stone. Diamond stone is commonly used since it will sharpen your blade much faster. 

You can use other types of stone, however, softer ones may take a very long time to sharpen this type of steel since it is incredibly hard. 

What Is Jimping?

The jimping of a knife refers to the little notches cut into the back of the blade where it meets the handle. The purpose of jimping is to offer traction for your fingers when holding the knife. 

This prevents your hand slipping while using the knife, giving you better control over the blade. 

Tom Bower