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D2 vs 440C Steel in Knives: Which is Better?

Choosing a knife is easy. You know what you need, you know if the knife fits your hand and if you like it. That’s it. But that’s basic stuff, beginner thinking. Serious users will choose a knife not only based on its design, but also on the steel that it’s made from…

cutting plastic bottle with a knife
Cut the first bottle in half just above the midsection.

The steel is the soul of the knife, and will determine such important characteristics as toughness, wear resistance, how likely it is to rust, and more. But there are many, many different kinds of blade steels out there, enough to make your head spin.

I’m here to help with a comparison of two steels that are both known for extreme durability, D2 and 440C. So, which is better?

D2 and 440C have a lot in common and perform quite similarly. In short, 440C has an advantage in corrosion resistance, whereas D2 has an advantage in edge retention and overall durability. 440C is also slightly easier to sharpen.

More than any other steels we have compared, putting D2 and 440C head to head really is a case of six of one and a half dozen of the other…

You could go with either and probably come out just fine if you need a knife that is suited for heavy-duty use, but even so, each has advantages that you should know about. We’ll dig into it down below.

The Basics: D2

D2 is a type of tool steel which, as the name suggests, is a category of steel that is used for making all sorts of industrial and personal tools. Pocketknives, fixed blade knives, wedges, chisels, dies, mandrels, and a lot more.

D2 is what tool makers and knife makers reach for when they need supreme toughness and hardness characteristics, but also a modicum of corrosion resistance. That is because D2 has more carbon and chromium compared to other types of tool steel, notably A and O types.

You’re just as likely to find D2 used for making rough cutting implements like shears, snips, planer blades, rotary tool blades, and more, but it has a long history and continues today as a knife steel for the most abusive applications.

D2 Composition

The secret to D2’s legendary toughness and strength is all in the formulation. Like all steel, it contains a lot of iron, of course, but its intrinsic characteristics are given to it by 12% chromium, 1.5% carbon, 0.9% of vanadium, 0.8%, 0.2% sulfur, 0.45% manganese, and 0.4% silicon.

All of these elements are important, but especially so is the inclusion of sulfur and silicon which give this steel even more strength beyond what carbon can do itself.

The Basics: 440C

Next, we look at 440C which, like D2, has a history of use in toolmaking. Specifically, ball bearings, roller bearings, and any other tool where fatigue resistance, mechanical strength, and hardness are paramount while still preserving a degree of corrosion resistance.

To this end, 440C has a history of being used in various kinds of fine cutlery that is expected to hold an edge for a long time when cutting through softer mediums. Perhaps most notably it has also been used in various kinds of surgical tools.

440C Composition

440C has lots of different elements in it, necessary to produce the unique characteristics that it boasts.

It has a maximum of 1.2% carbon, around 1% molybdenum, 16 to 18% chromium, 0.5% nickel, 0.75% manganese, 0.1 to 0.3% of vanadium, 1% silicon, 0.04% phosphorus, and 0.03% sulfur.

Looking at this composition it’s easy to see that, compared to D2, 440C is a true stainless steel, whereas D2 is at best described as semi-stainless. 440C will withstand moisture far better and other, more corrosive things besides.

Advantages of D2

D2 is famous, rightly so, for extreme durability. These knives are incredibly tough, fantastically durable, and almost supernaturally resistant to bending, breaking, and chipping. When you put a good working edge on a D2 knife, that edge is going to last and last.

This means that D2 is ideal for the most serious kind of work where your tool needs to stay sharp but also smash through tough materials. Wood, rope, and even significantly soft or metals are no impediment and no threat to D2 at all.

Still, D2 comes with two notable drawbacks, namely the fact that it’s quite difficult to sharpen and often requires special sharpeners to do so. It’s also prone to rust if not kept lubricated. Remember, D2 is not considered a true stainless steel, but rather semi-stainless.

Advantages of 440C

440C offers many of the same advantages that D2 does, namely the fact that it’s extremely tough, unlikely to break or chip, and also holds an edge quite well. But one of its standout features is the fact that it is very corrosion-resistant thanks to being a true stainless steel.

If you need the pros that D2 brings to the table, but you’re going to be in a humid, salty, or other corrosive environment, or if your own body chemistry produces particularly corrosive perspiration, 440C is an excellent alternative.

It’s also much easier to put a fine, hair-popping edge on a knife made from 440C, and though it is tough to sharpen it isn’t as difficult to sharpen as D2, not by a long shot.

What Kind of Knife is Best Suited for D2?

If you need your knife to stand up to hardcore use like prying, chiseling, hacking, chopping, or cleaving, D2 is an excellent choice. It can work and work and work and still hold a useful edge.

Even if you’re going to be using it for significantly lighter tasks, you can trust D2 to keep that good working edge for an extremely long time, meaning you won’t have to sharpen it often. Great for lazy folks like me who don’t like to sharpen that much!

For hardcore fixed blades, folding knives, or any other sort of chopping or hacking tool, D2 should be at the top of a short list of steels that can withstand the worst abuse.

What Kind of Knife is Best Suited for 440C?

Unsurprisingly, 440C is useful for many of the same applications that D2 is, thanks to its tremendous durability…

Although it’s not quite as tough and won’t keep an edge quite as long as D2, in the bargain you’ll get significantly better corrosion resistance, meaning that 440C is an excellent choice anytime you’re taking your knife into a humid or wet environment, or if you’ll be carrying it every day and getting good and sweaty all the time.

Whereas D2 requires regular oiling if it’s going to avoid rusting, 440C requires very little care by comparison. 440C also has an advantage in that it will take a finer, sharper edge with a lot less effort compared to D2, though it won’t keep that edge quite as long.

An excellent choice for a heavy-duty folding pocketknife or a fixed blade that needs a good edge but will still be used heavily.

Bottom Line: Which Should You Get?

This showdown is a dead heat. For most users, the difference between 440C and D2 is minimal. I can say that if you need maximum, uncompromising durability and you are skilled at sharpening knives, it’s worth spending a little more to get D2. However, if you need a knife that you can make a little sharper, and it’s a little easier to sharpen, get 440C.

Corrosion resistance is another major factor: D2 is only modestly resistant to rusting and requires regular oil. 440C is a true stainless steel and far more resilient. Buy accordingly!

The post D2 vs 440C Steel in Knives: Which is Better? appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

By: Tom Marlowe
Title: D2 vs 440C Steel in Knives: Which is Better?
Sourced From: www.survivalsullivan.com/d2-vs-440c-steel/
Published Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2024 11:22:48 +0000


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