D2 Tool Steel Knives: Four That Make The Cut

D2 Delivers In Edge Holding, Overall Performance, And Affordability. These Four D2 Knives Are Emblematic Of The Toughness Of The Material

Even if you haven’t used a knife of D2 tool steel, you’re no stranger to it if you have been into knives for any length of time. Many knife manufacturers use D2, as have numerous custom knifemakers.

Why is D2 so popular? Two reasons are it offers the best bang for the buck in terms of edge holding and overall performance. D2 is regarded as a step up from basic, low-grade stainless steel and is often found in entry-level to mid-grade production knives. One drawback: D2 is not a stainless steel so it will require a bit more care. Still, the performance advantages outweigh that drawback and you get a knife with enhanced edge-holding power that handles tough cutting chores. 

D2 comes from the metalworking industry. There it is primarily used to make steel cutting dies, so that tells you all you need to know: It basically is a steel used to cut steel. Think about that for a minute. D2’s chemistry in percentages is 1.4 to 1.6 carbon, .7 to 1.2 molybdenum, 11 to 13 chromium, and 1.1 vanadium. It can be hardened past 60-61 HRC on the Rockwell scale without being brittle. BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame® members Jimmy Lile and Wayne Goddard used D2 a lot in their knives, as does Bob “Dr. D2” Dozier extensively in his outdoor models. Top production knife companies such as CRKT, Kershaw, SOG, A.G. Russell Knives, Ontario and KA-BAR are but a few that have multiple offerings using D2.

CRKT Fawkes

 The CRKT Fawkes is an excellent choice for a stylish EDC folder, featuring flipper operation and IKBS pivot bearings for smooth opening and closing.

Maker Alan Folts designed the CRKT Fawkes to be a stylish, colorful EDC linerlock folder. The knife’s name is derived from the Harry Potter movie franchise, specifically the phoenix that appears in the series. 

With a closed length of just 3.76 inches the Fawkes carries comfortably, and the blade deploys fast and easy thanks to the IKBS-ball-bearing pivot and assisted-opening spring. The two work in conjunction to provide swift, smooth deployment, and the assist helps detent the blade in the closed position.

The multi-layer orange G-10 handle generates visual excitement and a splash of color. The ergonomic design provides a comfy grip for cutting tasks. The 2.74-inch, clip-point blade is flat ground and sports a swedge as well as a milled-in fuller, which creates a bit of attitude. A flipper tab helps initiate blade deployment. The knife carries securely thanks to a deep carry, fold-over-style clip that holds the closed Fawkes blade tip up and as low as possible in a pocket.

The handle shape is striking. A pronounced finger groove near the pivot helps index your grip, while chamfering eliminates harsh edges and hot spots. The matching orange G-10 handle spacer sports a series of large notches that help seat the knife in your grip. Blade action is quick and authoritative. The linerlock engages the tang with zero movement. CRKT will make the Fawkes a regular production knife model this year, with the only change being a switch to 1.4116 stainless for blade steel. 

Made in Taiwan, the MSRP for the Fawkes is $89.99.

Kershaw Endgame

The high flat grind of the Kershaw Endgame makes it a great choice for a working utility knife.

Kershaw‘s Endgame flipper folder features a highly usable modified drop-point blade, along with an ergonomic handle featuring modern design elements, all translating into a classy EDC that opens easily via the flipper tab.

The 3.25-inch flat-ground blade incorporates a distinctive humpbacked swedge for an aggressive look. A notched rest on the spine allows comfortable thumb placement for greater blade control. A stonewashed finish seals the tiny pores of the steel’s surface to fight corrosion as well as give the blade an industrial look. It also hides scratches from use pretty well and reduces glare.

A stainless steel framelock ensures solid lockup. The large finger recess at the pivot end helps index your grip. The handle curves aid in secure purchase every time.

The handle’s aesthetics are interesting. There’s bronze PVD (physical-vapor-deposition)-coated steel accents, textured FRN (fiberglass-reinforced-nylon) scales and a window cutout. The multi-layered visual adds more subtle color to the otherwise gray blade and handle. I do not care for it—it seems too busy. I don’t mind one type of overlay or even some machined-in grooves on the handle surface—both achieve function along with a sensible appearance. A deep carry pocket clip positions the closed Endgame nice and low in the pocket away from probing eyes.

While ergonomic and comfortable, the handle is a bit lacking in the midsection. For extended use, I would not recommend this knife. My hand grips the handle tighter to make up for the lack of bulk in the midsection. The answer is to redesign the handle and give it more mass. However, for tasks requiring choking up on the blade and handle for extra control, such as wire stripping, the Endgame is ideal. I felt in full control of the blade and was able to make precise cuts easily. If you do a lot of detail cutting, this might be the knife for you, or even if you need a folder for mundane slicing tasks. It’s got a great blade shape that is stylish. 

Made in China, the Endgame has an MSRP of $107.99.

Medford Knife & Tool 187DP

At 5 5/8 inches closed, the biggest knife of the test bunch is the Medford Knife & Tool 187DP. Its hollow-ground drop-point blade makes short work of most any cutting task. The half-titanium/half-G-10 handle is equipped with a framelock.  

Medford Knife & Tool specializes in manufacturing hard-use knives in the USA. These are not safe queens—they are engineered to hold up in real-world survival situations. The 187DP heavy-duty framelock folder is a representative example. The hollow-ground blade is 3.75 inches and comes in a utilitarian drop-point pattern. Closed length: 55/8 inches. An oblong hole facilitates easy one-hand opening. Dual thumb studs function as the blade stop in the fully open and closed positions.

The blade is 3/16-inch thick. Make no mistake, the 187DP is quite a chunk! The grip is ⅝-inch thick, and you will know when it’s in your pocket. A milled titanium clip carries the closed knife blade tip up but is not reversible. Any company using milled clips gets bonus points in my book. Regular stamped steel clips do a very good job at holding your knife at the top of the pocket for easy access, but, in my opinion, are not much on style points. Milled clips look more stylish and also hold the knife securely to the pocket lip.

If you are a rough user and use your knives outdoors or just plain beat them up, the 187DP is for you. Its rock solid build and bulk stand up to the heaviest use. I like the way the handle tapers toward the butt end, enabling you to get a secure hold. A series of traction notches machined close to the butt further assist in obtaining a solid no-slip handhold. It feels fixed in your hand and instills confidence in controlling the large blade. The steady grip allows you to bear down on the blade to power it through cuts.

Many who favor tactical folders will tell you a framelock is best for hard use. The 187DP’s framelock engages quite securely and disengages with a firm push. A milled-out section on the lockbar accommodates a thumb to disengage the lock—nice touch by the Medford crew. The blade cuts aggressively and dispatches most any material and food with aplomb.

Out of the box I really liked the factory edge. The ultra-strong lockup makes the knife feel like a fixed blade. Consequently, user confidence is high and you don’t have any reservations about putting it through the toughest jobs. While a large tactical folder, it can easily be tamed for precise cutting by making use of the choil to choke up on the blade and handle. 

There’s also about an inch-and-a-half-long run of traction notches on the spine just above the blade hole. Your thumb rests comfortably there and you can execute controlled cuts easily—a very nice touch and positive attribute.

The only complaint I have about the 187DP is the size and, therefore, the weight, both of which exceed the limit for what I consider an EDC folder. You can feel its bulk and presence in the pocket, especially when you bend over. 

MSRP: $475.

SOG Stout FLK

The SOG Stout FLK is definitely stout! Don’t let this compact folder fool you—it’s built for heavy work. It can get down to precise work as well, such as stripping wire.

The SOG Stout FLK is configured in collaboration with Danish maker Mikkel Willumsen. In appearance, the framelock folder lives up to its name and has a 2.62-inch drop-point blade. Closed length: 3.38 inches.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive work knife, the Stout FLK is it. It’s big enough to handle most cutting chores but not too big to be in the way or too cumbersome to carry. With its flat grind and short swedge, the blade shape is utility friendly. An oblong hole permits you to thumb the blade open as you would any one-hand folder, or you can use the flipper tab instead. 

A pronounced choil enables choking up on the blade for more exact control and works with the large finger recess in the handle as well. Spyderco does this sort of thing, too. It’s a way to make smaller knives feel large in the hand and provide more blade control.

The handle is in the familiar half-and-half framelock construction, using textured G-10 on the presentation side. This saves weight as opposed to having an all-metal handle and also adds traction for sure handling. A matching steel spacer provides balance as well as structural rigidity. 

The deep-carry pocket clip is ambidextrous and holds the Stout FLK low in the pocket while keeping it easily accessible. The clip is attached to the butt end and comes over the side. SOG calls it a bayonet-style clip, a style used quite a bit in the company’s line. 

Made in China, the MSRP for the Stout FLK is $54.95. Finally, SOG will release the knife as a slip joint this year.

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