w1 steel - Composition - Heat treatment - Properties - Applications

W1 Steel – Composition, Properties, Heat treatment and Applications

W1 steel belongs to a famous class of water hardenable tool steel. There are total 7 grades for this category from W1 to W7. W1 is considered the most common one among all grades. This type of tool steel majorly contains high carbon responsible for all properties. To boost mechanical properties and to refine microstructure, alloying additions like Chromium is carried out.

Topic Covered in “Water hardenable tool steel guide” are; What is W1 steel, W1 steel composition, properties, heat treatment, and application. Along with these topics, mechanical processes feasible will also be discussed.

Read More;

D2 Steel – High chromium – High Carbon Cold Worked steel

What is W1 steel?

W1 steel is high carbon steel with carbon ranging from 0.6% to 1.4%. With such high carbon, this steel usually has high tensile strength and hardness with low ductility and toughness. That’s why water hardenable tool steel is avoided in applications that require energy absorption or impact loading. Due to excellent machinability characteristics, this high carbon percentage is used extensively for tools used in diverse areas of life. Other designations are;

UNS Number –T72301

DNS Number – C100 W1

W1 steel Composition

Composition of water hardenable tool steel is shown below;

C0.95 - 1.14
Si0.15 - 0.30
Mn0.15 - 0.25

Water hardened steel Physical Properties

PropertiesUnits (metric)
Melting Point1430 C
Density7.82 g/cm3

W1 steel Mechanical Properties

Follow Brinell Hardness test for insight into procedure of hardness testing and for reading hardness number and hardness scale.

PropertiesUnits (Metric)
Yield Strength1500 Mpa
UTS1680 Mpa
Poisson ratio0.27 - 0.3
Elastic Modulus200 GPa
Impact Energy (Charpy test)86 J
Hardness (Brinell)498 HBN
Hardness (Vicker)531 HV
Hardness (Rockwell)50 - 51 HRC

Thermal properties

Firstly, Thermal conductivity graph with respect to temperature for work hardenable tool steel is mentioned;

W1 steelThermal Conductivity (W/m. K)

Thermal expansion in relation to temperature for work hardenable tool steel containing high carbon is shown below;

W1 SteelThermal Expansion [µm/m.K from 20 C]

W1 steel heat treatment

This high carbon % must be properly utilized. For this, proper heat treatment is necessary. The proper heat treatment in water hardenable tool steel produces a good combination of resistance to deformation, resistance to softening, wear resistance for tool steel applications. 

Common defects that you may encounter during heat treatment can be found in the article, “Common defects in heat treatment of steel and their possible remedies“.

Due to high carbon, most of structure after hardening treatment will be converted to martensite. This martensitic formation depends alot on quenching treatment. To understand non-equilibrium or fast cooling importance, study TTT diagram in steel.

Here, first mentioned things are hardening and tempering cycle for W1 tool steel; Quenchant mentioned here are brine or water. You can study the quenchant role in martensitic transformation at, “Role of Quenching media in Martensitic Formation“.

GradeW1 steel
Rate of HeatingSlowly
Pre-heating (hardening)560 - 650 C
Hardening Temperature760 - 815 C
Holding temperature10 - 30 min
Quenching MediumBrine or Water
Tempering temperature175 - 345 C

Initially, Water hardenable tool steel is received in the annealed condition. In annealed condition hardness of steel is low. This enables the effective machining of products. To measure hardness, Vicker hardness is a reliable or laboratory scale. For industrial scale, rockwell C scale is used for hardness measurement of tool steels. After proper machining, the hardening process is carried out to achieve the necessary mechanical properties mentioned above. Below mentioned table enlist variation in hardening temperature in relation to carbon percentage; 

CompositionHardnening Temperature (C)Hardness (as-quenched)TemperingHardness (after tempering)
0.7 - 0.8 %C800 - 82065 - 67175 - 27556
0.8 - 0.9 % C790 - 81065 - 67175 - 27556
0.9 - 1.05 % C780 - 80065 - 67175 - 27556
1.05 - 1.2 % C760 -78065 - 67175 - 27556
1.2 - 1.35 % C760 - 78065 - 67175 - 27556


Normally, all steel parts are received in wrought form. They are annealed condition. Tool is machined before giving tool hardening treatment. Annealed condition is considered the softest state. Recommended annealing is spheroidized annealing for better machinability.

To Study Annealing processes, Follow Steel Annealing process

After machining, steel is given hardening treatment. Annealing and normalizing cycle commonly employed for this specific work hardenable tool steel is given below;

Grade of SteelW1 Steel
NormalizingPossible (790 - 925)
Annealing Temperature790 - 925
Annealing (Rate of Cooling)22 C/ hr
Hardness after Annealing156 - 201


Normalizing treatment is carried out for W1 steel to breakup non-uniform structure, to refine grain size, and to relieve residual stresses. This type of treatment is delivered after forging and before full annealing steps. To avoid decarburization, the steel part can be packed in a furnace in a protective atmosphere. Normalizing cycle is given below along with annealing cycle.


Water-hardenable tool steels can be forged between 1038o C and 816o C. After forging, W1 tool steel is given normalizing and annealing treatment to refine the structure and relieve stresses.

All mechanical process and service conditions for Tools steel are given in table;

GradeW1 steel
Resistance to decarburizationHighest
Hardening responseShallow
Amount of DistortionHigh
Resistance to crackingMedium
Approximate Hardness(HRC)50 - 64
Resistance to softeningLow
Resistance to wearLow to Medium

W1 Steel for knives

W1 steel is refined high carbon steel having high hardness and yield strength. Knives made of w1 steel can be good addition to your collection if you are looking for good beating. You can check CRKT minimalist hunting knife in which we can use this type of knife.

W1 tool steel is good if you are looking for fixed blade that can handle good beating. Although corrosion resistant of this steel is low but, in low price, knife of this grade of steel can be used for hunting or survival trips where edge retention and high hardness are primarily requirements.

We highly recommend w1 steel for knives if corrosion resistant is not the issue and you can keep this steel clean and corrosion free.

w1 steel Vs 1095

w1 steel is almost similar to 1095 steel with better properties because of small alloying additions. W-1 steel has high hardness and yield strength as compared to 1095 steel. W-1 tool steel has yield strength of 1500 MPa while on other hand, 1095 steel has yield strength of 525 MPa. Both steels can be used for knife.

For detailed properties and composition, visit 1095 carbon steel article.

W1 steel Applications

  • Heavy forging hammers
  • Chisels
  • Scissors
  • Knife and Blades
  • Lathe centers
  • Milling cutter and boring tools
  • Forging dies
  • Bending Dies
  • Large Blanking tools
  • Drift punches
W1 steel applications


  1. ASM Handbook Volume 4 – “Heat treatment
  2. Anil Sinha, “Physical Metallurgy Handbook