PM-10V versus A2 & O1 tool steel…


Powdered metallurgy tool steel PM-10V, A2 tool steel, and O1 tool steel are all high-performance materials used for making cutting tools. Here is a short comparison of their properties:

  1. Composition: PM-10V: Contains high amounts of vanadium, chromium, and molybdenum. A2: Contains about 1% carbon and 5% chromium. O1: Contains about 1% carbon and small amounts of other alloying elements such as manganese, chromium, and tungsten.
  2. Manufacturing process: PM-10V: Made through the powdered metallurgy process. An extensive and hence costly process. A2: Traditional air-hardening tool steel plus optional cryogenic finish.
    O1: Traditional oil-hardening tool steel.
  3. Properties: PM-10V: Superior wear resistance, toughness, and edge retention. Can hold a sharp edge even at high temperatures, (not that we need that in woodworking). A2: Excellent toughness, wear resistance, and dimensional stability. Can withstand higher impact loads than PM-10V! So, maybe better for chisels… O1: Excellent toughness, wear resistance, and machinability. Lower cost compared to PM-10V.
  4. Applications: PM-10V: High-performance cutting tools that need to withstand extreme heat and abrasive stress. Our experience is pretty simple, we reckon the higher abrasive qualities of PM-10V simply mean mean we re-sharpen much less often, some say, half as much. A2: Dies, punches, blades and other cutting tools that require high toughness and wear resistance. An excellent allrounder. O1: Knives, punches, chisels, and other cutting tools that require good machinability and a lower cost.

Overall, PM-10V is the superior material for high-performance cutting tools that require superior wear resistance and edge retention, but it is also the most expensive! A2 and O1 tool steels are still excellent choices for many cutting tool applications, depending on the specific requirements and budget. All three materials can be optimized through proper heat treatment and processing to achieve desired properties.

Many woodwork hand tool tool manufacturers use A2 tool steel because it is very good. Our initial strategy was simply to use the best tool steel we could get supplied. PM-10V fitted that bill but perhaps we could maintain tool prices if we offered A2 as well?

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