Metal fabricators understand the abundant number of variables that come in choosing the right material for the job. Making the right selection has a lot to do with how the final product will turn out when it comes to shaping and forming that steel.
Tool fabrication in particular requires special consideration for the type of steel being utilized. Because tools are subject to extreme wear and duress over long periods of time in a wide range of conditions, making sure the core material holds up is essential.
Depending on what your tool will be subjected to—such as cold-weather work, high-impact work or even electrical work—choosing steel that’s been treated properly is important. Here are a few factors to keep in mind and some recommendations for the proper grade of tool steel to choose.
Impact and stress
Tool steels are generally more brittle, which means any tool that’s being fabricated to stand up to impact, stress or vibration needs to be properly treated. Treating for impact comes at a cost however—impact- and shock-resistant metals are typically softer and prone to corrosion. Tools most often associated with high-impact reliability include hammers, chisels and shears.
Quality Metals Inc. typically recommends treated tool steels such as S1, S2 and S5 for any fabrication of high-impact products.
Temperature (high and low)
Most tools are heat treated to increase durability and hardness. Unfortunately, this means re-heating them generally nullifies the effects of the original heat treatment. For this reason, it’s a smart idea to choose hot- or cold-work steels depending on the nature of the tool you’re fabricating.
We recommend hot-work grades of H12, H13 and H19 and cold-work steel grades of D2, O2 and A7. Additionally, if your tool will be subject to a combination of high speeds and high temperatures, steel grades of T1, M7 and M42 are generally even more applicable (high-speed, temperature-resistant grades).
Beyond the abrasive nature of tools and the temperature of the environment they’re subjected to, there are several other considerations that should be considered when choosing the right tool steel grade.
If you’re looking for a lower cost and willing to compromise on the overall final performance of the tool—such as with a discount brand—cost-conscious options for tool steel include water-quenched W1, W2 and W3 options.
Hot-molded plastic or injection molding applications require specialized tools that, in turn, require specialized grades of tool steel. The P-family of tool steel—including P2, P3 and P5—generally satisfies the demand for tools used in conjunction with manufacturing materials at low melting temperatures (plastics).
Making the right choice in tool steel
The examples we’ve provided here by no means represent the entirety of tool steel options out there. Fabricators will need to thoroughly understand the nature of the tools they’re creating, the conditions they’ll be subjected to and the properties of different tool grades to choose the best option.
If you need help picking the right grade of tool steel, consult with the metal experts at Quality Metals, Inc. Not only do we stock a variety of the most common tool steels, we’re well-equipped with the knowledge to make sure you’re choosing the best material for your projects.