Choosing the Proper Tool Steel Grade

How Tool Steel is Made and Grouped
February 22, 2018
The Three Common Forms of Carbon Steel
March 2, 2018
Show all

Choosing the Proper Tool Steel Grade

Nuts, screws and bolts closeup on wooden table

In our last post in this space, we went over the basics of tool steel, a high-strength steel form used often in tool manufacturing and machine dies. At Wasatch Steel, we can provide you with all the tool steel you’re in need of.

Within the realm of tool steel, however, are several different grades. Which you use will depend on a few important factors – let’s look at some basic questions to ask about your project beforehand, then go over which tool steel grades might be right for you.

Questions to Ask

Here are a few basic questions to ask about your project before choosing your tool steel grade:

  • Is sharp cutting going to be required?
  • What type of heat treating is required?
  • Does the tool need to be able to withstand impact loadings, such as from an ax, hammer or pick?
  • Is abrasion resistance an important requirement?

Tool Steel Grades

Once you’ve answered some basic questions, you can proceed to determine which type of tool steel you need. Here are a few basic grades:

  • Water hardening (W grades): These are essential high carbon steel grades, with low costs but an inability to be used at high temperatures. This is essentially the weakest tool steel grade, and is commonly used for cold heading, cutting tools, knives, embossing, and cutlery.
  • Air hardening (A grades): This is an all-purpose steel that’s very versatile and has a high level of chromium. It’s often used in coining, lamination, gages, chipper knives, cold shear knives, and more.
  • D Type (D grades): High-carbon, high-chromium tool steel that combines abrasion resistance and air hardening qualities. It’s commonly used in die-casting die blocks, drawing dies and forging dies.
  • Oil hardening (O grades): A general purpose hardening steel that’s tough and resistant to abrasion. It can be used in one of the widest range of applications, from arbors and brushing to cold trimming and knurling tools.
  • Shock-resisting types (S grades): Designed to resist shock, this material comes with high impact toughness but low abrasion resistance. It’s best used in battering areas, chisel work, grippers, swaging, and hot trimming.
  • Hot-working (H Grades): A grade that’s used to cut at high temperatures, H Grade steels come with additional strength and hardness to help deal with these extreme temperatures. They’ll be low in carbon and high in other alloys.

For more on various tool steel grades, or to buy steel online today, speak to the pros at Wasatch Steel.