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12L14, uses, good for?

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  • 12L14, uses, good for?

    ........I'm curious about what it's good to use for. I hate to act dense about this. I'm a relatively new self trained (reading & doing) HSM. My first experience with it produced such great results I've been buying a lot of it in the form of drops and scraps. Lovely to work with!

    I have a very nebulous kind of halfway understanding of the tech jargon. Looking up 12L14 I found it to be very similar to 1018 in several areas, and to 1045 also but in fewer matches. The greatest difference with 12L14 and the other 2 steels is in it's yeild strength. Ultimate tensile, mod of elasticity and a couple others being very or fairly close.

    I make some gun related stuff on the side, and I've used 12L14 a few times for things like bullet nose punches in size dies. Nothing critical. It machines like cheese, and final turning to size passes produce finishes that look like chrome.

    I understand some of it's limitations due to the low carbon content, and of the lead in it. What I would like to know is what you guys have used it for in various applications? I understand it's not very weldable?


    Son of the silver stream ..... Bullet caster.

  • #2
    12L14 is used a whole bunch in the screw machine and cnc parts where a free machining steel is needed and the part is light to medium duty application.

    It case hardens fine, but welds crappy.

    I would use it for stuff like a pin boss or a doorknob and air holes fittings.

    Nickel plating makes it look good with a tough skin.

    [This message has been edited by tattoomike68 (edited 01-29-2006).]


    • #3
      Machines great and um - that's about it. Otherwise it's expensive, prone to corrosion, welds OK provided you can live with the posority, segregation, and other flaws intrinsic to its metallurgy, and is resistant to heat treatment without carburizing.

      Unless you're using the stuff to make items requiring extensive machine work having excellent finishing properties I'd give it a miss. Many neophyte machinists are attracted to its machining properties but these machining properties are like training wheels. Once you got your balance, so to speak, further dependence does you no good and in fact prevents you from venturing into materials whose properties are more useful and universal.

      I'd also caution neophytes against "mystery metal:" materials of unknown alloy content. Nearly everyone has a horror story about making something critical out of the wrong stuff. There are ways to get a rough idea of alloy content of mystery metal via the spark test, file test, and with "spot testing" if you're familiar with it (where the material is etched with a drop of acid and the spent etchant subsequently passed through a series of chemical reactions on blotter paper to determine the presence of chrome, nickel, etc).

      Make sure you identify any material you bring into your shop and perpetuate its identification for the time you hold it in stock until the final bit is used.

      Let's leave it at this: you can't make a good violin out of balsa wood; neither can you make strong fasteners from 12L14. You can make most any machine part from the stuff so long is it isn't subject to corrodion, welding, wear, or high stress.


      • #4
        If more strength is needed go with 11L44, "Stressproof" is one company's trade name for the material.

        Machines well, still not weldable, suitable for high stress applications.

        One of the main purposes of these easy to machine alloys is in automatic machining where alloys that tend to create long unbroken chips can't be used. This was especially important on automatic screw machines where the long chips would clog up the machines. Interesting to note that the chip breaking ability of the material is not so important on screw/bolt/nut making anymore since they aren't machined, but are cold formed.

        Years ago the screw machine industry's trade group used to say 95% of ALL machined parts are made from leaded steels.


        • #5
          Like mike said, it's screw machine stock. It's used when no material is specified , but it must be steel. It machines easily and thus saves wear and tear on tooling.
          If you're going to heat treat or weld or turn a thread, use 1018. Avoid stuff with lead in it if you're going to weld it.


          • #6
            12L14 rusts like crazy if you look at it wrong, esp after machining.


            • #7
              It and some of it's variants are used to make hydraulic fittings also,they can be kept soft or case hardened depending on use.

              You might want to try 1144 stressproof,it machines good,is weldable and responds well to case hardening.
              I just need one more tool,just one!


              • #8
                "If you're going to heat treat or weld or turn a thread, use 1018."

                Low carbon leaded steels carburize (heat treat) well, I believe the higher carbon types can be through heat treated. Turning threads is a breeze.

                Welding is the downside. Even there I've been told they can be welded by TIG if the weldor makes sure to allow the lead to bubble out of the weld pool. Personally, I've done some fantastic looking welds in 12L14, they break easily though.


                • #9
                  we made muzzloading rifle barrels out of it.


                  • #10
                    "You might want to try 1144 stressproof,it machines good,is weldable and responds well to case hardening."

                    I have welded c1144 in the past, but the metal supplier handbook says NOT TO WELD.
                    {Russell Metals}

                    Your thoughts

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                    • #11
                      .........I appreciate the time for the replies. I was wanting to make sure I was thinking right about what it was good for. I was surprised to hear that it would caseharden! So it's okay in applications where 'basic steel' would prove better then trying to get by with aluminum, or just non critical stuff where steel will work.

                      Bob308, yes I had heard once that it was, but I knew nothing of 12L14 at the time. I understand that a rather famous shooter (Barry Darr) used Stressproof for some low power cartridge schuetzen barrels and got some grief over it.

                      Son of the silver stream ..... Bullet caster.


                      • #12
                        There was a picture in HSM years back of a 12L14 barrel that split. The writer was hit by a splinter from it, although by chance it hit something he was carrying and didn't injure him.

                        Seems really stupid, to put it bluntly, to use a leaded free-machining steel like that as a firearm barrel, even for a muzzleloader, if you don't have to. Properties just aren't right.

                        But, 12L14 is probably GONE. Won't be made anymore. It probably will not meet the RoHs standards for lead content, in which case it would be illegal in the EC. At least that is what we are being told.

                        I thought the content was low enough, but that may not be the case, especially after the next round of tightening up of the content limits under the law.
                        1601 2137 5683 1002 1437

                        Keep eye on ball.
                        Hashim Khan

                        If you look closely at a digital signal, you find out it is really analog......


                        • #13
                          This is a long way from the original question but the subject came up and I can't resist raising a caution flag.

                          [QUOTE]Originally posted by motorworks:
                          [B]"You might want to try 1144 stressproof,it machines good,is weldable and responds well to case hardening."

                          I have welded c1144 in the past, but the metal supplier handbook says NOT TO WELD.
                          {Russell Metals} [B][QUOTE]

                          It's possible to weld something and come up with a weld with a prefectly presentable appearance but when the stress comes on the segregation, root cracking, embrittlement, whatever will let go and cause anything from annoyance to multiple fatalities.

                          There's good reason why things are done the way they are, why there are so many restrictions and "thou shalt nots" in pressure vessels, piping, aircraft, aerospace, oil field and a jillion other applications for welded joints. That is the smart guys (the really smart ones who are highly experienced in the business, got the education, who have seen it all, and therefore write the specs) have set minimum standards for welding in these services and welders who do the work have to be certified for it.

                          I know guys who declare themselves good backyard welders yet they weld over dirt grease and paint, weld high strength stuff with the wrong rod, declare preheating and other precautions a waste of time. When the boat trailer they weld falls apart revealing zero penetration scab welds somehow it's not their problem: "Cheap import steel".

                          My point is you have to approach welding with the same attitude as any other trade. When machining threads they have to fit right and be concentric with the relevant features. Machanics have to work clean and assemble things in the correct order. Carpenters have to frame houses level square and plumb. Doctors have to observe aceptic procedure, prescribe appropiate medicines, and keep their skills sharp and up to date. Otherwise good craftsman who approach welding with a breezy sense of disengagement are the bane of the welding trade. On the other hand I've made a good deal of money over the years straightening out their messes.

                          Getting down to it, my information shows that C1144 is weldable using the right procedure and filler metal so this point is moot. It is possible to make strong reliable welds in C1144 but you do have to use preheat and the right electrode. If the material is heat-treated there will be some loss of strength in the heat affected zone.

                          Leaded steels are NOT reccommended for parts to be welded because of the weak and porous character of the fusion zone thanks to the lead content. That's not to say you can't weld something together of a leaded steel and not get good service from it; it's quite possible you can for work that sees no great strains on its welded connections for its service life.

                          A point to consider: if the books say "do not weld" and you do anyway, you make yourself liable to tort action if anyone is hurt or suffers property damage attributable to failure of any welds you've made on the item in question.

                          You're a craftman now; that means you bear a responsibility for the products of you hands.

                          [This message has been edited by Forrest Addy (edited 01-30-2006).]


                          • #14
                            There was a picture in HSM years back of a 12L14 barrel that split.

                            I believe that was leaded 4140, 41L40.


                            • #15
                              For low stress parts 12L14 is great. Like you said, machines like hot butter leaving a fantastic surface finish. Always makes me feel like I know what I am doing. I keep a good supply of scrap and off-cuts of the stuff for the afore mentioned low stress parts. For firearm related parts I guess you could do things like scope rings, or bases, sights, decorative hardware, low stress action parts, etc.
                              James Kilroy