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Opinions on tools steels for general shop projects?

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  • Opinions on tools steels for general shop projects?

    ]Just curious about what the collective wisdom is on hardenable tool steels for typical (if there is such a thing) home shop type guy.

    The actual part:
    I am messing around with making a hollow cutting tool, sort of like a gasket or leather punch, to bore a particular sized hole through a rubber slug. Essentially a rubber cylinder with a hole through the ends. Anyhow, I have made a few test tools that worked pretty close to what I need but the edge seemed to dull quickly. It was made from some W1 that I had, but not hardened. Going to try hardening next.

    Here is the hypothetical part:
    Say I'm wanting to have a small supply of bar stock in a few sizes for making the occasional custom cutting tool, an oddball tap, a small gear cutter for some project, a D-reamer, etc. Stuff that will be used for machining steel, but not in a production environment. Maybe the occasional custom gasket punch. You get the idea.

    Given the hypothetical, what would be a good sort of steel to keep around for this? O1 seems to be the old standby, but W1 and A2 seem easily sourced as well from places like McMaster. Is there any clear advantage of one of these over the other, assuming that the requirements of the job at hand are not super particular? Is one easier to work with over others, easier to harden, machines better when annealed, etc? Any thoughts?

    I have a small temperature controlled electric furnace suitable for the temps involved and am planning to get some of that stainless tool wrap to use for this. As an aside, anyone here used that tool wrap before? Do you quench it right in the wrap or pull it out to quench?

    Any suggestions??

  • #2
    A2 is pretty easy to quench......

    I do like O-1, as it is fairly cheap, and works well. Water quenches are sometimes a bit problematic.
    CNC machines only go through the motions


    • #3

      I second J.
      This is shot but simple. O1: blades, shears, you know, stuff that needs to take a beating and hold and edge. Punches and what not. W1: files , rasps, taps, thread dies etc etc. A2 is general purpose. Vague right. D2 is uh..we...I dunno,too complicated for my "home shop."

      Sent from my RCT6513W87 using Tapatalk


      • #4
        As I read it, Water quenches rapidly and is more subject to some distortion and cracking. Oil quenches slower than water, so it distorts a somewhat less. Air is the slowest, and therefor takes the longest to quench properly.

        Hardened O-1 sharpens well. Annealed machines fairly well (90% machinability).

        W1 machines at 100% machinability.

        A2 has worst machinability at 70%. and has the highest austenizing temperature

        Given all that, I have some 01 and some W1 in my stock, mainly as drill rod. I also have some Cherry Red for case hardening of mild steel.

        At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and left over parts.

        Location: SF East Bay.


        • #5
          O1 and W1 both machine well and are easy to heat treat and temper in the home shop. I prefer O1 for a general purpose shop tool steel.

          I'm not sure I get the "hypothetical" part - keeping some O1 stock in various sizes just makes a lot of sense for a home shop, and is what a lot of us do. Nothing hypothetical there, just good sense. I used to get 3 ft sticks of it from Enco, but haven't bought any since then, probably will go to McMaster Carr when I need more.


          • #6
            Get the right oil..
            Another possible source for the rubber or gasket punches, is roached Morse Taper drill bits.. Some Morse 4 will yeild a 1.25 or more punch. Will have a built in handle, and can be machine
            They cant be expensive for broken or bent, cracked ir ultra short ones.
            Another thing that might work on the rubber...steel rule die stock.
            Last edited by 754; 05-08-2017, 01:46 AM.


            • #7
              O1 and HSS is what I have. And old files, Plain carbon steel close to W1
              Location: Helsinki, Finland, Europe


              • #8
                The O-1 for round cylindrical use cutters. It's worked like a champ for cutters used on steel and non ferrous.

                W-1 ground flat stock plus old worn out files for making flat blade items. I need to expand my stock of the W-1 to thinner sizes to cover off making flat springs fur future gun smithing projects.

                I would not be adverse to getting some specialty stuff for something like your rubber drill. But for general shop tool making the good ol' regulars is fine.

                In the case of drill rod I rely on it for accurately sized other items even where I just use it in annealed form. Like staff rods for a height gauge or similar. Or if I were making a small sine bar or "table".
                Chilliwack BC, Canada


                • #9
                  1.2210 (silver steel) or 1.2510 (for cold-work), the latter being a bit crappier to machine.
                  Amount of experience is in direct proportion to the value of broken equipment.


                  • #10
                    Quench it right in the foil.



                    • #11
                      Thanks guys. When I say "hypothetical" I only mean that I have not yet done that part but will based on the sage advice I get here. Given what has been called out so far, it sounds like keeping a few lengths of O1 and W1 around makes sense so I'll get an order going for some this week.

                      When using air hardening steel, do you just pull it out and let it cool or do you cool it by blasting it with an air hose, dunk it into a bucket of air, or ???

                      In any event it sounds like O1 may be the easiest to start with for the immediate project, though I may make another try using the W1 while await getting some O1 just because I have some, and actually doing a heat treat on it. Once I work out the details of this little cutter I may be making copies from time to time so it would be nice to have a somewhat predictable and easy process.

                      Thanks, I appreciate the input.


                      • #12

                        Yeah, O1/W1 are cheap, easy to get in rounds, flats, and squares. Gotta have a nice selection. I also like 4140, again widely available and can be had in pre-hard yet still machinable state. These all are quite usable in their annealed state also.

                        Go ahead and use your W1. While W1 has a bit more warping problem than O1, (O1 warps too) It's more noticeable on thin sections. If your cutter is a more robust design, you may have no problems with warpage.

                        A series steels can be simply quenched by sitting your piece on the bench in still air.

                        If you think you understand what is going on, you haven't been paying attention.


                        • #13
                          I heat treat O1 in DIY SS envelopes (double folds around three edges, and a piece of paper inside to get rid of the oxygen). The trick is to very quickly cut the envelope to drop the part into the oil. The oil should be agitated for the best results. I actually have a perforated bucket inside the oil container. The bucket is hanging on a rod that rests on the container edges. I drop the part and raise and lower the bucket to provide active oil flow inside.

                          I tend to make somewhat longer envelopes, so after cutting off the folded end, I can reuse the envelope a few times. Putting the sealed envelope into the oil won't provide sufficiently quick and even cooling rate. Even if you tightly wrap the foil around the part.
                          Last edited by MichaelP; 05-08-2017, 09:43 AM.
                          WI/IL border, USA


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MichaelP View Post
                            Putting the sealed envelope into the oil won't provide sufficiently quick and even cooling rate. Even if you tightly wrap the foil around the part.
                            This. O1 won't quench fast enough in a foil packet, the part needs to be fully exposed to the oil.

                            It also needs to be heated enough prior to quenching; make sure the heated part is non-magnetic, not just "red hot".

                            You do need to temper hardened O1 and W1 too; depending on the tool application, somewhere between 400-600F normally, with the higher end of the range producing a slightly softer yet springier/tougher part.


                            • #15
                              Does heating to the non-magnetic temperature get you to an effective quenching temperature for all steel alloys, most of them, or only the simpler high carbon types?

                              I don't mean the ideal quenching temp, just what works reasonably well in the home shop.