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EN1a vs EN3 steel

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AdrianR06/03/2019 09:19:15
540 forum posts
36 photos


I am reading Howard Hall's "Milling A complete course" and I am rather taken with the idea of building the tools in it.

He specifies that 230M07 (EN1a) should be used for most of the parts. I have been looking for suppliers of it and it seems to be rather rare. In particular the 50mm x 50mm  square seems to be not available. Most steel I can find is 070M20 (EN3) or just called "mild".

Would EN3 turn and mill OK?

I don't expect to get show condition finishes, but would the finish be OK?

Any suggestions on small quantity suppliers who ship at reasonable rates?

Edited By AdrianR on 06/03/2019 09:19:59

Andrew Johnston06/03/2019 09:31:28
6283 forum posts
677 photos

I use a lot of EN3B steel. It is cheaper than EN1A and has less tendency to rust. However, it has a propensity to tear when being turned and milled. It is possible to get a good finish, but it will take some experimentation, especially if you're using insert tooling. Basically high surface speeds and sensible feedrates are key.

Can't help with suppliers, as I usually buy from commercial stockholders.


Edit: Hot rolled black bar is essentially EN3B, so it has the additional bonus of being much less prone to go banana shaped when milled.

Edited By Andrew Johnston on 06/03/2019 09:38:14

Ron Laden06/03/2019 10:03:52
2248 forum posts
446 photos

Hi Adrian

GLR Kennions supply EN1A in square up to 2 inch £14.50 for 6 inches and £28 for 12 inches.

I think they also do EN1A in flat and round.

I,ve found M-machine to be an excellent supplier, their range of materials is impressive, prices good and you can buy by the inch which is good for larger sections. They do 50mm square steel but it is EN3B.



Edited By Ron Laden on 06/03/2019 10:05:08

vintage engineer06/03/2019 10:11:02
254 forum posts
1 photos

EN3 is a weldable mild steel. EN1A contains lead to give better finish but is crap to weld.

Andrew Johnston06/03/2019 10:19:40
6283 forum posts
677 photos

Technically EN1A has very limited lead content; if you want leaded EN1A for better machinability use EN1APb.


Chris Evans 606/03/2019 10:19:47
1960 forum posts

Adrian, where are you based ? Here in the West Midlands we have a good choice of suppliers most of which sell small quantities at good prices. I use a lot of EN1A but tend to buy the complete bar at least up to 1 1/2"/40mm

SillyOldDuffer06/03/2019 10:20:11
7574 forum posts
1681 photos

The big advantage of free-cutting EN1A is that it machines well, ie it's easier to get a good finish while taking less time to do the cuts. It's common enough in rods, but I've never tried to buy 50x50 square, which does seem hard to find.

EN3 is a little stronger than EN1A so it's suitable for what you need strength-wise. But EN3, which is cheaper, doesn't cut as cleanly and it's harder get good looking results. As Andrew says, it tends to tear.

Apart from a slight difference in appearance, there's no functional reason why you shouldn't use a mix of EN1A and EN3 for the tools. Free-cutting EN1A wherever you can get hold of it, and EN3 for the awkward sizes.

If appearance matters, listen to someone else! As I'm an experimenter rather than a model maker I rarely worry about the look. Provided stuff fits together and does what I need, that's OK. My advice may be anathema to the chaps who make wonderful stuff that works AND looks beautiful.


duncan webster06/03/2019 10:20:22
3527 forum posts
63 photos

Not all EN1A contains lead, see **LINK** for more info. You problem is more likely to be minimum order charges, my local stockist wants £35 before he even speaks to you. As others have said, EN1A machines better but EN3 isn't that bad

JohnF06/03/2019 10:55:05
1099 forum posts
183 photos

Have a look at M-Machine metals, page 21 onwards of their catalogue for steel, I have found them competitive on price and very obliging -- usual caveats apply I'm just a satisfied customer



Mick Henshall06/03/2019 11:09:15
558 forum posts
34 photos

20180830_114246.jpgMacc metals, shopping partner on MEW Home page, £ 15 for 2"×2"×1×", Bms, + delivery and vat, I have used loads lf this their steel is good quality, Have not tried welding it. Machines well and I used it to make a version of Harolds Qctp plus other tools

Mick 🇬🇧

AdrianR06/03/2019 11:39:53
540 forum posts
36 photos

Thanks for all your replies.

I have just moved to Lincolnshire near Skegness. Not an area known for its metal working history, great for potatoes and cabbages. I have tried to find a local supplier so I can avoid the shipping costs, guess I will have to buy in bulk.

As I am setting up my new workshop I was thinking of buying in a stock of materials. My leaning is towards making tools and gadgets, any suggestions for must have's would be appreciated.

I found RapidMetals today, a model engineers sweet shop by the looks of it, shame it is a 5hr round trip. Anyone tried them?

Macc Models looks good, as they dont give a any specs for the steel I would have avoided it. I have been caught before with steel that turns to create a shark skin finish. Great for removing hard skin, not so great for a bearing shaft.

HOWARDT06/03/2019 12:27:14
780 forum posts
28 photos

I’ve used Rapid Metals near Coventry. Good selection, round, flat and angle in most metals and some plastic. Do bags of offcuts at good price general prices seem to have increased recently. Plenty of short lengths on racks but can cut easily enough.

Brian H06/03/2019 12:54:16
2230 forum posts
113 photos

I don't know if Alfreton in Derbyshire is a shorter round trip but Better Metal Stores are excellent (no connection)

It's only a small place but they have or can get almost anything. They cater for small businesses and model engineers.


Edited By Brian H on 06/03/2019 12:55:11

AdrianR06/03/2019 13:06:04
540 forum posts
36 photos

4hrs 20mins RTT, Lincolnshire is a big place

Former Member06/03/2019 13:11:43

[This posting has been removed]

Chris Evans 607/03/2019 09:29:25
1960 forum posts

Duncan, I have a good relationship with a local (13 miles away) steel stockholder who will let me look on the racks for short lengths and pay cash. I regularly come away with say a 3 foot length of 30 or 40mm diameter bar for a fiver. Last visit yielded a complete bar of 10 foot/12 foot 1/2" EN16T for £10 In the past they have cut big stuff for me at reasonable cost. Where in the country are you based ? Just looked you are in Cheshire so a bit away from the West Midlands where I am based.

Edited By Chris Evans 6 on 07/03/2019 09:31:36

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