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Guidelines for which steel to use for projects

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Jeremy Smith 202/04/2020 03:09:39
45 forum posts
7 photos

Does anybody have a general guide for which type of steel I should use for different types of projects? Ie, high wear parts...which kind? Or parts that don’t cycle alot, like a mount for something. Which material to learn on, which for weldability...

I’m trying to find the most general list out there, as I begin stocking my cutoff bin. 

Edited By Jeremy Smith 2 on 02/04/2020 03:38:23

Thor02/04/2020 05:44:09
1212 forum posts
37 photos

Hi Jeremy,

If you run your model engines often and the engines have to work hard you might want to use a harder steel like silver steel, EN8 or EN16 for things like crankshafts. For parts you want to weld, use mild steel. Check out M-Machine's Material Specification and Comparison. For a steam engine you may want to use materials that are less prone to corrosion like brass or gunmetal instead of cast iron, and stainless steel for the piston rod.


Edited By Thor on 02/04/2020 05:49:26

SillyOldDuffer02/04/2020 09:28:50
5631 forum posts
1157 photos

Hard to beat a decent book, even in the age of the internet. Loads of good advice and info in the Workshop Practice Series, in this case No 30 'Workshop Materials', by Alex Weiss, is worth £7.95. Covers most common materials from Steel to Wood and selecting materials to fit a purpose is covered by Chapter 4.

(The Workshop Practice Series is available from Amazon and others, but I've linked to Camden Miniature Steam because they specialise in technical books. Well worth browsing through their catalogue to see what else is available.)


PS.  Corrected a dud apostrophe.  I still get them wrong...


Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 02/04/2020 09:30:24

Peter G. Shaw02/04/2020 10:31:46
1077 forum posts
44 photos

Another useful book is Harold Hall's Metalworker's Data Book (WSP 42) in which pages 152 & 153 will be found helpful.

Peter G. Shaw

Tim Stevens02/04/2020 15:57:46
1159 forum posts

The answer is always going to be a compromise, so do bear that in mind. Work out the ideal stuff and you will find that:

the spec was changed 17 years ago

it is not readily available in the size or quantity you want,

but you can order a lorry load

with delivery in about 12 months

and you supply the crane to unload the lorry.

In practice, most model engineering designs are used for such a short time, under such small loads, etc, that unless you are building heart by-pass valves, or intergalactic rocket nozzles, the choice can be reduced to 'what can I get that size this week'.

But if you want a guide with a USA bias, try Machinery's Handbook. Added benefit - all sorts of other questions are also answered.

Cheers, Tim

HOWARDT02/04/2020 16:12:33
536 forum posts
15 photos

As Tim said we are not making something that will run for 16 hours a day 6 days a week. We always made hardened gears out of EN24, note made out of plastic on a mini lathe, and induction hardened shafts out of EN16. Also we had to buy metal by the tonne in per size, I don't think many of us in the UK have a workshop big enough to store that much material unless you fancy buying six inch bar and machining it down each time.

Martin Kyte02/04/2020 16:22:38
1804 forum posts
33 photos

Where ever possible use free machining (leaded steel) I get mine from GLR Kennions, why struggle, this will do for most things, can be loctited but not welded.

EN8 if you are hardening. Silver steel and guage plate if you are making punches or hardened items like ratchet pawls.

I agree with Tim as far as wear is concerned. You have to go some to wear a componant out and the odd times when you really need something better will be apparent if not actually marked on the drawing.

Lastly don't think you have to make everything out of solid. Built up parts wether they are silver soldered or locktited can save a lot of effert let alone cost of materials.

Hope that helps a little

regards Martin

Neil Wyatt02/04/2020 16:51:26
17722 forum posts
697 photos
77 articles

These might help if you like the old-style numbers. Any errors, let me know!


Jeremy Smith 205/04/2020 17:45:02
45 forum posts
7 photos

I will confess - I'm not into “model” engineering. I use my myford ml10 for building parts for vehicle restorations and stuff around the shop, which is why I was looking for a guide.

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