When debating what metal to use for your metalworking, you have a variety of options. Of course, you can use forged steel, but you may wonder if stainless steel is just as effective.
You can forge stainless steel and it is one of the best types of metal that you can forge. Stainless steel must be passivated to improve corrosion resistance. Some types of steel, such as 300 grades, will require more hammering to forge.
Stainless steel is a staple in most homes, so forging stainless steel is a useful skill. To learn more about stainless steel’s benefits and forging stainless steel based on the steel type, read on.
Why Forge Stainless Steel?
Not only can you forge stainless steel, but it is actually ideal for many forging projects in business or the home. When considering stainless steel forging, you may wonder about the benefits of working with stainless steel instead of standard steel.
Stainless steel commonly used in sinks, stovetops, and flatware but is very versatile due to its qualities.
Due to its smooth surface and ability to withstand thorough and frequent sanitizing, stainless steel can be used in medical devices and processing equipment.
Moreover, it has a high resistance to corrosion, which is the breaking down of metals due to exposure to chemicals.
This makes stainless steel ideal for use in equipment that will withstand chemical usage and prevents easy rusting from contamination.
Stainless steel is also very high quality, so it performs well under stress and pressure while also supporting heavyweight.
Its high heat resistance allows it to be used in any environment and enables it to withstand high levels of heat during forging and adapt new qualities. This strength also makes it very stable and sturdy, so it can be used in welding projects such as frames and fittings.
Overall, stainless steel has the reliable strength of steel as well as extra resistance to heat and corrosion, making it a good option for blacksmiths of any kind.
For example, its high heat resistance makes it ideal for ovens. You can use stainless steel for the reliability of steel with added benefits.
These factors make stainless steel a great choice of metal for forging. Forging stainless steel further increases its strength and makes it resistant to large damage and becoming worn down over time.
In addition, it improves the steel’s corrosion resistance, which enables it to last longer and resist rusting as it is exposed to the elements.
However, different types of stainless steel forge differently and may be better suited for different projects.
Types of Stainless Steel For Forging
There are many types of stainless steel, and they vary in strength Overall, the best stainless steel grades for forging are 304, 316, or 400.
These types vary in strength and ease of creation but are commonly used around the world for projects ranging from machinery to knives.
This video explains the differences between different types of stainless steel and their properties:
1. 304 Stainless Steel
Type 304 stainless steel is one of the most commonly used types of stainless steel. Its high resistance to corrosiveness makes it ideal for many industries, and it has very high heat strength.
To forge this steel, you will need to use many more hammer blows and strength than for other types of steel, especially non-300 type stainless steel (300 series stainless plates of steel share this need for high energy).
Type 304 stainless plates of steel cannot be hardened by heat treatment, and a slow cooling process will cause a loss in corrosion resistance.
Therefore, type 304 stainless steel should be annealed and cooled through water quenching.
When properly welded, this steel typically maintains corrosion resistance and is very tough due to strong low-temperature toughness properties.
300 series stainless steel is a type of austenitic steel and is also known as the common chromium alloys. Austenitic steel generally shares properties, but there are slight differences between certain types.
2. 316 Stainless Steel
Another crucial type of stainless steel used for forging is type 316. 316 stainless steel is also austenitic stainless steel and is similar to type 304. This steel is very common for forging and other applications.
Usually, molybdenum (an alloy that is often used in forging) is added to this steel to increase its corrosion resistance, making it ideal for food and medical uses since it will not contaminate the food.
Furthermore, it can be used in watches, marine equipment, and other projects.
Like 304 stainless steel and other 300 series steel, type 316 requires high energy levels to forge, and you will need to hammer for longer than you may with other steel types.
For less effort, you may want to try a 400 series stainless steel.
3. 400 Series Stainless Steel
400 Series steel, also known as ferritic steel, is another stainless steel commonly used in metalworking.
Ferritic steel is still able to be forged but is less receptive to heat than 300 series, or austenitic stainless steel.
They are more malleable and ductile than 300 series, which means you can shape your 400 series pieces more easily than your 300 series, but they are not heat treatable.
Finally, ferritic steel is magnetic, a unique property not shared with austenitic steel. While ferritic steel is not as strong or corrosion-resistant as austenitic steel, it is good for engineering projects.
These steel tend to be used in machinery such as agricultural equipment, automotive trim, or heavy tools. Type 405 is most commonly used for welding projects.
Generally, 400 series steel is able to be welded but may be less receptive to welding than 300 series steel, so you may want to consider using 300 series stainless steel for many projects.
How to Passivate Steel
After stainless steel is forged, it should be passivated.
Passivation helps further increase stainless steel’s resistance to corrosiveness, which is especially vital because stainless steel is frequently used for food and medical purposes.
Passivation creates a very thin film over the steel, protecting its surface from contaminants that may cause it to rust or allow it to react with atmospheric impurities.
While perfectly clean steel could automatically receive this protective layer from exposure to oxygen, forged steel often accumulates particles of dirt and iron, which can quickly cause rusting and corrosion when exposed to air.
To remove surface particles and ensure rust and corrosion prevention, you should passivate your stainless steel. This process involves cleaning your workpiece and passivating it with acid.
To passivate your stainless steel, first thoroughly clean and degrease your workpiece so dirt does not react with the acid and contaminates the passivation process by creating gas bubbles.
Then, your workpiece should be immersed in an acid bath.
The acid you use for this bath will depend on the qualities of your steel, but usually, citric acid passivation, nitric acid with sodium dichromate passivation, and nitric acid passivation are the most common.
In conclusion, stainless steel can be forged for metalworking and is an excellent option for forging projects. It is strong, heat-resistant, and stands firmly against corrosion, leaving it well-suited for medical and food-related industries.
If you choose to work with stainless steel, you should passivate it to ensure it remains resistant to corrosion.
Also, be sure to research different series of steel to maximize effectiveness and efficiency before you forge. Overall, stainless steel can help you ensure your project is sturdy, reliable, and lasts many years.
Cheers, tools owners!