One of the first challenges for anyone taking up engineering as a hobby is making the right choices of materials. Often the easy way out is to simply choose materials that other people have used successfully for similar applications, but sooner or later you will find yourself wanting to make better informed decisions. A particularly confusing area is choosing between different steels. You will often see descriptions like ‘bright mild steel’, ‘black bar’ or ‘case hardening steel’. While this may help you get something more or less right, it helps to understand the more formal designations used by steel stockholders and which you may come across in articles from time to time.
There are two systems you will probably come across in the UK. The longest standing are the ‘Emergency Numbers’. These were established during the Second World War to promote consistency in the products of different steel manufacturers. Clearly if you wanted steel for making guns or armour in wartime, you wanted to be able to specify the composition whatever the source, rather than having to work out which of each manufacturer’s range of products would suit. These numbers all take the form of the letters EN followed by a number for the composition of the steel and sometimes a letter to show how it has been heat treated. In very rough terms the higher the number the higher the carbon content of the steel.
Although the EN numbers should have disappeared by now, in practice they are still widely used, but you may also come across more modern British Standard designations which take the form of nnnMnn, where the letter ‘n’ stands for a number. There are also European Steel numbers and names, as well as designations used in Germany, USA and Japan and elsewhere; if you need to convert to these, I suggest you take a look at the article ‘Steel Grades’ on Wikipedia.
Let’s just take a look at the commonest carbon steels you are likely to come across, and which will meet most of your hobby needs.
Mild steel is not a specific material, but rather a catch-all for steels (iron alloys) that have relatively low-levels of carbon. This means that generally they can’t easily be hardened (unlike highcarbon steels) and they are relatively ductile (easy to bend). While this limits their applications, it does make them relatively easy to produce and they are especially suited to ‘drawing’ or ‘cold rolling’ into sized bars and flats. They are also generally easy to machine.
Though mild steels have a low carbon content, they are still classed as ‘carbon steels’. The ‘mild steels’ most commonly encountered in the UK are designated EN1a, EN3 and EN8.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Readers' Workshops - Patrick Cubbon
Patrick Cubbon describes his workshops – a portable one from 1963 and the current accommodation
Desktop Gear Hobbing
Toby Kinsey has designed this fascinating piece of gearmaking equipment
The John Stevenson Trophy 2020
Many readers and forum members will remember John Stevenson, a contributor to MEW but best known for his larger-than life presence on the Model Engineer forum.
From the Archives: Twist drill Sharpening by the Four Facet Method
Giles Parkes, MEW Issue 64, February/March 2000
Dividing on the Warco 220 Lathe
Peter Shaw describes a mandrel dividing attachment for this popular lathe that can be adapted to fit many other benchtop machines
Stub Mandrel offers some advice on choosing the right steel for the job
A Storage Story
Robin King shares the lessons learned from his experience of workshop moves
A Simple Drill Grinding Aid
A newcomer to our hobby was having trouble sharpening drills, so Howard Lewis made a simple aid for him
Yet Another Bodge-Up!
Peter Shaw finds a use for some aged homebrew slot drills.
Workshop Press Tooling Part 2
Will Doggett makes a set of tooling for his press tool described starting in issue 285
The U.K. Wants to Clean Up Space
The amount of debris in orbit is an increasing danger—and a potential market opportunity
Bumper UK race fleets forecast
A bumper racing season in the UK is being predicted this summer as the easing of restrictions to social gatherings meets pent up appetite for competitive events. The largest is likely to be the Round the Island Race, which takes place on 3 July, followed by Cowes Week and the Rolex Fastnet Race in August, both of which could see boosted fleet numbers.
MICROSOFT WINS $22 BILLION DEAL MAKING HEADSETS FOR US ARMY
Microsoft won a nearly $22 billion contract to supply U.S. Army combat troops with its augmented reality headsets.
LAWYERS CLASH OVER $1B HYDROPOWER TRANSMISSION CORRIDOR
Attorneys for conservation organizations and an electric utility clashed this week before a federal appeals court over the adequacy of environmental reviews of a key portion of a power transmission project in western Maine.
EPIC GAMES COMPLAINS ABOUT APPLE TO UK COMPETITION WATCHDOG
Epic Games submitted a complaint this week about Apple’s alleged “monopolistic practices” to the U.K. competition watchdog, which is investigating the iPhone maker over concerns it has a dominant position in app distribution.
There Must Have Been Something in the Water
If The Beatles never happened, if the British invasion never occurred, then music fans around the world would more than likely never have been exposed to some of the finest white blues singers that the U.K. produced between 1964 and 1970.
AI’S ROLE IN THE COVID VACCINATION PROCESS
UBER TO GIVE UK DRIVERS MINIMUM WAGE, PENSION, HOLIDAY PAY
Uber is giving its U.K. drivers the minimum wage, pensions and holiday pay, following a recent court ruling that said they should be classified as workers and entitled to such benefits.
Let the Games Begin
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics works toward a mid-pandemic strategy.
GOOGLE VOWS NO NEW USER TRACKING IN CHROME TO SELL ADS
Google says it won’t develop new ways to follow individual users across the internet after it phases out existing ad tracking technology from Chrome browsers, in a change that threatens to shake up the online advertising industry.