Carbon steels are usually quenched in brine or water, and alloy steels are generally quenched in oil. When hardening carbon steel, remember that you must cool the steel to below 1000°F in less than 1 second. When you add alloys to steel, the time limit for the temperature to drop below 1000°F increases above the l-second limit, and a slower quenching medium can produce the desired hardness.
Quenching produces extremely high internal stresses in steel, and to relieve them, you can temper the steel just before it becomes cold. The part is removed from the quenching bath at a temperature of about 200°F and allowed to air-cool. The temperature range from 200°F down to room temperature is called the cracking range and you do not want the steel to pass through it.
In the following paragraphs, we discuss the different methods of hardening that are commercially used. In the Seabees, we use a rapid surface hardening compound called "Case" that can be ordered through the Navy supply system. Information on the use of "Case" is located in the Welding Materials Handbook, P-433.
Case hardening produces a hard, wear-resistant surface or case over a strong, tough core. The principal forms of casehardening are carburizing, cyaniding, and nitriding. Only ferrous metals are case-hardened.
Case hardening is ideal for parts that require a wear-resistant surface and must be tough enough internally to withstand heavy loading. The steels best suited for case hardening are the low-carbon and low-alloy series. When high-carbon steels are case-hardened, the hardness penetrates the core and causes brittleness. In case hardening, you change the surface of the metal chemically by introducing a high carbide or nitride content. The core remains chemically unaffected. When heat-treated, the high-carbon surface responds to hardening, and the core toughens.
CARBURIZING. - Carburizing is a case-hardening process by which carbon is added to the surface of low-carbon steel. This results in a carburized steel that has a high-carbon surface and a low-carbon interior. When the carburized steel is heat-treated, the case becomes hardened and the core remains soft and tough.
Two methods are used for carburizing steel. One method consists of heating the steel in a furnace containing a carbon monoxide atmosphere. The other method has the steel placed in a container packed with charcoal or some other carbon-rich material and then heated in a furnace. To cool the parts, you can leave the container in the furnace to cool or remove it and let it air cool. In both cases, the parts become annealed during the slow cooling. The depth of the carbon penetration depends on the length of the soaking period. With today's methods, carburizing is almost exclusively done by gas atmospheres.
CYANIDING. - This process is a type of case hardening that is fast and efficient. Preheated steel is dipped into a heated cyanide bath and allowed to soak. Upon removal, it is quenched and then rinsed to remove any residual cyanide. This process produces a thin, hard shell that is harder than the one produced by carburizing and can be completed in 20 to 30 minutes vice several hours. The major drawback is that cyanide salts are a deadly poison.
NITRIDING. - This case-hardening method produces the hardest surface of any of the hardening processes. It differs from the other methods in that the individual parts have been heat-treated and tempered before nitriding. The parts are then heated in a furnace that has an ammonia gas atmosphere. No quenching is required so there is no worry about warping or other types of distortion. This process is used to case harden items, such as gears, cylinder sleeves, camshafts and other engine parts, that need to be wear resistant and operate in high-heat areas.
Flame hardening is another procedure that is used to harden the surface of metal parts. When you use an oxyacetylene flame, a thin layer at the surface of the part is rapidly heated to its critical temperature and then immediately quenched by a combination of a water spray and the cold base metal. This process produces a thin, hardened surface, and at the same time, the internal parts retain their original properties. Whether the process is manual or mechanical, a close watch must be maintained, since the torches heat the metal rapidly and the temperatures are usually determined visually.
Flame hardening may be either manual or automatic. Automatic equipment produces uniform results and is more desirable. Most automatic machines have variable travel speeds and can be adapted to parts of various sizes and shapes. The size and shape of the torch depends on the part. The torch consists of a mixing head, straight extension tube, 90-degree extension head, an adjustable yoke, and a water-cooled tip. Practically any shape or size flame-hardening tip is available (fig. 2-1).Continue Reading