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Better steel

#1
So I was trying to prep a chunk of steel for my current project. I had some mystery steel from an auction box lot that was a bigger diameter (1.6") than I needed (1.24 finished). I'm a real newbie and my experience so far has mostly been with aluminum and brass. However, I have done a little work recently with some cold rolled steel from Metal Supermarket. I don't have a mill so I've used the lathe to clean up cut edges on small parts (eg 2 X 1.25 X 3/8" CRS) by spinning them in the 4-jaw chuck. That has worked acceptably.

I had a clue that the mystery steel was a problem when I wrecked a couple of hack saw blades just trying to cut it off. Mounted it in the lathe and had to take minuscule cuts to face it off. When I tried to centre drill the piece, it pushed the centre drill back into the chuck! Got the worst chatter I've had yet when I started to try to true the OD. That's it--it would take forever and a day to get the part I need and I'd have to use files to get any kind of acceptable finish. Worse, I need to part off the finished piece and the odds of that working are zero.

So I've spent a few hours reading up on steels. It appears that the 11xx and 12xx steel alloys (eg 12L14, 1144 or 12T15, etc) are commonly available and pretty easy to machine. Is "free machining steel" the right lingo to use when calling around trying to source such material?

I may well order some 12L14 from OnlineMetals in the US. I want to get some other parts from Shars and I've used a cross-border shopping service just over the border in NYS a couple of times already. I may add in one of OnlineMetals protoboxes as well.

BTW, when you get basic cold-rolled steel rectangular bar stock from Metal Supermarket, which alloy are you actually getting?

Craig
PS I know I could try a spark test on the mystery steel to try to figure what it is...but as far as I'm concerned, it is Satin's Stool!
 

PeterT

Ultra Member
Premium Member
#2
12L14 is nice stuff. Free machining typically means 'better than average' for that class of alloy but the additives can vary by alloy. L stands for lead in 12L14. Its really popular for screw fittings & the like. But for example free machining stainless like 303 & 416 contain no lead, but has sulfur & other additives. You can get a chunk of 12L14 at MetalRobMeMarkets just to try, if you like it then go with larger order with OLM. Strength wise its lower but comparable to CRS & HRS, but disadvantage is harder to welding apparently if that's an issue. And only comes in rounds.

CRS can vary on the outer skin for sure & can also warp more (stress relieve) over HRS. I've found both can have kind of a stringy looking finish regardless of the tool, but can clean up nice with a couple thou over (ok maybe 5 haha) file work & emery. MSM should be able to tell you an alloy like 1018 or something when you buy, should be no mystery. But if its in the cutoff bargain bin then it may well be a mystery metal based on their own offcuts or a dump load they got from factory X. That only worked to my advantage once when I got a chunk of 7075 aluminum & they priced it at 6061.

Your tailstock issue sounds suspiciously like slight misalignment to headstock spindle axis. When was the last time you checked?

some relative machining index numbers for common steels.
http://www.carbidedepot.com/formulas-machinability.htm
 

Attachments

#3
@PeterT thanks very much for the reference material. I've bookmarked the web page and printed the chart. Very helpful!

It occurred to me that I could also use cast iron or ductile iron for the part I'm making. Should be lots strong enough and relatively easy to work. Is it generally easier to get free-machining steel or cast iron in 1.375" diameters?

For those curious, I'm trying to make a milling attachment for my tiny Atlas 618 lathe. I'm putting a purchased right-angle block between the cross slide and compound so the compound will provide the vertical travel. The following is the 618's compound*:

Atlas618 cross slide top.jpg

I'm going to bore a recess in the angle plate that matches the round boss on the cross slide. I need to make a round boss to bolt onto the other side of the angle plate to mate up with the compound. The boss is less than 3/8" high and 1.24" diameter.

Craig
* Yes, the lathe lived a hard life before I got it. The former owner must have crashed the chuck into the compound and the cross-slide repeatedly to get that many battle scars!
 
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PeterT

Ultra Member
Premium Member
#4
New cast iron is harder to get than 12L14. If you find a source please let me now. OLM does not carry CI. Speedy Metal does but also USA & their shipping is even more expensive - UPS but no slight discount to Canada like OLM does. If you decide to do a drop order to the border, I'd stock up on a few materials like this that are harder to source in the frozen outback we call home.
http://www.speedymetals.com/c-8386-cast-iron.aspx
 
#5
Thanks for the link. Looks like a free machining steel is the way to go. I'm going to make some calls on Monday. If I strike out locally, I'll order from OnlineMetals or SpeedyMetals.

Craig
 

ducdon

Member
Premium Member
#6
I'm guessing that your mystery steel is somehow heat treated. Classes of steel vary in hardness but are usually all machinable. Heat treated they can be very hard.
 

Janger

(John)
Administrator
Premium Member
#7
Having broken expensive band saw blades on mystery meat I cut stuff like that, if I must, using the abrasion saw. Or a cut off disc in the angle grinder. Next thing you'll break is expensive cutters or wreck drill bits in your mill.
 
#8
I have a fair amount of experience with woodworking with different species of wood. So I have a decent understanding of what techniques are going to work with a particular piece. For example, you _don't_ want to try to split elm!

I'm still pretty clueless in metalwork. But after spending a day trying to saw the stuff and and afternoon trying to turn it, it kicked in that it is worth money to me to buy some material that is known to be machinable. If I still can't work that, it will mean that I need to improve my technique. Or maybe follow Homer Simpson's immortal advice: "If at first you don't succeed, give up!"

Craig
 
#9
So I was trying to prep a chunk of steel for my current project. I had some mystery steel from an auction box lot that was a bigger diameter (1.6") than I needed (1.24 finished). I'm a real newbie and my experience so far has mostly been with aluminum and brass. However, I have done a little work recently with some cold rolled steel from Metal Supermarket. I don't have a mill so I've used the lathe to clean up cut edges on small parts (eg 2 X 1.25 X 3/8" CRS) by spinning them in the 4-jaw chuck. That has worked acceptably.

I had a clue that the mystery steel was a problem when I wrecked a couple of hack saw blades just trying to cut it off. Mounted it in the lathe and had to take minuscule cuts to face it off. When I tried to centre drill the piece, it pushed the centre drill back into the chuck! Got the worst chatter I've had yet when I started to try to true the OD. That's it--it would take forever and a day to get the part I need and I'd have to use files to get any kind of acceptable finish. Worse, I need to part off the finished piece and the odds of that working are zero.

So I've spent a few hours reading up on steels. It appears that the 11xx and 12xx steel alloys (eg 12L14, 1144 or 12T15, etc) are commonly available and pretty easy to machine. Is "free machining steel" the right lingo to use when calling around trying to source such material?

I may well order some 12L14 from OnlineMetals in the US. I want to get some other parts from Shars and I've used a cross-border shopping service just over the border in NYS a couple of times already. I may add in one of OnlineMetals protoboxes as well.

BTW, when you get basic cold-rolled steel rectangular bar stock from Metal Supermarket, which alloy are you actually getting?

Craig
PS I know I could try a spark test on the mystery steel to try to figure what it is...but as far as I'm concerned, it is Satin's Stool!
Do you mind sharing the info on the cross border shopper?
Thanks
 
#10
Do you mind sharing the info on the cross border shopper?
I'm using https://www.needausaddress.com out of Lewistown, NY. They are only a few minutes from the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge*. The service is part of a UPS store. They charge USD $5 or $10 per package depending on the size and weight. I've only picked up stuff from them 3 times. It has always been pretty quick and simple. I had to pay taxes at the border only once; the other two times I was waved through. The border service office was virtually empty the day I was in it. The staff person said it used to be much busier when the exchange rate wasn't so abysmal.

One of the suppliers I used was confused to begin with as I had a Canadian billing address but wanted a USA shipping destination. After a quick email exchange, they were satisfied that I wasn't a scammer and processed the order.

Pretty happy with the whole setup. My wife wants to order some craft supplies the next time I'm getting stuff. OTOH, each package is at least $5 USD, there is a toll of $5 CAD on the Queenston bridge. The drive is about 75 minutes each way for me and I've had to wait at the border anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, each way. Based on all that, I only use the cross-border service for stuff that I either can't get shipped to Canada, at all, or when the extra shipping direct to my door is big enough to warrant the time, gas, etc.

Craig
* First time I did this, I used my iPhone for turn-by-turn directions. But when on the US side, I got dinged for roaming data even though I was never more than a kilometre from the Canadian border. Still, dumb on my part.
 
#11
I'm using https://www.needausaddress.com out of Lewistown, NY. They are only a few minutes from the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge*. The service is part of a UPS store. They charge USD $5 or $10 per package depending on the size and weight. I've only picked up stuff from them 3 times. It has always been pretty quick and simple. I had to pay taxes at the border only once; the other two times I was waved through. The border service office was virtually empty the day I was in it. The staff person said it used to be much busier when the exchange rate wasn't so abysmal.

One of the suppliers I used was confused to begin with as I had a Canadian billing address but wanted a USA shipping destination. After a quick email exchange, they were satisfied that I wasn't a scammer and processed the order.

Pretty happy with the whole setup. My wife wants to order some craft supplies the next time I'm getting stuff. OTOH, each package is at least $5 USD, there is a toll of $5 CAD on the Queenston bridge. The drive is about 75 minutes each way for me and I've had to wait at the border anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, each way. Based on all that, I only use the cross-border service for stuff that I either can't get shipped to Canada, at all, or when the extra shipping direct to my door is big enough to warrant the time, gas, etc.

Craig
* First time I did this, I used my iPhone for turn-by-turn directions. But when on the US side, I got dinged for roaming data even though I was never more than a kilometre from the Canadian border. Still, dumb on my part.
Thank you, sir!
 

kylemp

Active Member
#12
I'm not exactly sure what you're looking for but you could try encore metals, I picked up a large chunk of 4140 tubing from them and while I was getting it they appeared to sell cut rounds.. 3 or 4 inch long chunks of 12in were cut up waiting for pickup. I don't know that they will have or be willing to sell you something small but it might be worth a shot. For reference I got 6' of 4-1/2x2-1/4 tuning and it was about 600 if I recall correctly. Same piece from any of your usual shitty suppliers like metal supermarkets was 3x the price, with a 3 week lead time.
Or ask here and tell us what you're willing to reasonably spend. I've got a collection of metal for this exact reason.. When it's cheap, you buy it.
 
#13
I'm not exactly sure what you're looking for but you could try encore metals, I picked up a large chunk of 4140 tubing from them and while I was getting it they appeared to sell cut rounds.. 3 or 4 inch long chunks of 12in were cut up waiting for pickup. I don't know that they will have or be willing to sell you something small but it might be worth a shot. For reference I got 6' of 4-1/2x2-1/4 tuning and it was about 600 if I recall correctly. Same piece from any of your usual shitty suppliers like metal supermarkets was 3x the price, with a 3 week lead time.
Or ask here and tell us what you're willing to reasonably spend. I've got a collection of metal for this exact reason.. When it's cheap, you buy it.
I got a chunk of 12L14 from Metal Supermarket. I called the local store (Oakville, ON) and the guy said he didn't have it on hand but could get some by the end of the day. They brought in a 1-7/16 diameter bar about 16 inches long. He offered to sell me just the 3 inch piece I needed but I took the whole piece. $20.

So far, it works pretty easily! All I had time to do was face one end and centre drill. The same centre drill that skated on Satin's Stool cut the 12L with little effort. Hopefully I'll get back to this tomorrow.

Craig
 
#14
Just to follow up, I'm now a believer in free-machining steel! With the 12L14 steel, I've done facing, turning, drilling, countersinking, parting off and chamfering for my little project. This stuff is hero metal!! Between this and some mild cast iron, things have been going really well.

Craig
(Now I've jinxed myself!)
 

Dabbler

Well-Known Member
#15
12L14 is the easiest to machine of almost any material. It isn't sticky like brass ans soft aluminum, but not hard like 300 series stainless. Gotta love it if you can get it.
 

PeterT

Ultra Member
Premium Member
#16
I don't know if its some of the parts applications I've used 12L14 in but seems to me it will slowly show rust in a non-oil environment. Cant really say if its worse or same as regular CRS / HRS. If its gets an occasional oil wipe or in oily environment, should be no problem. I've also coated it with the typical blackening oxide stuff on it & it seems to take it ok. No better or worse than other steels as long as the surface prep is good.
 
#17
I don't know if its some of the parts applications I've used 12L14 in but seems to me it will slowly show rust in a non-oil environment. Cant really say if its worse or same as regular CRS / HRS. If its gets an occasional oil wipe or in oily environment, should be no problem. I've also coated it with the typical blackening oxide stuff on it & it seems to take it ok. No better or worse than other steels as long as the surface prep is good.
Thanks for the tip.

I've been wondering about trying gun bluing for steel parts. Anyone have a good source in Canada?

Along the same lines, is there any easy treatment for aluminum? I've seen videos on anodizing and that's more hassle than I am willing to take on.

Craig
 

PeterT

Ultra Member
Premium Member
#18
There is some discussion on our forum. I'm not sure about 'blueing' but I've used 'blackening solution. It comes under different labels & buzzwords like cold blackening (as opposed to the heated commercial process you would normally see used on guns & stuff). From what I can tell its always the same stuff. If you buy the blackening at a gun shop its a hyper inflated price for small bottle, usually meant for touch up. Now I've heard they have a more 'blue' version of this for touch-ups to match truly blue-ish components, but I suspect its the same kind of application, maybe different additives to give it a more blue look over black.

So if you are just looking for a dark oxide (blackish) coating, buy it from the cheapest place because I think its +/- the same. Places like KBC sell it. I've also seen it in jewelry supply places where they sell coatings. I also think the cleaner they sell in kits is a waste of money. Use acetone or brake cleaner or products like that you probably have in your shop. I actually used one of those 'environmental' water based degreaser cleaners & it seemed to work too. Avoid thinners that contain any oily substance, that residue makes for blotchy blackening results. Use gloves so you don't transfer fingerprint smudges. It helps if you have a nice matt finish, I use those 3M scuff pads. Once blackened I find WD40 (for some strange reason) works as the best preservative. It gives it a nice appearance but doen't feel greasy. This isnt a super tough finish, you can still scratch through it, but its easy to apply.

Real bluing I understand is a high temp solution of specific salts. There is info on the gun forums but I think the shop prerequisites are are not for the faint of heart $$.

I have had zero luck with the aluminum bluing or blackening. The parts look like crap & the oxide wipes off very easily. At least with the common 2xxx 6xxx 7xxx alloys. I've tried all sorts of preps & complete cleanliness but - blech. If its something you care about, go to anodizing.