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What are bars made of?

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Steel

A Block of Steel Steel is an alloy of iron, carbon, and other elements and is generally inexpensive and widely available. Most bars are constructed from a form of steel, which can be effective for a wide range of purposes.

Carbon steel

Bar Constructed from Carbon Steel Carbon steel is steel in which the main alloying element is carbon.

It is harder than common steel, but less ductile, meaning that it is more difficult to shape into the desired form, and is more likely to break or snap than bend.

Low carbon Low carbon steel (0.30–0.59%), also called ‘mild steel’, ‘plain-carbon steel’ or ‘low grade steel’, is generally available at an affordable cost and has a lower carbon content, making it more malleable (easy to bend), but weaker.
High carbon High carbon steel (0.6–0.99%), also called ‘high grade steel’, can be heat treated for added strength.

Trace amounts of other elements in a high carbon steel alloy can have a weakening effect, and result in brittleness at working temperatures. Trace sulphur content is especially detrimental.

Ultra high carbon Ultra high carbon steel (1.0–2.0%) is extremely strong when tempered and can withstand a high degree of wear and abrasion.

Alloy steel

Alloy Steel Bars Alloy steel usually refers to low-alloy steel, a steel that has been alloyed with a wider variety of elements in higher amounts, improving mechanical qualities.

High alloy boron steel

Raw, Powdered Boron This is steel that has been hardened by alloying with the element boron. Boron is an economic but effective alloying element, giving an increased resistance against rust corrosion and abrasive wear.

The addition of boron is also effective for hardening steels, especially low-carbon steels which can’t be heat treated. However, hardening with boron may decrease malleability; meaning that worn-out tools will break rather than bend, and can’t be salvaged.

Spring steel

Spring Steel A low alloy, low carbon steel with a high yield point. A high yield point means that objects constructed from this steel are able to return to their original shape after significant deformation (twisting or bending).

This type of steel is best used in handy and pry bars, which are intended to give some spring-back.

Drop forged steel

Drop Forging Steel In the drop forging process, steel is fixed to a hammer face and dropped from a height onto a workpiece to deform it in the shape of the die (the tool used during forging to cut or press metal into the desired form).

Forged steel is almost always more durable than cast or machined metal, as the forging process aligns the grain structure to the shape of the tool.

This type of steel is best used in bars designed for extreme toughness, such as digging bars, large crowbars and gorilla bars.

Titanium

Salvage Divers at Work
Titanium is lightweight and strong, making it a popular metal for hand-powered tools. Titanium is best used in moulding bars and handy bars.

Due to their light weight, titanium tools are even popular with salvage divers, however, they carry a much higher price, and are highly ductile, making them less durable. Commercial titanium’s tensile strength is equal to that of low grade steel alloys, but it weighs 45% less per pound.

Aluminium

Aluminium Bars Alluminium is a cheap, low-weight metal with about a third of the density and stiffness of common steel.

With a few exceptions, aluminium is too soft to be useful in a bar, which requires a high tensile strength. An exception may be a situation in which a non-magnetic bar is specifically necessary.

Manufacturing processes

Tempering process

Tempering

‘Tempering’ is a technique used to toughen alloy. Because many hardening techniques used during tool manufacture can leave alloy brittle, tempering is used to improve malleability.

Tools intended for toughness, such as digging bars, are tempered at low temperatures, whereas tools which are intended to retain some ‘spring’, such as handy bars, are tempered at higher temperatures.

Tempering process In tempering, alloy steels are heated and cooled repeatedly, allowing internal alloying elements to react inside the metal – this creates ‘intermetallic phases’ known as ‘precipitates’, which strengthen the alloy against brittleness.
Hardening steel

Hardening

During hardening, steel is heated to its normalising temperature (760+°C) and quenched in water, oil or cold air.

Hardening steel When alloy steel is heated above 760°C, carbon atoms migrate to a central position in the metal’s atomic structure. When the alloy is then quenched, the carbon atoms are trapped in place, resulting in a very hard steel.

What is tensile strength?

Tensile Strength Tensile strength is the amount of stress that a metal can take without breaking, snapping or tearing.

A high tensile strength means that a material can withstand a high degree of stress (such as bending) before failing, whereas a low tensile strength means that a material breaks easily when stress is applied.