Is all HSS metal created equal?

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Forum topic by ToddJB posted 01-04-2013 05:37 PM 1395 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8273 posts in 2306 days

01-04-2013 05:37 PM


When it comes to HSS tools (lathe tools, drill bits, ect) is there a difference between the metal that comes from Harbor Freight and the metal that comes from significantly more expensive brands?

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

4 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3147 days

#1 posted 01-04-2013 09:26 PM

I have not tested HSS from multiple sources to verify the properties.

But, there are several materials that are called HSS. And, the heat treatment and then tempering processes will have a huge impact on the performance of each, even if they are identical in alloy content.

There are M2, M7 alloys with high molybdenum content that are usually called high speed steel. This material when it is annealed only has a hardness of about Rockwell C20. When properly heat treated in the form of a tool, bit, or cutter will have a hardness of Rockwell C60 to C64

There are M42 alloys which are also HSS, but more commonly called cobalt steel. Can have a hardness of up to Rockwell C66 to C68. More significantly, these alloys can achieve this extra hardness without being too brittle.

Then there are the M4 alloys which contain very high vanadium content and are produced from powdered metals. These also can be Rockwell C66 in hardness, but are mainly desired for their wear resistance.

All of these alloys are metals produced from a recipe, list of ingredients, and depending on purity of the ingredients and the method of melting and the care of de-slagging and degassing and then heat treating and quality control, they can have a wide range of characteristics, all within the accepted specifications.

Then there are producers that don’t pay much attention to the specifications. Some that may not have the very expensive lab equipment and highly educated (and paid) metallurgists to determine whether the materials are in spec to start with. I’ve seen some producers who just buy ingredients and melt them together and assume they have the product. It does not work that way. Even in a very high end facility working with certified ingredients and following very precise schedules and temperatures and controlling every variable that is humanly possible, there will be melts that are out of spec and a good shop will test and know what to do to fix it.

Now, if my goal is to produce a product that sells for 20 cents a pound or a product that sells for $2.00 a pound, I will produce the best product I am capable of producing. That is just me. I don’t think the rest of the world works that way either.

View ToddJB's profile


8273 posts in 2306 days

#2 posted 01-04-2013 11:31 PM

That was very detailed. Thank you. So in sort, no, it’s not created equal. It might have the same ingredients, but quantity, consistence, and tempering matter greatly. The difference really in the QA to determine if they have a good product.

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

View thedude50's profile


3603 posts in 2654 days

#3 posted 01-05-2013 12:09 AM

no they are all different but to be called hss YOU HAVE TO MEET A MINIMUM STANDARD
This was discussed in a lathe tool thread a few months ago a company tested all the Hss tools fro different mfgs to see if they were all the same they were miles apart

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View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2364 days

#4 posted 01-05-2013 05:12 AM

Not all HSS is created equal, just like not all stainless or whatever is. This is even true of steel that is correctly labelled, i.e.. there is a range within any given designation.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

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