I know we talk about carbon steel a lot in our blog. We say buy carbon steel woks or carbon steel pans etc.
But what is carbon steel? How is it formed, and how many variations of carbon steel are there?
I know all we compare is carbon steel and stainless steel, but there is actually more to it.
Ready to find out? Wear your nerdy outfit and join me because this is going to be a bit rocky.
This is a kind of steel that contains carbon and iron. The amount of carbon in the steel determines what grade of carbon steel it is.
Low carbon steel has 0.25% of carbon, medium carbon steel has 0.25-0.50% carbon, while any other kind of carbon steel is very high-carbon steel.
We will be expounding more on each of these carbon steels later on the blog post and where each of them is applicable.
Let’s dive right in.
This is probably the most common form of carbon steel. As I mentioned earlier, it has a carbon percentage of 0.25%, and it can’t be hardened using heat treatment like other levels of carbon steel. Therefore, this is done through cold work.
Low carbon steel is neither too brittle nor too ductile; it’s a good balance, explaining why it’s used in multiple industries.
Another reason why this grade of steel is everywhere is because it’s versatile and its manufacturing cost is very low.
Some of the common uses of low carbon steel include.
This carbon steel contains 0.25 – 0.60 wt.% carbon and 0.60 – 1.65 wt.% manganese. Its mechanical properties are improved through heat treatment that involves austenitizing, quenching, and tempering, which gives it a martensitic microstructure.
When treatment can only be done on thin sections, additional alloys like nickel, molybdenum, and chromium improve the steels’ ability to treat and harden it.
Hardened medium carbon steel is stronger than low carbon steel, but its ductility properties aren’t as good as low carbon steel.
Here are some of the uses of medium carbon steel.
Any steel with a carbon content of 0.55% or higher is high carbon steel; pushing the carbon content past 2% makes it very brittle. This is how all carbon cookware and wood stoves are made.
High carbon steel has extreme hardness, high strength, moderate elasticity, and is resistant to wear.
Since this steel can maintain a very sharp edge, it’s used in cutting tools and masonry nails.
Besides the high carbon steel, there is another category that contains a carbon content of 0.8%. This type of steel is known as tool-carbon steel. The latter is very hard, and they’re mostly used in shearing blades, punch awls, razors, and knives.
If I had to write all the pros of using carbon steel over traditional steel, I would need to dedicate a whole blog post to that.
However, in a nutshell, here are some of the greatest benefits of using carbon steel.
While carbon steel has so many advantages, it also has its cons, and it’s only fair that I let you in.
Here are the setbacks of using carbon steel.
Here are the commonly asked questions regarding carbon steel.
The question of whether carbon steel is better than mild steel is a grey area. Some people also wonder if they mean the same thing. Well, the thing is, mild steel is a category of carbon steel. They’re just carbon steels that have different carbon levels. Whether they are great or not depends on how you’re applying them.
Carbon steel is stronger and harder than stainless steel. This is why it’s commonly used for bladed instruments and knives. On the other hand, it’s more prone to rust as the iron reacts with moisture to form iron oxide.
However, carbon steel is a major category divided into low-carbon steel, high-carbon steel, and medium-carbon steel.
The difference between this steel is the level of carbon in them. This affects their ductility, strength, and, subsequently, their uses.
I hope my blog post gave you a bit of clarity on what carbon steel is and how it’s used.
What else would you love to know about carbon steel?
Colin is a passionate chef by trade and a kitchen nerd on the side. Growing up in the kitchen, Colin has always had a passion for learning the absolute best way to cook a dish. He quickly realized most kitchens have duplicate cookware and small appliances and had to decide which ones were going to be the “keepers” – causing him to take a closer look at all his products.
As it turns out, small differences make a big impact on the experience. Whether it’s how hard you have to press a microwave button, to how long a cast iron skillet stays warm after you turn off the heat, these little difference changed everything.