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Thread: Is all M2 steel created equal?

  1. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Schenectady, NY

    Some thoughts on M2 tool steel

    As has already been said, there are many different types of High Speed Steel. Specifically, not all tool steels are HSS. M2 HSS has a very specific alloy formula with very tight limits on each alloy element. Heat treating M2 HSS is very complicated and cannot be accomplished by the average home metal worker. Much of the bulk M2 HSS readily available in bar stock is un-heat treated, meaning annealed and soft. Metal cutting bits like we use for hollowing are usually heat treated when purchased.

    M2 HSS from Sheffield is quite different from Chinese HSS. The quality control is dramatically different in China than in England. Sheffield steel has a long history of high quality steel. If you grind Sheffield steel, you will see uniform dark orange sparks. If you grind Chinese HSS, you will see brighter orange sparks with some of the "sparkler" type sparks as well, like you would see when grinding plain Carbon steel. Chinese HSS is much coarser grain structure with lots more impurities and is usually softer. Sheffield steel is very clean and uniform in formula and grain structure. This is why particle metals have been such an improvement. The powder they are made from is extremely fine, and every particle is exactly the same as the other. So when the powder is heated and compressed into solid stock, the resulting material is very uniform and consistent. Not so with the Chinese steels. Many of the higher end turning tools are now made from particle steels. which is part of what makes them so expensive-the steel production process is very expensive but results in a superior steel. Even hand plane blades are being made with particle steels now. The extremely fine grain of these steels is part of what gives them the abilty to take and hold a very fine edge.

    Just this past Saturday, I was teaching a bowl turning class. Our club has several Ben's Best tools. I showed the class the difference in steels by grinding a BB tool and then grinding one of my Artisan (Henry Taylor-Sheffield) tools. Very visible difference in the resulting sparks !

    I do not claim to be an expert in steel, but I have read a lot on the subject. I also spent several years in the powdered metal industry working for Pratt-Whitney as a metallurgical tech in quality assurance doing chemical analyisis. I actually started out on the furnace and worked my way up to the QA lab. That was after getting my B.S. degree in Biology (not meatallurgy I know, but lots of chemistry and physics).

    You can find the actual alloy composition of M2 HSS by searching the internet. It's really quite interesting.

    So, my long winded answer to the original question is No, not all M2 HSS are the same.
    Happy and Safe Turning, Don

    Woodturners make the world go ROUND!

  2. #17
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Lewiston, Idaho
    Once again Creekers have been a great source if information. Thanks to all who posted.

    I am going to see if I can get some pre-hardened M2 flat stock (from a quality source, not Chinese) and go at it with a grinder (I am looking for 3/8 by 1.5 by 8 inch bars).

    If I can't find any of that then I think I will play with some O1 just to try out some scraper designs before I cough up the cash for a good M2 version. It will at least give me an excuse to learn a bit about hardening and tempering

    Thanks Again

  3. You can look at enco < >.
    They have hardened M2 tool bits up to 7 inches long. Not exactly the size you are asking for but close. They have 1/2 round bar m2 but it's only 6 inches long. I'd love to find some place that sells M2 bar stock that's at least 10 inches long. You could also try Doug sells CPM 10V (A-11) power metal turning tools and will sell blanks but they aren't as cheap as simple HSS.

    (I'm not associated with either company mentioned here.)
    Stan Harder

  4. #19
    I believe MSC has some HSS tool bits that are 8 inches long. They may have some 10 inches, but they'd be a bit pricey.

  5. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Mooresville, NC
    Joel look around and see if you can find some old leaf springs or old carbon steel pre WWII or around then or buy tool steel. I've made spindle gouges skews 3/16 round, 1/4 round 1/2 round, 3/4round, some weird looking things, captive ring tools, a really cool hollowing tool, several mini's for pen turning. I'm working on a 3/4 oval skew now. Carbon is much easier to work with. Check it with a file, if the file slides on it you'll need to heat it cherry red and let it cool slow (anneal) so you can work with it. Harden it and temper once you have your basic tool shape. If you need help PM me.
    Last edited by David Wilhelm; 01-30-2008 at 12:03 AM.

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