Jump to content
I Forge Iron

A-11 tool steel?

Recommended Posts

On a whim I bought a remnant of 5/8square A-11 at a steel supplier. I was intending on using it to make some punches and chisels. I also need a new spring fuller. I want to make a nail header at some point too. But as I read through this section of the forum I can see that there are some huge differences between these high carbon steels. Any thoughts on what might be appropriate for this stuff?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From the AZO materials website:    "AISI A11 tool steel is a high vanadium tool steel having wear resistance greater than most of the other tool steels, as well as good toughness and strength. It has improved response to heat treatment, easy grinding process"

Iron, Fe78.21 - 81.35

Vanadium, V9.25 - 10.25

Chromium, Cr4.75 - 5.75

Carbon, C2.4 - 2.5

Molybdenum, Mo1.1 - 1.5

Silicon, Si0.75 - 1.1

Manganese, Mn0.35 - 0.6

Sulfur, S0.050 - 0.090

Forging: A11 tool steels are slowly heated at 1093 - 1149°C (2000 - 2100°F). The forgings are then cooled slowly and annealed immediately upon cooling.

Annealing: A11 tool steels are heated at 871 - 899°C (1600 -1650°F) for 2 hours and cooled to 538°C (1000°F).

Stress Relieving: To relieve machining stresses, A11 tool steels are heated to a temperature of 621 - 677°C (1150 - 1250°F) and then slowly cooled in still air.

Tempering: A11 tool steels are immediately tempered after the completion of the quenching. Tempering is usually performed in the temperature range of 538 - 593°C (1000 - 1100°F).

Machinability: The machinability of A11 tool steels in the annealed condition can be rated between 35 and 40%.

Suggested uses: Steel mill rolls, Pelletizer blades, Woodworking tools, Cold extrusion liners, Plastic injection molds, Slitter knives, Blanking dies and piercing dies.


So looks like a good choice for chisels and punches and things that get buried in red hot steel---look at that tempering temperature!  Forging is going to be a pain too---quite close to forge welding temps and probably very stiff under the hammer. Wear resistance---so a nail header should last. I would be quite hesitant to weld on it. I also would not want to use it for machining stock.

I would just use 5160, cheap and easy to source for a spring fuller. 

If you don't have a lot of high alloy tool steel experience you can start learning on this; or it it was $$$$, I'd learn on another cheaper alloy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for the feedback thomas. Glad to hear it’s going to be useful. I have a small electric foundry with PID controller and a thermocouple. I feel pretty good about my odds of getting those tempering numbers dead on. Does annealing prior to forging provide any benefit?

i took a few whacks at the steel a bit ago and it was incredibly tough at orange heat. I read somewhere that orange heat is where tool steels should be forged so their molecular structure remains intact and you don’t lose their properties. Does this sound right? You mention near welding temperatures above.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Those are the forging temps suggest by a steel manufacturer/seller. I would follow them.   With the set up you have you can run a piece up to the suggested temps; look at what colour it is and then try to duplicate it in the forge,  less wear and tear on the foundry, correct temps at the anvil.

I would expect it to be very hard at heat; a lot of the high alloy steels just laugh when you hit them with the hammer. Solutionizing the carbides can occur at the higher heats; but folks using them generally can heat treat them such that you get what you want back.  It's a gamble trying to work high tech alloys with low tech processes.  Why certain steels like H-13 and S-7 are liked by smiths as they do OK with our processes and others you are just throwing the extra cost away.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...