quenching steel object

Tempering Steel

Tempered steel has been a part of many industries and applications for centuries. Whether in razors, drills, hammers, or even structural steel, the process of tempering has many different implementations.

What Is Tempered Steel?

The process of tempering steel is simple to understand, although it takes great precision to execute. This process starts by heating the steel to a designed temperature, generally right around the critical temperature, then rapidly cooling the steel. This process continues until the desired result is achieved. The higher the temperature the steel is heated increases the elasticity of the finished product while decreasing the metal’s hardness. The process is precise and requires accurate measurements of time, temperature, and cool-down time. 

How Is the Steel Cooled?

In the tempering process, after the first step is complete, it is important to select the right method for cooling the steel down. Some of the options for bringing the temperature down include quenching and normalization.

What Is Quenching?

Quenching steel is the process of immersing the heated steel in either oil, water, or forced air. The temperature and speed at which it is quenched will change the results of the finished product. The tempering process can range from a few minutes to a few hours. The substance used to quench the steel will also have an impact on the final result. Water can cool the steel faster than oil. However, the risk of creating more brittle steel is possible. It is also essential to know the makeup of the steel used in the tempering process, as the lower the carbon content, the faster it needs to be quenched. An additional option for cooling the steel is normalization. 

Another form of quenching steel involves quenching it in steps and allowing the steel to be held at that temperature for a calculated amount of time before continuing the cooling process. This process is referred to as intermediate quenching and has many advantages.

The last type of quenching involves quenching for a very brief amount of time then allowing the steel to cool in the open air, similar to normalization. This process is beneficial as it cools the outside of the steel first and then enables the inside to cool more slowly, resulting in stronger steel. 

What Is Normalization?

Normalized steel occurs when the steel is heated to the desired temperature and allowed to cool in standing air. This process is similar to annealing, where the main difference is that annealing steel involves control of the room temperature during the cooling process. This process will be chosen depending on the steel application but is often used in the automotive industry. 

What Are the Benefits of Tempering? 

The benefits of tempering steel include malleability, increased strength, hardness, and control. Due to the high temperature of the steel, it becomes so malleable that it can be shaped, hardened, or molded into anything from swords to construction beams for skyscrapers. 

Steel in Manufacturing

One of the most common uses of steel is in the construction and manufacturing industries. Whether it’s tempered steel or rolled steel, steel is a very valuable material. This steel can be used to create conveyor machines, feeders, screeners, or in many other applications. General Kinematics offers custom equipment created with VIBRA-WEAR™ designed to tackle the harshest abrasion and impact applications. VIBRA-WEAR™ combines a balance of alloying elements with controlled heat treating and extremely low sulfur for a superior hardness to toughness ratio.


Steel is known for its strength and durability and can be useful in your application for a very long time. General Kinematics’ VIBRA-WEAR™ has at least 2x the wear life of popular tempered steel brands. Whether you’re looking for new equipment to optimize your steel casting efficiency or wanting to explore new opportunities, steel is the best option for you! The staff at General Kinematics would love to help you find the right equipment for your needs!

One Response to “Tempering Steel”

  1. Adam Golightly

    I can see how a business could really benefit from getting the right kind of tempered steel for their products in order to be a lot better. Getting some help from a professional could allow them to be more effective with fewer problems. It was interesting to learn about how the steel can be colled with the right control of the room temperature during the process.

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