One of the common items used in household and machinery is steel. It is strong, durable, and goes a long way.
But not all steel is capable of doing the heavy lifting. This means, that some are brittle and cannot withstand heavy use for a longer period. To make steel stronger and able to take on heavy loads, you have to temper it.
If you are going to make a tool from scratch, like a knife, car parts, or anything simple as that, you can use your home oven to temper them.
We are going to talk about how to temper steel in the oven in this article. And for a bonus, you will also get to know how to color your steel permanently without any color being added to them.
How to Temper Steel in Oven | Step by Step
The easiest way to temper your steel is to put it in an oven. Although ceramic ovens and a blow torch can do the trick, if you don’t have those, your home oven can also help you with that. You can also get a preferred color on your steel in the process.
Why Do You Need to Temper Steel
Raw steel is very fragile and brittle in nature. When it goes through heat treatment, it gets tempered. And this makes the steel more durable and stronger than its raw form.
If you have bought any tempered steel equipment or tools from the store, you will notice that they are far more strong than any other non-tempered steel. This is due to the heat processing it has gone through.
So if you are thinking of making your own tools and equipment at the home, you can temper your raw steel by yourself. All you will need is your home oven that goes over 550°.
Steps to Follow to Temper Steel
Before you start to temper your steel, you need a few things handy. Here is the list of things you will need.
- The raw steel needs to be tempered.
- Cleaning cloth.
- Rubbing alcohol.
- A water bucket or tub to cool your steel after tempering.
When you got everything ready, it’s time to start tempering your steel in your oven. Do not preheat the oven. Simply start heating after your steel is in it.
Step 1: Start by cleaning your raw steel. The dirt and oil on your steel will leave pigmentation while it is being tempered. And if you want an amazing color coating all over the steel, cleaning is the most essential thing. Simply use a clean cloth and some rubbing alcohol to clean your steel.
Step 2: Put your steel in the oven. You can use a thin wire rack if you want or a plate. But a wire rack will be better.
Step 3: Turn on the heat. You have to go over 375° to temper your steel. But if you want to get a color pigmentation to your liking, you have to follow the color heat chart. The different heat level gives the steel a different hue of color.
Step 4: Take the steel out of the oven after it changes color and put it in the bucket or tub of water. And check if the steel is brittle or solid. If there are brittle bits around the edges, then the steel is not good enough. If there are no brittle bits, then you are good to go. You have tempered your steel perfectly.
Note: You can always do more tempering as long as you want. But too much heat at once may change the molecules of the steel and damage its structure. So take it out often and check for changes. And using gloves will not only protect your hand from burning but also help not to put a smudge on the steel itself.
Frequently Asked Questions
What temperature should I temper steel?
You can temper steel to a range of temperatures. Depending on what kind of tempering and coloring you prefer, it ranges from 175°C to 700° C. But always keep in mind that the steel will lose its integrity if it is not cooled down during the tempering. So don’t let it sit in the oven for too long. Or you will end up with a melted-down steel piece.
Can I temper a knife in an oven?
Most steel knives are tempered. But if you don’t have a tempered knife, you can simply temper it in the oven. But you have to take off the handles first. Especially if the handle is made out of wood, plastic, or any other material coating. Then you can pop the knife in the oven and temper it. Do clean your knife before starting the tempering process.
How to use the oven temper?
To use an oven to temper your steel, you have to take out any glass plates that are in it. Instead, you can use a wire rack to hold your steel. If you leave your glass plate in the oven and use it to hold your steel to temper, the glass will be compromised. As the internal temperature of the steel rises tremendously, it is wise to use a metal holder than a glass one.
At what temperature does steel lose temper?
Depending on the metal’s structure and molecules, different steel types lose their temper at different stages. That is why it is suggested not to over temper from the beginning. And cooling your metal down in between the tempering is the best way to go. But normally steel loses its temper at 1340 ° F.
Tempering is not only a way to harden your steel but is also an art in the process. The steel changes its color at different temperatures and it gives it the nice signature look that you will find in steel accessories in the market. Timing and temperature are the keys here.
Without proper handling, your steel might end up in the dump. So pay close attention while you are at it. Also, check if your oven is good enough to hold the temperature that you want. A defective oven might end up in a disaster.