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Understanding some of Steels Terms

On 27 February 2017 by admin

Understanding some of Steels Terms

You will hear about wrought iron, mild steel, pig iron and many other terms used in steel production, so let’s clarify exactly what they mean:
Pig Iron – An impure form of iron created from iron ore. It is an intermediate product in that it is not used in and of itself, rather it is used to produce other forms of iron and steel.
Wrought Iron is a low carbon form of steel with around 2% impurities in the form of slag. In the 19th century it was widely used for construction, but it is no longer produced commercially. Nearly all products termed wrought iron are actually mild steel – including architectural products like gates and railings.
Mild Steel, or low carbon steel, is the most commonly used steel in industry today. It has a low, but critically important carbon content which makes it strong, but also inexpensive to produce.
SAE Steel Grades
This is a simple steel grading system which breaks steel down into several categories based on the carbon content. Higher carbon content generally means a stronger and harder steel. There are 4 categories, with the grading going from low carbon, or mild steel (most commonly used in construction), to medium carbon steel (used for large part, and components requiring excellent wear properties, but is slightly less ductile than mild steel), high carbon steel (used for tools and machine parts), and very high carbon steel, which is extremely strong but lacking in ductility.
Galvanisation is a process whereby steel is dipped in a zinc solution, and adds protection to mild steel when it is likely to be exposed to the elements. At Surrey Steels, we regularly provide galvanised steel for our customers – it is a good way to protect steel beams without going for very expensive stainless steel. Some customers opt to go for painted beams – the protective paint helps reduce corrosion risk, but is obviously less effective than galvanisation.

As well as carbon, there are other types of steel that can be created. Nickel steel is an alloy used in high strength applications, like for tool making, high strength components and for some specialised storage applications.
Chromium Steel is another alloy often referred to as stainless steel. This is used in construction often because of its rust resistant properties – the Chrysler Building for example uses stainless steel. You will more commonly see it for use in tools and cookware however!
There is a huge array of steel alloys with different concentrations of various elements. These alloys all have different purposes due to the array of different properties. Some are designed for strength but may be more brittle, whilst others are more ductile.  Steel used in construction and in architectural work is usually mild steel however, and this is the product most sold by Surrey Steels.

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