The knife steel hardening procedure

The following is a description of how hardening is carried out in practice, what distinguishes the various furnace types, and what should be borne in mind for the various furnace types and processes.

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In addition, the importance of quenching the material as quickly as possible from the hardening temperature, and how hardness is affected by different tempering temperatures is described. The required hardness can be achieved by varying the tempering temperature within the specified range.

Furnace types

Knife steel can be hardened in two different ways, depending on the equipment used:

  • Piece hardening in a small furnace, or on a belt furnace. The hardening procedure, times and temperatures, is the same for both furnace types.
  • Batch hardening of larger batches, e.g. in a vacuum furnace.

Regardless of the method used, the purpose is the same: to heat treat the material to increase hardness and improve corrosion resistance.

Piece hardening

Piece hardening of individual blades in a small furnace or a belt furnace is normally carried out by heating the steel to 1080°C / 1976°F (for Sandvik 12C27) and the time during which the blade is held (soaked) in the furnace depends on the material thickness.

The table below shows the approximate soaking times in the furnace as a function of the material thickness. When the blade has been soaked in the furnace for the specified time, it is removed and immediately quenched, preferably in oil intended specifically for quenching.

In belt furnaces, the pieces are either placed together on a long belt, or the knife blades are placed on a mesh belt that transports them through the furnace. The most critical operation for hardening in a belt furnace is quenching, which should be given extra attention for an optimal result.

Soaking times (approximate)
ThicknessThicknessTime in furnace
mmin.minutes
2.50 0.100 5
3.00 0.118 6
3.25 0.128 7
3.50 0.138 8
3.75 0.148 10
4.00 0.157 12

When the blade has been soaked in the furnace for the time specified above, it is removed and immediately quenched, preferably in oil intended for quenching.

In belt furnaces, the material is either placed together on a long belt, or the knife blades are placed on a mesh belt that transports them through the furnace. The most critical operation for hardening in a belt furnace is quenching, which should be given extra attention for an optimal result.

Batch hardening

When larger batches are hardened, there is a risk of temperature difference within the batch. The material should therefore be given a chance to achieve uniform temperature by soaking it at 850°C (1562°F) during the heating process. The material should also be given a longer soaking time and slightly lower temperature in relation to piece hardening.

Quenching is equally critical in this type of hardening, and it is very important that the furnace equipment has high cooling capacity in order to meet the requirement for lowering the temperature to 600°C (1112°F) within 2 minutes.