Is there an easy way to soften steel? -
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post #1 of 5 Old 10-01-2003, 10:54 PM Thread Starter
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Is there an easy way to soften steel?

I am in the process of making some shovel mounting brackets for my Garvin roof rack. The brackets consist of some 2" wide by 3/16" thick mild steel bars and some pieces of angle bracket. I drilled the appropriate mounting holes in the bars, then arc welded on some angle bracket pieces. After it was all said and done, I decided to enlarge the existing mounting holes to accept 5/16 bolts instead of 1/4. When I tried to enlarge the holes, all I managed to do was wear out a couple of drill bits. I figured that the heat from the arc welding hardened the bars. Does anyone know of a way to soften the steel? If worse comes to worse, I'll just start over again (hell, the steel bars and angle stock cost less than the drill bit did anyway).

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post #2 of 5 Old 10-02-2003, 01:28 AM
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Have you tried a cobalt bit yet? that is some good stuff. I drilled an old bolt out of my manifold with a colbalt bit it did it but by the end it too was getting dull. If its not the big of a deal and it sounds like its not just start over with your steel and drill first.

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post #3 of 5 Old 10-02-2003, 12:04 PM
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Use a torch to soften up the metal. Its only mild steel, should be able to soften it up pretty quickle with a good flame.
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post #4 of 5 Old 10-03-2003, 09:26 PM
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metallurgy 101. you effectively air quenched the steel when you arc welded it. to soften it up again, you need to heat it up to about 800F (like YJ said, a decent torch can easily achieve this) and then let it cool slowly. if it's a small enough piece, get two buckets and fill one of them with dry sand and the other with a layer of sand on the bottom a couple inches thick. make sure there's enough room for the part you're softening. then, heat the part with the torch as hot as you can or until cherry red, whichever comes first depending on the torch you're using. then, quickly put the part in the bucket with the sand layer (using tongs of course) and have someone pour sand from the other bucket on top of it to complete cover it. let it sit for a couple of hours or even better, overnight. it should soften it back up. this is called an annealing process. the sand acts as an insulator keeping the part hot much longer. we did this in HS when we made cold chisels and punches during our forging projects. if you want to harden the steel again before finalizing it, shine up a small area of the part and then heat it to cherry red again. using heavy gloves and some emery cloth (several layers think) sand the open spot to expose the steel to air again. watch the steel carefully and as it cools, you'll see it change color. when it reaches a straw yellow color, quench it in a bucket of water until cool. depending on thickness of the part and other factors, you'll have a part with varyin degrees of hardness, but for the most part it will be close to the hardness of tool steel. lol. probably more info then you ever wanted, but it's good to learn something new. HTH

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post #5 of 5 Old 10-03-2003, 11:37 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks to everyone for the information. Due to time constraints, I had to fab another set of mounting brackets from scratch. Now that I have some time, I'll try sentinal02's suggestion for annealing steel on one of the scrapped pieces. Great stuff!- thanks again. shad4th

Last edited by shad4th; 10-04-2003 at 12:03 AM.
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