Mechanical Properties of Wrought vs. Forged Steel

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Carbon steel can be prepared at the point of origin for use in various building and metalworking applications in several different ways and there are subtle structural and mechanical differences between cast steel, forged steel and wrought steel. These differences can help to determine what applications the metals can safely be used in, as well as what strengths and weaknesses the metals will have. Most people know that cast metals are metals that are made molten and then poured into a mold, which leads to their final finished shapes, but most people do not know the difference between wrought steel and forged steel.

Wrought Steel Starts as Cast Steel

  • Wrought steel begins life as cast steel that is poured into ingots or molds. After it has cooled, the steel is reheated and rolled into a final finished shape. This means that wrought steel has some of the structural properties of cast steel, such as additional weight of metal required to have the same structural integrity as a similar piece of forged steel. Wrought steel is also less likely to be used in high-tension applications and it may be harder and more brittle than forged steel.

Forged Steel Can Be More Durable

  • According to Steel Forge.com, forged steel is more durable in certain applications because, although it begins life as a casting as well, it is hammer forged using large hydraulic hammers that force the atoms and molecules of the steel into alignment as they hit it. Wrought steel does not undergo this same process, which makes forged steel harder and less likely to crack when struck. Striking tools and axes are often made of forged steel because they are used to hit things, and the brittle nature of a cast steel would lead them to breaking rapidly if they were not forged.

Carbon Mixtures

  • The amount of carbon used in the mixture determines the final strength of a piece of wrought or forged steel. There are as many possible blends for carbon mixtures as there are applications for the finished metal. This is true for both wrought and forged steel, which can be made either harder or softer depending on the particular blend chosen. However, forged steel tends to be more flexible than wrought steel in the final product regardless of the blend, which can also contribute to making it less susceptible to breakage.

Fine Steel versus Course Steel

  • Fine grained steels are tougher than coarse grained steels when it comes to the hardness. The graining of the steel depends on the method by which the steel was forged or wrought and the composition of the steel. Either forged or wrought steel can be made with either hard or coarse grains. Forged steel may be, but isn't necessarily always, more fine grained, in part because of the hammer-forging process.

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