Things to Keep in Mind While Selecting a Tool Steel

Things to Keep in Mind While Selecting a Tool Steel


Steel is an iron-carbon alloy whose properties make it indispensable in the tooling industry. Its hardness, durability, and resistance to wear and tear make it an ideal material for making tools. However, not all steels are created equal. Different steel grades have different properties, making them suitable for different applications.

In order to get the most out of your tools, it is important to select the right tool steel for the job. But how can you tell which tool is right for you?

This article will give you a few things to keep in mind while selecting the perfect tool for your needs. However, before we get started, let’s first look at the different types of tool grades to lay the foundation for our discussion.


Each tool grade exhibits different physical and mechanical properties. These properties result from the different compositions of the alloys used to make the steel.

The following are the most common grades:

  • A-Grade, D-Grade, O-Grade (Cold-working tools)
  • H-Grade (Hot-working tools)
  • M-Grade, T-Grade (High-speed tools)
  • S-Grade (Shock resisting tools)
  • W-Grade (Water hardening tools)

Selecting the Perfect Tool

Choosing the right grade is critical to ensuring the longevity and performance of your tools. Below are 5 things you should consider before making your selection:

1.    High-temperature applications

High temperatures can alter the mechanical properties of steel. And although most steel grades can withstand high temperatures, some are better suited for these applications than others.

For example, H-Grade tools contain high levels of tungsten and molybdenum (chemical elements that give the steel increased wear resistance and strength at high temperatures), making them ideal for hot-working applications such as forging, stamping, and extrusion.

2.    Low-temperature applications

Just as high temperatures can have an adverse effect on steel, so can low temperatures. In fact, at extremely low temperatures, some steel grades can become brittle and break easily.

For these applications, you’ll want to choose a steel grade designed to withstand low temperatures without compromising its strength or durability. Grades such as A, O, and D are typically used for cold-working applications.

3.    High-impact applications

Not all tooling applications are gentle on the tools. In fact, some applications (such as stamping and forging) subject the tools to high levels of impact and abrasion.

For these applications, you’ll want to choose a grade designed to withstand high impact without chipping, breaking, or wearing down. Tool steel grades such as S are typically used for high-impact applications.

These tools are designed to resist shock and abrasion, making them ideal for applications that subject the tools to high levels of stress.

4.    High-speed applications

Some tools are required to operate at high speeds. For example, drill bits and cutting blades are often required to rotate at high speeds in order to perform their intended function. At these speeds, the steel can heat up and break down quickly. Also, the tool can wear out faster, resulting in a shorter lifespan.

For these applications, you’ll want to choose a grade designed to withstand high speeds without breaking down. Grades such as M and T are the perfect choice for high-speed applications.

5.    Cost

If you are looking for a high-quality and cost-effective tool, you’ll want to choose a grade that strikes the perfect balance between quality and price.

Unlike other grades, W-Grade tools get most of their mechanical properties from high levels of carbon and not from expensive alloys. As a result, W-Grade tools are an economical choice for those looking for a brittle microstructure that can withstand wear and tear without breaking the bank.

Key Takeaway

Finding the perfect tool grade for your specific application can be a challenge. However, by considering the factors listed above, you can narrow down your choices and find the perfect grade for your needs.

If you’re still unsure which grade is right for your application, please get in touch with New Mexico Metals LLC today! We have vast experience in the field of metals and would be more than happy to help you select the perfect tool steel for your project.

Contact us today to learn more!