High carbon steel — named for any steel that contains 0.30 or higher carbon content — is something you interact with on a daily basis, although you may not even realize it.
From tiny washers to pant hangers and more, this versatile metal is valued for its “memory”, allowing it to be formed into various shapes such as circles, coils, and springs.
Keep reading to learn more about this material, as well as its benefits and end-use applications.
High Carbon Steel Properties
High carbon steel is often chosen for it high strength and resistance properties. It is moderately ductile, which means it can be deformed without breaking.
High carbon steel in particular has “memory,” which means once the material is stretched, it will expand back into the shape it was formed in.
What is High Carbon Steel Used For?
People interact with high carbon steel on a daily basis. Whether it’s in plain sight (those metal clips on a pant hanger) or hidden behind your refrigerator door, high carbon steel is used pretty much everywhere.
High carbon steel is a popular choice for washers and fasteners, but the material is also used in a variety of industries. Here are a couple of common end-use applications:
Household Toys & Appliances
In the past, screws were used on the front of your refrigerator door, but now there are fasteners made of high carbon steel in the back to hold it in place. You’ll also find steel fasteners within dishwashers, freezers, and televisions. Like the refrigerator, steel fasteners hold the T.V. face on so you don’t see any screws or trim clips.
Head to your local home and garden store and you’ll find high carbon steel washers and pipe hangers for almost any application. From toy wagons and cars, to golf carts and lawn and garden equipment, you can look closely and see valve covers, gaskets, and fasteners — all manufactured from high carbon steel.
One common use for high carbon steel in the automotive industry is clamps for fuel rail systems. The clamps hold the fuel rail onto an engine block, down the body fluid transfer clamps.
If you use a car radio and happened to pop off your radio bezel, you would see six or seven high carbon steel metal clips holding it in place. You’ll also find copper and high carbon steel in terminals for electrical connections..
And that backup sensor on your car? There will be a small, high carbon steel clip holding it in place — same with your side bumpers to aid in the park assist features.
Manufacturing & Construction
High carbon steel is used for a variety of cutting tools, springs, and coils for the manufacturing industry, as well as various washers and fasteners.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, one Three D Metals customer used our high carbon steel to form small washers for use in their COVID testing medical machines.
“The plastic ones they were getting from offshore were not holding up, so they switched to a metal one,” said Three D Metals’ Director of National Accounts Chad Castrigano.
Related: The Benefits of Using Carbon Steel in Construction
Next time you’re on a trip to Target (or maybe even in your own home), check out a pant hanger. Those squeeze tabs holding the pants on the hanger are high carbon steel.
Or, stop in at a gas station and check out the chip selection.
“The chips may be hanging around a metal rod and there’s a metal clip. You pull the bag off and that metal clip snaps back on — that’s a very good visual of what high carbon steel does,” Castrigano shared.
High Carbon Steel Vs. Low Carbon Vs. Stainless Steel
Steel is a widely-used material, and there are a few different variants. The end-use application may determine the type of steel you may choose for your product.
Low Carbon Steel
Low carbon steel is commonly used in construction for applications that don’t need a lot of push-on, pull-off force, such as something to hang materials off of. Other uses may be nails, pipes, or wires.
Stainless is commonly chosen for its aesthetic appeal, so it’s used for visual applications. It also has rust-resistant properties and can be submerged in water over time.
Heat Treat, Pancake, and Oscillate
When researching high carbon steel, you may read terms like “heat treat” or “pancake” or “oscillate” — but what do they mean? Here’s a breakdown:
When steel is heat-treated after it is formed into some sort of shape. At Three D Metals, our product is available in a variety of tempers of high carbon, low carbon, and stainless steel. Our material is not heat-treated, although customers may choose this treatment after bending, shaping, and forming our material.
Pancake coils are so named because they’re shipped “eye to the sky.” The pancake feature may be used when you’re running a lower volume job.
Not sure if pancake coils are a good fit for you? Email email@example.com, and we can help guide you through our options.
Oscillating is similar to a spool of thread, where you can get the same circumference as a pancake but more material. When the steel is slit, it oscillates back and forth, with each strip on top of the other. This feature would be ideal for someone who needs fewer coil changeovers.
Castrigano gave the example of one Three D Metals customer who creates drop ceilings. The white ceiling material is held from two clips that the customer has created from Three D Metals steel, bent and shaped to the form they need.
“They get 5,000 pounds of coil that has 25.6 miles of material,” he said. “To get that much material would require hundreds of pancake coils.”
Here to Meet Your Steel Product Needs
At Three D Metals, we offer oscillating, slitting, and cutting services, but we are also able to customize products for you. In fact, we’re the largest distributor of high carbon spring steel coil in North America.
We also stock several ranges of steel products, from low carbon to high carbon and stainless in a variety of alloys. And we meet European and Asian steel standards from C45 up to C75 grade steel.
If you’re not sure what material would work best for your end-use, you can always contact us or request a quote. We may ask you:
- Do you know what the application will be?
- Is it going to be used in an engine?
- Is it going to be used internally?
- Will the metal need to look a certain way?
At Three D Metals, our team of knowledgeable account managers prides themselves on finding solutions to our customers’ needs and providing stand-out customer service along the way. We’re always available to answer any questions you may have.
Simply fill out the Request a Quote form linked below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.