Stainless Steel

Introduction to a Series

Over the 45 years of working with materials used for heavy industrial maintenance, I’ve seen that matching stainless grades of steel with the appropriate application can be awfully confusing to the many support folks who do not have a background in the sciences. I speculate that a lot of hard working “non-metallurgical” people would be happier and more effective if they understood a bit more of what governs the decisions and requests coming from maintenance and reliability personnel. I am one of those “job taught” individuals and it is my hope that the posts that follow will provide a very general overview, i.e. the help that I would have relished many years ago. Becoming familiar with the various “personalities” of the most common available grades of stainless will hopefully encourage a familiarity within the potential supply chain and its value or limitations. Even a casual understanding of the distinct stainless personalities relative to the particular needs of the applications would help the two better get along. Think E-Harmony for stainless materials and applications.

In the coming weeks and months we will pass along some hard learned tips and stories that might help to broaden your understanding of the stainless picture. We will answer questions like; “What is Muffler Stock”, Can non-magnetic stainless attract a magnet, are there magnetic grades of stainless, Can you harden stainless, Can you buy pre-hardened stainless, why does stainless tend to “move around when you’re trying to keep it straight”, along with a host of other nagging questions.

We hope to stimulate questions that will generate future posts. If you consider yourself “non-technical” i.e. just another soul immersed in an industry that is drawn to an increasing reliance on the material, this should be right up your alley!

My approach to these articles will be a little like the differences between cooking and baking:  When cooking, you can make a darn good chili without a recipe. You can measure ingredients by handfuls and cook it until it “looks right”. Baking, on the other hand, requires keen attention to the recipe with ingredients, time and temperature. Detailed information that would be appropriate for engineering decisions is not what I’m hoping to present. So, if you are a scientist, metallurgist, or engineer who is reading this post expecting a soufflé, you will be sorely disappointed to find that it might only be even a moderately good chili.

All comments and criticisms are encouraged and welcomed however, understand that this Soufflé is going to be simmered with kidney beans and hot peppers! Hopefully, these posts will act as catalysts for readers to seek more detailed information from structured resources better equipped to deal with the on-site conundrums they may encounter.

As politicians are so fond of saying; “Let me be perfectly clear”;

What follows is not intended for the credentialed metallurgist, the engineer, or chemist. The information is not to be used for engineering purposes. This is more like an energy drink for the unsung work-a-day-support stiffs charged with keeping the supply chain flowing. They need to be incorporated into the wonders of the maintenance materials world that they have an undisputed effect on. From their caves under the catwalks, in the bowels of plants, to the mazes of cubbies in the cooler parts of the plant, they long to be a part of what it is they get blamed for anyway.

-Howard Thomas, July 31st 2017