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March 31, 2011 AT 10:03 am

Where to Find Information About Metals and Alloys

As I’ve gotten more and more into machining, I’ve found that I often require information about metals and alloys. I’ve collected a few resources which I’ve found helpful, and which I’d like to share with you.

There are several places where you can find decent metal information — by “information”, I don’t just mean density or history of human use — I’m referring to information about working with a metal, such as machinability, weldability, heat treatment, and so forth.

The standard reference for most alloys used in manufacturing is the Metals Handbook, published by ASM International (formerly the American Society for Metals). This is the Unabridged OED of metal info. The upside is that it contains pretty much all the extant information about metals and alloys, the downside is that it spans over a dozen volumes and costs $$. If you have access to these books at school or at work, you should definitely take a look at them. Sometimes you can find older editions on auction sites or powells, too.

ASM also offers subject guides on their website, which are free. These guides cover various types of metals, as well as processes and other info, and they are written in non-expert language which makes them good for folks who don’t have a PhD in metallurgy. Though they don’t really cover much about working or machining, they still make for interesting reads and provide valuable background from an authoritative source.

The second resource I’d recommend is Machinery’s Handbook. Often referred to as “The Handbook”, it’s actually kind of disgusting just how much information is packed into this book. If you can afford it, skip the “Toolbox Edition” and get the regular version. It has some great stuff in it about metalworking (20 pages just about lathe tool bit geometry, for example), and a fair amount of metal+alloy information.

The third (and most obvious) resource is A Personal Appeal from Jimmy Wales Wikipedia. I’m not even going to link to it, because I already know it’s in your bookmarks toolbar (just kidding, here’s a link). Wikipedia has all sorts of general info about metals but, like the ASM subject guides, doesn’t really go into data specifics.

Metal suppliers can be a good resource as well. They will provide alloy data sheets if you request them. Online Metals provides different “guides” for alloys that they sell, though these are brief and I’ve often found that they are lacking information I need when deciding what to buy.

A final resource, and one which I’ve found myself using with increasing frequency, is suppliersonline.com. They have a great research section which provides a lot of info about different types of metals and alloys, including heat treatment, weldability, workability, etc. They are in the business of connecting suppliers with customers, so bear this in mind. However, their material data properties search can yield some great data about a wide variety of metals. Something to keep in mind when searching is that querying for specific tempers won’t yield much information, whereas if you choose the alloy only (Al 6061, for example, as opposed to 6061-T6511) you’ll get a lot more to work with.

Hopefully you’ll find these resources helpful in your quest for metal data. If you feel I’ve left something out, or you’ve got something you’d like to add, feel free to post it up in the comments.

Now, get your opposable-thumb on, and go cut some metal!

UPDATE: A number of readers have suggested matweb.com as a good resource. I will admit that it does contain a LOT of raw data about metals (and plastics, ceramics, etc.) That said, I think it’s of limited practical use to a hobby machinist or toolmaker, who needs to know SFM for an HSS cutter, or how long and how hot to cook aluminum to take it from a T6 temper to fully annealed. I also find it difficult to navigate, though I guess that’s really my own personal hangup.

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7 Comments

  1. I’ve always liked http://www.matweb.com/

    -Mar.

  2. Thanks for the info, some of this is already on my to get list, and some of it is new to me, I love metal fabrication and glad to see it getting some attention. It comes in really handy in electronics too, especially for making nice cases or any mechanical structure needs really. As for machining, I found this youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/mrpete222 a wealth of how-to knowledge on the subject, thought you might like it.

  3. MatWeb has all your numbers.
    If anything it has too much information.
    http://www.matweb.com/

  4. http://engineersedge.com/
    It’s not the easiest site to nav but it’s another good resource.

    Also – re: Machinery’s Handbook – you can save a good bit of $ by getting an older edition. .
    Physical properties of materials, speeds & feeds, engineering formulas, etc don’t change that often.
    I picked up 25th edition (1996) for < $30 including shipping on eBay.

  5. Bwahahahahh! The Jimmy Wales reference had me laughing out loud at my desk!

  6. As a new machinist (4 years) I typically use the tool manufacturer’s recommendations as a starting point for speeds & feeds. You need to be aware though that the recommendations often assume optimal conditions (high rigidity, low spindle runout, new coolant etc.) and in some cases are for very short expected tool life. Another thing that can make a HUGE difference is the composition of a particular heat of material. It is not uncommon for different heats to have 30% difference in UTS and hardness. I found it shocking when I started how few "rules" there are when it comes to machining. You try an approach and if it doesn’t work you make a change and try again.

    For more general info (on turning at least) I found the relevant sections of the Sandvik-Coromant Applications Manual quite useful. http://www.coromant.sandvik.com/sandvik/4610/coromant/internet/US01153.nsf/Alldocs/Information*Material*2ADownload*catalogues&quot;

  7. Michael Taylor

    Um. Does anyone have a similar list of maker information sources for plastics and other non-metallic materials?

    My only suggestion would be _Understanding Wood_ by R. Bruce Hoadley for information about wood types.

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