Once a tool has been hardened, it is brittle and must be tempered before using it. Tempering is the process of reheating a tool after it has been heat treated. This reheating serves many functions. It is the method of attaining the proper hardness in the tool, relieving the stress from the hardening process and transforming any retained austenite to martensite.
Tempering is the process of reheating tool steel. This reheating is done at a low temperature range, usually from 300 to 1100 degrees F, depending on the steel grade and final desired hardness. The tempering cycle should be one hour per inch of cross section and a minimum of two hours. Since the tempering temperature is relatively low, no protection from decarburization is necessary.
Don't jeopardize the life of your tooling by trying to cut corners or save time during the tempering process. This is a very important step of the heat treating process and its' importance is often overlooked, resulting in a tool failure.
For the complete heat treating procedure, including tempering charts, tips and tool steel data sheets, see our "Tool Steel Simplified" book.
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