Mushet steel

Last updated

Mushet steel, also known as Robert Mushet's Special Steel (RMS) and, at the time of its use, self-hardening steel and air-hardening steel, [1] is considered to be both the first tool steel and the first air-hardening steel. [2] It was invented in 1868 by Robert Forester Mushet. Prior to Mushet steel, steel had to be quenched to harden it. [1] It later led to the discovery of high speed steel. [3]



The chemical composition of Mushet steel varied; tungsten was the main alloying constituent, which ranged between 4 and 12%, while manganese (2–4%) and carbon (1.5–2.5%) were the secondary alloying constituents. Typical samples contain 9% tungsten, 2.5% manganese, and 1.85% carbon. [2]

Mushet steel was harder than standard water quenched steel. It was found that Mushet steel could be best hardened by submitting it to an air blast after forging. [1]

Mushet steel is non-magnetic. [2] [ why? ]


Mushet steel was primarily used in machine tools due to its ability to retain its hardness at high temperatures. In 1894, Frederick Winslow Taylor conducted machining comparison tests between Mushet steel and high carbon tool steel. He found that it could cut 41 to 47% faster on hard tire steel forgings and approximately 90% faster on mild steels. He also found that if a stream of water was used as a cutting fluid the cutting speed could be increased by 30%. After Taylor's tests results were published Mushet and other self-hardening steels became popular in machine tools. [3] Prior to Taylor's tests Mushet steel was often just used to increase the time between regrinds, take larger cuts, or machine harder materials. [1] [2]

In 1899 and 1900, [4] Taylor and Maunsel White were experimenting with hardening processes for Mushet steel and other self-hardening steels. They discovered if the steel is heated to near its melting point it creates a more durable metal. The metal will retain its hardness up to a red heat. This type of hardened self-hardening steel was the first high speed steel. [3]

Related Research Articles

Alloy mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements

An alloy is a combination of metals or metals combined with one or more other elements. For example, combining the metallic elements gold and copper produces red gold, gold and silver becomes white gold, and silver combined with copper produces sterling silver. Elemental iron, combined with non-metallic carbon or silicon, produces alloys called steel or silicon steel. The resulting mixture forms a substance with properties that often differ from those of the pure metals, such as increased strength or hardness. Unlike other substances that may contain metallic bases but do not behave as metals, such as aluminium oxide (sapphire), beryllium aluminium silicate (emerald) or sodium chloride (salt), an alloy will retain all the properties of a metal in the resulting material, such as electrical conductivity, ductility, opaqueness, and luster. Alloys are used in a wide variety of applications, from the steel alloys, used in everything from buildings to automobiles to surgical tools, to exotic titanium-alloys used in the aerospace industry, to beryllium-copper alloys for non-sparking tools. In some cases, a combination of metals may reduce the overall cost of the material while preserving important properties. In other cases, the combination of metals imparts synergistic properties to the constituent metal elements such as corrosion resistance or mechanical strength. Examples of alloys are steel, solder, brass, pewter, duralumin, bronze and amalgams.

Steel Metal alloy made by combining iron with other elements

Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon and, sometimes, other elements such as chromium. Because of its high tensile strength and low cost, this material is best used in buildings, infrastructure, tools, ships, trains, cars, machines, electrical appliances, and weapons. Iron is the base metal of steel and it can take on two crystalline forms : body centred cubic and face-centred cubic. These forms depend on temperature. In the body-centred cubic arrangement, there is an iron atom in the centre and eight atoms at the vertices of each cubic unit cell; in the face-centred cubic, there is one atom at the centre of each of the six faces of the cubic unit cell and eight atoms at its vertices. It is the interaction of the allotropes of iron with the alloying elements, primarily carbon, that gives steel and cast iron their range of unique properties.

Heat treating process of heating something to alter it

Heat treating is a group of industrial, thermal and metalworking processes used to alter the physical, and sometimes chemical, properties of a material. The most common application is metallurgical. Heat treatments are also used in the manufacture of many other materials, such as glass. Heat treatment involves the use of heating or chilling, normally to extreme temperatures, to achieve the desired result such as hardening or softening of a material. Heat treatment techniques include annealing, case hardening, precipitation strengthening, tempering, carburizing, normalizing and quenching. Although the term heat treatment applies only to processes where the heating and cooling are done for the specific purpose of altering properties intentionally, heating and cooling often occur incidentally during other manufacturing processes such as hot forming or welding.

Stellite is a range of cobalt-chromium alloys designed for wear resistance. The alloys may also contain tungsten or molybdenum and a small but important amount of carbon.

Carbon steel steel in which the main interstitial alloying constituent is carbon

Carbon steel is a steel with carbon content up to 2.1% by weight. The definition of carbon steel from the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) states:

Tool steel Types of carbon steel and alloy steel used in tool making

Tool steel refers to a variety of carbon steel and alloy steel that are particularly well-suited to be made into tools. Their suitability comes from their distinctive hardness, resistance to abrasion and deformation, and their ability to hold a cutting edge at elevated temperatures. As a result, tool steels are suited for use in the shaping of other materials. With a carbon content between 0.5% and 1.5%, tool steels are manufactured under carefully controlled conditions to produce the required quality. The presence of carbides in their matrix plays the dominant role in the qualities of tool steel. The four major alloying elements that form carbides in tool steel are: tungsten, chromium, vanadium and molybdenum. The rate of dissolution of the different carbides into the austenite form of the iron determines the high-temperature performance of steel. Proper heat treatment of these steels is important for adequate performance. The manganese content is often kept low to minimize the possibility of cracking during water quenching.

High-speed steel Subset of tool steels

High-speed steel is a subset of tool steels, commonly used as cutting tool material.

Quenching Rapid cooling of a workpiece to obtain certain material properties

In materials science, quenching is the rapid cooling of a workpiece in water, oil or air to obtain certain material properties. A type of heat treating, quenching prevents undesired low-temperature processes, such as phase transformations, from occurring. It does this by reducing the window of time during which these undesired reactions are both thermodynamically favorable, and kinetically accessible; for instance, quenching can reduce the crystal grain size of both metallic and plastic materials, increasing their hardness.


Case-hardening or surface hardening is the process of hardening the surface of a metal object while allowing the metal deeper underneath to remain soft, thus forming a thin layer of harder metal at the surface. For iron or steel with low carbon content, which has poor to no hardenability of its own, the case-hardening process involves infusing additional carbon or nitrogen into the surface layer. Case-hardening is usually done after the part has been formed into its final shape, but can also be done to increase the hardening element content of bars to be used in a pattern welding or similar process. The term Face hardening is also used to describe this technique, when discussing modern armour.

Tempering (metallurgy) Process of heat treating used to increase toughness of iron-based alloys

Tempering is a process of heat treating, which is used to increase the toughness of iron-based alloys. Tempering is usually performed after hardening, to reduce some of the excess hardness, and is done by heating the metal to some temperature below the critical point for a certain period of time, then allowing it to cool in still air. The exact temperature determines the amount of hardness removed, and depends on both the specific composition of the alloy and on the desired properties in the finished product. For instance, very hard tools are often tempered at low temperatures, while springs are tempered at much higher temperatures.

Cryogenic hardening is a cryogenic treatment process where the material is cooled to approximately −185 °C (−301 °F), usually using liquid nitrogen. It can have a profound effect on the mechanical properties of certain steels, provided their composition and prior heat treatment are such that they retain some austenite at room temperature. It is designed to increase the amount of martensite in the steel's crystal structure, increasing its strength and hardness, sometimes at the cost of toughness. Presently this treatment is being practiced over tool steels, high-carbon, high-chromium steels and in some cases to cemented carbide to obtain excellent wear resistance. Recent research shows that there is precipitation of fine carbides in the matrix during this treatment which imparts very high wear resistance to the steels.

Hardening is a metallurgical metalworking process used to increase the hardness of a metal. The hardness of a metal is directly proportional to the uniaxial yield stress at the location of the imposed strain. A harder metal will have a higher resistance to plastic deformation than a less hard metal.

Hardened steel type of steel

The term hardened steel is often used for a medium or high carbon steel that has been given heat treatment and then quenching followed by tempering. The quenching results in the formation of metastable martensite, the fraction of which is reduced to the desired amount during tempering. This is the most common state for finished articles such as tools and machine parts. In contrast, the same steel composition in annealed state is softer, as required for forming and machining.

Alloy steel steel that is alloyed with a variety of elements

Alloy steel is steel that is alloyed with a variety of elements in total amounts between 1.0% and 50% by weight to improve its mechanical properties. Alloy steels are broken down into two groups: low alloy steels and high alloy steels. The difference between the two is disputed. Smith and Hashemi define the difference at 4.0%, while Degarmo, et al., define it at 8.0%. Most commonly, the phrase "alloy steel" refers to low-alloy steels.

Eglin steel (ES-1) is a high-strength, high-performance, low-alloy, low-cost steel, developed for new generation of bunker buster type bombs, e.g. the Massive Ordnance Penetrator and the improved version of the GBU-28 bomb known as EGBU-28. It was developed in collaboration between the US Air Force and the Ellwood National Forge Company.

Robert Forester Mushet British metallurgist and businessman

Robert Forester Mushet was a British metallurgist and businessman, born on 8 April 1811, in Coleford, in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England. He was the youngest son of Scottish parents, Agnes Wilson and David Mushet; an ironmaster, formerly of the Clyde, Alfreton and Whitecliff Ironworks.

Cold saw

A cold saw is a circular saw designed to cut metal which uses a toothed blade to transfer the heat generated by cutting to the chips created by the saw blade, allowing both the blade and material being cut to remain cool. This is in contrast to an abrasive saw, which abrades the metal and generates a great deal of heat absorbed by the material being cut and saw blade.


Mangalloy, also called manganese steel or Hadfield steel, is an alloy steel containing an average of around 13% manganese. Mangalloy is known for its high impact strength and resistance to abrasion once in its work-hardened state.

USAF-96 is a high-strength, high-performance, low-alloy, low-cost steel, developed for new generation of bunker buster type bombs, e.g. the Massive Ordnance Penetrator and the improved version of the GBU-28 bomb known as EGBU-28. It was developed by the US Air Force at the Eglin Air Force Munitions Directorate. It uses only materials domestic to the USA. In particular it requires no tungsten.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Becker 1910 , pp. 13–14.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Stoughton 1908 , pp. 408–409.
  3. 1 2 3 Oberg & Jones 1918 , pp. 278–279.
  4. Kanigel 1997.