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I'm planning to build a set of dies for the 50 ton hydraulic press I am also planning to build. I am no metallurgist; I know just enough to get myself into trouble.

What tool steel would offer resistance to deformity over years of use and be machinable enough for me to turn out in the lathe with cheap carbide indexable tooling? If the grade of steel used absolutely requires me to send it off to be heat treated so be it. I plan for these dies to outlast me, so I want to do it right and do it once.

There will be no sharp edges and no thin sections joined to thick sections, so I would imagine that I would not have to worry about cracking during heat treating.
 

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The Machinery's Handbook has a section on tool steels.
Cold forming and bending dies = A2
Machinability is good, reduced wear resistance (but its tougher), and its cheaper.
Is this for production work?
 

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I guess I'm wondering what "good machinability" actually means. Is it common practice to turn D2 and A2 tool steel on a home shop-sized lathe with carbide?
 

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Exactly what type dies are you going to make? What type of production and what type of material are you forming or blanking? A2,A6, D2 are very good tool steels, depending on how much machining you need to do a home late might work OK. Depending on the type of die and material being worked you might choose one tool steel over the others.
 

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I guess I'm wondering what "good machinability" actually means. Is it common practice to turn D2 and A2 tool steel on a home shop-sized lathe with carbide?
yes. A2 is one of the easiest tool steels to work with.
 

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I've been registered for a long time without posting because I didn't think I really had much I could have input on but I think I can give my 2 cents on this subject. So, basically A2 and D2 are both air hardening tool steels and will machine just fine with carbide tooling. D2 has more chromium than A2 which will add to the wear resistance but in my limited experience makes it machine somewhat like stainless which is abrasive and work hardens easily. Heat treating is also something that unless you know what your doing is best left to professionals. It involves specific times and temperatures for hardening and even more importantly the tempering because tool steels are unstable after heat treat and can be dangerous. Another thing to keep in mind is that one benifit of an air hardening tool steel is that they can be wrapped in stainless foil to reduce or eliminate the scale that would normally form while in the furnace. And depending on the final purpose of your tool you have to keep in mind that if air hardening tool steel is in contact with air while very hot the surface can become decarbonized which the part would then have to be ground or hard turned to remove this layer. That reason is why they are either wrapped in stainless foil or heat treated in a vacuum furnace. Lastly, a good heat treater can generally recommend a good tool steel if you tell him what the final purpose is.

FORDS_FORLIFE
 

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A2 would be easier to machine and probly cost less.
What are the dies going to be used for....forming,punching,shearing?
Will you need to grind these after heat treat and wear?
You will need to consider what type of tool steel is needed for the type of work being done.
 

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A2 is nice, but I like O1 better. Oil hardening, so its quite possible to home heat treat it.
 

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L6 is what we made production tooling for Wilson mfg out of(The quick change press tooling mfg). You can use most tool steels, A2, D2, P20 ect. You can expect a little movement after heat treating but not much. If your after dies check our Cleveland die co. We made some of our own dies for a little 55t we have in the shop. Steel is relatively cheap and hardening is about $50. When you get it done post up some pics please!

Oh and 58-62RC
 

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A2 is nice, but I like O1 better. Oil hardening, so its quite possible to home heat treat it.

I always thought oil hardening was kind of a coybow way to hardening steel when you do it in your garage. Heating up a piece then throwing it in a bucket of oil praying it doesnt explode into flames get me chuckling everytime I see O1 advertised in catalogs :laughing: :eek: :laughing:

As far as machining these steels you really dont need anything fancier than a cobalt endmill (if it isnt prehard). If you go P20 you will find the metal is gummy and very abrasive and will wear even cobalt quickly.
 

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Tool Steels

You will be fine with either choice or as stated above O-1.... If you want a shiney really nice lookin tough as nails die go with d2. Many die punches are made out of O-1. They all heat treated around 1850 slowly going up to temp ( a good general rule of how long to leave it in the oven at temp. is 1hr. per inch of material, and measure at your thickest point).... o-1 you quench in oil and the others air cool and then you need to draw them back to get the desired hardness you need for that die witch would be anywhere from 52-56 Rc so that your die doesnt chip or crack.
 
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