The Fundamental Chemical Properties of Steel

The chemical properties of steel
Hascall News
The Fundamental Chemical Properties of Steel
Steel Information
December 1, 2016

Hascall Steel Company previously published a blog on the mechanical properties of steel. This time we want to share about the chemical properties of steel which influence the mechanical properties.

When we think about steel, those of us who are not very familiar with the chemical components of steel may speak and think of it as being synonymous with iron. We think of iron as the strong and sturdy material that ships and tanks are made of. In reality, iron by itself as a pure component is a completely separate element altogether. When iron and other elements/alloys are combined in the furnace, different types and grades of steel are created. The combination is what is typically thought of as “solid steel”.

There are about 5-12 different components of alloy that are added in combination with iron to make these different types of steel. The most common of these components are carbon, manganese, phosphorus, silicon, and sulfur. The main reason why alloys are added with to iron is because iron reacts negatively with oxygen causing the process of corrosion, creating rust. The alloys are added to combat this corrosive process and change the chemical composition to be used as a solid material for industrial purposes.

Types of Steel

Understanding that steel is always the combination of iron and some other sort of alloy (making up an iron alloy), these additional components are also added to alter the physical properties of the final material.  The design process of these different types of steels are completed by materials scientists. These experts perform their job under very exacting conditions. Getting the conditions perfect for the creation of certain steels is essential for obtaining the needed mechanical conditions for particular Rockwell levels as well as other subtle mechanical qualities.

The “steels” that these metallurgists create fall into four main categories or groups: carbon, alloy, tool, and stainless. Now there are literally thousands of different types of steels, but they generally fall into one of these four categories.

Carbon Steel

After iron, there are about 5 to 12 components added in the creation of steel, Carbon steel cold rolled sheetchemically forming it into one of the four categories. Carbon is the main component added after iron, making carbon steel the largest category of steel. Around 80-90% of steel formed falls into the carbon steel category. Depending on the
amount of carbon added to the steel formation process, the mechanical properties will change dramatically. If around 1% is added to the composition, the steel is then considered to be a basic grade of carbon steel. If around 1-2% is added, the composition is considered to be high-carbon steel which tend to be harder, and if less than 1% is added the steel will be considered as low-carbon and is much softer with easier shapeability.

Alloy SteelAlloy steel carabiner

Alloy steels (like carbon steels) contain both carbon and iron, but add additional elements such as silicon, nickel, chromium, manganese, or vanadium. The extra elements added are what provide the additional features and varied chemical properties compared to carbon steels. With alloy steels, the components are generally considered to be stronger, and considerably more durable than carbon steels.

Tool Steel

Similar to alloy steel is the category of tool steels. These are much harder than alloy steels and are made from carbon and iron with added elements like nickel, tungsten, or molybdenum which give them a harder characteristic and a resistance to wear and tear. These steels are additionally toughened by being heated to an extremely high temperature directly followed by being cooled, and heated again at a lower temperature. This process of heating, cooling, and heating is what’s known as tempering.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is what you would come across most often in everyday life. From household items such as scissors or utensils, stainless steel is also used to make many of the medical instruments in hospitals. Containing high amounts of chromium and nickel, stainless steel is extremely resistant to corrosion and Stainless Steel hospital toolsother chemical reactions earning it the name “stainless”. It’s easy to sterilize and clean as well as polish.

Understanding all of these variations and nuances of steel is what allows Hascall Steel Company to specifically order the right combination to meet our customer’s needs.  We make use of our state-of-the art testing labs on site to determine the exact chemical and mechanical properties of our steel. Determining the strength, ductility, and weldability of these steels is a top priority for us, so we can better deliver to you, the customer, the exact grade and specification required for your manufacturing process.

  • “The material you sent us was the best we have ever run. We will be buying from you again”
    Production Supervisor at a Holland based metal stamper
  • “Paperwork was in order and passed our receiving process.”
    Quality Manager From a Grand Rapids Laser Cutting Company
  • “Hascall Steel's team asked me highly relevant questions to identify my true needs”
    Purchaser - Tennessee Stamper
  • “I appreciate Hascall Steel for knowing the market and planning ahead”
    Program Buyer - Detroit Manufacturer
  • “Hascall Steel's team reached out to check proactively if I needed my standard order. I appreciate them looking out for me”
    Shop Supervisor at a West Michigan Fabrication Company


We love customer relationships that become true partnerships between your team and our sales representatives.

Request a Quote

At Hascall Steel we understand that part of being an expert is being able to tailor steel to your needs. With that in mind there are some key areas that will help us fulfill your steel order in a way that is best suited to your company’s capacities. By working with our sales team, we can adjust several aspects of your order to make things easier for your team members. Next are some areas to keep in mind that can improve efficiency and quality.


Often customers place an order with the following basic information: Quantity/Gauge/Width/Length/Steel Type…

However there are quite a few QUALIFIERS that will help us all get the best value from the informational exchange.


When discussing material with our Sales Team, be sure to include tolerances for your gauge, width, and length (if applicable). In some cases, Hascall can meet tolerances as low as +/-.001 on gauge, +/-.003 on width, and +/-.015 on length. Specifications – Many steel specifications come with sub categories that can alter chemistries and mechanical boundaries. Be sure to have the full specification when ordering or talk with your sales representative to discuss options.


Proper packaging can help reduce unloading and production time. ID – We offer ID sizes in 16”, 20”, and 24” OD – We are able to provide OD sizes up to 72” Skidding – Standard or custom skidding available, just let us know how you would like your material skidded to best meet your equipment needs.
Paper – Protective paper is standard on all orders but can be applied with standard or full wrapping both with and without Hascall Logos. Max Coil and Skid Weight – Coils can be adjusted to meet your max lift and coil capacities.
Offloading – Material can be shipped skidded or standing and set for Forklift on the side or the rear of the bed. Material can also be shipped ready for sheet lifter or overhead crane offload.


Steel is only good if it gets there when you need it. At Hascall we have an experienced Logistics team that will ensure that your steel arrives on time in the way that best suits your needs. Whether you would like delivery via our in-house Steel Man Transportation service or if you would like to pick up your material personally, our team can set up appointments that meet your schedule. Our Logistics team can also arrange a 3rd party carrier if needed. Delivery dates, times, and address should be discussed with your Sales Representative prior to ordering.


And lastly, we know each customer is unique. There may be special requests that we would love to accommodate. These may range from a sample of the steel attached to the packaging, to increased tag requirements and frequencies. We are happy to work with you in order to be your trusted choice in slit steel coil and blanks.