This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
To temper small coil springs in a furnace burning wood the springs are exposed to the heat of the flame and are quenched in a composition of the following preparation: To a barrel of fish oil, 10 quarts of rosin and 12 quarts of tallow are added. If the springs tempered in this mixture break, more tallow is added, but if the break indicates brittleness of the steel rather than excessive hardness, a ball of yellow beeswax about 6 inches in diameter is added. The springs are drawn to a reddish purple by being placed on a frame having horizontally radiating arms like a star which is mounted on the end of a vertical rod. The springs are laid on the star and are lowered into a pot of melted lead, being held there for such time as is required to draw to the desired color.
The best temperature at which to quench in the tempering of tool steel is the one just above the transformation point of the steel, and this temperature may be accurately determined in the following manner, without the use of a pyrometer. The pieces of steel are introduced successively at equal intervals of time into a muffle heated to a temperature a little above the transformation point of the steel. If, after a certain time, the pieces be taken out in the reverse order they will at first show progressively increasing degrees of brightness, these pieces being at the transformation point. When this point is passed the pieces again rapidly acquire a brightness superior to that of their neighbors, and should then be immediately quenched.
Heat red hot and dip in an unguent made of mercury and the fat of bacon. This produces a remarkable degree of hardness and the steel preserves its tenacity and an elasticity which cannot be obtained by other means.
Heat to the red white and thrust quickly into a stick of sealing wax. Leave it a second, and then change it to another place, and so continue until the metal is too cool to penetrate the wax. To pierce with drills hardened in this way, moisten them with essence of turpentine.
Certain soluble substances powerfully affects the action of tempering water. This action is strengthened if the heat-conducting power of the water is raised by means of these substances; it is retarded if this power is reduced, or the boiling point substantially lowered. The substance most frequently used for the purpose of increasing the heat-conducting power of tempering water is common salt. This is dissolved in varying proportions of weight, a saturated solution being generally used as a quenching mixture. The use of this solution is always advisable when tools of complicated shape, for which a considerable degree of hardness is necessary, are to be tempered in large quantities or in frequent succession. In using these cooling fluids, care must be taken that a sufficient quantity is added to the water to prevent any great rise of temperature when the tempering process is protracted. For this reason the largest possible vessels should be used, wide and shallow, rather than narrow and deep, vessels being selected. Carbonate of soda and sal ammoniac do not increase the tempering action to the same extent as common salt, and are therefore not so frequently employed, though they form excellent additions to tempering water in certain cases. Tools of very complicated construction, such as fraises, where the danger of fracture of superficial parts has always to be kept in view, can with advantage be tempered in a solution of soda or sal ammoniac. . Acids increase the action of tempering water considerably, and to a far greater extent than common salt. They are added in quantities up to 2 per cent, and frequently in combination with salts. Organic acids (e. g., acetic or citric) have a milder action than mineral acids (e. g., hydrochloric, nitric, or sulphuric). Acidulous water is employed in tempering tools for which the utmost degree of hardness is necessary, such as instruments for cutting exceptionally hard objects, or when a sufficiently hard surface has to be given to a kind of steel not capable of much hardening. Alcohol lowers the boiling point of water, and causes so vigorous an evaporation when the water comes in contact with the red-hot metal, that the tempering is greatly retarded (in proportion to the amount of alcohol in the mixture). Water containing a large quantity of alcohol will not temper. Soap and soap suds will not temper steel; this property is made use of in the rapid cooling of steel for which a great degree of hardness is not desirable. When certain parts of completely tempered steel have to be rendered soft, these parts are heated to a red heat and then cooled in soap suds. This is done with the tangs of files, knives, swords, saws, etc. Soluble organic substances retard the tempering process in proportion to the quantity used, and thus lessen the effect of pure water. Such substances (e. g., milk, sour beer, etc.) are employed only to a limited extent.