Oh! It’s gonna be a hot time!

Hurray for R&D! There really isn’t a reason to have stainless bars go through a separate annealing process, unless you want to spend the extra money. And who wants to do that?!

The way steel is made hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years, ya know? The industrial revolution was a way cool thing back in times long ago. We got all kinds of cool stuff – the biggest thing being embracing technology.

Even with the group hugging of technology, there are instances when technology outpaces end user material requirements. That is EXACTLY what has happened with time and temperatures and separate annealing of stainless steel bars.

I have this request come to me all the time. If I had, oh, a dime for every time I’ve been asked to have the mill “add times and temps to this MTR”, I would be living the good life, sitting back sipping a beverage on a beach, covered in SPF bazillion, watching the waves lap lazily on the beach (I’ve put some thought into this sippin’ beverages kind of day, huh?).

In this instance, the MTR didn’t have a time nor a temp on the MTR. So, the gal in receiving gave me a jingle and told me I needed to get the MTR revised, or she was going to quarantine my bars!

I realize this is 2020, but I’ve had my fill of quarantine-ing and social distancing. And my bright shiny bars do not deserve such treatment.

Today’s blog post is “How without times and temps, bars will meet ASTM 484”.

It’s a process, literally, called PROCESS ANNEALING.

The question is asked because within ASTM 484, there’s a table that indicates the temperature requirements that material is to “finish”.

Standards and specifications material is produced without temperature or time.

And that temperature isn’t in this list of standards and specifications! OH HEAVENS!!!

ASTM 484 is a pretty exhaustive standard specifically indicating what has to be in the material and how much (chemistry), what has to happen to that material (the producing process) and a bunch of other stuff that if I had it in front of me, I’d be happy to elaborate. But to get to the good stuff, there is a table that says that material has to be annealed at X degrees for X amount of time. I’d show a clip of it, but because of copyright stuff, I think best that I don’t, ya know whadda mean?

The MTR indicates that the material is also compliant to ASTM A479

Material compliant to ASTM A479 / A479M18

ASTM A479 has a good number of basic stuff for purchase orders for the material, what is “conforms” to and it’s all gotta be to the current rev (slang for revision level) to meet the standard. I mean, stuff like how its ordered on the PO, testing required, etc., etc. And guess what else?


For the record, making steel is a hot mess and not in the Sunday morning after Saturday nite kinda way. Its really a hot process. So its gonna meet, generally speaking A484.

So we’ve got the heat part explained, what about the time part (patience, my friends, I’m getting there).

Over the years, I’ve learned that standards or requirements of material meeting is a process.  Literally a process. I’ve often reminded folks how it was once told to me “It’s not brownies out of a box!” (Shout out to my aluminum bud, Laurie).

First – what is annealing and why is it necessary?

A separate annealing was performed back in the day when material “finished” at a lower temp than the table would allow. The problem with that – carbides precipitated out causing all kinds of problems with grain, corrosion resistance, and more I’m sure.

So, the answer to that problem was to plop the bars back into oven, bringing the bars back to temp quickly, then quenching the bars super fast to keep the material re-precipitating any other stuff that would influence “phases”.

Within ASTM A479 there’s an appendix paragraph (thank goodness for after the show shows, right?) that says basically, “Hey look!! We embrace technology, and you can also do this by PROCESS ANNEALING that’s always maintaining over the required temperatures followed up with quenching via hot rolling. That appendix paragraph, Folks is X1.1 (I’d put a snip in the blog, but I’ve addressed that already).

To give you tho a bit of the official jargon — ASTM basically acknowledges that while in process, austenitc stainless steels are annealed when its so freaking hot that the chrome carbide bits are pretty much liquefied and quenched lightning fast quick so the chrome carbide bits STAY OUT of the grain boundaries (yeah, don’t cross this line, Chrome Bits). This is a no intergranular attack zone right here, Pal!

Which translates to – the entire time this material is being produced, its hitting above those required temperatures.  Really.  THE. ENTIRE. TIME. 

How long is that—I’ve not been to a mill but if its 30 seconds or 3 hours, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is THE. ENTIRE. TIME.

I’m so happy!!!!

But I’m about to get happier because –

ASTM A479 also says you gotta meet ASTM A262 which is a corrosion test for process annealing proving that this material will not be “susceptible to Intergranular Attacks” (sounds like a B grade old Vincent Price horror flick). And the mills test for that because, they can’t ship material to ASTM 479 without it.

You’ll have some that will want the temps at 1850 degrees (usually an internal material requirement).  Send the MTR off to the mill and ask if the material was produced at that temp.  If they can, they will, if not, Tricia has still added the 1900 degrees as its widely accepted, and can usually get approved by material deviation requests.

Mostly tho, 1900 degrees is the magic number. 

Customers really don’t want a separate annealing. 

Here’s why:


Added costs

And why if the end result is the same?

I leave you with this: “There are three things that extremely hard: steel, a diamond , and to know oneself.” — Benjamin Franklin

Boom! Chem can meet Mechanicals! (Hurray for our side!)

Stainless round bar obtained from your mill depots can possibly meet standards that your customer requires, even if its not stated on the MTR. You just have to ask to have the MTR evaluated for compliance.

Use your resources to get through your day. Really. They are there for ya!

So, I’m cruising along in my day, baller jam in the background (my workout playlist is NOT for just a sweat sesh for lifting the ol’ Fe at the gym). Yep, you know it, I get a “high importance” email from a sales rep needing to know why 304 Stainless round bar is ohmahgah, the dastardly, CHEM ONLY.

Well, in the aerospace world, there’s this standard, AMS 5693. Just to throw out there, recent AMS standards have given me so much grief of late that I was so focused on the standard that went into effect in April ( 5643V) when this came popped in my emails, I honestly thought “Dude, we are so way past that!!”

But, nope. I must stand corrected. We are no so past that. We are very Van Halen (shout out to Sammy) Right Here, Right Now (Mike P — miss ya, Bud!).

For those that are anti Sammy fans, keep your comments to a minimum, please.

So customer has ordered little, bitty small diameter bar and yes, the world that is governed by MTR’s says that this itty, bitty small diameter bar only meets chemistry of AMS 5693.

Oh My! How could that be!!!

Well, it’s really pretty easy.

When one orders material, on this thing called a Purchase Order, and the mill is to make it to those dastardly terms and conditions of the said Purchase Order, things like standards and internal specifications can be, as we say in the biz, called out. If I’m ordering material “ex mill XMonth / Xyear” (ie., ex mill March 2020) I am expecting the material to meet the callouts that I have noted on the PO (Purchase Order).

For example, in case you need to know — Comments on the header would be — MATERIAL MUST MEET AMS 5693 (CHEM AND PHYSICAL REPORTING) REQUIRED ON MTR FOR ACCEPTANCE AT TIME OF DELIVERY.

Just a note, I’ll go into PO comments on another post as I was schooled by the best back in the day and seven years later, I’ve not had any negative comments about my PO’s from my mills AND my sales team has occasionally mentioned that my PO comments are helpful (Shocker! as a buyer — that’s HUGE! we aren’t known to be helpful. Ever).

If you are reading this and you are a buyer for a steel distribution company, you know that in a day, there are those orders that come up that can’t wait for 18 weeks ex mill, so you buy what we call “depot stock”.

So, to get everyone on the same page, here, depot stock is that. Mill depot stock. Sure, there’s other distributors out there, and there’s those master distributors that only sell to distributors that save my ass in a pinch, but for the most part, I am going to my tried and tried mill depots. The major mills (if you are a buyer, you know who those are) have them, and have them strategically located in areas that are A) high probability for opportunistic sales or B) at the mill location itself, commonly referred to in the biz as floor stock.

If you are a buyer and you don’t know about mill depots or mill floor stock, send me a note (peg.e.sam@gmail.com) and I’ll get you the hook up.

Back to the regularly scheduled program. Yes. This 304 itty, bitty round bar was mill depot floor stock. The mill depot orders to their standards, their mill tolerances, their mill standard lengths. Not a problem right?

In a perfect world, yes. Not a problem. But, I don’t live in a perfect world, ya see. I live in a world that for some reason, is of the opinion that I need more stuff to do (I love it, don’t misunderstand. I really do. I learn the coolest shyte about metal that most peeps don’t. It keeps me young, and off the streets and out of the bars).

How this callout got past the Ojo eyes of my gal out in Cali- dunno. She doesn’t know either. Long day, lots to do, who knows, doesn’t matter. What matters is that —

All that needed to be done is have the MTR evaluated to meet the specification.

Yep. That skill — Drag and Drop — hasn’t failed me yet.

I sent the MTR to her, asked if it could be evaluated for compliance to AMS 5693 (include mechanicals) and boom!! In a few hours, I compliant material.

Here’s the why the material was only CHEM ONLY.

When mill depots order their stuff for floor stock, they are looking at the big picture. Think of throwing a fishing net for shad (shout out to my fishing peeps). Mills are producing material and shipping material that will meet 95% of the typical requirements of most buyers/end users. Chemistry is the most important because mechanical testing (hardness, charpies, yield and tensile) can be tested 3rd party (huge shout out to those 3rd party testers!!) and meet standards.

There are some standards tho and some internal material requirements that require all this testing to be done at the mill. Why?

In a quick answer — It’s cheaper and it saves time. If it meets requirement, you ship today, right? And, you bill tomorrow. BONUS!!

In this particular instance, the mill produces ALL material to meet chemistry — the majority of the demand for this 304 itty bitty bar. CERTAIN size ranges (you guessed — this bar was in that size range) creates particular instances of compliance.

All that means is that it may or may not meet the mechanical testing requirements of the standard. It’s not a guarantee, but all it takes is an email to the mill to make certain that it does or it does not.

You have to ask. If you don’t, you’ve answered “No” for the mill, your customer and your company.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to create relationships with your mill contacts. They are your first line of defense in an adverse situation — if it a mill claim, an early delivery, or extra material needed because that ONE customer just cleaned you out of everything. They will make you better than you really are.

I leave you with this — “It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.” Mark Twain