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Materials Used in Hand Tools

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The history of hand tools is as old as history of human civilization. Though an exact history of hand tools is difficult to figure out, studies have shown that tools were used even at the early stone age. There is evidence of humans using knives at the stone age. With the beginning of civilization, sophisticated hand tools were developed and today with advanced technology, there is a wide selection of hand tools in different shapes and sizes, to serve different purposes. There are several materials used in making hand tools, with each of its own specifications. All hand tools consist of two parts: blade and the handle. It is a known fact that while the blades of hand tools are made of different types of metal, the handles are either made of wood or plastic.

Materials Used in Making Blades
Metal is used to make different hand tools blades because of its strength and durability requirements. Using casting or forging procedures, metal tools are manufactured.
  • Iron: A very common material of blade is iron. It is evident that the after the use of stone hand tools, people were using iron hand tools. Later, iron with different alloy content led to the production of different metal hand tools.

  • Brass: An alloy of copper and blade, brass is used in the making of hand tool blade like that of hand saws, chisels etc. Brass is preferred because of its low price and its flow characteristics that makes it relatively easy to cast.

  • Steel: Used in almost every existing kind of hand tool. Because steel is cheap compared to other metals, very strong and easy to shape, it has the right properties for most kind of hand tools.

  • High carbon steel: This type of metal provides more toughness and with less overall effort it has the ability to take a very sharp edge.

  • High carbon stainless steel: This is considered to be the best of the stain resistant steels. The blade that is made of high carbon stainless steel has a high carbon content for hardness and enough chromium to keep it looking great. High carbon stainless steel takes a sharp edge. It is the most popular steel type for making hand tools blade .

  • Stainless steel: This metal has less carbon and more chromium in the alloy. It is resistant to rust and stains but not very hard to maintain the best possible edge. But still it is used to make smaller sized hand tools.

  • Titanium: A matrix of titanium and carbides, titanium is lighter than steel but hold an edge longer than steel. The carbides in the alloy help the blades of the hand tools to be heat treated to a hardness appropriate for cutting.
Handle Materials in Hand Tools
All hand tools are always specified with handles. The two popular materials used in making handles is wood or plastic. It is very essential that good quality of wood should be used as most of the problems encountered with hand tools arise from the use of handles made from cheap unseasoned softwood, combined with poor manufacturing quality. Some typical problems leading to poor productivity and injury to the user are :
  • Loose tool heads
  • Breakage
  • Unsatisfactory grips
As such the handle should be made of solid hard wood. In some cases, plastic is also used. Some handles of hand tools are made of metal with foam or hard plastic grips

Hand Tool Blade Material Properties
The material properties that are necessary to consider when choosing the optimum material for a particular cutting application in a hand tool include:
  • Influence on Edge Characteristics
  • Toughness
  • Wear Resistance
  • Shock Resistance
  • Corrosion Resistance
  • Shape Control during Heat Treat
  • Cost
  • Availability

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