Using Illuminating Gas

: The Working Of Steel

The choice of a carburizing furnace depends greatly on the facilities

available in the locality where the shop is situated and the nature

and quantity of the work to be done. The furnaces can be heated with

producer gas in most cases, but when space is of value illuminating

gas from a separate source of supply has some compensations. When

the latter is used it is well to install a governor if the pressure

is likely to
luctuate, particularly where the shop is at a high

altitude or at a long distance from the gas supply.

Many furnaces are coal-fired, and although greater care is required

in maintaining a uniform temperature good results have been obtained.

The use of electricity as a means of reaching the requisite temperature

is receiving some attention, and no doubt it would make the control

of temperature comparatively simple. However, the cost when applied

to large quantities of work will, for the present at least, prevent

this method from becoming popular. It is believed that the results

obtainable \with the electric furnace would surpass any others; but

the apparatus is expensive, and unless handled with intelligence

would not last long.

The most elementary medium of carburization is pure carbon, but

the rate of carburization induced by this material is very low,

and other components are necessary to accelerate the process. Many

mixtures have been marketed, each possessing its individual merits,

and as the prices vary considerably it is difficult to decide which

is the most advantageous.

Absorption from actual contact with solid carbon is decidedly slow,

and it is necessary to employ a compound from which gases are liberated,

and the steel will absorb the carbon from the gases much more readily.

Both bone and leather charcoal give off more carburizing gases

than wood charcoal, and although the high sulphur content of the

leather is objectionable as being injurious to the steel, as also

is the high phosphorus content of the bone charcoal, they are both

preferable to the wood charcoal.

By mixing bone charcoal with barium carbonate in the proportions

of 60 per cent of the former to 40 per cent of the latter a very

reliable compound is obtained.

The temperature to which this compound is subjected causes the

liberation of carbon monoxide when in contact with hot charcoal.

Many more elaborate explanations may be given of the actions and

reactions taking place, but the above is a satisfactory guide to

indicate that it is not the actual compound which causes carburization,

but the gases released from the compound.

Until the temperature of the muffle reaches about 1,300 deg.F. carburization

does not take place to any useful extent, and consequently it is

advisable to avoid the use of any compound from which the carburizing

gases are liberated much before that temperature is reached. In

the case of steel containing nickel slightly higher temperatures

may be used and are really necessary if the same rate of carbon

penetration is to be obtained, as the presence of nickel resists

the penetration.

At higher temperatures the rate of penetration is higher, but not

exactly in proportion to the temperature, and the rate is also

influenced by the nature of the material and the efficiency of the

compound employed.

The so-called saturation point of mild steel is reached when the

case contains 0.90 per cent of carbon, but this amount is frequently

exceeded. Should it be required to ascertain the amount of carbon

in a sample at varying depths below the skin this can be done by

turning off a small amount after carburizing and analyzing the

turnings. This can be repeated several times, and it will probably

be found that the proportion of carbon decreases as the test piece

is reduced in diameter unless decarburization has taken place.

The chart, Fig. 42, is also a good guide.

In order to use the chart it is necessary to harden the sample

we desire to test as we would harden a piece of tool steel, and

then test by scleroscope. By locating on the chart the point on

the horizontal axis which represents the hardness of the sample

the curve enables one to determine the approximate amount of carbon

present in the case.

Should the hardness lack uniformity the soft places can be identified

by etching. To accomplish this the sample should be polished after

quenching and then washed with a weak solution of nitric acid in

alcohol, whereupon the harder points will show up darker than the

softer areas.

The selection of suitable boxes for carburizing is worthy of a

little consideration, and there can be no doubt that in certain

cases results are spoiled and considerable expense caused by using

unsuitable containers.

As far as initial expense goes cast-iron boxes are probably the

most expedient, but although they will withstand the necessary

temperatures they are liable to split and crack, and when they

get out of shape there is much difficulty in straightening them.

The most suitable material in most cases is steel boiler plate 3/8

or 1/2 in. thick, which can be made with welded joints and will

last well.

The sizes of the boxes employed depend to a great extent on the

nature of the work being done, but care should be exercised to

avoid putting too much in one box, as smaller ones permit the heat

to penetrate more quickly, and one test piece is sufficient to

give a good indication of what has taken place. If it should be

necessary to use larger boxes it is advisable to put in three or four

test pieces in different positions to ascertain if the penetration

of carbon has been satisfactory in all parts of the box, as it

is quite possible that the temperature of the muffle is not the

same at all points, and a record shown by one test piece would

not then be applicable to all the parts contained in the box. It

has been found that the rate of carbon penetration increases with

the gas pressure around the articles being carburized, and it is

therefore necessary to be careful in sealing up the boxes after

packing. When the articles are placed within and each entirely

surrounded by compound so that the compound reaches to within 1

in. of the top of the box a layer of clay should be run around the

inside of the box on top of the compound. The lid, which should

be a good fit in the box, is then to be pressed on top of this,

and another layer of clay run just below the rim of the box on

top of the cover.