300 Series vs. 400 Series Stainless Steel: Key Differences to Keep in Mind

Stainless steel is an important building material in industries across the world. If you’re already confident that stainless steel is proper type of steel for your project, the next step is to understand how stainless steel grades can differ and what unique qualities they can offer for different projects.

Today, the steel experts at Pennsylvania Steel Company, which offers products such as tool steel, sheet steel, and plate steel, are breaking down two of their most popular grades, 300 series stainless steel and 400 series stainless steel. Keep reading to learn what makes them different and which you should choose for your project.

What are Stainless Steel Grades?

Stainless steel, at its basic level, is an alloy of chromium and iron. In addition to these metals, stainless steel may also include elements like: 

  • Carbon
  • Nickel
  • Manganese
  • Nitrogen
  • Sulfur
  • Copper

Stainless steel grades are determined by which elements they contain and the percentage of each present. Based on this, the alloy can take on different properties that make it suited for various applications.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) developed the three-digit grading system for stainless steel to reflect the elements present. 300 series and 400 series contain varying compositions reflected by the last two digits in the grade.

Other organizations, like the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), have their own numbering systems to categorize stainless steel. But this article will focus on the three-digit classification for simplicity.

While over 150 stainless steel grades are available on the market, Pennsylvania Steel Company specializes in 300 series and 400 series stainless steel.

Although all stainless steel offers high durability and resistance to rust and corrosion, there are some critical differences between the 300 series and 400 series that you should remember when choosing which is suitable for your project.

What is 300 Series Stainless Steel?

300 series stainless steel, also called SS 300, is the most popular stainless steel grade on the market. Due to its nickel content, SS 300 is non-magnetic and highly corrosion-resistant – even more so than other stainless steel grades. It also has high heat resistance, making it ideal for use in industries like:

  • Automotive production
  • Aerospace engineering
  • Construction
  • Machinery

While 300 series stainless steel is not heat-treatable like other grades, its high versatility makes it an excellent choice for projects that need to withstand long stretches of use in corrosive environments.

What is 400 Series Stainless Steel?

400 series stainless steel, or 400 SS, is made with little to no nickel content compared to its 300 series counterpart. While this makes it susceptible to rust under certain conditions, it also gives it superior toughness and resistance to damage from wear and abrasions.

400 SS used to make kitchen equipment

Because of its robustness and high durability, 400 SS finds much of its use in:

  • Tools
  • Kitchens and culinary services
  • Agriculture
  • Furnaces

 While it lacks the top-shelf rust resistance of the 300 series, 400 series stainless steel is both heat-treatable and magnetic, making it ideal for manufacturing objects that experience daily use and manipulation.

300 vs 400 Series Stainless Steel

Now that we’ve looked at what makes them unique, let’s review how 300 series and 400 series stainless steel grades compare side-by-side.


300 series contains nickel, making it more resistant to corrosion. 400 series has a higher carbon content, which makes it more resilient but more prone to rust.


300 series is more ductile than the 400 series and has less resistance to surface wear and tear. This makes the 300 series more suitable for sensitive applications like surgical instruments or machinery, whereas the 400 series’ hardness makes it ideal for hand tools or agricultural use.

Price Point

The 300 series is not heat-treatable, so it can be more expensive to manufacture. Due to this, the 400 series can be a more cost-effective option when there is a lower risk of exposure to corrosive elements.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I determine the exact percentage of each element in a specific grade of stainless steel, and how does this influence the material’s properties?

To determine the exact percentage of each element in a specific grade of stainless steel, it’s essential to refer to the standards set by organizations like the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). These organizations provide detailed specifications for each stainless steel grade, including the composition and percentage of elements.

The specific makeup of a stainless steel alloy influences its properties significantly. For instance, higher nickel content in the 300 series enhances corrosion resistance and ductility, making it suitable for environments where these properties are crucial. On the other hand, a higher carbon content in the 400 series increases hardness and strength, making it ideal for tools and applications where wear resistance is important. Understanding the composition of a stainless steel grade can help you select the right material for your project, ensuring it meets the desired durability, corrosion resistance, and mechanical properties.

Are there any environmental considerations or benefits in choosing one series over the other for a project?

When considering the environmental impact of choosing between the 300 and 400-series stainless steel for a project, several factors come into play. The material’s production process, recyclability, and longevity all contribute to its environmental footprint. Stainless steel, in general, is highly recyclable, which reduces its long-term environmental impact. However, the nickel content in the 300 series, while enhancing corrosion resistance and making it more suitable for harsh environments, also involves more complex and potentially environmentally intensive mining and processing compared to the materials used in the 400 series. On the other hand, the durability and corrosion resistance of the 300 series may lead to longer product life, potentially reducing the need for replacement and, consequently, the environmental impact associated with production and disposal. Ultimately, the choice between the two series should consider the specific application’s environmental conditions and the material’s lifecycle impact.

How does the magnetism of the 400 series stainless steel affect its use in certain applications compared to the non-magnetic 300 series?

The magnetism of the 400 series stainless steel, attributed to its composition, makes it ideal for applications requiring magnetic responsiveness, such as in motors, generators, and electrical appliances. Conversely, the non-magnetic 300 series is preferred in settings where magnetic interference must be avoided, like in medical equipment used during MRI procedures or in certain electronic devices to prevent circuitry interference. The choice between the two series often hinges on the specific application’s need for or against magnetic properties, influencing their suitability across various industries.

Let Pennsylvania Steel Company Build with You!

Pennsylvania Steel Company has been a trusted provider of stainless steel products for over 50 years. Our company is dedicated to providing total care and attention to each customer’s needs, and we offer next-day service in most of our locations. 

If you’re ready to begin your next project, request a quote online or call one of our distributors in Pennsylvania; Bethpage, NY; Naugatuck, CT; Cleveland, OH; Stanley, NC; or Ashland, VA for more information about our wide variety of 300 series and 400 series stainless steel products!

Aluminum vs Steel: Which is Better for Your Project?

The steel vs aluminum debate is ongoing. If you’re getting ready to kick off a construction project, there are pros and cons to using either of these metals. To help you determine which metal you should select in the aluminum vs steel debate, we’ve put together a list of five factors to consider. 

1. Corrosion Resistance

A metal’s corrosion resistance refers to its ability to withstand the elements and other conditions without changing. 

Generally, aluminum offers better corrosion resistance than steel. There are several reasons why. 

First, aluminum oxidizes in the same way iron rusts. However, when this happens, aluminum oxide remains on the metal. This helps protect aluminum against corrosion. It also means you won’t have to add paint or another coating to shield your aluminum from rusting. 

Meanwhile, after you spin carbon steel, you may need to paint it to safeguard the metal against corrosion and rust. And in many instances, zinc is used to guard against corrosion when this type of steel is galvanized. 

Comparatively, stainless steel protects against corrosion but can still rust. If this type of steel rusts, you may be able to scrub away the damage. At this point, the steel’s chromium shield will start to rebuild itself. 

2. Strength 

In terms of strength, steel is the superior choice over aluminum. 

Steel is harder, denser, and heavier than aluminum. These things help make it less likely that steel will bend when exposed to heat or force.

Due in part to its strength and weight, automakers commonly use steel to manufacture cars. However, some car companies have used aluminum, which helps them build lightweight frames that promote fuel efficiency.

3. Malleability

If you want a flexible metal, aluminum may be better than steel. 

Aluminum offers plenty of design freedom, giving you the flexibility to form the metal into a wide range of custom configurations. 

If you try to form these same configurations with steel, the metal may break due to its stiffness. 

4. Cost

Steel and aluminum prices change frequently, since both metals are constantly in demand. 

In many instances, steel is more affordable than aluminum. 

For example, you may pay less for mild or carbon steel than aluminum. 

On the other hand, stainless steel may cost more than aluminum. 

Along with these things, it may be more economical to create a custom shape or profile out of aluminum than trying to do the same thing with steel. 

5. Weldability

Welding may be more challenging with aluminum versus steel. 

Common ways to weld steel include:

  • Stick Welding: Involves the use of a flux-coated electrode.
  • Metal Inert Gas (MIG) Welding: Requires a continuous solid electrode wire that’s heated and put into a weld pool via a welding gun. 
  • Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW): Lets you use a tungsten electrode to join steel and other metals.
  • Flux Core Welding: Consists of a wire electrode that goes from a welding gun through a joint.

With any of these steel welding methods, applying too much heat may impact the quality of your results. 

Much in the same vein, welding aluminum may be difficult because the metal is highly sensitive and protected by an oxidized layer. These may make aluminum susceptible to impurities and lead to weak welds. 

If you want to weld aluminum, preparing your metal is key. Here are things you can do to get aluminum ready to weld:

  • Apply an acetone or other mild solvent to remove grease, oil, or other impurities from the metal’s surface. 
  • Utilize a stainless steel brush to get rid of surface oxides.
  • Make sure your aluminum is dry and stored at room temperature. 

MIG and GTAW are two of the most commonly used methods for welding aluminum. 

In addition to these, you may be able to use laser beam and electron welding, which allows you to apply a precise amount of heat to a specific zone. 

You may also perform resistance welding, which enables you to apply pressure and pass a current through areas of the metal you want to join. 

How to Choose Metal for Your Project

If you are debating between aluminum vs stainless steel or similar metals, there is no shortage of options at your disposal. 

Here are tips to help you select the best metal for your project:

  • Determine the Application: Think about your project’s purpose, and you can narrow your search to metals that’ll help you achieve your desired results. 
  • Put Together a Budget: Figure out how much money you have to spend, as this may dictate the type of metal you use and other aspects of your project. 
  • Connect with Steel and Aluminum Distributors: Find a distributor to get insights into metal products so you’ll be well-equipped to make an informed decision.  

Pennsylvania Steel Company is an aluminum and steel distributor that offers an extensive collection of products from our regional warehouses across Pennsylvania, New England, the Southeast, and other areas of the United States.

Our team can help you choose between aluminum and steel and find metal products that deliver long-lasting results. 

Contact Pennsylvania Steel to purchase aluminum or steel products in your area.

How Is Steel Made?

Steel is a hard, tough, strong, and versatile metal used in commercial and residential projects. It comes in many forms, and how it’s made varies based on the application.

Let’s explore steel, how it’s made, and how you may be able to use it during your next project. 

What Is Steel?

Steel refers to an alloy made up of carbon and iron, according to the World Steel Association (WSA). The alloy contains less than 2% carbon and 1% manganese. It has trace amounts of phosphorus, sulfur, oxygen, and silicon. 

Globally, steel and iron represent 95% of all tonnage of metal produced every year, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) points out. This is due in part to the fact that both of these metals are some of the least expensive to produce. Additionally, they work well in applications like steel frames for buildings where only strong metals will suffice. 

Types of Steel

There are four main types of steel:

  • Carbon: Consists primarily of carbon and iron, with small amounts of magnesium, chromium, and other elements. 
  • Alloy: Contains chromium, copper, and other elements. 
  • Stainless: Features at least 10.5% chromium. 
  • Tool: Includes carbon and alloy varieties. 

There are more than 3,500 steel grades, each with its own physical, chemical, and environmental properties. 

Steel Properties

There are three subcategories of carbon: 

  • Low: Less than 0.3% carbon 
  • Medium: 0.3–0.6% carbon 
  • High: Greater than 0.6% carbon 

Low-carbon steel is more flexible and easier to handle than medium and high varieties. Meanwhile, high-carbon steel is the strongest of the three.

With alloy, how much of a particular element is incorporated into the steel impacts the metal’s heat resistance, hardness, ductility, and other properties.

Like carbon, there are three subcategories of stainless steel:

  • Austenitic: Contains 18% chromium, 8% nickel, and less than 0.8% carbon.
  • Ferritic: Consists of 10.5-27% chromium and less than 0.1% carbon.
  • Martensitic: Includes 11-17% chromium, less than 0.4% nickel, and less than 1.2% carbon.

Stainless steel is more stain and corrosion resistant than other varieties. It can also include a concentrated chromium coating that makes the material rust-proof. 

Tool steel offers high hardness and resistance to abrasions. It tends to retain its shape better than other steel options.

Steel Use Cases

Construction companies and automakers commonly use carbon steel. Low-carbon steel products include nails, wires, chains, and pipes. Since high carbon is more durable than low and medium options, it’s often utilized to produce wrenches, hammers, coils, and springs.

Commercial equipment manufacturers tend to use alloy steel over other varieties. Examples of alloy steel products include power generators, transformers, and pipelines. 

Stainless steel is used in construction, oil and gas, kitchenware, and many other industries. It has been incorporated into cars, cutlery, and other products.

Tool steel is utilized to produce surgical equipment, drills, dyes, bits, and other tools. 

How Is Steel Made Exactly? 

There are three main processes for how steel is made:

1. Blast Furnace-Basic Oxygen Furnace (BF-BOF)

The BF-BOF process originated in the 1950s in the Austrian cities of Linz and Donawitz. It typically involves using iron ore, coal, and recycled steel. 

Here are the steps of the BF-BOF process:

  • Hot metal or pig iron, steel scrap, and flux (burnt lime) are loaded into a top- or bottom-blown furnace or a combination of the two. 
  • A lancie (a water-cooled metal tube) blogs oxygen into the mixture.
  • The oxygen then reacts with the silicon and carbon. This causes the hot metal to dissolve. It also generates heat, carbon dioxide (CO₂), silicon dioxide (SiO₂), and other impurities. 
  • CO₂ is expelled as gas, and SiO₂ and other impurities are absorbed into slag, aka waste matter. 

A study shows that basic oxygen furnaces can reduce total cycle time to less than a tenth of open hearth furnace cycle time. 

Approximately 70% of steel globally is produced via the BAF process, WSA notes. 

2. Electric Arc Furnace (EAF)

The EAF process primarily uses recycled steel and electricity to produce steel. Along with these, direct-reduced iron (DRI), hot metal, or other sources of metallic iron can be utilized. 

An electric arc furnace consists of three parts: 

  • Spherical hearth (bottom)
  • Cylindrical shell 
  • Swinging water-cooled dome-shaped roof

An EAF can produce batches of molten steel known as “heats,” the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) points out. 

The furnace’s operating cycle consists of the following steps:

  • Furnace-Charging: The furnace’s roof and electrodes are raised and swung to the side, allowing a scrap-charging crane to move scrap into place over the furnace. 
  • Melting: Electrical or chemical energy supplies energy to the furnace’s interior via graphite electrodes and is bore into the scrap. 
  • Refining: Phosphorus, sulfur, silicon, aluminum, manganese, and carbon are removed from the steel. 
  • De-Slagging: Impurities are removed from the furnace.
  • Tapping: After the optimal steel composition and temperature have been achieved in the furnace, a tap-hole is opened, the furnace is tilted on its side, and the steel is poured into a ladle so it can be transferred. Bulk alloys and de-oxidizers may be added to the steel during this time. The alloys are produced based on a bath analysis and the intended steel grade. De-oxidizers can be used to lower the steel’s oxygen content.
  • Furnace Turn-Around: The furnace’s electrodes and roof are raised, and its lining is inspected for damage. This period runs from the completion of tapping until the furnace is recharged. 

EAFs are less costly to build and more flexible than basic oxygen furnaces, The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum indicates. They can be used to create carbon and alloy steels.

According to research, roughly 25% of steel produced worldwide is made through the EAF process. 

3. Open Hearth Furnace (OHF)

An open hearth furnace uses the heat from gaseous or liquid fuel combustion to transform recycled steel scrap and liquid blast-furnace iron into liquid steel. 

The OHF process requires roughly equal amounts of iron and scrap. It involves the following steps:

  • Limestone and scrap are placed into the furnace. 
  • The charge melts.
  • Molten or cold iron are added to the furnace. 
  • The furnace continues to be heated, and carbon from the iron transforms into carbon monoxide (CO). 
  • Impurities are separated from the mixture.
  • Molten steel forms and flows into a ladle where alloying materials can be added.

This process makes up about 0.4% of steel production worldwide, WSA says. It tends to require a lot of time and energy and can be expensive compared to the BF-BOF and EAF processes. 

How Sustainability Impacts Steel Manufacturing

You can use recycled steel scrap as an input for each of these production processes. Most new steel includes recycled scrap. 

Generally, steel products can be used for decades before they need to be recycled. This makes it difficult for steel companies to rely exclusively on EAF. 

Steel companies often use BF-BOF and EAF to keep pace with the demand for steel products. They may also utilize OHF to minimize the loss of iron as slag since the process is slow and easy to control. 

How Is Stainless Steel Made?

EAF can be used to create stainless steel. Here’s how the process works:

  • Carbon electrodes come into contact with recycled stainless scrap and chromium alloys.
  • A current moves through the electrode, and a temperature reaches a point where the alloys and scrap melt (around 2,200-2,500°F).
  • The molten material goes from the furnace into an argon oxygen decarburization (AOD) vessel, reduces carbon levels, and adds alloys. 

Most stainless steels also get a final heat treatment that softens their structure (annealing) and acid wash (pickling), according to the Specialty Steel Industry of North America (SSINA).

Get the Best Steel for Sale for Your Project

Pennsylvania Steel Company offers a range of steel types and grades for your next project. We provide steel products and services in many areas, including:

  • Bensalem, Whitehall, and York, Pennsylvania 
  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Connecticut 
  • Long Island

Contact Pennsylvania Steel Co. for steel near you.

How to Weld Stainless Steel: Your Guide to Getting Started

Stainless steel is durable and strong, and some people choose to weld it during projects. There are many advantages to welding stainless steel. But if you’re not careful, you can make costly and time-intensive mistakes when you do.

At Pennsylvania Steel Company, we know all about the benefits of using stainless steel over other types of steel for certain projects. If you have concerns or questions about how to weld stainless steel, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn about stainless steel welding.

Can You Weld Stainless Steel?

You can weld stainless steel — and the benefits of doing so can be significant. Some of the reasons why people choose to weld stainless steel include:

  • Corrosion Resistance: When choosing between carbon steel and stainless steel, people often prefer the latter since it has a chromium oxide layer that protects against damage from chemicals, salts, and other harmful elements.
  • Aesthetics: With its clean, shiny appearance, this type of steel is an attractive choice for countertops, backsplashes, and other kitchen components.
  • Fire and Heat Resistance: Stainless steel has a high melting point that helps the metal maintain its integrity, even when it’s exposed to fire or extreme heat.

Types of Stainless Steel Welding

There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all with the welding of stainless steel. There are several methods that steel distributors use for welding this type of steel, including:


Stick welding, also referred to as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), involves the use of a rod electrode and workpiece. It is often used to construct pipelines.  

Metal Inert Gas (MIG)

With MIG welding, you feed a continuous solid wire electrode through a welding gun and into a weld pool to join two materials. This type of welding is commonly used for fabrication and maintenance or repair work.   

Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG)

Also referred to as gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), this type of welding requires an electric arc between a tungsten electrode and a workpiece. TIG welding is frequently used by automakers and aerospace professionals since it allows them to produce quality welds on thin materials.

Safety Precautions to Consider Before You Weld Stainless Steel 

You don’t have to be a steel distributor to weld stainless steel. Regardless, there are hazards that you need to consider before you get started. These include:

Toxic Fumes

Welding stainless steel emits toxic fumes. Exposure to toxic fumes can lead to asthma, dermatitis, and other short- and long-term health problems.

You can use a fume extractor to eliminate toxic fumes when you’re welding. If you’re welding in a large area, you can install a filtration system that ensures clean air is filtered back into your workspace.


Arc welding involves the use of electricity. Thus, you’re susceptible to electric shock when you weld.

To protect against electric shock, you should never rest your arms, legs, or any other body parts on your workpiece. Along with this, stand on plywood, a rubber mat, or other dry insulation when you’re welding. You should also wear dry gloves and never touch an electrode or metal parts of an electrode holder with your bare skin.


Burns represent the most common welding injuries. Meanwhile, welders are also prone to eye and skin injuries. 

Welding injuries often occur when welders choose not to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) or wear PPE that’s defective. Therefore, it is paramount to pick up high-quality gloves, a welding helmet, and other PPE before you start welding stainless steel. Wear your PPE any time you’re welding.

How to Weld Stainless Steel

When you’re ready, you can start welding. Doing so typically involves the following three-step process:

1. Prepare Your Steel 

Remove paint, rust, oil, and other potential contaminants from your steel. Make sure that all of your steel pieces are lined up correctly and that there aren’t any joint gaps or variations. And if you have thick pieces, bevel or chamfer them as needed.

2. Weld Your Steel

Decide how you want to join your base metals. You can choose from any of the following types of joints:

  • Butt Joint
  • Corner Joint
  • Edge Joint
  • Lap  Joint
  • Tee Joint

You can use one or more of these options when you’re welding stainless steel. 

From here, select the welding process you want to use, the appropriate inert shielding gas, and the applicable filler metal. Next, determine the parameters for your work. 

At this point, you’re good to get started. Apply a low level of heat initially — otherwise, if you set the amps for your heat too high, you may compromise your project. Weld slowly and cautiously.

3. Finish Your Welding

Don’t expect perfection the first time you weld stainless steel. For example, heat tint is common when welding this type of steel. Fortunately, heat tint solutions are readily available that you can use to address this issue.

Turn to a Trusted Steel Distributor

You can weld stainless steel on your own, but doing so may be more trouble than it’s actually worth. When you have a trusted steel distributor at your side, you can get the best stainless steel products and services — without ever having to worry about welding.

Pennsylvania Steel Company has been a leading provider of stainless steel products and services for over 50 years. Our team proudly serves customers in Pennsylvania, New England, Long Island, Charlotte, and other parts of the United States. We can help you get the most value out of your stainless steel project.

Request a quote from the trusted steel distributors at Pennsylvania Steel Company for stainless steel for your next project.

Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel: Which is Better for Your Project?

Carbon vs stainless steel: which one is better? The answer depends on the project. If you know the difference between stainless and carbon steel, you can decide which one lines up with your project goals.  

Pennsylvania Steel Co. is a leading choice for steel products and services in the eastern United States. We can teach you everything you need to know about the stainless steel vs carbon steel debate. Plus, we can show you when to use carbon steel vs stainless steel and vice versa. That way, you can make an informed decision about what type of steel is the best option for your next project.

What Is Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is the world’s most popular metal — and it is easy to understand why. This type of steel consists of iron and carbon, along with chromium and other alloying elements that protect against corrosion. This helps protect against rust that commonly occurs with standard steel.

Along with corrosion resistance, stainless steel offers amazing strength and durability compared to other types of steel. It can also withstand high and low temperatures without deteriorating, is easy to clean, and maintains its appearance for a long time.

What Is Carbon Steel?

Like stainless steel, carbon steel contains carbon and iron. However, it contains less alloy than stainless steel. Also, the composition of carbon steel can be up to 2% carbon. And a high volume of carbon can strengthen a piece of carbon steel to the point where it becomes nearly impossible to bend.

Carbon steel is often used in knives and other tools since it will likely retain its shape over time. Of course, carbon steel can still be brittle. If this type of steel is exposed to a high amount of pressure, it is more likely to break than bend. 

Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel: Which One Is Right for You?

If you are unsure about when to use carbon steel vs stainless steel, you are not alone. Fortunately, we know the differences between carbon and stainless steel and are happy to share them with you. 

Here’s a look at the key differences between these two types of steel.

1. Carbon Content

The basic ingredients of these steel options are identical. Yet, it is important to note that every steel is an alloy, but each one is not necessarily an alloy steel.

Stainless steel tends to have a carbon content of less than 1.2%. Comparatively, carbon steel has a carbon content of up to 2.5%, and the high level of carbon helps make this type of steel less prone to bending than its stainless counterpart.

2. Chromium Content 

Carbon steel has less than 10.5% chromium content, while stainless is at or above this level. Chromium protects against moisture that can otherwise cause steel to rust. Therefore, stainless steel is less likely to rust than carbon.

3. Visual Appeal 

You can probably tell the difference between stainless and carbon steel at first glance. Stainless is a shiny metal that continues to dazzle long after it’s produced. Meanwhile, carbon is strong but nowhere near as shiny as stainless. 

When to Use Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel

Low, medium, or high-carbon steel can be used in everything from food cans to high-strength steel wire. For example, an automaker may utilize low-carbon steel to build car parts. Medium carbon steel can be utilized in things like railways and gears. High-carbon steel is commonly used for knives and repair tools.

It is common for companies to choose carbon steel pipe options over other types of piping. This is due to the fact that carbon steel piping tends to be stronger and more durable than many comparable options. 

Stainless steel is a top choice in the culinary industry. It is frequently used in kitchen pans, shelves, appliances, and utensils.

Along with the culinary sector, hospitals may invest in stainless steel shelves since they are simple to clean and maintain. To date, stainless steel piping systems have been used by companies in petrochemical, food processing, and other industries.

If you want to weld steel, check out our guide on how to weld steel to get started.

High-Quality Steel from Pennsylvania Steel Company 

Pennsylvania Steel Co. offers carbon and stainless steel products and services to companies of all sizes and across all sectors. If you are weighing the pros and cons of carbon and stainless steel for your next project, we’re here to help you out.

Contact Pennsylvania Steel Co. for all of your steel needs with fast delivery options. For more information or to request a free quote, please get in touch with us today.

How to Cut Steel Plate

Cutting through a material as strong as plate steel requires specialized machinery and training. The appropriate technique for a job depends on the project’s budget, specifications, and production schedule. The pros at Pennsylvania Steel Co. prioritize these specific needs to ensure only high-quality results and 100% customer satisfaction. In this guide, they cover the primary methods and safety tips to know when planning how to cut steel plate.

4 Main Methods for Cutting Steel Plate 

Those wondering how to cut steel plate and achieve the desired result while avoiding injury must consider the significant differences between each technique. Most fabricators cut steel plates using one of four primary methods:

1. Oxy Fuel Flame Cutting

  • Process: cuts through plate using an oxygen-fueled flame
  • Primary Function: for cutting ferrous materials as little as ¼ inch thick, but typically sheets greater than 1 inch thick
  • Quality of Cut: generates some slag, but the surface is relatively smooth

2. Plasma Cutting

  • Process: a conductive stream of heated gas produced by a plasma torch cuts the plate 
  • Primary Function: for cutting thinner sheets anywhere from ¼ inch to 1 ½ inches
  • Quality of Cut: results in smooth edges when cutting within the recommended range

3. Laser Cutting

  • Process: a chemical reaction between iron and oxygen creates a fine laser beam that cuts through the metal plate
  • Primary Function: usually for processing plates less than 1 inch thick
  • Quality of Cut: capable of precise, square edges and small holes

4. Waterjet Cutting

  • Process: uses a high-pressure stream of water to cut through metal plates
  • Primary Function: for processing thicker metal plates up to 6-8 inches thick
  • Quality of Cut: produces a smooth and accurate edge

four main methods of cutting steel comparison chart infographic

How to Choose the Best Way to Cut Steel

Most sheet steel and plate steel requires a specific process for safe and effective cutting. So what is the best way to cut steel materials for your project?

Identifying the Proper Technique for Cutting Steel

As we know, manufacturers supply different steel varieties with varying properties. These attributes include thickness, corrosion resistance, heat resistance, grade, and reflection. Makers must consider the following properties when determining how to cut through steel for their project:

Attributes to Consider 

  • Thickness – How thick or thin is the steel plate material? Oxy fuel flame cutting can process plates up to 12 inches in thickness. Conversely, laser cutting is the typical choice for very thin plates.
  • Precision – How precise of a cut is needed? Waterjet cutting results in a precise edge, while laser cutting is effective for creating small holes.
  • Edge Quality – How clean does the edge need to be? Many steel plates require secondary processing for refining corners and edges. Plasma or laser cutting usually produces clean edges that don’t require further processing.
  • Material Properties – How corrosive, conductive, or reflective is the plate you’re cutting? For example, most manufacturers prefer plasma cutting for more corrosion-resistant materials, and laser cutting can be challenging with reflective materials.

Expert Tips for How to Cut Metal Safely

Properly and safely cutting steel plates requires adequate preparation and methodology. Safety is always the priority despite the chosen cutting method. Below, Pennsylvania Steel Company offers a few tips for how to cut steel responsibly:

Remember PPE.

Gloves, goggles, masks, and headgear are just a few basic examples of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) necessary when cutting steel and other metal materials. Regardless of the selected cutting method, every project requires adequate PPE free of holes or tears.

Practice proper tool etiquette and safety.

Tools make our jobs more manageable, but only when utilized properly. Only use tools for which you’ve received training in full, and ask for assistance from a superior when needed. Furthermore, sufficiently maintain tools and replace or repair components when necessary.

Keep the work area clear.

Avoid tripping and other safety hazards by clearing the immediate work area of any clutter. Keeping tools and materials organized and out of the way ensures a productive workspace for everyone.

pennsylvania steel company supplies metal plates and steel sheeting east coast usa

Turn to Pennsylvania Steel Company for Steel Plate Supply & Processing 

After browsing the various cutting steel plate methods, weigh which techniques are most appropriate for your project’s scope. Generally, the best way to cut steel is the safest method. Our experienced metal distributors employ decades of industry knowledge to ensure our customers receive only premium metal supplies and services. 

From North Carolina to New York, Pennsylvania Steel Company provides top-notch metals to fabricators and manufacturers in New England/New York, Pennsylvania, the Southeast, and Ohio. Contact the sheet plate distributors at Pennsylvania Steel Company today for fast delivery options for your steel plate project.

Differences Between Alloy and Carbon Steel

The vast differences between metal types make the variety you use for a project significant. For example, steel skyscraper construction metals require much more strength than the delicate metals used in producing jewelry.

How can fabricators accurately determine the appropriate steel type? Alloy steel and carbon steel possess specific properties and capabilities to function in different roles. Pennsylvania Steel Co. specializes in steel processing techniques and how to pick a suitable metal for the job. We provide top-quality metals for various East Coast locations with warehouses in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, the Southeast, and Ohio. Below, we outline the significant characteristic differences between alloy steel and carbon steel.

What is Alloy Steel?

The phrase “alloy steel” is a blanket term to describe the resulting product from mixing metal elements. Common alloying elements include but are not limited to:

  • Silicon
  • Chromium
  • Boron
  • Nickel
  • Aluminum
  • Cobalt
  • Tungsten

The addition of particular alloys affects the steel’s hardness, toughness, wear resistance, heat resistance, and tensile strength.

Types of Alloy Steel

Varying combinations of alloy metals result in different physical properties and characteristics. These combinations fall into one of two general categories:

  • High-Alloy Steel: contains a high percentage of other alloying elements (most commonly: stainless steel, which is approximately 12% chromium)
  • Low-Alloy Steel: contains a lower percentage (1%-5%) of alloying elements, making it generally less costly to use

Uses & Applications

Metalworkers use alloy steel as a manufacturing material in assorted industries, including mining, aerospace, automotive, and railroads. Industrial demand for alloy steel is high, as you can customize its alloying features for diverse structural needs. Its machinability makes it a desirable material for transportation infrastructure and other construction purposes.

What is Carbon Steel?

Put simply, carbon steel is an alloy (mixture) of carbon and iron. The high amount of carbon (ranging from 0.25%-1.25%) in this type of steel makes it incredibly durable and versatile, depending on the specific percentage of carbon.

Types of Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is prevalent and diverse in its applications. In general, carbon steel falls into one of three categories:

  • Low-Carbon Steel (>0.25%): the most widely-used variety of carbon steel that is particularly ductile and welds easily
  • Medium-Carbon Steel (0.25%-0.6%): slightly stronger due to higher manganese concentration (0.6%-1.65%)
  • High-Carbon Steel (0.6%-1.25%): high wear resistance and very low elasticity, with a manganese concentration ranging from 0.3%-0.9%

Typically, this type of steel becomes more challenging to work with as the carbon percentage increases. For this reason, high-carbon steel often has more specialized applications, including springs, wires, and knives.

Uses & Applications

Like alloy steel, carbon steel is useful in numerous industries, especially in the chemical, oil, and gas sectors. Carbon steel’s advanced, versatile strength makes it ideal for pipes, pressure vessels, cutting tools, and even weaponry.

metal processing steel alloys showing heat resistance

Comparing Alloy Steel vs. Carbon Steel

Is carbon steel strong? Is alloy steel stronger than high-carbon steel? These answers depend on what you mean by “strong.” The list of attributes below expands on specific comparisons between steel types, including overall strength.

Chemical Composition

As previously mentioned, carbon steel contains mainly two elements: carbon and iron. Any other present alloys are usually regarded as impurities. On the other hand, alloying of additional components (manganese, nickel, chromium, etc.) in alloy steel alters the chemical properties and limits of the resulting metal.


Overall, fabricators regard carbon steel as having higher strength than alloy steel. In other words, carbon steel can withstand significant pressure but doesn’t bend easily. Alloying metal variations adjust tensile strength.


Carbon steel owes its superior strength to being harder than alloy steel. However, higher carbon content decreases ductility and weldability, making this steel type slightly more challenging to work with.

Melting Point

In general, alloy steel’s additional elements give it a higher melting point than carbon steel.


Steel becomes less malleable as you add more alloying metals. Therefore, the lack of variation in carbon steel’s composition allows for better malleability than steel alloys.


Alloy steel is difficult to weld and prone to cracking, giving carbon steel higher weldability. However, the prior allows for adjustment of certain alloying elements to help streamline heat treatment.

Corrosion Resistance

Alloy steels have higher corrosion resistance than carbon steel, meaning they deteriorate (rust) at a slower rate.


The price of carbon steel varies and depends on the metal’s carbon content. As the carbon percentage increases, so does the price. Additionally, alloy steel is often costly due to varying amounts of alloying elements.

Quality Alloy and Carbon Steel from Pennsylvania Steel Co.

Only premium metal materials can craft superior construction projects. The experts at Pennsylvania Steel proudly supply leading manufacturers in numerous sectors throughout the U.S., from Cleveland, OH to Charlotte, NC. If you need alloy or carbon steel for your next project, request a quote from the Pennsylvania Steel Company Inc. team today.

The Difference Between Cold-Finished and Hot-Rolled Steel

Business owners and makers have thousands of steel varieties on the market to choose from. With such an array of metal options, selecting the correct type, grade, and finish of your building material can be tedious. Pennsylvania Steel Co. offers a vast assortment of premium steel products at locations all over the United States. Plus, our online resources help our clients build the best projects possible.

Steel Manufacturing, Summarized

Not to be mistaken with the four main types of steel, the general steel manufacturing process falls into two main categories: hot-rolled and cold-rolled. This process starts with the extreme heating and consequent oxidation of mined steel ore.Basically, pieces of large, rectangular metal called billets are heated and flattened into sizable rolls. 

From there, the steel will go through one of the aforementioned rolling processes for its finalized design. “Rolling” refers to the vital step in the manufacturing process that involves forming the metal by using a series of rollers in an attempt to reshape it or enhance its properties. This formation method (hot or cold rolling) will determine the material’s ultimate function.

Hot Finishing Process vs. Cold Finishing Process

"In the conversation about hot-rolled vs. cold-finished products, all cold-finished products are hot-rolled, but hot-rolled products are not necessarily cold finished. Instead, it’s all a matter of how the bars are processed."

Once steel is heated past its recrystallization temperature (over 1700º F) it can be easily formed and sized. If the material isn’t processed further at room temperature, it’s considered hot-rolled. The steel that goes through further refinement processes is categorized as cold-rolled. Explore further metal rolling methodology differences, capabilities, and tolerances below!

Hot-Rolled Steel

As hot-rolled steel cools, it tends to shrink and form asymmetrically, allowing for more variation in shape and size. For this reason, hot-rolled steel is used in projects where the finished product doesn’t have specific dimensional requirements.

For example, one of the most commonly recognized forms of hot-rolled steel is sheet metal, which is frequently used in creating air ducts and motor vehicles. In these applications, surface finish and proportions don’t need to be precise.

As a result, hot-rolled steel is typically cheaper in price simply because it doesn’t involve any further processing. Since it doesn’t require any reheating, production costs for hot-rolled steel are much lower.

Cold-Finished Steel

That being said, cold-rolled steel needs reheating to further refine its structural properties. In order to achieve more exact dimensions and surface quality, the metal is re-rolled at a lower temperature. This supplemental rolling results in more specified attributes including exterior finish, durability, and dimensional parameters. 

PA Steel, for example, carries a variety of cold-finished bars in a range of grades and finishes for businesses all over the eastern United States. This equipment is used for creating products such as furniture, garages, and home appliances.

Although it’s typically up to 20% more durable than hot-rolled, cold-finished steel is limited to basic square, round, and flat shapes. Despite its improved resistance, the additional processing performed on cold-rolled metals may make it more susceptible to internal stress. Finalized materials need to be stress relieved prior to grinding or cutting to avoid potentially volatile warping or distortion.

Determining the Appropriate Steel Type

Put simply, the last step in the manufacturing process will influence the final product’s application. If tolerance, surface finish, symmetry, straightness, or aesthetics are a key factor in the project’s creation, cold-rolled steel is likely the ideal choice. Conversely, hot-rolled steel can be used for large-scale or low-budget operations that can account for dimensional changes as it cools.

Tolerance Variety

The table below outlines the varying tolerances of hot-rolled vs. cold-finished steel products:

Data source: rapiddirect.com/blog/hot-rolled-vs-cold-rolled-steel

Premium Steel and Pipe Supply From Pennsylvania Steel, Co.

Visit our new and improved website to browse our selection of high-quality products, including several varieties of cold and hot-rolled steel, plus carbon tubing, stainless steel, finished bars, and more. PA Steel Company employs an expert team of industry professionals that are prepared to supply you with the ideal metal for any size project. Browse our locations in Pennsylvania, Richmond, Cleveland, Charlotte, Long Island, and more!

If you’re still having trouble figuring out the ideal steel production process for your project, check out our FAQ page or request a quote online today!

What are the Different Types of Steel?

Since steel is so versatile in its uses, reliable steel companies like Pennsylvania Steel offer various types of steel for the multitude of projects our customers execute. The material’s type is determined by two main factors: the individual amounts of its alloy components (such as carbon and iron) and its production process.

The Four Main Types of Steel

Although there are technically over 3,500 types of steel available on the market with varying physical properties, we’re going to focus on the four primary types of steel:

  • Carbon steel
  • Alloy steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Tool steel

Learning the differences between these will help you understand which is the best for your project and why it’s the best for the job.

pa steel types of metal

Carbon Steel

As the name suggests, carbon steel contains mainly carbon and iron, and a trace of other elements (such as magnesium or chromium). There are three main subcategories of carbon steel which include:

  1. Low Carbon Steels (less than 0.3% carbon) – Most common on the market because it’s relatively inexpensive, easy to form, and highly ductile. Commonly used for pipes, domestic appliances, wires, medical equipment, etc.
  2. Medium Carbon Steels (0.3% – 0.6% carbon) – It’s strong, but it is difficult to form due to low ductility and toughness. Commonly used in machinery parts, cranks, gears, etc.
  3. High Carbon Steels (greater than 0.6% carbon) – Hardest and toughest variety, but is difficult to weld, cut, and form. Commonly used for railways, bars, spring steel, etc.

As we mentioned above, each type of carbon steel offers different levels of strength, ductility, and workability that make them suitable for different applications.

Generally, this type of steel is used in materials such as construction equipment and automotive components. In fact, carbon steel accounts for about 90% of total steel production in the entire industry because it’s inexpensive to produce and durable enough for use in large commercial projects. 

Alloy Steel

The name “alloy steel” suggests a large mix of different elements in addition to the characteristic carbon and iron combination. Examples of common additives are:

  • Magnesium
  • Chromium
  • Nickel
  • Silicon
  • Molybdenum
  • Titanium
  • Copper

The percentages of these elements will determine the appropriate application for the material. Manipulating these proportions changes the steel’s properties, such as heat resistance, hardness, and ductility. Companies often utilize this type of steel to produce commercial equipment like aerospace and aircraft components, transformers, pipelines, and power generators.

Stainless Steel

Steel in this category contains 10-20% chromium, making it incredibly resistant to corrosion and staining. This concentrated chromium coating also makes this material rust-proof. Classified by their microscopic structures, there are three subsets of stainless steel:

Austenitic300non-magnetic and non-heat-treatable18% chromium
8% nickel
<0.8% carbon
kitchen and food processing equipment
Ferritic400magnetic10.5-27% chromium
<0.1% carbon

heat exchangers and furnaces, auto parts
Martensitic400magnetic and heat-treatable
11-17% chromium
<0.4% nickel
<1.2% carbon
cutting tools, dental and surgical equipment

Stainless steel is a highly versatile material due to its notable resistance to heat and discoloration. Its unique resilience makes it the best type of steel for a number of industries, ranging from culinary and catering to standard machinery and cars. Check out our guide on how to weld stainless steel to help your next project.

Tool Steel

A combination of carbon and alloy steel, tool steel generally offers high hardness and abrasion resistance. These features, along with its superior ability to retain its shape, make it the ideal material for composing various tools. Surgical equipment, drills, dyes, bits, molds, and punches are examples of instruments made using tool steel.

Manufacturing quality tools requires quality steel components. PA Steel produces a number of different tool steels, which consist of carbon and alloy steels. Tool steel offers advanced abrasion resistance and toughness. We stock many different tool steel grades, including:

  • Air Hardening (A-Grades)
  • High-Carbon High-Chromium (D-Grades)
  • Shock Resisting (S-Grades)
  • Mold Quality/Hot Work (H-Grades
  • Oil Hardening (O-Grades
  • Water Hardening (W-Grades)

To learn more about our tool steel inventory, grades, and their applications, check out our detailed Tool Steel Guide.

Choosing The Best Steel For Your Project

As previously mentioned, the selected steel’s type identifies its key properties, including ductility, hardness, weldability, and more. Naturally, these qualities will determine the applied uses of the chosen metal.

In other words, selecting the wrong metal can prove detrimental to the quality of your project. For example, high alloy or low carbon steels are most effective in extremely cold temperatures because they retain high tensile strength even in frigid conditions. Therefore, residential and commercial structures being built in freezing climates should use these types of metals in their structural designs.

If you’re unsure about what your metal project requires, feel free to contact the specialists at Pennsylvania Steel for further insight into your ideal metal for the job. We can help you confirm your choice and walk you through your potential options for a high-quality result!

Contact PA Steel For a Custom Quote

Regardless of the job you take on, PA Steel offers a wide stock of the different types and grades of steel to help you prepare for your next project. Our knowledgeable staff has years of expertise, so feel free to contact the steel warehouse closest to you with any questions or to receive an estimate. We have steel supply warehouses in Pennsylvania, New York, New England, Virginia (Richmond), North Carolina (Charlotte), and Ohio.

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