Carbon Steel: Low vs High Carbon

Carbon steel is basically steel that is alloyed with carbon. It may also contains trace amounts of manganese, copper, or silicon. It is one of the most common and popular types of steel used in industries ranging from manufacturing to construction. Carbon steel usually falls into one of two categories: low carbon steel and high carbon steel.

Low Carbon vs. High Carbon

Carbon steel under microscope

Carbon steel under microscope.

Low carbon steel usually has a carbon content of between 0.05 percent and 0.30 percent, while high carbon steel usually has a carbon content of between 0.55 percent and 0.95 percent. So how does that make them different?

Low carbon steel, sometimes referred to as plain carbon or mild steel, is the more common of the two. It is inexpensive compared to high carbon steel, and it can be used for a number of projects and applications. It is more pliable and has a lower tensile strength, though it can be heat treated or carburized to increase its strength and hardness.

High carbon steel is more finicky than low carbon steel. Carburization can lead to other impure elements, such as sulfur, becoming alloys to the steel, which may make it brittle. However, in pure situations, high carbon steel is extremely strong and works great for products like springs and wires.

Other Points on the Carbon Range

Medium carbon steel is steel that has a carbon content between 0.30 and 0.55 percent. It is often used for car parts. Ultra-high carbon steel is steel with a carbon content above 1.0 percent but below 2.0 percent. It is often used for knives. Any type of steel that contains over 2.14 percent of carbon becomes cast iron.

To learn more about carbon steel or to receive a quote on steel products, contact Madison Steel at 404-343-4855.