Question about cutting 444 Steel

I’m not much of a metal guy, so I was hoping someone here might be able to offer some advice for my situation.

I have some small pieces of 444 steel that have been stamped and heat treated.
I need to cut some even smaller pieces from the parts, no larger than .5" square.

It’s important that the cutting process doesn’t heat the metal too much because the reason we’re sending them to the lab is to have the grain structure analyzed.

My first thought was a waterjet, but I don’t have access to one myself and I haven’t had any luck finding a shop that would deal with such small parts.

I’m thinking that my best option might be cutting them by hand, but I’m not sure what kind of tool or blade I should seek out for this job.

If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions that might be helpful I’d greatly appreciate it.

horizontal bandsaw might work. It uses coolant during the cut. Sometimes hardened metal is too hard and the teeth will skip over it. You can give that a test. It will be tricky to cut once the pieces become too short.

What size are the initial parts?

This is going to be very difficult. Cutting pieces that small would likely require the vertical bandsaw, but it doesn’t have an auto-coolant system. A slow cut with lots of sprayed lubricoolant might work.

Hold up. I looked up 444 Steel. It’s a stainless steel, which pushes the difficulty up a notch at least. But you say it is heat treated, which every data sheet about 444 Steel says is impossible. Are you certain of what you have? Why do you care about its grain structure?

You are right that a hand tool may be the only way. And you’ll need a strong carbide or diamond tipped blade to cut it.

I know very little about metallurgy, but we’ve been told that the heat treatment that was used on these parts is unusually high. I’m not sure if or why the heat treatment is necessary, that’s actually kind of what we’re trying to get to the bottom of.

Sorry, I should have given more context, these parts are currently being sourced in China and we’re looking to move production to the states so we’re trying to match their production methods. Our state-side supplier tried their hand at the heat treatment instructions, but something may have been lost in translation. We’re not sure how these 2 pieces of metal are different other than the US parts look darker than their Chinese counterparts.

I’m actually not sure that we do care about the grain structure, I just want to be sure that I’m sending off samples that are as representative of the original parts as possible.

These parts are being used to monitor electrical fields given off by power lines, so their electromagnetic properties are important, but why they are important is above my pay grade, they just want me to cut one up :rofl:

Here’s one of the parts in question, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for scale

The cuts should be straight forward on the horizontal bandsaw. I’m not in the shop much. I can come this afternoon to do the setup if you have the material ready?

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Thanks for the offer, that’s very kind of you! This is a back-burner kinda work project for me so I haven’t been keeping too close an eye on it.

I think I’ll just ask my boss to buy a hand tool so I can get it done here at the office.

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That thing? I would use an angle grinder. Hardness does not matter much to an abrasive cutting wheel.

Or, given that it’s so small, just use a Dremel and a cutting wheel. The fiberglass cutting wheels may be the best choice. Good option because you can also smooth the edges when done. The emery cutting disks will work too, but they break easily and wear down fast, those are a better choice if you need a thin kerf but that’s not the case here.

Keep wetting it so you don’t heat the metal to change the temper- except, like Ethan says, stainless wouldn’t have a temper. But allowing it to get hot changes the way it cuts and can discolor the surface, plus I’d usually want to pick it up immediately when done rather than leave it in the vise for a few minutes to cool down

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I wanted to get a dremel cutting wheel since we already have the tool, the boss doubts a dremel wheel can cut it, didn’t want to argue with him since I don’t really know much about the subject. :roll_eyes: