Examining the 4 Types of Carbon Steel

*This is the first in a four-part series about steel used in rigging supplies and rigging hardware.

Steel isn’t a cut and dry subject like many people tend to believe.  While most think of steel as a single strong metal and that’s it, the truth is there are three common types of steel seen in the rigging industry alone: carbon steel, alloy steel, and stainless steel.  While having three might not sound complicated at all, they break down and separate even more.

So what exactly is carbon steel?

Carbon steel is the most common type of steel by far and that’s not just in the industry.  Carbon steel is the most widely produced steel in the world.  Any steel that has .12% to 2.0% carbon added is able to be classified as carbon steel.  The particular type of carbon steel most likely used in construction or industry will depend directly on what your needs are.

There are four types of carbon steel:

1. Hot dipped galvanized

2. Painted

3. Self colored

4. Zinc-coated

Hot dipped galvanized steel

hot dip galvThis type of carbon steel is the most common form of coating on any US Cargo Control rigging items such as rigging shackles.  You can tell this type of steel because it tends to have a rough look.  The zinc coating is not smooth or precise.  However that coating also allows it to last a very long time.   On the plus side this helps prevent structural decay, can last up to 70 years, and is cheaper than stainless steel.  The cons?  This won’t last in salt water and the zinc can react differently in some environments making it less than ideal.

 

Painted steel

paintedPainted steel is simply self-colored steel that is layered with rust resistant paint.  It’s what many consider the normal end result of self-colored or plated carbon steel.

 

 

Self-colored steel

two toneSelf colored refers to a plain carbon steel that has a very thin coating of protectant applied at a factory.  The plating allows for a specific color or set of colors to then be added on. This plating doesn’t affect the strength at all but it does protect from rust as well as sets it up to be painted in custom colors.  This is actually a pretty common choice.

 

 

 

Zinc-coated steel

zinc coatedThis type of steel is also commonly referred to as anodized steel or electro-galvanized steel, so if you hear either of these two, it’s referring to the same thing. This is another way of combining zinc with steel, but this is a more controlled process that allows for a much smoother and clean finish.  It looks and feels better, but the downside is that the zinc doesn’t last as long compared to being galvanized.

 

 

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