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Carbon Steel Vs Stainless Steel–Choosing the Best Metal

stainless steel pipes

You know you want to fabricate your project from steel. Unbelievably durable, this metal is useful in many applications. But did you know that there are different types of steel, each useful in its own way? Let’s look at carbon steel vs. stainless steel and see how to choose the best metal for your project.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is classified by its carbon content, up to 2.1% of its weight. The amount of carbon will affect its tensility; lower amounts of carbon will be less tensile than stainless. Higher amounts of carbon, however, will make carbon steel stronger and more durable than stainless steel. Many blades, such as swords and knives, are produced with high-carbon steel. Swordsmiths of feudal Japan created tamahagane, a special kind of this metal, to use in their weaponry. Tamahagane is still used by some metalsmiths to this day, creating chef’s knives, katanas, and other blades.

This metal is not as aesthetically pleasing as stainless steel, having a dull, matte finish. A layer of paint or topcoat is frequently used to enhance its appearance as well as to protect the product from rust and tarnish. Without this finish, carbon steel can begin to corrode with only minimal exposure to moisture.

Because stainless adds additional elements such as nickel and chromium, carbon steel is a more affordable option than stainless. This makes it a good choice for producing durable projects within a tight budget.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is also known as inox steel, and for good reason. Its high resistance to corrosion makes it nearly rustproof, or “inoxidable.” It’s this quality that gives the metal its name; it won’t stain or corrode from exposure to the elements.

Stainless is a more attractive option to its carbon cousin, featuring a visually appealing glossy finish. Different grades of this metal have increased chromium in the alloy, which results in a reflective, shiny finish. Chromium is what gives this option the edge over carbon when it comes to oxidation and corrosion.

Depending on the grade of steel you choose, stainless may be more ductile than carbon. This is especially true of metals made with high amounts of nickel. 

This metal is generally the more expensive option, mostly because of additional elements like chromium and nickel.

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

Both of these metals have clear benefits. If your project won’t be visible or exposed to moisture, carbon will be the best and most affordable option for your project. If, however, the appearance of the product matters and it will be exposed to the elements, stainless will most likely be a better choice.

Still need a hand choosing between carbon and stainless steel? Contact Edco Fabrication and we’ll help you choose which is best for your project.