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Stainless Steel Wire

Melissa asked about the difference between ordinary and tempered
stainless steel wire. Most stainless steel including wire is what
is called 300 series typically type 304 or type 316 which are alloy
of about 18% chromium and 8% nickel with the addition of about 3%
molybdenum for the 316 making it more resistant to corrosion.
Alloys of the 300 series (and 200 series which are somewhat similar)
cannot be hardened (tempered is commonly used incorrectly to mean
this but is actually a softening process) by heat treatment but only
by cold working. The 400 series which has about 12 to 18 % chromium
but little or no nickel can be hardened by heat treating if they
contain sufficient carbon. Typical types for hardening are 410,
420, 430 and 440 which can be hardened to a hardness of up to about
HRC 55 depending on carbon content. This is still fileable as
compared to carbon tool steel which can be hardened to about HRC 65
which is not fileable. 300 series wire is sold cold worked to a
spring temper which could also be what was being referred to. Without
knowing more about the application I really cannot say what the best
wire to use would be. In many environments 300 series alloys have
better corrosion resistance than 400 series but these have adequate
resistance in many environments. I can see that either 300 series
spring temper or 400 series hardened would be more resistant to
damage but would expect that they would because of their higher
strengths be harder to straighten when damaged.

I do not have a good suggestion for a source of hardened 400 series
stainless steel wire but she might try a manufacturer of small coil
springs which are often made in this material. “Spring temper” type
302/4 and 316 wire is available from MSC down to 0.015" dia. but
should be available from other down to very small sizes but I do not
know what is meant by fine (0.001"?). Hope this is of assistance.

jim (James ME Wallbridge P. Eng.) Libertarian, Metallurgist, Wood &
Metal Worker, Fly Fisher, Resident of Calgary, Canada’s new head
office location of choice. Permission is hereby given to use any
herein, as an attributed quote, unless the body of the
message states otherwise.

Stainless steel wire used to be available from Small Parts in
Florida. I haven’t seen their current catalog but they do have a
website: – Vicki Embrey

  "Spring temper" type  302/4 and 316 wire is available from M=


down to 0.015" dia. but  should be available from other down t=


very small sizes but I do not  know what is meant by fine
(0.001"?). Hope this is of assistance. 

Thank you, Jim, for the abundance of it seems as if
the “spring temper” wire is an avenue she should explore. i am
unfamiliar with the source…MSC…that you have cited…can you
please furnish contact website? i feel terrible asking
more of you when you have already been so kind.

and Vicki, thank you for your kindness in referring me to the
smallparts website. i did go to the website, andthey do indeed
carry this type of wire.

my thanks again to both of you for your kindness and assistance!

with much appreciation,


Hi Melissa,

 i am unfamiliar with the source..MSC...that you have cited...can
you please furnish contact website? 

MSC’s web site is: Their phone # is 800-645-7270.


MSC is a major industrial supplier - An older catalog I have is 3"
thick, they now are on CD, but they can be a little fussy on who
they will sell to. 1-800-6457270


If you have problems with them, you might want to try McMaster-Carr

I got some spring-tempered steel wire from them, no questions asked
(I’m still in the “hobby” stage…no real business license yet (or
fake one for that matter…)). And, I was able to order it from the
web. Delivery was pretty fast, too (but then again, they do have a
warehouse just across town from me…). A 1 lb coil (about 340
feet) was a little over $7.00.

They’ve got a pretty good selection of “industrial” stuff, but
apparently didn’t mind selling to me, Joe Consumer…

{standard disclaimer…just a satisfied customer, no relation at all
to the company, yadda, yadda, yadda}