Titanium blanking die

I want to make a blanking die to use in my hydraulic press to cut
multiples out of annealed 26 gauge grade 1 titanium from Reactive
Metals. I’ve attempted to make the die out of 22 gauge annealed grade
1 titanium from RM. I got a nice clean cut in copper, but the die
mostly embosses the titanium, with some cut-through. Since the
titanium die is still annealed, I believe that the shearing edge may
be simply distorting under pressure (I hear the “crunch” of the
shearing action at about 1k psi, but take it on up to 2k psi). I’d
appreciate recommendations: 1) should I attempt to work-harden the
shearing edge? If so, how to do that in titanium without distorting
the die? 2) should I try to use grade 2 ballistic titanium for the
die (Reactive Metals doesn’t carry it in sheet, so sourcing may be a
problem)? 3) should I make the die out of another material, such as
vanadium-steel alloy or another steel alloy that will cut titanium
without my having to harden and temper the shearing edge? Suggestions
on other alloys? Regular O-1 tool steel dies distort when cutting
titanium, but I haven’t tried hardening and tempering the shearing
edge-not sure how to do it, actually, without affecting the entire

Emie Stewart

I have cut Titanium blanks with hardened and tempered tool steel
dies in a Fly Press. The advantage of this type of press is the
quick impact whereas a hydraulic press gives slow squeeze. Hamish

Dar are you out there? The answer is at

Titanium in any grade that is readily available is not a good
cutting edge of any kind. This is going to take a heat treatable tool
steel. Dar will have the complete answer. You should probably have
him make it. The tool design has much to do with it too. Die
thickness and clearance is very important. In just a short Google
around I saw clearance recommendations of .001" to .002".


Bill, Deborah, Michele & Sharon
Reactive Metals Studio, Inc

Making any cutting tool out of the same material you are trying to
cut will seldom work well, as you’ve found. You need the cutting
tool to be harder than what you’re cutting. Try something like
Starret flat ground tool steel stock. it’s widely available (any
machine tools dealer), reasoably priced, and as supplied, properly
annealed and ready to saw out your die. You may need or wish, after
making it, to heat treat it, but this is easy to do, even with just a
torch, though a kiln of some sort works better. For shorter
production runs, you probably won’t need to heat treat it, even with
cutting your titanium, which can be kinda hard on tools.

Peter Rowe

Thanks, Peter. I actually did try it with the Starret O-1 steel, but
not hardened and tempered. The “hinge” flap on the punch twisted
during use on titanium even though it did punch out the shape. And
made a terrific noise!!


Thanks, Bill. I had suspected I would probably have Dar make it for
me, but wanted to try it myself first since it is a simple shape. My
engineering mind always wants to try it first!


hey i have been making Ti picks out of the cheap ti that reactive
sells what i use for my dies is Oil hardening one tool steel. i can
get about 200 picks a die when it is properly heat treated. remember
to use thicker stock than what your cutting and quench in oil.


Try something like Starret flat ground tool steel stock. 

She already tried the annealed O1 tool steel stock as mentioned in
her post and it did not work.

Emmie, you are going to need to make or have made a hardened die.
Titanium is just too tough for anything short of hardened steel to


James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

I have had Dar make two dies which I use to cut 26ga titanium parts,
quite detailed. The first eventually broke where it had quite a
small section, so I got another. Each has cut hundreds of parts, and
I am very happy with them. I use a hydraulic press to do the


Thanks, Noel. I think he is the way I want to go.



Dar here, checking in to the thread late.

hey i have been making Ti picks out of the cheap ti that reactive
sells what i use for my dies is Oil hardening one tool steel. i
can get about 200 picks a die when it is properly heat treated.
remember to use thicker stock than what your cutting and quench in

I haven’t had to cut much Ti (almost none) but I’ve also heard that
a couple hundred parts is a good run, as opposed to thousands for
many other metals, and indefinite use for some designs/metals/gages.
Proper heat treating is a must for harder metals, and less
cooperative ones, like Ti. I tend to temper them on the soft side to
minimize risk of breakage, because people generally don’t use dies
enough to worry about wearing out the cutting edges of pancake dies
(although this happens a lot if dies are allowed to operate out of
alignment, in which case the cutting edges can collide and
self-destruct ).

With Ti, however, it’s a good idea to temper harder, perhaps at
around 650F., or even around 600 (I usually temper between 700 and
900F depending on several factors). Of course, accurate tempering is
predicated upon correct hardening (done in the quenching phase). An
easy way to check that is that files do not touch 0-1 steel, post
-quench. Also, be sure to dip the die vertically, and quickly, to
prevent warping.

Susan Kingsley’s chapter (in the Hydraulic Die Forming book) on
pancake dies is an essential introduction to the process, and I know
it’s good info because most of it came from me. For thin Ti, even
26g, I’d use 1/16" steel, and cut it at about 17.5 degrees with a #1
blade (depending on blades, which can vary a hair by in width by
brand, so that’s not an angle written in stone ) ((that’s only for
dies to be heat treated; it’s too tight for unhardened dies)).

There are a lot more ways to make crappy dies than to make good
ones, but it’s not that complicated when you know the basics.

Dar Shelton

Thanks, Dar. I have Susan Kingsley’s book also, and it is a great


I used to make many spoons as flatware sets, and as usual repetive
injuries started interfering with my production line. I simply had a
machine shop mill a blanking die out of 1/2" steel sheet for me.
Costed me $50, and over 12 years later, still using it so it was a
wise decision.

If you are going to mass-produce an item, have a blanking die cut by
a machine shop and save you a lot of headaches. I had blanking dies
cut out of 3/4" plexiglas which I still use occasionally. I hate to
saw, so if I can get a machine shop or company to cut dies for me, I
will do so. If you don’t feel comfortable doing a certain technique,
then it is time to farm it out. I farm out all my casting and
plating, and that saves me a lot of aggravation.