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The machinability of carbon and alloy steels is affected by many factors, such as the composition, microstructure, and strength level of the steel; the feeds, speeds, and depth of cut; and the choice of cutting fluid and cutting tool material. This article describes the influence of the various attributes of carbon and alloy steels on machining characteristics. It lists the relative machinability ratings for some plain carbon steels, standard resulfurized steels, and several alloy steels. The addition of lead to carbon steels is one of the means of increasing the machinability of the steel and improving the surface finish of machined parts. Low carbon content of carburizing steels may be beneficial to tool life and production rate. The sulfur content of through-hardening alloy steels can significantly affect machining behavior. Cold drawing generally improves the machinability of steels containing less than about 0.2% carbon.

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