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Hardenability is usually the single most important factor in the selection of steel for heat-treated parts. The hardenability of steel is best assessed by studying the hardening response of the steel to cooling in a standardized configuration in which a variety of cooling rates can be easily and consistently reproduced from one test to another. These include the Jominy end-quench test, the carburized hardenability test, and the surface-area-center hardenability test. This article discusses the effects of varying carbon content as well as the influence of different alloying elements on hardenability of steels. The basic information needed before a steel with adequate hardenability can be specified as the as-quenched hardness required prior to tempering to final hardness that will produce the best stress-resisting microstructure; the depth below the surface to which this hardness must extend; and the quenching medium that should be used in hardening.

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