How to overcome 3 common challenges associated with working with stainless steel

Stainless steel has long been crucial for many applications where strength, durability, and resistance to corrosion are essential. That is why it is often chosen for process equipment used in harsh environments such as chemical and petrochemical plants, refineries, and power stations. Unluckily, from a metalworking perspective, the same qualities that make it perfect for heavy industries also mean that it can be a challenge to work with. Here we look at three issues stainless steel presents to material removal applications and share tips on how to overcome them. 

1. Stainless steel overheats

Compared to steel and other iron-based materials, stainless steel has a significantly lower heat conductivity. This means that it gets hotter locally when worked on, making many material-removal tasks, such as weld seam removal, difficult. 

How to minimize the risk of overheating when working with stainless steel?

The most effective way to minimize the risk of overheating is to select a low-speed tool. Tools running at less than 4000 rpm are a good choice, as the relatively low speed will not allow the material to heat up, enabling the work to continue undisturbed as long as needed. It is also important to pay attention to how the tool is handled and avoid pushing it against the metal too hard, as it can contribute to overheating and, in the worst case, melt the metal onto the abrasive.

2. Progress is slow

The parts being worked on are often very thin, and the material removal tasks run a high risk of damaging the product. To avoid this, the work needs to be carried out extremely carefully, which is time-consuming, and some tasks, like grinding, can slow down the entire production flow. 

How to speed up the process when working with stainless steel?

First of all, it is crucial to accept that with stainless steel, some tasks will take longer and take this into account when planning the work schedule. Selecting the right abrasive can also help speed up the process and contribute towards the best possible finish.

3. Achieving a quality finish is difficult

As stainless steel can be a demanding material to work with, achieving a good quality finish for painting is often a challenge, especially in an operating environment where other materials are being worked on simultaneously.

How to achieve a quality finish when working with stainless steel?

There are no shortcuts to a quality finish, and that is why it is essential to use the correct tools and inserts and eliminate any risk of damage from cross-contamination. The abrasive must be changed between using it on carbon steel and stainless steel, or the remains of the carbon steel will ultimately damage the stainless steel product. It is also useful to compare the options available and select the best possible insert for each task, as their features – and results – differ. For example, flap discs with finer grit can deliver a better finish in softer operations but make the process inefficient in other applications.


Browse our air compressor tools

Grinders & Sanders

For maximum material removal with minimum effort and high-quality finish, Chicago Pneumatic delivers robust, durable and lightweight easy-to-handle tools.

Surface applications from heavy material removal to fine finishing. Tools designed to bring better comfort and increase your productivity. The range provides random orbital sanders, rotary sanders, pistol sander & polishers, and belt sanders. Secure payment, Afterpay, nationwide delivery. Buy now, pay layer.

Percussive Tools & Drills

Their combination of power, compactness and light weight gets the job done. Better operator comfort comes with a unique vibration dampening body.
The range provides industrial chipping hammers, weld flux chippers, needle scalers, long reach scalers and rust & weld scalers.

With drilling capacity from 6mm (1/4”) to 50mm (2”), various speeds and power, our drills are designed to handle both your tough and smooth operations. The range provides straight, angle and pistol drills. Secure payment, Afterpay, nationwide delivery. Buy now, pay layer.

Specialty & Cutting

The range provides saws, high speed cutters, nibblers, shears, engraving pens, riveters, caulking guns, air files, and blow guns. Secure payment, Afterpay, nationwide delivery. Buy now, pay layer.


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