The study of heat treatment and the metallurgy of metals is perhaps the oldest science known to mankind. If one thinks about that statement, you realize that there was a time that humans used only stone for weapons and digging. Then came the age that carried man into the world of metals.

The writer has come across many people on an international basis who have asked, “What do you do for living?” The answer that I give seems to confound a vast majority of people all over the globe. They do not understand the word “metallurgy.” The usual reply is, “What is that?” Others say, “Never heard of it.”

This article focuses on the heat treater. Most assuredly, it is the heat treater – the person operating the furnace – who can literally make or break the product.

The heat treater – captive or commercial – needs the mindset that if a component needs to be processed a second time, it is costing the company money. Therefore, their philosophy should be: “Do it right the first time because the second time will cost money.”

Generally (but not in all cases), the heat treater is not a graduate metallurgist, but they are the person with the responsibility of getting the component right the first time. How does the heat treater acquire their comprehensive knowledge in order to process the particular metal that is to be heat treated successfully? The writer offers a few considerations to the furnace person for self-tuition.

Buy books! But isn’t that an expensive method of learning? True, if one purchases brand-new books. Here is a consideration. Metal will always respond and has always responded to the heat applied to the metal being treated. In other words, the principles have not changed. There is nothing wrong in purchasing used books. Many booksellers specialize in used technical books for a fraction of the cost of new books. The writer has acquired technical books with sound, solid metallurgical processing information for as low as $3.75. (And that is in today’s current prices.) Generally, a good metallurgical processing book would average around $9.50 and can rise up to say $25 at today’s price levels.

One can put together a very comprehensive library of used books for less than $100. A vintage book published by the American Society of Metals titled The Metallography and Heat Treatment of Iron and Steel by Dr. Albert Sauveur is a prized book (first edition) in ASM’s bookcase in Cleveland. I was able to purchase the fourth edition by McGraw-Hill (1933) for the princely sum of $15.75. The book’s condition is excellent, printed on beautiful gloss paper with photomicrographs and complete metal or graphic explanations.