A second consideration would be to purchase a simple notebook. Every metal that you process, draw out a sketch and add the analysis from the test certificate. If your manufacturer does not supply you with the test certificate, you then have two choices. You can either stress how much you need the test certificate with the complete actual analysis and mechanical properties of the metal supplied to you for treatment, or you can simply use the AISI specification of analysis and properties.
Log all of the information into your notebook with process temperatures selected; method of cooling; component weight and how the mass was loaded into the thermal-processing furnace; cooling medium and cooling-medium temperature; plus the temperature rise in the liquid cooling medium. You could even include a photo of the load.
On completion of the thermal processing, record ALL of the process conditions/temperatures/results acquired and any problems that occurred (if any). You will very quickly build up your own personal library of heat treatment and results.
Gain a full understanding of hardness and mechanical-property testing. Remember, there are many published books on these subjects that can be purchased – once again, in a used condition.
Where possible, develop an adequate and appropriate metallurgical laboratory. The comment usually is that we cannot afford to put a laboratory in-house. You would be quite correct in that statement if you purchased brand-new equipment, but used equipment should be considered. Because this equipment has been used in a metallurgical laboratory, it is often clean and well cared for.
There are many suppliers of used metallurgical microscopes, microhardness testers, abrasive machines, grinding and polishing machines, fume hoods for etching, etc. You can also find very expensive laboratory benches and furniture in like-new condition. I built my first laboratory when I arrived in the United States and used kitchen cabinets and benches that served my purposes adequately and professionally.
I served my apprenticeship starting in 1955 to 1960 specializing in heat treatment and metallurgy and gained excellent experience in the met lab. In 1970, I immigrated to South Africa. The company I worked for had one HRC hardness test unit (not in the heat-treatment department but some 200 yards away).
I talked the owner into letting me build a laboratory even though I had never built one. I told my partner about what had transpired and that I seriously felt that I did not have enough experience to do it. Her response was, “You know that they don’t know that you don’t know, so don’t tell them. Learn!” I did precisely that. I learned, and it worked.
Another method for you to consider is something I did at the local vo-tech in the U.S. If you want to learn a subject, teach it, and learn it before you present it. It works.
Where there is a will, you will learn. Write your own PowerPoint notes and practice on your colleagues. Who knows? You may soon begin to become a valued expert.