There are three methods of metalworking: (1) hot working, (2) cold working, and (3) extruding. The method used will depend on the metal involved and the part required, although in some instances both hot and cold working methods may be used to make a single part.

Hot working

Almost all steel is hot worked from the ingot into some form from which it is either hot or cold worked to the finished shape. When an ingot is stripped from its mold, its surface is solid, but the interior is still molten. The ingot is then placed in a soaking pit which retards loss of heat, and the molten interior gradually solidifies. After soaking, the temperature is equalized throughout the ingot, then it is reduced to intermediate size by rolling, making it more readily handled.

The rolled shape is called a bloom when its section dimensions are 6 x 6 inches or larger and approximately square. The section is called a billet when it is approximately square and less than 6 x 6 inches. Rectangular sections which have a width greater than twice their thickness are called slabs. The slab is the intermediate shape from which sheets are rolled.

Blooms, billets, or slabs are heated above the critical range and rolled into a variety of shapes of uniform cross section. The more common of these rolled shapes are sheet, bar, channels, angles, I-beams, and the like. As will be discussed later in this chapter, hot rolled material is frequently finished by cold rolling or drawing to obtain accurate finish dimensions and a bright, smooth surface.

Complicated sections which cannot be rolled, or sections of which only a small quantity is required, are usually forged. Forging of steel is a mechanical working at temperatures above the critical range to shape the metal as desired. Forging is done either by pressing or hammering the heated steel until the desired shape is obtained.

Pressing is used when the parts to be forged are large and heavy; this process also replaces hammering where high grade steel is required. Since a press is slow acting, its force is uniformly transmitted to the center of the section, thus affecting the interior grain structure as well as the exterior to give the best possible structure throughout.

Hammering can be used only on relatively small pieces. Since hammering transmits its force almost instantly, its effect is limited to a small depth. Thus, it is necessary to use a very heavy hammer or to subject the part to repeated blows to ensure complete working of the section. If the force applied is too weak to reach the center, the finished forged surface will be concave. If the center was properly worked, the surface will be convex or bulged. The advantage of hammering is that the operator has control over both the amount of pressure applied and the finishing temperature, and is able to produce small parts of the highest grade. This type of forging is usually referred to as smith forging. It is used extensively where only a small number of parts are needed. Considerable machining time and material are saved when a part is smith forged to approximately the finished shape.

Steel is often harder than necessary and too brittle for most practical uses when put under severe internal strain. To relieve such strain and reduce brittleness, it is tempered after being hardened. This consists of heating the steel in a furnace to a specified temperature and then cooling it in air, oil, water, or a special solution. Temper condition refers to the condition of metal or metal alloys with respect to hardness or toughness. Rolling, hammering, or bending these alloys, or heat treating and aging them, causes them to become tougher and harder. At times these alloys become too hard for forming and have to be reheat treated or annealed.

Metals are annealed to relieve internal stresses, soften the metal, make it more ductile, and refine the grain structure. Annealing consists of heating the metal to a prescribed temperature, holding it there for a specified length of time, and then cooling the metal back to room temperature. To produce maximum softness, the metal must be cooled very slowly. Some metals must be furnace cooled; others may be cooled in air.

Normalizing applies to iron base metals only. Normalizing consists of heating the part to the proper temperature, holding it at that temperature until it is uniformly heated, and then cooling it in still air. Normalizing is used to relieve stresses in metals.

Cold Working

Cold working applies to mechanical working performed at temperatures below the critical range. It results in a strain hardening of the metal. In fact, the metal often becomes so hard that it is difficult to continue the forming process without softening the metal by annealing.

Since the errors attending shrinkage are eliminated in cold working, a much more compact and better metal is obtained. The strength and hardness, as well as the elastic limit, are increased; but the ductility decreases. Since this makes the metal more brittle, it must be heated from time to time during certain operations to remove the undesirable effects of the working.

While there are several cold working processes, the two with which the aviation mechanic will be principally concerned are cold rolling and cold drawing. These processes give the metals desirable qualities which cannot be obtained by hot working.

Cold rolling usually refers to the working of metal at room temperature. In this operation, the materials that have been rolled to approximate sizes are pickled to remove the scale, after which they are passed through chilled finishing rolls. This gives a smooth surface and also brings the pieces to accurate dimensions. The principal forms of cold rolled stocks are sheets, bars, and rods.

Cold drawing is used in making seamless tubing, wire, streamlined tie rods, and other forms of stock. Wire is made from hot rolled rods of various diameters. These rods are pickled. in acid to remove scale, dipped in lime water, and then dried in a steam room where they remain until ready for drawing. The lime coating adhering to the metal serves as a lubricant during the drawing operation.

The size of the rod used for drawing depends upon the diameter wanted in the finished wire. To reduce the rod to the desired size, it is drawn cold through a die. One end of the rod is filed or hammered to a point and slipped through the die opening. Here it is gripped by the jaws of the drawing block and pulled through the die. This series of operations is done by a mechanism known as a drawbench.

In order to reduce the rod gradually to the desired size, it is necessary to draw the wire through successively smaller dies. Because each of these drawings reduces the ductility of the wire, it must be annealed from time to time before further drawings can be accomplished. Although cold working reduces the ductility, it increases the tensile strength of the wire.

In making seamless steel aircraft tubing, the tubing is cold drawn through a ring shaped die with a mandrel or metal bar inside the tubing to support it while the drawing operations are being performed. This forces the metal to flow between the die and the mandrel and affords a means of controlling the wall thickness and the inside and outside diameters.


The extrusion process involves the forcing of metal through an opening in a die, thus causing the metal to take the shape of the die opening. Some metals such as lead, tin, and aluminum may be extruded cold; but generally metals are heated before the operation is begun.

The principal advantage of the extrusion process is its flexibility. Aluminum, because of its workability and other favorable properties, can be economically extruded to more intricate shapes and larger sizes than is practicable with many other metals.

Extruded shapes are produced in very simple as well as extremely complex sections. In this process a cylinder of aluminum, for instance, is heated to 750° F to 850° F and is then forced through the opening of a die by a hydraulic ram. The opening is the shape desired for the cross section of the finished extrusion.

Many structural parts, such as channels, angles, T-sections, and Z-sections are formed by the extrusion process.