Toughness Versus Hardness

If you were to ask someone what the difference between toughness and hardness is, most would generally answer that they’re the same thing. Such is not the case for anyone familiar with heat treatments in Gastonia, NC, however. To a seasoned metallurgist, toughness and hardness are two very different properties and they apply themselves to different metals in a variety of ways.

The question becomes, if toughness and hardness are different, what makes the different and how do they lend themselves to something that has been heat treated? To understand the difference between the two, read on below.


Hardness is actually a measurement of the energy that it would take to warp or deform a material after it has been formed. Basically, the amount of wear and tear that a tool or part can withstand before it becomes compromised is known as its hardness.

Hardness is an important facet when it comes to heat treatments in Gastonia, NC because it defines the effectiveness of whatever is being heat treated. When someone is seeking to have a part for their machine heat treated or a tool tempered, they’re looking to have its hardness raised so that it will perform at a higher level for longer, without failing.


Toughness is the measurement of how much energy it takes to physically break something after it has been heat treated. Toughness differs from hardness in that it’s judged exclusively by how much force is required to cause a break, assuming that warping and fracturing don’t render the tool useless.

If it takes very little energy to break something, we know that item to be brittle—another way of saying this would also be to say that it has a very low quality of toughness.

Working in tandem

Another question about toughness and hardness that frequently arises is whether or not the two are in tandem. Do toughness and hardness rise or decline together, opposite or not at all? The answer all depends on which heat treatments in Gastonia, NC the metal is being subjected to.

For example, if you use a lower hardening temperature to temper your metal, its toughness will be greatly improve, with little affect to the items hardness. This method would likely be used for tools, as both toughness and hardness are highly important in their function.

It is possible to have low toughness and high hardness, and vice versa, although it is not all too common nor is it practical in most settings. You’d either end up with an extremely malleable metal that can stand up to being affected by external variables, or a very rigid, brittle metal that quickly snaps when affected upon.

The harmony of heat treatments in Gastonia, NC lies somewhere in between, where toughness and hardness reach an equilibrium. And while it’s possible to raise and lower that equilibrium threshold, treating metal to address these two acute variables is the first step to ensuring that a metal is practical and resilient in whatever application is required of it.

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