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Hot Work Tool Steel Vs Cold Work Tool Steel, Which Is Right For Me?

Austin Peng
Published 5 Mar 2024

Hot work tool steel vs cold work tool steel, how to select? Does it occur to you why there are so many different tools for all kinds of work? Why don’t we use the same tool to cut everything?

The answer is that each material needs a specific material to cut and break, and the other might not attain the same level of precision. To manufacture tools from steel requires you to select the right steel for your work. Tool works require precision and care while choosing the material to ensure that you can achieve the required action.

Types of Tool Steel


Before you choose between tool steel, it is important to know about the available options. Until you don’t know the options and the tools they are meant for; you may not be able to select the right option.

  • Hot work tool steel– For processes that involve abrasion, heat and pressure
  • Cold work tool steel– For usage that does not require heating
  • Water-hardening tool steel– They have low-hardening and are used for woodwork tools and cutlery
  • High-speed tool steel– For high-speed cutting tools like drills and cutters
  • Shock-resisting tool steel– For tools that may have to bear shock, like hammers
  • Special purpose tool steel

You can use all of the tools mentioned above in steel materials depending on your need and function. To find which is right for you, let’s tell you in detail about hot work tool steel and cold work tool steel.

Hot Work Tool Steel


Hot work tool steel is used to manufacture tools that are involved in processes that involve heat. It is usually used in the non-cutting production of non-ferrous metal and iron pieces along with alloy derivatives at high temperatures. The manufacturing process revolves around high temperatures up to 700C. Metals with high resistance to heat are employed as hot work tool steel to make sure no structural changes take place during manufacturing.

Hot work steel tools experience continuous abrasion and stress when they come in contact with the material to be manufactured. Due to the use of high temperatures in these processes, the steel should be temperature resistant, wear-resistant and bear the thermal shock and high-temperature toughness.


  • Shock-resistant
  • Heat-checking resistant
  • Heat-treating deformation-resistant
  • Resistant to deformation at manufacturing temperature
  • Good machinability


  • Require high temperatures for manufacturing of tools
  • Wear and tear may occur in low-quality steel

Cold Work Tool Steel


Cold work tool steel is typically used in tools utilized in cold work applications where the tool surface temperature does not rise above 260C. However, they are also resistant to standard toughness, abrasion, wear resistance and heat softening resistance. They are used to process larger parts that do not go through high abrasion and wear during processes.

Cold work tool steel is of three types (air-hardening steel, oil-hardening steel and high carbon high chromium steel). They are used to produce shears, piercing dies, plastic molds, gages, taps etc. The absence of the need for high temperature in manufacturing provides relatively simpler manufacturing conditions.


  • Cold work tool steels with low allow additions
  • Low-cost
  • Wear-resistant


  • Not suitable for tools that go through high abrasiveness

Hot work tool steel vs Cold work tool steel – How are they different?

As we talked about different uses of both kinds of tool steels, it is worth knowing that there is more to their uniqueness than the temperature. Let’s tell you about their composition and applications to make the difference clearer.


Type of Tool Steel Hot Work Tool Steel Cold Work Tool Steel
Operating Temperature 100C-200C 350C-700C
Carbon Content Medium Carbon Content(0.3%~0.6%) High Carbon Content(1.45%~2.3%)
Composition Chromium









Characteristics Thermal Conductivity

Red Hardness

High Hardenability

Wear Resistance

Applications Die Casting Blanking Die

Bending Die

Cold Extrusion Die

Tool Steel Codes "H" Series(H13) "A", "O","D" Series

Hot Work Tool Steel Vs Cold Work Tool Steel, Which Is Right For Me?


Finding the right tool steel can be a challenge when you do not know everything about the different kinds. To make the right decision for manufacturing tools, you have to select the perfect steel for that purpose. Choosing between hot and cold work tool steel is mainly dependent on the manufacturing temperature and purpose of tools. When you know in detail about both, choosing the right one becomes convenient.


What is special purpose tool steel?

Special purpose tool steel is developed for special purposes and is of three types

  • F-type: Water hardened wear resistant steel
  • P-type: Mold steel with high machinability
  • L-type: Special purpose tool steel with low alloy

What is quenching?

Quenching is one of steel hardening processes that involves changing its microstructure.

What is the composition of hot work tool steel?

Hot work tool steel comprises 3–5% chromium, 9–18% tungsten, and small amounts of molybdenum.

Is cold tool steel rolled?

Cold tool steel is rolled and handled at temperatures lower than 400C.

Which steel is the hardest?

Chromium is said to be the strongest metal on Earth. The strength of steel also depends on the amount of chromium in processing. Hard steel is used to manufacture tools involved in high wear and abrasion processes.


While looking for steel for manufacturing tools, hot work tool steel and cold work tool steel are among the most common options apart from high-speed and shock resistant tool steels. Both have their pros and cons with varying characteristics for different kinds of tools. Hot work tool steelworks at high temperatures ranging between 350C to 700C, while cold work tool steel is ideal for low temperatures of 200C and 400C. Both are used for the manufacturing of different dies and cutlery.

Understanding hot work tool steel and cold work tool steel in detail let you choose the one that suits your need. If you are still unsure about the tool steel to choose, we are happy to help you through all intricacies.

Austin Peng
Co-founder of DEK
Hello! I'm Austin Peng. I manage a factory that specializes in CNC machining, injection molding, and sheet metal fabrication for small quantity production and rapid prototyping solutions. When I'm not immersed in work, I love diving into football matches, exploring new travel destinations, enjoying music, and staying updated on the latest tech trends. Feel free to chat with me about anything, whether it's work or life!


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