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Rockwell scale

The Rockwell scale characterizes the indentation hardness of materials through the depth of penetration of an indenter, loaded on a material sample and compared to the penetration in some reference material. It is one of several definitions of hardness in materials science. Its hardness values are noted by HR* where * is the letter for the scale used. Hardness' relation to strength is that both are measures of the pressure it take to get plastic deformation to occur in materials.



The determination of the Rockwell hardness of a material involves the application of a minor load followed by a major load, and then noting the depth of penetration, vis a vis, hardness value directly from a dial, in which a harder material gives a higher number. The chief advantage of Rockwell hardness is its ability to display hardness values directly, thus obviating tedious calculations involved in other hardness measurement techniques. Also, the relatively simple and inexpensive set-up enables its installation in college laboratories.

It is typically used in engineering and metallurgy. Its commercial popularity arises from its speed, reliability, robustness, resolution and small area of indentation.

Good practices

  • Cleaning indenter and test-piece to be clear of dirt, grease, rust or paint
  • Measuring on a perpendicular, flat surface ("round work correction factors" are invoked to adjust for test-piece curvature)
  • Ensuring that the thickness of the test-piece is at least 10 times the depth of the indentation
  • Maintaining an adequate spacing between multiple indentations
  • Controlling the speed of the indentation

Scales and values

There are several alternative scales, the most commonly used being the "B", and "C" scales. Both express hardness as an arbitrary dimensionless number.

  • The B-scale is used for softer materials (such as aluminum, brass, and softer steels). It employs a hardened steel ball as the indenter and a 100kg weight to obtain a value expressed as "HRB".
  • The C-scale, for harder materials, uses a diamond cone, known as a Brale indenter and a 150kg weight to obtain a value expressed as "HRC".

Readings below HRC 20 are generally considered unreliable, as are readings much above HRB 100.

Typical values

  • Very hard steel (e.g. a good knife blade): HRC 55 - HRC 62
  • Axes, chisels, etc.: HRC 40 - 45

Several other scales, including the extensive A-scale, are used for specialized applications. There are special scales for measuring case-hardened specimens.


  • International (ISO)
  • ISO 6508-1 : Metallic materials -- Rockwell hardness test -- Part 1: Test method (scales A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, K, N, T)
  • ASTM E18 : Standard methods for rockwell hardness and rockwell superficial hardness of metallic materials

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Rockwell_scale". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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