Tag Archives: Material

Has Life Left You Hardened Or Tempered?

25 Aug
Blast furnaces of Třinec Iron and Steel Works.

Blast furnaces of Třinec Iron and Steel Works. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would like to ask you all to indulge me in the following analogy.  I am by no means intimately familiar with metalworking, so if I make factual mistakes while making my analogy, I claim creative license.

When steel is worked, it goes through several processes. First, it’s placed in the furnace, and the heat of the fire softens the steel, allowing it to be shaped, or ‘worked’, after which it is plunged into water or oil.  At this point, the steel is ‘hardened’, but it isn’t strong;  carbon trapped inside the now crystallized part of the steel  causes it to be brittle.  If the steel were left in this state, a hard blow could cause it to break or shatter.  To prevent this, the steel is then submitted to a process called ‘tempering‘, by which it is again heated, but to a lower temperature, until the carbon has had time to diffuse out of the crystallized parts of the steel, and allowed to cool slowly until it reaches the desired ‘temper point’, and only then is it plunged into the water or oil, to stop the tempering process at the desired point.  If this process is done properly, you are left with a piece of steel which has most of the strength of hardened steel, but much less susceptible to breakage.

The troubles we face in our lives are much like this process.  Our hard times are the furnaces in which we are forged.  Continue reading

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