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Science Technology

Why Your Silverware Rusts 27

Posted by timothy
from the hearts-of-stone-don't-need-to-rust dept.
Judebert writes: "Watching your stainless steel silverware rust is enough to drive a geek to apoplexy. Not that you care, just that it is stainless, after all. Well, some clever Brits at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine have figured out Why Stainless Steel Corrodes and published a like-named article in Nature. Science Daily, as usual, mirrored their press release. When stainless steel goes, the results can be catastrophic. Especially considering that the stuff is used in Formula 1 engines, industrial equipment, and thousands of other places. Turns out the problem is sulfur in the steel / chromium alloy. But they've also figured out ways to fix the problem without resorting to very expensive low-sulphur steels."
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Why Your Silverware Rusts

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    As well as does tin foil and epsom salt.
    • by Zurk (37028)
      doesnt help with deep pits of corrosion which is what this is talking about. heat treatment or improvements in the forming process are the only things that help. the main problem is uneven distribution of chromium.

  • ..does this make it stainless stainless steel?
  • by Evro (18923)
    ...stainless steel silverware ...

    Unless it's made of silver, shouldn't that be called flatware [dictionary.com]?

    Sorry for being anal, but "stainless steel silverware" sounds dumb.
    • by Atrahasis (556602)
      Try looking up silverware [dictionary.com] and discover

      silverware Pronunciation Key (slvr-wâr) n.

      1.Hollowware and flatware made of or plated with silver
      2.Metal eating and serving utensils

      Metal!=silver in case you were wondering.

    • > Unless it's made of silver, shouldn't that be called flatware [dictionary.com]?

      Well, yes, but in defence of the Slashdot editors, they entitled it "why your silverware rusts".

      For Slashdotters, any utensil that (a) isn't a spork, and (b) isn't made of plastic, counts as "silverware" ;-)

      It'd make a neat Slashdot poll, though. Do you own:

      ...silverware (utensils made of Ag, often passed down through the maternal half of your family for generations, that sits in a velvet-lined case and slowly tarnishes until Mom decides it's time to clean it again)

      ...flatware (the same utensils, but made out of stainless steel, that you actually eat with ;-)

      ...CowboyNealware? (Hey, CowboyNeal! Buy me a pizza!)

      • often passed down through the maternal half of your family for generations, that sits in a velvet-lined case and slowly tarnishes until Mom decides it's time to clean it again

        Wow, that's not just my family? Actually, ours sat in said case until it broke, now it's in the basement. Perish the thought of eating with the stuff!
  • It's in the frigging name of the alloy, yet we still can't figure out that it just stains less than regular metals (definately true). Otherwise it would be called stainfree, as in free of stains, or will not stain.
  • When stainless steel goes, the results can be catastrophic. Especially considering that the stuff is used in Formula 1 engines, industrial equipment, and thousands of other places

    In application where corrosion is a big concern, there are many different alloys and other metals that are very often used instead of plain 316SS. Two that jump to mind from my job at a chemical plant are titanium and nickel.
  • by pyramid termite (458232) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @09:57PM (#3011620)
    Silverware does not rust - it tarnishes. And stainless steel "silverware" is technically flatware. And no, it's not polite to play Asteroids on your Palm Pilot during dinner. Sit up straight and remember that it's rude to comment on the condition of your host's table service and for Pete's sake don't use your cell phone's vibrate function to shake the martinis. Kids these days - no manners.
  • by Eager Newbie (90366) <bradscope@noSpAm.gmail.com> on Thursday February 14, 2002 @10:29PM (#3011738)
    Sulfur is often added to steel (not just stainless) to make it easier to machine (faster machining, less wear of cutting bits, producing a lower cost). This is really beneficial in stainless steel, which is typically harder to machine than regular steel. The chromium in stainless steel hardens the more it is "worked" (milling, turning on a lathe, etc).

    Take a look at Machinery's Handbook for detailed info.
    • Stainless is harder to work in someways, easier in others.

      For example, if you have a chunk of carbon steel, and you want to cut a shape into it with an abrasive, it is probably going to lose it's temper due to the heat (temper like is defined at the bottom of this page, not like angry) Don Fogg Custom knives [dfoggknives.com] .. check out his forged, folded knives [dfoggknives.com] also! they are sweet, yet bitterly priced.

      Stainless steel has a much higher resistance to the loss of temper due to the heat generated in it's grinding or machining. Stainless is also much less likely to have carbon burn off when under high heat.

      However, Stainless in it's many forms requires a much more tightly controlled Quenching and heat treating process in order to maximize it's properties.

      Stainless is good for dishwashers. Not for knives. and especially not for swords.
  • or does it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2002 @01:13PM (#3014053)
    My stainless steel cutlery is over fifty years old, and it looks like new.

    It's some kind of Swedish steel. I also have a Swedish knife where the blade is so tough that I had to bring it to a professional knife sharpener to put an edge on it. That was nearly fifteen years ago, and weirdly enough it hasn't dulled a bit although I use it regularly.

    What the hell is it with Sweden and steel anyway? Do they use magical Dwarfs in mountain caves to forge it or something?

    • An old book on the history of the steel industry mentioned that the high quality of Swedish steel was primarily due to the high quality of their iron ore. It had unusually low amounts of the elements that degrade the quality of the steel.
    • by OuD (527033)
      Oh.. i think it's a lot older than fifty years. According to nordic tales you probably have one of those +2 Swedish Knives of Bearslaying forged in the dark caverns of Kebnekaise.

      The metal, originally known as 'Ril' (probably etymologically related to the english 'real', used by merchants to differentiate between the 'real' metal and fake ones) was very valuable and, when found in the mines, the miner would usually run around screaming 'mitt ril! mitt ril!' which roughly translates to 'my ril! my ril!'.

      Many years later the dwarves adopted the commonly used phrase giving birth to the modern word 'Mithril'.

      Just hold on the knife.. ;)

  • I don't know about you, but my flatware rusts because I rarely do the dishes, thus leave it sitting in the sink with water and grime for weeks on end...

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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