In a previous article I wrote about how to normalize and anneal steel after forging but before the final steps of austenitizing, quenching, and tempering. One of the things that I pointed out in that article was that using a normalized, pearlite microstructure to heat treat from would lead to very rapid response to heat treatment. An annealed structure such as comes from the manufacturer takes more time, and higher temperature, to properly austenitize the steel. Below shows the resulting as-quenched hardness for 1084 and 52100 comparing normalized and annealed steel. These were all quenched from approximately where they became nonmagnetic (1385°F for 1084 and 1445°F for 52100), relatively low in temperature compared with the typically recommended temperature for heat treatment.
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