With so many stainless steel options out there, it can be difficult for handle manufacturers to wrap their heads around which is best for the handle of a specific product. Fortunately, you are not the first to develop a product with stainless steel handles, so there is a lot of existing knowledge available that you can draw on … particularly from your handle manufacturer.
Whether you are building an appliance, a tool, or some other product, you can find an ideal balance between desirable qualities and affordability.
Qualities You May Need in Your Stainless Steel Handles
A quick look at a stainless steel grades chart will show you how many potential choices you have with stainless. Of course, there are certain qualities you want from a handle that will limit the pool of choices quite a bit. These qualities may include:
Not all stainless steel grades are created equal in terms of price.
Raw material cost is based in part on availability. Sticking to stainless steel types that are popular and readily available will keep cost down.
Deformation is important for many handle designs, particularly for appliances. Appliance handles often need to have tight corner radii, in which case you need to prioritize formability. This quality can vary wildly from grade to grade.
The more your product is up against substances that cause corrosion, such as water or solvents, the more corrosion resistance you need. Most popular stainless steels for handle use have high corrosion resistance, but some grades are definitely more corrosion-resistant than others.
You definitely want your handle color to complement or match the color of your product, so you have to consider what color options are available with the grade you use.
Using the same grade as the appliance or tool is the most obvious solution here, but there are plenty of finishes you can use to adapt the color of the handle. Finishes can transform the look of a handle in practically any way you want.
Durability is a major concern in certain applications, particularly tools that see rugged use (such as shovel handles). In these cases, you’ll want steel that’ll hold up for years, not just months.
Manufacturing needs are only part of the overall equation. You also have to consider what the end user will want from the handle.
A handle that’s convenient and easy to grip is a handle that’s customer-friendly.
Metal Grades Ready-Made for Stainless Steel Handles
There are several grades of stainless steel that manufacturers lean on when making handles -- primarily because they offer the best combination of the above qualities.
Popular stainless steel types include:
304 Stainless Steel
This is highly desirable handle steel for multiple reasons. It has great quality and excellent formability. Also, 304 stainless steel has a high nickel content, which gives it a bluish coloring and helps make it more formable.
Of course, that’s why it’s the most expensive of the steels we’re discussing.
There are also spinoffs of 304, such as 304L stainless steel, which has lower carbon content and is easier to weld.
201 Stainless Steel
The 201 grade of stainless steel was developed in an attempt to use less nickel than other stainless grades. The lower nickel content makes it cheaper to produce.
It actually has a higher tensile strength than 304 and similar corrosion resistance.
439 Stainless Steel
This grade of stainless steel is popular with appliance manufacturers because it is less expensive than both 200 and 300 series steels and often matches the skins of appliances.
441 Stainless Steel
441 stainless steel has great temperature resistance, making it a good choice for oven door handles and similar applications. You don’t want to an appliance that’s too hot to handle! (Har, har.)
Need More Help Choosing the Right Stainless Steel?
An all-in-one metal manufacturer can help you with the decision-making process when it comes to material choice. That way you can focus on your other stainless steel handle needs -- design, packaging, and so on.
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