4130 vs 1020

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Joined: Mon May 13, 2019 8:05 pm

4130 vs 1020

Post by builderwannabe » Sat Sep 28, 2019 6:11 am

Gents, more seemingly simple questions here. The plans seem to call for a lot of 1020 steel for the metal parts of the plane(i.e. landing gear, cables, fittings,...) but it appears that now folks are using 4130. While I understand that material science has progressed a lot since the 1930s, is there a reason for the added strength in the 4130, other than the added safety margin( and wouldn’t Mr. Pietenpol have designed the parts with a safety margin). The reason I ask is 4130 must be TIG welded while other forms of carbon steel could be stick or wire welded. I really can’t drop 2k into a TIG setup when I promised my wife the plane would cost less than 15k.


tom kreiner
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Re: 4130 vs 1020

Post by tom kreiner » Sat Sep 28, 2019 7:08 am


While you are free to build your plane with anything you prefer, you may, at some future time, decide to sell that craft, and build some other plane. When you go to sell the plane, the pool of buyers may be limited if you’ve used non aircraft materials.

Answering your specific question about the two materials, 4130 has roughly: Double the Ultimate strength, Double the Yield strength, and about 2.5x the FATIGUE strength of 1020.

On the surface this may not seem important, but when flying in light turbulence - a condition hard to avoid - all of the lift, cabana, engine mount, and empennage fittings will be subject to cyclic stresses. These are the stresses that produce fatigue...

After some amount of cyclic stress exposure, a fitting will fail. Would you prefer to use a non aircraft material in that application, or a something that was designed specifically to withstand those stresses?

All that said, to the best of my knowledge, there has never been a structural failure of a Pietenpol.

As for welding, newer Tig machines, or even used ones are available at pretty reasonable costs. I picked up a Miller 200A Tig machine for $350. Including a full tank of argon. They’re out there, just look. Also, don’t dismiss gas welding, as over twenty thousand J3 cubs were welded with gas torches.

Hope this helps...

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Re: 4130 vs 1020

Post by EAB4 » Sat Sep 28, 2019 7:15 am

pretty sure 4130 has been gas (oxy-acetylene) welded for many years...

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Re: 4130 vs 1020

Post by builderwannabe » Sat Sep 28, 2019 7:03 pm

Tom and EAB4, thanks for the reply and info, sounds like i best buy a TIG welder or learn to gas weld.


Bill Church
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Re: 4130 vs 1020

Post by Bill Church » Sat Sep 28, 2019 10:54 pm

Non-aircraft material? 1020/1025 steel tubing actually has a good deal of history in aircraft structures, such as J3 Cub and Aeronca Champ/Chief.
There's nothing wrong with using 1020 steel where called for in the plans.
Finding 1020 steel tubing in the specific sizes called for, in small quantities, however, may prove to be a challenge. 4130 is much more readily available in all of the various sizes needed.
If using 4130 steel, the most important things to keep in mind are:
1) use the proper filler rods
2) allow the welds to cool slowly in still air.

Bill C.

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Re: 4130 vs 1020

Post by ArthurD » Sun Sep 29, 2019 2:44 pm

There isn't that big a difference between 1020 and 4130. 4130 has 80 KSI ultimate and 52 KSI yield in the annealed state. 1020 has 57 KSI ultimate and 43 KSI yield annealed. So it's a little weaker but it's also more ductile and it absorbs twice as much energy on the Izod Impact test. I'd argue that that the 1020 frame is certainly strong enough for normal flying, I don't think one has ever failed in flight, and if you were to crash it then it would absorb more energy.

Brian Amato
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Re: 4130 vs 1020

Post by Brian Amato » Tue Oct 08, 2019 3:53 pm

4130 is very easy to gas weld. I built my entire Corben Jr. Ace fuselage out of 4130 and it welds like a dream. I know....that probably sounds like a smart a## thing to say if you're just starting to weld but, really, it's pretty easy after you've done a little practicing.
Use mild steel rod.

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Re: 4130 vs 1020

Post by Cbear » Fri Nov 15, 2019 8:32 am

If you don't mind gas welding, you can usually find a good deal on a setup on craigslist or Facebook marketplace. Around here in Detroit I see sets come up almost daily for about $400 for large tanks/torch.

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