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Nieves, Lovelyb
Ortega, Alliah Maeb
Pili, Czarina Kamille a
Portes, Christian Jasper a

a. Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Institute of Agricultural Engineering

b. Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, Civil Engineering Department
Engineering Science 18: Materials of Engineering, Section V-2L


The spark test is performed by putting a piece of metal to a grinder in which the sparks formed
will determine the type of ferrous metal. Table 1 enumerated and classified the type of metal and
the sparks’ characteristics. Material A was identified as low-carbon steel, Material B was high-
carbon steel, Material C was medium-carbon steel, and Material D was cast iron. It showed an
inverse relationship between the length and number of sparks produced. Low-alloy steel had the
longest length with an average of 32 inches, while the shortest was cast iron with an average of 13
inches. Conversely, the low-alloy steel had the fewest number of sparks with an average of
14.6667, while cast iron had an average of 30.6667.

1.0 INTRODUCTION For this exercise, the third one was used. Tarnate et
al. (2011) defined this:

In the industry, ferrous metals, which is defined as The spark test is performed by holding a
the metals made up mostly of iron, are commonly metal sample next to an abrasive wheel.
used as these are abundant in the world. Ferrous Practice allows for applying the right
metals can be further classified into subcategories, amount of pressure that does not hamper the
cast irons and steels. Cast irons are ferrous metals rotation of the wheel. Using this constant
that contain 2 to 6 percent carbon which make it hard pressure also allows for objective
but brittle and used to make manhole covers and comparison among specimens. (p. 24)
engine blocks (Ferrous Metals, 2010). On the other
hand, steels are ferrous metals that are alloys of Furthermore, they also added that the presence or
carbon, iron, as well as alloying elements which are absence of sparks, as well as its length, color and
important in improving its properties (Material form determine the classification of the metal. Figure
Science: Ferrous materials, 2017). Cast irons and 1 enumerates the characteristics of sparks that
steels can be further subdivided based on the amount determine the classification of the ferrous metal.
of carbon and the alloying material used. In order to
classify a metal, several methodologies were
developed: surface appearance, chip test, and spark
test. Surface appearance means that identification of
a ferrous metal is purely based on its external
appearance which might be telltale marks from
rolling, casting, or forging; chip test is defined as the
removal of a piece of the metal in order to classify
the material based on its appearance and the ease of
chipping (Tarnate, Dungca-Ignacio, & Anit, 2011).

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Spark Test of Metals
Nievesb, Ortegab, Pilia, Portesa

Figure 1. Types of Spark. Image source:


2.1 Materials used

The experiment made use of a grinding machine,
measuring tool, and four scrap metal specimens. The
four metal specimens are low-alloy steel, high-carbon
steel, medium-carbon steel, and cast iron.

2.2 Spark test

The spark test was used to identify the sparks

produced by different metals when in contact with
the grinding machine. The metal samples were placed
next to the machine and pressed against it with
constant pressure.
Figure 2 – Spark test for high-carbon steel

The test started by turning on the grinding machine.

The metal specimens were positioned with an angle
touching the wheel of the machine. The pressure
applied in touching the specimen to the wheel and the
area of contact were maintained constant. The sparks
produced by the metals were observed.

Figure 3 – Spark test for medium-

carbon steel

Figure 1 – Spark test for low-alloy steel

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a. BS Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

b. BS Civil Engineering
[Submitted 20 February 2019]
Spark Test of Metals
Nievesb, Ortegab, Pilia, Portesa


Number of
Specimen Color Length Sparks

Trials 1 2 3 1 2 3

Low- Orange 28 31 37 12 15 17
Figure 4 – Spark test for cast iron

2.2.2 High- orange 16 19 17 24 27 33

Using a steel tape, the length of the sparks is steel
measured. The length was measured from the point of
contact of metal on the wheel to the end-tail of the
spark. Each specimen was tested three times. Medium- Yellow 22 26 33 14 16 20

Cast Iron 10 13 16 25 32 35
The carrier lines were observed and classified. The Orange
results were recorded to the chart and were compared
in order to differentiate the specimens from each Table 1. Data from the spark test of metals
other using their sparks and carrier lines.
Table 1 shows the color, displacement and the
The process of the experiment was recorded in a number of sparks produced by the metals upon their
video to be able to thoroughly classify the sparks contact with the grinder. The forces are consistently
produced by each specimen. The approximate and continuously applied on each material. Based on
number of sparks, as well as its color, was observed. the data obtained, it was observed that the length of
sparks and the number sparks produced were
inversely proportional to each other. Therefore, the
longer its length the lesser the number of sparks
produced and vice versa. Moreover, it was seen that
the components of each material greatly contributed
to their properties. Since, it is said that low-alloy steel
contains low carbon content while high- carbon steel
contains high carbon content (Welding Theory and
Application,1976). Therefore, the amount of carbon
present in the material affects the length and number
of sparks they produced. The carbon content of
material that caused the fork/ burst is inversely

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a. BS Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
b. BS Civil Engineering
[Submitted 20 February 2019]
Spark Test of Metals
Nievesb, Ortegab, Pilia, Portesa

proportional to the sparks’ length. attire, gloves, and goggles to avoid sparks from
getting in contact with the skin.
Spark Test is a method used to identify different
types of ferrous metals. It is done by the use of a (n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2019, from Integrated
grinding tool or machine. Sparks produced are Publishing:
related to the amount of carbon content of a material
that dictates the length and the number of sparks
observed. Also, the strength of bonds within the Ferrous Metals. (2010). Retrieved February 17, 2019,
material is inversely proportional to the amount of from Inland Importers and Consumers
carbon present in the material (Giachino and Weeks, Association:
Welding Skills,1985). Although there were
limitations in analysis of the metals since it only
requires a grinding tool, it is a convenient and very Material Science: Ferrous materials. (2017, August
easy method to sort mixed steels. Also, appropriately 5). Retrieved February 17, 2019, from IES
identifying the metals will help us to determine their General Studies:
Tarnate, P. M., Dungca-Ignacio, M. C., & Anit, G.
There were four tests discussed in the laboratory for M. (2011). Laboratory Manual for ENSC 18
the identification of metals, namely: surface (Materials of Engineering). Department of
appearance test, chip test, spark test, and the Engineering Science, College of
magnetic test. The spark test was performed and used Engineering and Agro-Industrial
for the identification of the four given metals in this Technology, University of the Philippines
exercise. Considering the color, length, and Los Banos.
approximate number of sparks generated, it can be
concluded that metal A was low-carbon steel, metal Giachino and Weeks, Welding Skills, American
B was high-carbon steel, metal C was medium- Technical Publishers Inc., 1985.
carbon steel, and metal D was cast iron.
Welding Theory and Application, TM 9-237,
While all of the tests discussed in the laboratory are Department of the Army Technical Manual,
helpful in the identification of metals, the results are Headquarters, Department of the Army,
not one hundred percent guaranteed. Each test can Washington D.C., 1976.
only narrow down the criteria for identification up to
some extent. For example, the surface appearance test
and the chip test only rely on the color of the external
and fractured surfaces, and there are several metals
which share the same external and chiseled color.
The magnetic test can only identify if the metal is
magnetic or not. With this, it can be concluded that
the spark test gives results with the highest accuracy
among the four tests discussed.


It is recommended for the group member with the

steadiest and most consistent hand to perform the
spark test. Having more trials also yield better results.
Recording data while the experiment is ongoing is
recommended too. This is to have more accurate
readings of the length and approximation of the
number of sparks. It is also suggested to wear proper
2 of 4

a. BS Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

b. BS Civil Engineering
[Submitted 20 February 2019]