The Brinell hardness test is used for larger samples in materials with a coarse or inhomogeneous grain structure. This page describes the Brinell hardness test in detail and gives you practical information on how to apply it.

The Brinell hardness test at a glance:

  • For hardness testing of larger samples
  • Optical reading required
  • Standards: ASTM E10, ISO 6506, JIS Z 2243

See our complete range of Brinell hardness testing machines

See our hardness testing conversion table


The Brinell hardness test was originally developed in the late 1800s by the Swedish engineer of the same name. He wanted to find a method to control the quality/hardness of steel. His solution was to press a railway wheel-bearing ball into the material and then measure the size of the mark it left. The method proved reliable and in 1900 the Brinell hardness test was officially born.

Today, the Brinell test is performed using a Brinell hardness test unit. The machine presses a tungsten carbide ball into the sample, and then optically measures the diameter of the impression.
  • Indenter sizes: 1, 2.5, 5 and 10 mm
  • Loads: From 1 kgf to 3000 kgf
  • Maximum hardness: 650 HBW

A hardness test for larger samples

As the Brinell hardness test (HBW) indentation leaves a relatively large impression, the Brinell hardness test is better suited to larger samples with a coarse or inhomogeneous grain structure, such as castings and forgings.

Good to know

HBW stands for Hardness Brinell Wolfram carbide. Wolfram carbide (= tungsten carbide) underlines that newer Brinell standards call for the use of tungsten carbide balls, as opposed to the (softer) steel balls previously used (HBS). Values will differ at higher hardness.


Before performing the Brinell hardness test, you must prepare the surface of the material to be tested.

Surface preparation

Before the sample material is placed in the Brinell hardness test unit, it must be either:
  • Machined
  • Ground
  • Lapped
  • Polished


Brinell loads table
  • Indentation time: 10-15 seconds
  • Sample thickness ASTM: At least 10 times the indentation depth
  • Sample thickness ISO: At least 8 times the indentation depth

The most common Brinell hardness test methods

There are a number of common Brinell hardness test methods, with corresponding materials and hardness ranges. Most test methods can be performed on any Brinell hardness testing machine.

The Brinell methods are generally divided into four subgroups (HB30, HB10, HB5, HB2.5), each suitable for a different group of materials.
  • Each subgroup has the same force/diameter ratio (F/D2)
  • Measured Brinell hardnesses can only be compared within individual subgroups

* Materials mentioned in the table are examples of typical materials only.


  • HBW 2.5/187.5: Brinell 2.5 mm tungsten carbide ball and 187.5 kgf load.
  • HBW 5/750: Brinell 5.0 mm tungsten carbide ball and 750 kgf load.


Hardness testing is key in most quality control procedures. That’s why we provide a complete range of Brinell hardness testing machines and accessories.

All our Brinell hardness test units are designed to deliver the long-term performance for which Struers is renowned.

Duramin-4: Manual Micro and Micro/Macro Hardness Testing Machine
Load ranges: 10 gf – 2 kgf and 1 kgf – 62.5 kgf

Duramin-40: Semi-Automatic and Fully Automatic Micro/Macro Hardness Testing Machine
Load ranges: 10 gf – 10 kgf, 10 gf – 31.25 kgf, and 1 gf – 62.5 kgf

Duramin-100: Fully Automatic Micro/Macro/Universal Hardness Testing Machine
Load ranges: 10 gf – 62.5 kgf, 10 gf – 150 kgf, 10 gf – 250 kgf

Duramin-600: Semi-Automatic Universal Hardness Tester
Load ranges: 1 – 250 kgf, 3 – 750 kgf, 5 – 3000 kgf

Duramin-650: Semi-Automatic and Fully Automatic Universal Hardness Tester
Load ranges: 1 – 250 kgf, 3 – 750 kgf, 5 – 3000 kgf

Duramin-3000: Dedicated Single-Task Brinell Hardness Testing Machine
Load range: 62.5 – 3000 kgf

Check out our complete range of Duramin hardness testers



If you would like to know more about the hardness testing methods for metallic and other materials, including a full definition of hardness testing, the different applications of hardness tests and how to prepare for hardness tests, download our resources.

Find all you need to know about hardness testing

Download our Hardness Testing Application Note

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