A semiempirical analysis of the indentation process is made as a result of which the hardness indentation data obtained with ball, cone and square-based pyramid indenters are related to the uniaxial stress-strain curve of the indented material. It is shown that deductions from the analysis are valid only for annealed materials. The factors liable to result in erroneous hardness readings are considered and the influence of residual stresses in the surface and the subsurface layers of the material under examination are shown to explain (i) the dependence of cone and pyramid hardness on the applied load and (ii) the anomalous influence of cone angle on the measured hardness when large angle indenters are pressed into materials which have been strain-hardened prior to the hardness measurement.

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