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Matt Bower

junkyard steel facts

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I sent off another batch of junkyard steel to my buddy with access to the spectrometer, and earlier today he sent me the results of his analyses. (I've done this once before; can't recall whether I posted the results here.) Some of y'all might find these interesting. Be aware that his machine isn't set up to read tungsten, so there could be W in any of these and we wouldn't know it.

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  • Torsion bar (make unknown)

C:0.60 | Mn:0.85 | P:0.030 | S:0.025 | Si:0.28 | Cu:0.01 | Cr:0.80 | Mo:0.02 | Ni:0.01 | Sn:0.01 | V:0.008 | Nb: -

Looks like 5160.

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  • Cheapo, made-in-India, Harbor Freight bastard file:

C:1.3 | Mn: 0.34 | P:0.015 | S:0.009 | Si:0.24 | Cu:0.01 | Cr:0.62 | Mo:0.005 | Ni:0.02 | Sn: 0.003 | V: - | Nb:0.010

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  • Huge old Nicholson mill bastard file:

C:1.28 | Mn:0.34 | P: 0.016 | S:0.015 | Si:0.15 | Cu: 0.02 | Cr:0.14 | Mo:0.005 | Ni: 0.02 | Sn: 0.002 | V: - | Nb: -

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  • Huge old Heller mill bastard file:

C:1.20 | Mn:0.25 | P:0.010 | S:0.020 | Si:0.12 | Cu:0.04 | Cr:0.03 | Mo: 0.004 | Ni:0.03 | Sn:0.018 | V: 0.005 | Nb: -

 

Did you notice that the steel in the cheapo HF file is extremely comparable to the old American files? Steel snobs, take note: just 'cuz it's cheap and made in less developed countries doesn't necessarily mean it's crap.

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  • Railroad tie plate (surprise here for me; I was figuring on something like 1050):

C:0.19 | Mn:0.42 | P:0.005 | S:0.030 | Si::0.04 | Cu:0.24 | Cr:0.05 | Mo:0.009 | Ni:0.07 | Sn:0.011 | V: - | Nb: -

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  • Used leaf spring of somewhat indeterminate provenance, from the dumpster behind my local truck spring shop (taken with the manager's permission!):

C:0.57 | Mn:0.74 | P:0.010 | S:0.015 | Si:0.23 | Cu:0.25 | Cr:0.70 | Mo:0.02 | Ni:0.09 | Sn:0.008 | V:0.004 | Nb:0.070

 

In other words, it's 5160. I was actually hoping for something else, just to help reinforce the point not to take the junkyard steel charts too seriously. But in this case the charts were right.

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  • Big ol' truck coil spring taken from the same dumpster as the leaf spring, above:

C:0.58 | Mn:0.82 | P:0.018 | S:0.016 | Si:0.90 | Cu:0.01 | Cr:0.46 | Mo:0.01 | Ni:0.005 | Sn:0.002 | V:0.094 | Nb:0.007

 

I'm not sure what that alloy is; it may be proprietary. It's not quite 5160 (too little chromium), it's not quite 6150 (too much carbon and not enough silicon), it's not quite 9260 (too much chromium, not enough silicon) -- and it has almost 0.10% vanadium, which is enough to make me think it might not be an accident. Should be pretty tough stuff.

 

I have three other samples I can post later, when I find out what they came from. (A friend sent them to me for analysis; I don't know anything about them at the moment, except their chemistry.)

Edited by Matt Bower

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I sent off another batch of junkyard steel to my buddy with access to the mass spectrometer, and earlier today he sent me the results of his analyses. (I've done this once before; can't recall whether I posted the results here.) Some of y'all might find these interesting. Be aware that his machine isn't set up to read tungsten, so there could be W in any of these and we wouldn't know it.

 

Matt,

 

Thank you for sharing these results with us, very valuable.

 

Jan

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You're welcome, Jan. I'm certainly not in the same league as most here when it comes to actually making blades, so it's nice to be able to contribute something useful.

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you wouldn't happen to know what older tire irons are would you? they harden nice, and don't really take much of a hamon, so I wouldn't be surpised if it was 5160..

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One of the reasons I do this is to try to dispel the idea that you can generalize about junkyard steels. I'm sure "older tire irons" were made out of dozens of alloys. :) Having said that, the first time I did this I sent my buddy a piece of tire iron. The sample was a little small, so he wasn't super-confident in the results, but here's what he found:

 

C: 0.70 | Mn: 0.75 | P:0.01 | S: 0.01 | Si: 0.23 | Cu: 0.01 | Cr: 0.01 | Mo: 0.002 | Ni: 0.0 | Sn: 0.0 | V: 0.001 | Cb/Nb: 0.0

 

Looks like 1070 with some silicon. That doesn't mean that yours couldn't be 5160. Might be. Or not.

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Fun stuff,,,

thanks Matt,,

 

 

 

jm

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yeah, I wouldn't be suprised if it was 1070 though, it acts very much like it, and actually did take make a hamon after further testing.

 

very informative, thanks

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You're very welcome, Don. Thanks for providing us with this forum!

 

I can't remember whether or not I ever posted the results of my first go-round, so here they are just in case. Even if I did post them before, at least now it'll all be in one place.

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Rail anchor ("clip"):

 

C: 0.51 | Mn: 0.80 | P: 0.01 | S: 0.03 | Si: 0.18 | Cu: 0.24 | Cr: 0.07 | Mo: 0.02 | Ni: 0.07 | Sn: 0.010 | V: 0.002 | Cb/Nb: 0.015

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Bed frame angle iron*

 

C: 0.53 | Mn: 0.83 | P: 0.02 | S: 0.02 | Si: 0.19 | Cu: 0.01 | Cr: 0.02 | Mo: 0.005 | Ni: 0.01 | Sn: 0.006 | V: 0.002 | Cb/NB: 0.002

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Demolition hammer bit **

 

C: 0.42 | Mn: 0.70 | P: 0.005 | S: 0.02 | Si: 0.2 | Cu: 0.02 | Cr: 0.02 | Mo: 0.005 | Ni: 0.02 | Sn: 0.004 | V: 0.0 | Cb/NB: 0.002

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Tire iron

 

C: 0.70 | Mn: 0.75 | P:0.01 | S: 0.01 | Si: 0.23 | Cu: 0.01 | Cr: 0.01 | Mo: 0.002 | Ni: 0.0 | Sn: 0.0 | V: 0.001 | Cb/Nb: 0.0

 

*After annealing overnight in a charcoal fire, so it's possible there was a little decarb.

**I got these (free) from a guy who sells and repairs demolition hammers (among other things). He claimed that the manfacturer's rep for the bits told him they were S5. And that corresponds perfectly with the info you'll see on some of the scrap steel charts that float around. But in truth this particular bit is nowhere close to S5! It's plain old 1040/45! Again: don't put too much stock in those charts, or even in word of mouth from people who seem like they might know.

Edited by Matt Bower

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Any idea if an old set of hedge clippers would make a good knife blade? Thanks.

 

Matt

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would it be possible to test somthing for me? possible some free steel in it for ya

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Any idea if an old set of hedge clippers would make a good knife blade? Thanks.

 

Matt

 

Matt, I'm sorry I didn't see this sooner. I wouldn't beging to speculate what kind of steel it might be. The whole point of testing is that I don't like to speculate! But if the steel held a reasonable edge as a hedge clipper, it'll probably hold a reasonable edge as a knife.

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Hey guys!

 

This might be a bit off-topic so sorry beforehand. I took a bunch of GEM laboratory razor blades with me from work. I have at least two kilo's :P. We discard them after only a few cuts so scattered around the lab there are many bins with "dull" blades we throw away, they are actually still sharp as *insert very hot place*. I asked my chief if I could take them home and I could since we considder them garbage after first use. They have a piece of metal folded around one of the sharp sides so they won't cut your fingers. I think about welding them and folding so that the carbon content of the low carbon dull side evens out the high carbon blade.

 

Anyway, does anybody know what the approximate carbon content of these type of razor blades is?

 

If anyone is interested, we throw away at least a kilo of these blades and scalpels every week.

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Any idea if an old set of hedge clippers would make a good knife blade? Thanks.

 

Matt

 

In the last year I have become very interested in determining scrap steel compositions. A friend of mine works at a steel mill, and can get just about any scrap you can imagine in about any quantity he can haul out with his car weekly. In order to utilize this wonderful resource, I have been experimenting with spark testing. I have a dedicated setup, which is just a cheep bench grinder with identical wheels that I dress after each test, and I have it on a pedestal so I can stand behind it and watch the sparks. I have a number of known sample steels (1045, 1075, 1085, 1095 4140, 4340, W1, O1, S7, 5160, 52100, 8620) that I bought in mostly 1" X 1' round bars (some could only be had in flat bars).

 

I take the steel that I want to determine, and in a dark room grind it at the same time (on different wheels) with a known steel, usually starting with a guess of what it might be. Grinding them at the same time allows me to observe more subtle differences in the patterns, as opposed to grinding them separately and trying to remember the pattern. I do this with all my test steels until I observe nearly identical spark patterns to the mystery steel, or I run out. I was surprised to find that all of these steels have significantly different spark patterns, even the 10XX steels, and when I find a "match" its pretty obvious. I have run into many steels that definitely do not match any of my test steels, mostly coil springs form cars, but I have also matched a number of steels that I am fairly confident are one of these steels or something similar. the most common matches seem to be 5160 leaf springs, 4140 shafts, and of course lots of 52100 bearings and races.

 

I know its not scientific, and I know I might be totally wrong. I know there are a multitude of steels out there, and am aware that there are steels I don't have that probably have very similar spark patterns to each other, but the fact that the spark patterns are so different in the steels I do have encourages me. I have been meaning to do a blind test with someones help, where we would cut the known steels in half, cover the labels, and try to match them and see how accurate I am. It would be really neat to be able to test them with a spectrometer to confirm or deny my results!

 

Anyway for what its worth, to try and answer Matt Bray's question, a friend of mine had me "test" some hedge shear blades for him. Here is what I wrote to him; Im fairly certain it is not any of the 10XX, 4140, 4340, W1, O1, S7, 5160, 52100, the spark patterns were significantly different form any of these. The only steel it was similar to, and actually it was quite similar except the steel in the sheer definitely had brighter sparks, was 8620, could it be 8640? something similar?

 

Of course as Matt Bower said, you cannot assume scrap steel is anything in particular, this includes your sheers and my friends sheers. I have confirmed this often myself with my "tests" I have had many steels I guessed were one thing turn out to be another entirely, or that didn't match anything I have.

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so much fun! would love to see a growing database with these percentages for lookup!

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Great stuff here!

 

I would like to add another common scrap item to the list:

40ft x 9in x 0.063in (roughly 12.2m x 23cm x 1.6mm) lumber mill band saw blade from Neff Lumber Mill just outside Harrisonburg, VA, USA is 15N20 from a steel mill in Solingen, Germany

 

I do not have access to a mass spectrometer or any such testing equipment

A fellow bladesmith from our Blacksmiths' Guild spoke with the purchaser at Neff Lumber Mill and got the original purchase order (PO) information... (They thought the blades were L6)

He then called the distributor who pulled their records from the PO and then gave him the name of the manufacturer and lot # etc...

He then called the manufacturer and gave them the lot number and they stated that they used 15N20 from a Solingen, Germany, steel mill..

He also got the Steel mill info and confirmed that they do supply that manufacturer with 15N20.

(A few other lumber mills in this area indicated they purchase the same blades, so should be the same steel but I have not yet confirmed that since it will be a while before either of us needs to restock.)

 

Again, thanks for all the great info!

James

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This is so awesome.

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So I know that there is room for variation but I'm curious if anyone has tested crosscut and or drag saws? I recently got quite a few of them and am now on the hunt for narrowing down what kind of steel they are made from. I thought maybe L6 but I did an air hardening and then put in the vice and was hoping for it to snap but instead it bent. The spark it makes is very full with bursts on just about every tail and fairly bright. Any help in identifying these would be great. I'm also curious if anyone has or if there are any data sheets of steels and their compositions that can be cross referenced with the data posted in this thread?

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So I know that there is room for variation but I'm curious if anyone has tested crosscut and or drag saws? I recently got quite a few of them and am now on the hunt for narrowing down what kind of steel they are made from. I thought maybe L6 but I did an air hardening and then put in the vice and was hoping for it to snap but instead it bent. The spark it makes is very full with bursts on just about every tail and fairly bright. Any help in identifying these would be great. I'm also curious if anyone has or if there are any data sheets of steels and their compositions that can be cross referenced with the data posted in this thread?

L6 is not an air hardening steel and requires an oil quench. But so do a lot of other steels, so a quench and snap test only shows that whatever you have is or isn't hardenable in a given quench media/process, but can't actually tell you anything about the particular composition of the steel.

Compare the sparks to another known steel and it might start steering you in the right direction.

 

Or just test hardening sequences until you have a satisfactory result and then use that process on anything (of similar dimension to your test piece) you make out of that steel.

James

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