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crazy cracks

terry otto

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quick question. is there a max temp that 5160 can be quenched at. i quenched a skinning size knife the other day in water ( have done several before with no problem) and it ended up with crazy cracks all over it. i was thinking that it might have been too hot when i quenched. i know that it is better to quench in oil , but i had success 3 times prior using the same piece of steel

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5160 is a very forgiving steel. If it cracked, you had it way too hot or used the wrong quenching medium (um. . . water).


I've never heard of using water for 5160. It's listed in all my books as an oil quench steel.


Try it with warm canola oil and make sure that you only have it at dull red. One thing that everyone does when they first start making blades is to underestimate how dull red steel looks in sunlight or bright artificial light. Turn the lights down and make sure you're out of direct sunlight. You'd be amazed. What appears to be not red at all in sunlight is cherry red in dim light.


Better yet, forget the eyeball technique and get a magnet on a stick. When it's non-magnetic, it's ready to quench, regardless of what your eyeballs are telling you.






"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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dave thank you. i figured that it was way to hot but just needed to know. i do use a magnet, but due to size of knife and time of day ( midday) it must have heated way faster than i was expecting. as for the water it will be replaced with atf when i get it.

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i'm not exactly a flaming beard here or anything but i'm pretty well versed with the use of 5160 and the various ways to bollocks it up. i usually work 5160 at a high orange even going a tad yellow, because its so hard to move otherwise. i made flint strikers for a while for work, and the only way to get 5160 to throw good sparks is a water quench from a low orange (which is about what it usually looks when it first hits non-magnetic). once, i screwed up and water quenched a striker at a high orange. seemed fine. put it on the table, and it broke off exactly at the water line. i suspect you've done something similar. making blades from 5160 has taught me that if you want it to not explode or warp, oil quench, warmed oil (i usually kept it in a tin bucket about a foot and a half from my forge) even cooking oil works, and keep a magnet on the side of your anvil, periodically check whether the blade will stick or not. don't go hotter than you need to, the hotter you get 5160 before you quench, the more it seems to kink up and warp when you do.


just the two cents of another new smith. hope its helpful.


edit: i just saw dave's reply. i need to refresh the page WAY more often. sorry for the redundant info.

Edited by omalley

"Whats the point of women? I've got knives, they're just as pretty and I don't need to buy them dinner to get them out of their sheath"


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