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Julia Freeman

Realistic Expectations

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I am very much at the first stages of starting out in the hobby of blacksmithing. I'm still putting together my Anglo-Saxon forge, I've found a source for Anvil, Tongs, and a Hammer.

 

But outside the tool box, I have also been looking for suitable steels to use in the forge. I have found 3 potential suppliers:

 

 

As I read through the catalogues, and compare them to what I have gleaned from this forum, I am realising that the terms we use for the steels in this country (UK), are not the same as our friends across the pond, so while I see people suggesting things like 1095, I am not sure what the equivalent is to ask for here. What would people recommend by way of steel for a beginner to play with? I don't want to go down the recycled route as I don't want to have to work with so many unknown variables.

 

While I am looking at all these shiny things the experts on this forum are producing, I am wondering, what can I realistically expect to produce with a simple mild steel anvil, and a 600g (1.5lb) Anglo-Saxon Hammer? I know that in the first instances I am likely to be making a varied collection of interesting shaped items that pay no relation to a blade, but is the idea of eventually being able to make pattern welded blades realistic with the forge I am building? I know I don't want to run before I can walk, but I would like to walk into this with eyes wide open as to where the ceiling lies.

 

J

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Hi Julia

 

i'm not sure which steels you have over there.. i know on the british blade forum, some smiths use steels with number designations.. ... often when people start out they opt to use the so call junk yard steels such as car leaf springs, large coil springs, and file steels (for knives and such, but not necessary for general iron work ).... but when you do start to sell stuff, i would encourage you to buy a known steel as this is a good practice.

 

by the way... don't worry about your set up..... the Viking produced some master pieces in pattern welded swords, on a very small iron anvil .... with a small set up in skilled hands, you can do absolutely wonderful iron/steel work !

 

oh, buy as many blacksmith books as you can... trust me, having a good reference library will help ...

 

do you have any local smiths that you can drop in on... some are very helpful

 

Greg

 

add some links here incase you don't know bout these

http://www.iforgeiron.com/

http://www.britishblades.com/forums/forum.php

 

don't forget the blueprints

http://www.iforgeiron.com/forum/104-blueprints/

Edited by Greg Thomas Obach

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Just a quick look through the sites that you posted and, to me, it looks like West York Steel is you best bet if they will sell in small enough quantities. Their 100MnCrW4 is something like 52100 or CruForgV here in the states. It will be deep hardening and provide plenty of carbides for wear resistance but, because of the wear resistance, be more difficult to grind, especially after being hardened and tempered. Not too demanding for heat treating, though you will need to be more careful about over heating it. It also might be a little slow to move under the hammer due to the tungsten and vanadium but the amounts of those alloys are really not all that high that they should cause major problems. Actually I would say that it's closer to CruForgV than 52100 but they are similar steels. It will make a nice hard, sharp blade with proper heat treating but possibly slightly more brittle.

 

There are two similar steels that are close to 9260, one of my favorite steels. The 250A53 had 53 points of carbon and 250A58 with 58 points of carbon. Both have 1.75% silicon and 0.75% manganese. The latter is closest to 9260 which is easy to forge, moderately shallow hardening, and easy to heat treat. Temper three times at 175-200 degrees C. at least an hour for each cycle and two would be better. The high silicon promotes retained austinite.

 

There is also 7365A50 which looks like one of our shock resistant steels. Not too sure if it would be oil or air quenching but I'm thinking oil. Not too complex, has some vanadium for wear resistance but only minimal carbon for blade making. Good for large chopping blades or swords.

 

Pay attention to the carbon content when you look at a steel and stay between 0.60-1.00% (60-100 points), probably at least 0.75% manganese, silicon's not a big thing, stay at or below 0.75% tungsten and 0.25% vanadium.

 

In general, stay away from stainless steels or anything that the data says is air quenching. They will be difficult to forge and demanding in heat treatment. Also stay away from high temperature steels or tungsten steels. Tungsten steels will be over the 0.5% limit.

 

Of the ones listed I would go with the 250A58. It's a nice hypoeutectic steel that you won't have to be quite as concerned about grain growth with, works easily, oil quenching, can be made to demonstrate a hamon or quench line with clay quenching, and can be tempered in the kitchen oven. Temper at about 175-200 degrees C., test the hardness, and adjust as needed. It might not be quite as strong or wear resistant as the 100MnCrW4 but it will be tougher.

 

That's just what I spotted flipping through their online listing.

 

Doug

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Hi Julia,

 

Again I must recommend Owen Bush. He runs classes in forging. Take a look at his recent post showing the results of a five day seax making class.

See thread below:

http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=23498

 

When you are starting out, there is no better way to shorten the learning curve than attending a few courses. You will get hands on guidance, learn from the mistakes and progress of others, hear tips and tricks of the trade and get help finding good suppliers.

 

You are in for a very interesting journey!

 

Peter

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I agree with Peter .. take a class with Owen ... he is a legend within the community.. just wish i wasnt on the other side of the world, or i'd do it myself.... :D

 

-vidar-

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Hi Julia,

 

Here on the other side of that small puddle we call the North-Sea (in Holland) I'm having the same problem.

With some research I have found out a few things. I think the UK also uses werkstoff notation?

 

O1 = 1.2510

O2 = 1.2842

1055 = 1.0535

1060 = 1.0601

1070 = 1.1231

1078/1080 = 1.1242

1086 = 1.1269

1095 = 1.1274

 

I found this data in a table on some site.

For the rest I'm just going to ask my supplier. They mostly have someone there who is aware of US notation.

 

As for skill....I would follow Peter's recommendation. Having someone to get you up to a basic skill level is the best way I think.

In my original field of goldsmithing I have seen people think of insane ways of doing things only because they didn't have someone around to show them the easy way.

The end of this month I'm going on a patternwelding class....I could try to figure it out myself, but in the end this will be cheaper and faster.....;)

 

Anyway.....I'm hoping my small contribution is of some help. When you find out more werkstoff numbers, I would really appreciate it if you could share them with me........;) my list is not complete yet.

 

Good luck.....

 

Arno

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Hello Julia,

 

Like Peter mentions, you can do pretty much everything using a small simple Anglo-Saxon setup, including patternwelded swords and all, given that you've got enough determination to get through the learning curve. Having worked with both ends of the scale in terms of primitive and advanced equipment, the biggest difference is the amount of time it takes. Gas forges, powerhammers, beltsanders speed things up, but you can do the same things at a slower pace just using a charcoal fire, hand held hammer, files etc. There's a couple of differences though that do require more skill between both. One is fire management. You need really good quality charcoal to start with, get a good heat distribution though the forge (airflow) and keep this in check. This is probably one of the most difficult things to master. Second is that in a charcoal forge, you need to watch out of overheating (particularly when welding), whereas in a gas-forge you simply leave it in as long as you like, or at least until it's reached the color of the forge. Working with a small anvil also makes the final straightening of the blade more difficult, particularly with a larger blade, and if you have to grind everything by hand to the final result. Having a large flat anvil makes this a lot easier. Overal it shouldn't be too difficult to forge to a decent finish. But it gets trickier the more dimensions you want to fix. If f.e. you want to make the blade with an exact length, width and thickness, that's much more difficult then just free-forming something where it doesn't matter if the result can be larger or smaller.

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Hi Julia,

 

Again I must recommend Owen Bush. He runs classes in forging. Take a look at his recent post showing the results of a five day seax making class.

 

I am well and truly sold on the Owen Bush courses, and am currently saving up to go on one. He lives about 45 minutes up the road from me.

 

J

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by the way... don't worry about your set up..... the Viking produced some master pieces in pattern welded swords, on a very small iron anvil .... with a small set up in skilled hands, you can do absolutely wonderful iron/steel work !

 

 

Is my hammer big enough at about 1.5lb ?

 

J

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Is my hammer big enough at about 1.5lb ?

 

J

 

I'm still a beginner myself, but I think if you're only going to have 1 hammer for right now 1.5lb is a decent size. I only had a 3lb hammer when I started and had a hard time controlling it and doing smaller work. 1.5lb won't move as much metal as a larger hammer with each strike, but it will move enough and help you get a feel for hammer control. Just my 2 cents. Enjoy the journey!

Ben

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Bonjour !

 

Hi J

 

hammer size is alway important, but more important is that its a weight that you are comfortable with ...the control is very important... if you are using the hammer and your wrist is having a hard time keeping the strikes nice and on target....often it is then time to go down a size in hammer weight to regain control... everyone gets fatigued after awhile and that'll cause hammerblows to be abit wild.... (time for a coffee break )

 

I believe i have just about as many hammers as i have tongs.. all different sizes and different faces .... eg.. for bustin down large stock to smaller sizes i have a 10lbs hand hammer with a large crown on it ... crown being that the face is very round and convex and tends to move metal fast... for general forge work i'll use a 3.5 lbs to 4lbs german or french cross pein hammer ... but this depends on application as i tend to never have the right size steel stock and i'm alway breaking it down to size

- get the right size iron stock and you can use quite small hammers !!

 

if the 1.5 lbs feels right... and you feel that hammer confidence with it... then get more hammers around this weight... have some with a flat face for flattening... and some with a mild crown for general work ... and one with a very crowned face to really push that metal

 

and remember ...its about the quality of work you do... not how heavy a hammer you can lift.. :P do high quality work with a lighter hammer and you'll have everyones respect

 

 

Greg

 

ps... very lucky to be close by to Owen, he does some wonderful work !

 

pss... check out the mastermyr find... that was the kit a viking blacksmith had.. so truly, you don't need very much to do alot

 

http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=8471

 

 

Is my hammer big enough at about 1.5lb ?

 

J

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I forgot to mention...

There is another very good reason to learn from someone who is experienced. If you start out by yourself, you may well start working with techniques that could potentially be damaging to yourself. In the beginning, you are likely to want to use more force that is needed. Brute force instead of skill. This can have the effect that you strain ourself in ways that can be harmful. You could get yourself a bad case of tendonitis: a chronic irritation of the muscles in the elbow. Such a condition will possibly plague your existence for years after. Don´t do that.

One would think that swinging a hammer is a pretty basic thing to do, but there are some ways that are more efficient, and some others that will seriously limit your progress and enjoyment.

 

...I am speaking from my own experience here.

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Of the ones listed I would go with the 250A58. It's a nice hypoeutectic steel that you won't have to be quite as concerned about grain growth with, works easily, oil quenching, can be made to demonstrate a hamon or quench line with clay quenching, and can be tempered in the kitchen oven. Temper at about 175-200 degrees C., test the hardness, and adjust as needed. It might not be quite as strong or wear resistant as the 100MnCrW4 but it will be tougher.

 

Just gave West York Steels a call, helpfully what they have listed on the website and what they have in reality don't necessarily match up... they don't stock 250a58, and are unlikely to do so again.

 

So back to drawing board. They did say they had En45 and BS1407, but I don't know if they are really of any use as an equivalent or if that's just the sales person reading off the stock list of things they do have without thinking about equality...

 

J

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Hi Julia - steel choice really depends on what you want to do. from your other posts i believe you want to do saxon/viking style pieces? for pattern welding the stuff Mick Maxen sells (your third link), while not authentic in composition, will give the right look and give you far less trouble than traditional materials. for a simple carbon steel, EN8 or EN9 are medium carbon, simple, relatively shallow hardening steels which will perform similarly to original steels. EN45 is a silicon steel much favoured by re-enactors for it's toughness and availability, but the h-t can be finicky.

 

if i were you i'd get some silver steel (sold in round section by most large tool supply places), the european equivalent to W1, which is easy enough to work and makes a nice blade, and maybe some wrought iron for doing composite blades.

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Julia - West Yorks Steels live in a parallel universe where a 'small quantity' of CS70 is a 6 foot by 3 foot sheet a quarter inch thick :(

 

Silver steel is available from Cromwell Tools, they have a branch in Rochester ( you are in Kent, right ? )

 

Model engineering suppliers can also be helpful - medium carbon steels aren't a huge part of their hobby, but are used for axles and the like on large model steam loco's. Plus they tend to be helpful chaps and usually interested in any kind of metalworking.

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Just did some research an d EN45 is actually closer to 9260 than the others that were listed, higher in silicon. The BS1407 is like high carbon content W1 with just a touch of chromium, which would differentiate it from a classical W1. W series steels, as available here in the States, can have a very wide range of carbon contents. It should still be rather shallow hardening, need a 5-10 minute soak at between 780 degrees C., Ac1 and 900 degrees C., Accm, to dissolve the carbides to release their carbon into solution without risking rapid grain growth. It will also be more wear resistant and stronger than the EN45 which would be easier to sharpen and tougher. Either would be a good choice for bladesmithing and should be able to heat treat with a forge and kitchen oven. Both should be oil quenching but not too complex if you wanted to grit you teeth and try water or brine. Personally I would consider the heat treatment for EN45 to be rather straight forward compared to what I've experienced with 9260. Like most hypereutectic steels, BS1407 would be easier to heat treat with a regulated oven, but with care it can be done in a forge.

 

Watch it closely as you heat it and note when it just becomes non-magnetic then get it a little brighter and try to hold it at that color for the soak time. Better is to learn to spot the "shadow" passing across the steel as it heats. As the iron crystals in the steel change phase the color will dull and then brighten again. A shadow passing across the steel is the best way I know how to describe it. The same thing will happen as the crystals change phase as the steel cool, which was what I was able to spot first. You would look for the shadow to pass over the steel and try to keep it at that brightness without the shadow passing back across it. It might lead you to doing your heat treating only on moonless nights, however ;) .

 

I didn't find the listing BS1407 on the West York Steel site but I did find it at www.silver-steel.co.uk and looked at what they have for a typical assay.

 

Doug

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There are a few pretty close UK equivalents to the AISI 10xx steels.

 

CS70 is equivalent to 1070, CS80 to 1080 and CS95 to 1095. EN9 is a pretty close match for 1055.

 

As Jake and others have said, a good starter steel if you want to make things that will cut, is BS1407 silver steel. Downsides are that it's prone to grain growth and benefits from careful attention to normalizing. It only tends to come as precision ground rod, so is expensive by weight.

 

On the other hand, it's widely available in a good range of sizes. You can buy the diameter you need and immediately make stuff, rather than spending much of your time reducing your stock (you've intimated this may be a consideration for you with your light hammer). It can be bought in 330mmm, 1M and 3M lengths; If you buy the 1M lengths, you'll get at least one, probably two, goes at making something from each length before you need to use the tongs; I find it hard enough to learn one thing at a time and having enough length to use it as a handle really helps as a beginner.

 

Cromwell are a decent source for BS1407 silver steel.

 

For patternwelding steels, Mick Maxen at your third link really knows his stuff.

 

If you've not looked at the BritishBlades forum, it's worth checking it out. Quite a few of the members are on here too, but BB is obviously UK-biased and many of the local solutions you'll be looking for can be found there.

 

Dave Budd's work might also be worth a search. I gather his background is archaeology and he uses iron-age equipment. He's not large, but manages to do an impressive amount of work with a small hammer.

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In the beginning, you are likely to want to use more force that is needed. Brute force instead of skill. This can have the effect that you strain ourself in ways that can be harmful.

One would think that swinging a hammer is a pretty basic thing to do, but there are some ways that are more efficient, and some others that will seriously limit your progress and enjoyment.

 

I was precisely the same way. I though 'I know how to use a hammer' and promptly began to doubt myself. I didn't last more than 10min at most before I had to take a breather, and I would have a limp-noodle arm for a few hours at the end of the day.

One tip I have seen on here a few times and taken particular note of is how you hold your thumb. Don't hold it in line with the shaft of the hammer- that causes bad things. Keep it like you are making a fist. Along the same line of thinking, you don't want a death grip either, it'll only wear you out faster. As will too much snap in the wrist with each strike.

 

Good luck finding the right steel, and from someone who is limited by the available tools, technique is far more important than having the newest and shiniest machine. With your setup, you'll do fine.

 

 

John

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Either would be a good choice for bladesmithing and should be able to heat treat with a forge and kitchen oven. Both should be oil quenching but not too complex if you wanted to grit you teeth and try water or brine. Personally I would consider the heat treatment for EN45 to be rather straight forward compared to what I've experienced with 9260. Like most hypereutectic steels, BS1407 would be easier to heat treat with a regulated oven, but with care it can be done in a forge.

 

 

I am finding that one of the big mysteries in bladesmithing is the HT process. The principles seem quite simple, heat till it stops being magnetic, quench in oil, then reheat to about 310°C/590°F/Dark Blue. What I don't get is how you can do the second part in an ordinary kitchen oven. The oven in my kitchen reckons it can go to 220°C/430°C.

 

Wikipedia suggests: "Steel in a tempering oven, held at 205 °C (401 °F) for a long time, will begin to turn brown, purple or blue, even though the temperature did not exceed that needed to produce a light-straw color. "

 

Can anyone elaborate on how I would use my kitchen oven to HT a blade?

 

Thanks

 

Julia

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I am finding that one of the big mysteries in bladesmithing is the HT process. The principles seem quite simple, heat till it stops being magnetic, quench in oil, then reheat to about 310°C/590°F/Dark Blue. What I don't get is how you can do the second part in an ordinary kitchen oven. The oven in my kitchen reckons it can go to 220°C/430°C.

 

Wikipedia suggests: "Steel in a tempering oven, held at 205 °C (401 °F) for a long time, will begin to turn brown, purple or blue, even though the temperature did not exceed that needed to produce a light-straw color. "

 

Can anyone elaborate on how I would use my kitchen oven to HT a blade?

 

Thanks

 

Julia

 

With a known grade of steel there will be a list of Rockwell hardnesses produced by different temperatures in it's spec sheet. Pick the most appropriate one for the intended use of the tool\knife and pop it in the oven for a couple of hours. I usually add a couple of large baking potatoes ( really :) ) so we also get dinner...

 

For smaller pieces of steel there are about a million ways to temper them. My favourite was a tin of sand, heated over a camping stove, although molten lead works even better. Not a good idea to inhale the fumes with that one...

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A bit of a problem there, Julia. My oven goes down to less than 100 degree C. What temperatures do toaster ovens operate at in England? Maybe that would be an answer. It's something that the guys often have to resort to when the wifey gives them a double dose of stink eye when he suggests using her oven to temper steel in.

 

Doug

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hi Julia

 

an alternative to tempering oven is to quench in the oil then back on top of the forge without wiping away the oil/grease- when the oil begins to smoke quench in water.

 

less accurate than "engineering" temper with thermostats and the like- but a good, simple and highly visual method of achieving a temper all the same.

 

other wise gas mark five will cook a knife just nicely!

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