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I have just acquired 150+ litres (39 gallons) of whale oil from a blacksmith who got it from an old heat treating firm.

its gonna be old , pre ban (1986)

has anyone ever used it?

I hear it is smelly....

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I cannot imagine that it would be pleasant, but it would be an authentic "old" oil quench, prior to manufactured petroleum products if you're going for the full authentic treatment. To that end, I would actually be interested in some if it's arrange-able and the price isn't prohibitive. A gallon would probably do for my purposes. You don't happen to know the species, do you?

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An good friend of mine who was a REME armourer of the old school, now turned civilian gunsmith, swears by whale oil as a quenchant. But then I always tease him that when he was in the British Army he was wearing a red coat with white crossbelts and carrying a musket... :lol:

He did try to explain it's properties to me - after I was bleating about cracking a blade in the quench - but I had to explain that you can't buy a gallon of whale oil from Arkwrights Store any longer and I'd have to catch one myself...

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my dad got some for making gun springs, and i've used it in very small quantities for folder springs - it's pretty fast, and i believe it was used for springs for guns and clocks because it has a smooth cooling curve which minimises distortion. never noticed much smell, though as i said i was using a large volume, but i know that in general whale meat and blubber is a lot less fishy than people think...pretty sure most of the whale oil used in this country would be sperm whale. i need to talk to my Faroese friends about getting some pilot whale oil, though the legality is maybe a bit tricky (they are allowed to kill and eat pilot whale, but i don't know about exports) i'd love to try it on a sword sized blade.

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Oil in large quantities is pretty standard for ht standard ratio being a gallon to a pound of steel.

Its only us who ht tinny small stuff!

It should be sperm whale oil as that was the standard for many industries before the ban in 1986.

I had a large industrial blacksmith phone me up and ask if whale oil and a ht bath would be of interest to a bladesmith.

I am interested to see what it is like as a big volume of oil would be great for lots of projects.

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Well,

 

im stunned that anyone had that much to sell!

 

was this bought from someone in the uk?

 

either way, good score.

 

next on the agenda is liquid lead...

 

 

Liquid lead, both for austenitizing and for queching in (sort of marquench) is used even in modern times. I have seen modern videos from Japan where they use lead baths to heat to 1550 ish, then quenched in oil. It was a neat double bath system one to get it roughly hot then one very accurate temperature bath so as not to cycle the lead.

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Interesting find Owen!

I think whale oil, or "sperm oil" as it was also charmingly titled, was favoured because it had low viscosity. The sperm whale being a cold water creature had fat that remained soft at very low temperatures, and lots of it. The same phenomenon is found with mink oil and neatsfoot oil.

Also, "sperm oil" has certain juju properties similar to the much storied quenchant ingredients of cocks blood and the urine of a red-haired boy or monk!

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I wonder if rendered human fat would be suitable. After all, whales are endangered, people are not, and in any case you could always use liposuction. I've seen a few around a Chinese buffet you could likely get 4-5 gallons from.

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Lol. "Forged on a tombstone, quenched in human fat...black cat bone handle" Whoo, spooky! :ph34r:

 

Seriously, I am pretty interested in how the whale oil will work. It's ocurred to me before that it was probably the choice quenchant and gear lube of its day.

Edited by Orien M
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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Owen,

there would have been two types of oil. Oil rendered from the blubber (commonly baleen whales) and another obtained from the noggin of the sperm whale.

The sperm whale skull has a giant organ full of waxy oil.

If your oil has a waxy feel it may have come from a toothed whale like Moby.

Please let us know how it performs.

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OIl is with me , I was uncertain if it was whale oil. But a fellow formite on British Blades sent me a sample of sperm whale oil and that is what this is.

It is jet black , has a smell that is a nutty ,linseedy with a hint of squid (the taste of squid not the smell if you know what I mean)

I have not used it yet but have a tank for it in the making.

I will report back.

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  • 2 years later...

You lot need to work to have the EU remove the ban, we're up to our necks in the stuff here with nobody to sell it to. Last I heard there was over a megatonne of blubber on storage.
Dan P, so the colder the environment the more fluid the fat? Reindeer are quite fatty, I'm getting an idea for a proper Sami knife...or a Christmas knife.

Oh sorry, I'm stuck in 2013..
Have you tried it, mr. Bush?

Edited by Steffen Dahlberg
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Awesome :0)

 

It's fast, not quite as fast as parks 50, but not far off. Quicker than mineral oil. Alot safer than parks.

It also makes a coating on the blade that pads the quench after about 2 seconds, kinda like how some polymer quenchants work.

 

It doesnt smell that bad imo.

 

Also an absolutely wicked lubricant for small machines. Awesome gun oil.

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its strange stuff.

I think its hydrophilic , I have had a couple of weird experiences with black throthing oil chasing me out of the quench tank and into the workshop.

so I have to boil the water out of it before use . hardening rate seems medium/ fast to me.

interesting stuff but I am not enamoured by it

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I have some cans of "Sperm Oil" sold long ago by Brownells and it's excellent for firearms lube, even stock conditioner. It has the same smell you described but is a clear waxy fluid. It's scarce, and I wish I had a bunch more.

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  • 2 weeks later...

That's pretty cool, Owen. I keep it for quenches that just needed more Ju-Ju. ;)

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I have some cans of "Sperm Oil" sold long ago by Brownells and it's excellent for firearms lube, even stock conditioner. It has the same smell you described but is a clear waxy fluid. It's scarce, and I wish I had a bunch more.

 

I imagine new sperm oil would be more clear than the stuff Owen describes. Like any rendered animal fat.

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