Jump to content

Recommended Posts



I recently got into making knives as a hobby. My interest is mostly in the tempering of the steel, because this is the key component of making a knife. Your knife look great, but, unless it holds an edge it is just a pretty paper weight. It is not a useful tool.


Most of the tempering I've done is with 1084 tool steel. As I'm a beginner this is where most people suggest you start because of the ease of tempering.


I happen to do a lot of building tools as well as knives and came across 12 feet of 1/8 inch X 2 inch 304L stainless for free. Great I thought maybe it will be good for a blade as well as making bottle openers. So I did my home work looked at the properties of this type of stainless noticed it had low carbon and most sources of information said it can't be hardened.


I live on an island with a low population so getting blade steel isn't as simple as walking down the street to the neighborhood knife store. I have to get it shipped. It costs me almost as much for shipping as it does to purchase the tool steel. This means the difference between 12 feet of useful steel as opposed to 3 feet and being able to get it immediately as opposed to having to wait 2 - 3 weeks. In other words 304L and 304 are on hand and readily available.


I was making a hanger to fit on a horizontal rod for a friend, so I used the useless stainless. I had to heat it to put a bend to fit around the rod.


Here is what I observed:


I heated it with a torch so it was bright red hot for about somewhere between 18 - 25 minutes.


I then quenched it in room temperature water until it stopped hissing and was cool to the touch.


There then was a purple color to the metal that was heated and it became hard, really hard.


I am going to try this with a blade to see if it holds an edge, but that is sometime down the road.


I was wondering if someone has experience with this? Can Low carbon stainless be tempered or hardened? Will it then hold an edge?


Would appreciate any constructive feedback,



Link to post
Share on other sites

304L cannot be hardened enough for a real blade, but it is used for tableware. It is very tough, as you noticed. Unlike most steels, it actually anneals when quenched from a red heat. The toughness is what makes it suitable for tableware, but it will not hold an edge.


If purely functional is what you want, it will of course last and perform better than ordinary low carbon steel, and any steel is harder than many materials you may wish to cut. It's just not the best for the job.


I live near a moderate-sized city, and I still can't just walk into a store and buy high carbon steel except in small drill rod sizes. I have to order it just like most people.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah I have done a lot of reading about Damascus as it is a term I used to hear as a child on TV. The original art of making it was lost, they tested some artifacts made from this original technique and found evidence of carbon nanotubes in them. Pretty advanced stuff for people from 300BC.


The people who claim to have rediscovered the technique do a type of pattern welding or folding? I'm unfamiliar with this term stacking, could you elaborate a little more?


The one 1084 blade I tempered got a pretty interesting pattern in the grains. It took me three tries to get the temper right the third time I tried something different and you could almost feel the grains realign. I gave the knife to my Uncle as a gift because he does a lot of hunting and skinning especially Moose is very hard on blades. It's not strange to have to stop to sharpen a knife part ways through skinning one. I tested it to make sure it wouldn't loss its edge by shaving and splitting 2 X 4 and hunks of seasoned oak, it would still make a clean cut through a piece of paper after.


I have a second 1084 blade ready I'm going to try the process again tonight to see if I can repeat it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

We also call it pattern welding, damascus, mosaic damascus, pweld, a lot of things. If you are getting into forging, soon you'll want to stick two pieces of steel together.

I wouldn't risk getting bit by that bug yet, or it will be a long time before your next knife is finished! Like a few years or more.

1084 is a good steel. It's probably the easiest to harden and temper.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Too late, already bit by the bug. Repeated the grains lining up first try. The second got it right, no need to repeat the third.


2nd Heat treatment, 475 F for a little over an hour. Blue temper along the edge, purple in the blade.


Same set of circumstances. I can see how both these materials mixed together would make a good blade. 1084 and 304L.


What is the deal with the Borax? Seems to me Lye would blend it together more like water flowing.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, to start with 1084 and 304L would not be a good choice. The chromium in the stainless would make it difficult to forge weld together and even though there are people who do make forge welded damascus from stainless, it's not for the faint of heart or simple forges. Then there are the differing rates of expansion and contraction that can tear a billet apart. If you insist on learning pattern welding right out of the gate, 1084 and 15N20 would be much better combination. However, better advice would be to learn how to forge knives first and worry about making damascus later.


Borax is used as a flux to help prevent fire scale from forming on the billet as it is welded and to clean it off. Lye would be dangerous and might not function as a flux, especially a the high temperatures that you deal with in forge welding.


Also, don't believe everything that you see on the web or the History Channel. Pattern welding never was lost in Europe or Japan. What Brian meant by stacking was stacking the bars to be welded together prior to welding.



HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the Advice Doug! Yeah, I take everything with a grain of salt at this point in my life. I find it best to talk to people who have done or at least tried stuff similar to what your doing.


The round bar they weld onto the stack for a handle. Is it just regular steel or weld bar? Is it possible to do all this without a pneumatic press? And just a big hammer and anvil.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...