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Alex Cheng

Hi! Newbie here! Questions on Iron powder...

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Hi!

I'm Alex! I've never worked with metal other than sharpening a few knives, poorly that is.

But, I've watched way to many documentaries and watched too many videos to remain an observer!

So the question...

Ever since I realized that most hand warmers were filled with iron powder/sand, I've been cutting them open once they're done and kept the iron filings in a large bucket,

I know its all ferrous oxide, but if I added a liberal amount of Charcoal powder, and have it in a crucible in a furnace for a while, would I end up with any usable steel?

Edited by Alex Cheng

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The first thing you should do is check and see if there would be any chemicals that could be toxic if inhaled, inside the packet.

 

also some sand in the ore will be good actually, sand actually acts as a flux AND is an alloy for steel, contrary to popular belief carbon isn't the only alloy in steel, if that were the case it would be iron, you also want to be careful with how much Charcoal powder you add, a little powder could go a long way.

 

This is the Chemical composition of 1080 steel.

Iron, Fe 98.0 - 99.0 Carbon, C 0.75 - 0.88 Manganese, Mn 0.60 - 0.90 Sulfur, S 0.05 (max) Phosphorous, P 0.04 (max)

 

now most of the alloys here you don't have to add, they do it themselves mostly.

 

I'm no expert on smelting or anything, so i may not be entirely right, but if there isn't too much impurities in your iron and you have enough of it, you should be able to get a nice bloom.

 

If you haven't already, watch this video, or just simply go to 17:00 to see where Rick Furrer actually prepares the steel to be.

https://youtu.be/fTlmrAh1oHI

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Thanks!

Forgot about the sand! Although I thought sand was used to leech out impurities.

I'm pretty confident that the filings are pure steel, and I'll be doing this out doors.

"This is the Chemical composition of 1080 steel.

Iron, Fe 98.0 - 99.0 Carbon, C 0.75 - 0.88 Manganese, Mn 0.60 - 0.90 Sulfur, S 0.05 (max) Phosphorous, P 0.04 (max)"

This is by weight, im assuming, right?

Is there such a thing as adding too much Carbon?

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Depending on the use of the metal, yes, there is such a thing as too much carbon.

 

Too much Carbon, and it becomes Cast Iron ( 2% Carbon )

 

Good for making frying pans you can whack people with, but not so much good for blade steel.

 

If you look at the ratio above for the 1080 steel, you will notice Iron makes up about 98-99 % and less then 1% carbon.

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Oh yes, there is such a thing as too much carbon! The higher the carbon the more difficult it is to forge. The point of no return is somewhere between 1.4-1.8% C. Once you pass that you're getting into the realm of cast iron, in which the carbon no longer forms carbides but rather shows up as graphite nodules or sheets in a brittle matrix of iron. Hardness starts to go down, you can't forge it, and so on.

 

Check out the various threads on crucible smelting and Wootz/bulat/fulad in the Bloomers and Buttons forum, being sure to look in the pinned topics forum down close to the bottom of the forum's main page. I don't know about the purity of the iron in handwarmer packs, but it's probably pretty decent. I'd just wonder what else is in there besides iron oxide and sand...

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I've heard that carbon is a catalyst for transforming ferrous oxide into steel. Do I have to compensate as a result of the large amounts of rust?

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Carbon is not really a catalyst in this reaction, it's an oxygen scavenger. The basic reaction (I probably have the balance wrong, but you get the idea) is Fe3O4 + CO +heat = 2Fe + CO2. Carbon in the form of carbon monoxide at high temperature strips oxygen off the ferrous oxide, reducing it to pure iron. An ecess of carbon and heat will result in some carbon uptake, creating steel or cast iron. Crucible smelts are much trickier than short stack furnace smelts because of the difficulty controlling the chemistry in the furnace.

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Thanks!

I'll probably experiment with the levels of carbon added.

Another stupid question. How do I tell a cast iron ingot from a steel ingot?

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If it crumbles the first time you hit it it's cast iron. Ultra high carbon steel will crumble too, but it takes longer.

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Thanks! An Image from Niels Provos' wootz videos comes to mind. Doesn't seem to be easy.

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The basic reaction (I probably have the balance wrong, but you get the idea) is Fe3O4 + CO +heat = 2Fe + CO2.

 

2Fe3O4 + 8CO = 6Fe + 8CO2 is the stoichiometrically balanced equation (same number of each atom type on each side of the equation). I suspect that at those temps some free O2 gets snagged and ripped apart too, but as Alan said, you get the idea.

 

I mainly just wanted to add that everything you could ever hope to know about this stuff is likely found in the Bloomers and Buttons sub-forum. I hope you have been reading there too.

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An interesting idea. I poked around a couple of sites and found this list of ingredients. The cellulose and polypropylene would burn off easily. I'm not sure what problems (if any) might result from the NaCl and the vermiculite, though both have high melting points and are probably (guessing here) fairly unlikely to decompose even at crucible temperatures.

 

Air-activated Hand warmers are made of

  • Iron Fe
  • Cellulose C6H10O5
  • Activated carbon C
  • Water H2O
  • Polypropylene sack C3H6
  • Salt NaCl
  • Vermiculite (MgFeAl)3(AlSi)4O10(OH)24H2O
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Yeah, that Vermiculite is going to be a problem. I hope it's present in trace amounts only.

Must figure out a way to isolate that.

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Take a magnet, and try to clean it that way first. That may remove most things besides the iron.
If it isn't bonded in some way. You could try crushing it up first.

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And if a magnet doesn't take care of everything, vermiculite often will float on water, especially small pieces. Iron generally won't :)

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Doesn't Iron attract to magnets as well?

Like the water Idea, might try that!

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