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Is there a way to determine a better scrap iron piece from another on a novice level?

On the farm we go through a ton or so of these blades:

image.jpg

 

http://attacorp.com/product-detail.php?i=62

 

I'm trying to cut my teeth on scrap iron before I start putting down money for quality new steel.

It would be pretty sweet if they were good to go. While they may not be ideal it's got to be better than rebar and railroad spikes.

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The issue with mystery steel is that it's a mystery. If you knew what it was composed of, it wouldn't be a mystery. If you're making tongs, or fire tools, or any other decorative item, it doesn't matter all that much. Knives and other cutting tools are another issue. You can get by guessing, but to get the high end of performance takes known steels and known processes.

 

Having said that, the sheet says that the bars are "spring steel", the best bets are 5160, 9250, 1095. I'd bet against 1095, but it's a possibility. If you could get the company to tell you, that would be a leg up. Without knowing, it's going to take some experimentation to get a proper heat treat formula.

 

We hear this

 

 

I'm trying to cut my teeth on scrap iron before I start putting down money for quality new steel.

 

All of the time. It's kind of like saying "I want to build a house, but until I get good, I'm going to work in rotten wood and cheese." If you want to practice your forging skills, by all means work in scrap. If you want to make good usable tools, you need to work in the right materials. A stick of 1084 from Aldo is less than $20, there is probably 12 or more knives per stick. If a couple of $ in the right materials is too much for you, you are in the wrong business.

Edited by Geoff Keyes
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I think what Geoff is trying to say is for basic forging practice or generic tools that don't require heat treating, it doesn't matter what you use. Use that mystery steel. If you are trying to make a knife buy some good steel. Don't worry about turning some of it into scrap either. Most of us have made a fair amount of good steel into trash over the years and still do every once in a while

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Oh, you should see MY trash pile, like the short sword where I ground through the fuller. That's a pretty good one. Or the big Bowie that somehow got all the way to finish grinding before I realized it was mild. Blasted forge gnomes sneaking mild into the tool steel pile.

 

Geoff

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Wow I don't feel so bad now for that mild steel kukuri I spent 3 days on , it was a piece of scrap metal that looked like a broken piece of leaf spring someone had tried to grind into a tool . Don't know what it was but found it soft after hardening. I finished it any way . keep it in the truck for a brush cutter, ( green brush only)

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I've scrapped at least 3 knives this year. Two of them were O-1 and another was W-1. Either I lost it in the forging and figured out in the rough grind that I was not getting that hammer mark out or I lost it in the finish grind when the hand kind of slipped......

We all do it. Some of us more than others, but we all do it. Somewhere in The Way forum I found this:

 

Knife making.jpeg

 

So get out the cigarette lighter, and get to work!

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Look at it as a learning experience. We all have projects go south and end up in the pile. Just had a billet of 1095, band saw blade and pure nickel de laminate. Tried sugar and boric acid no joy. Already placed order with Aldo ready to go again.

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You could get a good blade out of this material, but it would take a lot of experimentation and testing in order to determine how best to heat-treat it. If you do have piles of these laying around, all made by the same manufacturer, it might be worthwhile to go through the process. I don't want to discourage you, but at the same time I'm not sure I want to encourage you either... I'm just saying that if I had access to a ton of free spring steel...

 

The greatest advantage to buying known steel from a reputable seller is that you know exactly what you're getting and know how to best heat-treat it, not to mention being able to order the size stock you need. If you decide to use this steel, be aware that you have a few hours of testing to put it through, the shape of the stock is a bit strange so you're looking a quite a bit of forging and/or stock removal to get it shaped like a blade, and then, after all that work, you still don,'t know exactly what type of steel it is.

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A couple basic tests for determining if an unknown piece of steel can be made into a decent blade:

 

First, research 'spark test steel', just do a Google search and read anything that has pictures with it. This is the first test to perform to see if it is worth further testing.

 

Next, heat it to orange and forge out a piece 1\4" square and a few inches long. This let's you know that it is forgable, and sets you up for the next test. Heat the steel to austenizing temp and quench in warm oil. Clamp the end of the bar in a vise, put on your safety goggles and try to bend it. If it snaps instead of bending, it can be hardened in warm oil. If it bends, try quenching it in water. If it still bends after a water quench, it is useless for blades.

 

There are other tests to determine best austenizing temp and best tempering temp, and different smiths have slightly different test methods worked out, but these will answer the fundamental questions.

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