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    • Alan Longmire

      IMPORTANT Registration rules   02/12/2017

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I have watched videos, read comments on this forum and others, read specifications, on different types of steels.  Have seen comments by some of the most experienced of you all, about which steel to start with, and I am so confused that my head hurts. LOL   Now my question is this,  I picked up 2 three foot rods of 5/8, 01 drill rod for about $40,  did I get took or is that a fair price. 

When I get some tongs made and am ready to begin making my first blade that is what I plan to use.

Don't be gentle and don't spare the rod "pun intended"  let me know if I was crazy.

 

Robert

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the O1 drill rod i have found is about $23  for 36" of 5/8 so about right, actually a bit cheaper than what i found

 

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Did you read that thread?  If you can control the heat it's fine steel.  I prefer simpler stuff myself.

 

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1 minute ago, Alan Longmire said:

Did you read that thread?  If you can control the heat it's fine steel.  I prefer simpler stuff myself.

most places its the only decent steel readily available, I know in this part of missouri and  we have 5 or 6 different steel suppliers Springfield alone, and all mild crap steel so far.  The Fastenal drill rods are the only thing i have found local

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MSCdirect.com has drill rods from 1/16" up to 3" diameters in the following grades: A-2, D-2, O-1, H-13, S-7 (not all steels are available in all sizes.)

5/8" O-1, 36" long are $14.73 each. (plus shipping) I usually order the 1" diameter rods. ($35.91 each)

https://www.mscdirect.com/browse/tn/Raw-Materials/Metals/Steel/Drill-Rod/Air-Oil-Water-Hardening-Drill-Rods?navid=12102229#navid=12102229

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Yeah, it is the most widely available tool steel in the US , and it can make great knives (I wouldn't do a sword with it, though), but it is intended for tool and die shops and heat-treat shops that have the equipment to do it justice.  It's all I can get locally that isn't spring drops as well.  I just don't like to use it because I don't have the controls to do the heat treat properly.  It'll harden up fine with my torches and coal forge, but I know I'm not getting the performance it's capable of that way.  Drill rod comes in a spheroidized annealed state.  O-1 requires a longish soak at a specific temperature to get the carbides fully into solution.  I don't have the stuff to do that with, so I get worse performance from O-1 than I can get from the simpler steels.  It's that simple.  

I know it's all Bill Moran used and he used a coal forge too.  I also suspect he wasn't getting the best possible performance from it.  It's just at that time it was almost all you could get AND there was no information out there about steels except blacksmith hearsay or the very expensive ASM heat-treater's guide, and that book is expecting you to be hardening things no thinner than 1" round minimum and as such the info is not optimal for knives.

In other words, it's not for me at the moment because I can make 1095, 1084 and 5160 do everything I want them to do, including cut the unhardened versions of themselves.  As I said in the O-1 heat treat thread, without the temperature controls O-1 is just 1095 that I have a hard time keeping from being too chippy because of the carbides. One of these days I'll be forced to go to gas, and then I might have the control for long soaks.

Remember, just because I talk a lot doesn't mean I have the cool equipment!  My setup is very simple, just a coal forge and toaster oven plus oxyacetylene torch.  Most new guys are similarly limited, so I recommend steels I can get the best performance from in a simple environment.  That means I usually order it.

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1 hour ago, Alan Longmire said:

Did you read that thread?  If you can control the heat it's fine steel.  I prefer simpler stuff myself.

 

O1 will always do better in the hands of a novice than 1080 or similar simple or "low alloy" steel.

It has effectively become an internet meme that O1 is only for those with more elaborate HT set ups. 

The reality is that O1 is a bog standard steel and is ubiquitous for the very simple reason that it is very easy to handle.

1080 and similar steels, on the other hand, are much easier to over heat or under-harden.  

 

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Thanks to all for the comments and advice.  At least I didn't get took. 

Yes Alan I did read the thread and several other articals and all the pros and cons and that is what gave a headache.  LOL  I guess when I get a set of tongs made I will attempt to make something from a part of one of the drill rods.  Good or bad I will post what I make and good or bad I will post a pic of my first attempt at tongs.  :) And then by that time I hope someone online will have some 10xx steel for me to order (I have been to several online places and all were out of stock) and I will see how bad I can screw that up. LOL

Alan I wish that I was up and running so I could see if I could suck as bad as you do at making knives.   :)

Dan we will see if 01 does good in the hands of a novice as that is what I will use first.  I contemplated using mystery steel but am heeding all the pros warnings and staying away at first.  I know I know I am being a wimp but will take that plunge at another time.  By the way see a plunge dagger somewhere on here that was beautiful made from a leaf spring so DAYMN what is a poor boy supposed to do.  LOL.

Thanks again from everyone who chipped in with thoughts, and advice because I am learning a lot from everyone that does.

 

Robert

 

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12 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

I guess I just suck, then! :lol:

Well, consider the suggestion that O1 might as well be 1095 without a more advanced HT; Okay, this is kind of true, but O1 would still be a version of 1095 that had alloys specifically added to limit grain growth and make it very easily through hardened, i.e. O1, and that these alloys are active across a relatively wide time/heat axis. It's not rocket surgery.

And while there is indeed an extra degree of performance that you will get through a very controlled HT of O1, there is also an extra degree of performance you will get from 1095 with a very controlled HT, too.

 

Edited by Dan P.

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Exactly.  I was coming at it from a performance angle, which may be a little silly.  O-1 simply heated, quenched, and tempered will indeed make a hard tough blade, just not as good as it could be.  Kevin Cashen got into my head on that, the guy has his own electron microscope for goodness' sake...

Anyway, the ultimate point for me is that I can do that heat treat 1095 requires for its best performance because I can hold the temps for the short time involved.  I can't keep it steady as long as O-1 would like in an ideal world.  I could use it (and do for some punches and chisels), but it's like driving a Ferrari stuck in second gear.  It's fine, but it could be better.;)

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One part of the OP question hasn't been addresses, and that is cost/price.  At $20 a stick, you got a good deal on drill rod.  Drill rod, however, is more expensive than more typical bar stock because it has been pretty precisely ground to diameter which is of no value once you start forging it.

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If you're not already aware, steel prices can be all over the place.  What appears to be a good price today, can look a bad price next week.  And location can effect the price.  I did a class at J.C. Campbell, so I bought some 4140 to sell to the students.  The same week I bought 4140 3/4" 12 foot lengths for $15 per, a student showed up after buying his length at home for $150.  I got mine in Virginia, he in Ohio.

 

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On 3/16/2017 at 5:04 AM, Brian Dougherty said:

One part of the OP question hasn't been addresses, and that is cost/price.  At $20 a stick, you got a good deal on drill rod.  Drill rod, however, is more expensive than more typical bar stock because it has been pretty precisely ground to diameter which is of no value once you start forging it.

Except that most of the bar stock we can buy is in the same boat, i.e. been ground to specific dimensions, so does that matter? I did the math on O-1 bar stock vs drill rod and found that buying the drill rod was much more economical. I don't think that $20 for a 36" stick of 5/8" O-1 was a particularly good deal either (not a really bad deal, but not great). IMNSHO, 5/8" diameter rod is also kind of small for forging blades from, unless you plan on making pretty skinny blades. The volume in 5/8 rod when flattened out will be 1/4" thick at a little less than 1.25 inch wide. That does not include any material loss and assumes an even lateral spread with no longitudinal growth. Difficult to achieve, but not impossible. It is likely that unless you like to forge really thin (like for kitchen knives) 5/8" rod is going to be good for the EDC size type of blade, but not a great choice for anything that is wider than about 1 inch when done. That is, unless your forging skills are a lot better than mine, which come to think of it, isn't really that difficult to achieve, so maybe I should shut up now.

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On 3/15/2017 at 1:57 PM, S. Cruse said:

most places its the only decent steel readily available, I know in this part of missouri and  we have 5 or 6 different steel suppliers Springfield alone, and all mild crap steel so far.  The Fastenal drill rods are the only thing i have found local

There are several in the St. Louis that sale many types of high carbon steels.

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My experience locally, it best to go on-line for most of my high carbon steels.  On-line Metals, Speedy Metals and of course, NJ Steel Baron have all been excellent sources of well priced steel.  Fastenal prices have always been at the high end.

Edited by Gerald Boggs

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7 hours ago, Joshua States said:

Except that most of the bar stock we can buy is in the same boat, i.e. been ground to specific dimensions, so does that matter? I did the math on O-1 bar stock vs drill rod and found that buying the drill rod was much more economical. I don't think that $20 for a 36" stick of 5/8" O-1 was a particularly good deal either (not a really bad deal, but not great). IMNSHO, 5/8" diameter rod is also kind of small for forging blades from, unless you plan on making pretty skinny blades. The volume in 5/8 rod when flattened out will be 1/4" thick at a little less than 1.25 inch wide. That does not include any material loss and assumes an even lateral spread with no longitudinal growth. Difficult to achieve, but not impossible. It is likely that unless you like to forge really thin (like for kitchen knives) 5/8" rod is going to be good for the EDC size type of blade, but not a great choice for anything that is wider than about 1 inch when done. That is, unless your forging skills are a lot better than mine, which come to think of it, isn't really that difficult to achieve, so maybe I should shut up now.

Joshua if you have any forging skills at all they will be better then mine, as I have yet to light off the forge I just built.  So keep talking I might learn a thing or two.  LOL

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3 hours ago, Gerald Boggs said:

My experience locally, it best to go on-line for most of my high carbon steels.  On-line Metals, Speedy Metals and of course, NJ Steel Baron have all been excellent sources of well priced steel.  Fastenal prices have always been at the high end.

Boy howdy I looked at the prices of there stock and cringed.  If what I have is to small to make a knife with I will use it to make some "tools" with, after all it is tool steel.  LOL

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1 hour ago, RobertMunford said:

Boy howdy I looked at the prices of there stock and cringed.  If what I have is to small to make a knife with I will use it to make some "tools" with, after all it is tool steel.  LOL

Pretty sure if worked with files it can make a nice touchmark punch

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4 hours ago, RobertMunford said:

Boy howdy I looked at the prices of there stock and cringed.  If what I have is to small to make a knife with I will use it to make some "tools" with, after all it is tool steel.  LOL

Gerald listed a few good places online and there are others. I buy my drill rod from MSC. I have purchased from the NJ Steel Baron and been very happy with the product, but I don't order from them much any more (sorry Aldo) because the shipping kills me. I have to find places in the southwest to keep my shipping costs down.

That rod you have isn't too small for a knife. I did not mean that. It would be best suited for smaller blades though, unless they were pretty thin. Don't try to make a big Bowie out of it, the material isn't there.

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10 hours ago, S. Cruse said:

Pretty sure if worked with files it can make a nice touchmark punch

I need to make one.  Forney industries sells a set of diamond burrs that fit a dremel.  Will have to give it a go.

Robert

6 hours ago, Joshua States said:

Gerald listed a few good places online and there are others. I buy my drill rod from MSC. I have purchased from the NJ Steel Baron and been very happy with the product, but I don't order from them much any more (sorry Aldo) because the shipping kills me. I have to find places in the southwest to keep my shipping costs down.

That rod you have isn't too small for a knife. I did not mean that. It would be best suited for smaller blades though, unless they were pretty thin. Don't try to make a big Bowie out of it, the material isn't there.

Got in mind a small blade.  One similar to a knife I bought in the mid 70s.  I guess that dates me for sure. lol

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Robert,

Something that I  would  suggest for  any beginning knife maker/bladesmith is to keep it simple until your skills allow you to do  more.  That means use a forgiving type of  steel until you have the skills & equipment to move ahead.  There are many steels that will make a quality blade if  worked &  H/T'ed correctly but aren't what I  would recommend for beginning.

Something that I always recommend to new knife makers is to  pick a forgiving steel like 5160 or 1080/1084 and use nothing else until  you are confident that you can get the most out of that steel EVERY TIME!  And don't be lured into  using a used piece of steel to save money.  Using a mystery steel or even multiple steels to  learn will only confuse  you  and slow down  the  learning  curve.

There are enough things  to learn about  knife making without having to worry if  you're getting the most out  of  your steel.  Stick with one of the  two that I recommended and get them from either Kelly Cupples or Aldo Bruno.  They have consistent quality that other steel providers seem to fall short of occasionally. 

I know  that advice  is  cheap and everyone  has  opinions which often will differ.  But keep it  simple (KISS) and always test your blades is the best advice  that anyone can give you.

Edited by Gary Mulkey
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Thanks Gary:   Yup KISS "keep it simple stupid" has been the advice given to me more than once over the years, and is a piece of advice I have given more than once around my shops and in the class  rooms I have taught in.  I will have a little practice beating on iron before I even start on a knife.  I plan on making a couple of tongs so will have some idea what I am doing.  Then comes the hard part, designing a blade, then making one, and finally putting a handle on it.  I hope that the handle will be the easiest part for me being as I used to do quite a bit of wood working in my younger days. 

Thanks again Gary for the advice.

Robert

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On 3/16/2017 at 4:30 AM, Alan Longmire said:

 O-1 simply heated, quenched, and tempered will indeed make a hard tough blade, just not as good as it could be.  Kevin Cashen got into my head on that,

I had wanted to elaborate a little here, but forgot about it until today.

Kevin has done extensive testing with O-1 and has produced very hard  and tough blades with serious HT control. It is interesting to note that he does all of his O-1 HT in salt baths, not ovens. He admitted on another forum that he is interested in squeezing that extra half-point of hardness out of the steel. So take this with a pound of salt.......

On 3/15/2017 at 1:54 PM, Dan P. said:

O1 will always do better in the hands of a novice than 1080 or similar simple or "low alloy" steel.

It has effectively become an internet meme that O1 is only for those with more elaborate HT set ups. 

The reality is that O1 is a bog standard steel and is ubiquitous for the very simple reason that it is very easy to handle.

1080 and similar steels, on the other hand, are much easier to over heat or under-harden.  

These are very valid points. I can only weigh in on the "superior knife" argument by relating a personal story. A few years ago, a buddy of mine approached me about making a knife for him to bring to his brother back in Mississippi. My friend related that most of his family back home lived in the backwoods and lived very much off the land, so the knife would see a lot of use, and probably on a daily basis. He wanted a mono-steel, full tang blade with bolsters, and a finger cutout. I was using either 1084 or O-1 as my mono-steel blades and I went with O-1. I did not have my Paragon oven at the time, so hardening was done in the forge (gas) and tempering was in the kitchen oven (electric, digital control).

I gave him the knife and away it went to Mississippi. When he came back, he told me that I now had another couple of knives to make for his cousins. Eventually, I made him probably 8 knives total for his family and friends back home.  That first O-1 blade performed so much better than any commercially available blade, that everyone who used it, wanted one.

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