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bengodwin

Cheap Steel To Learn On

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I have a number or mower blades, railroad spikes and old wrenches available to practice on.  I know that mower blades are kind of a no-no as you never know what kind of steel you're working with, but what about the wrenches and spikes?  I have quite a few of the spikes.  Is there anything I should look for in them or watch out for?  I'll just be making simple knives until I get some practice in.  The help is much appreciated.

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I wish i had started out on good stock. I recall days of using half rusted out spikes that i found. I fought cold shuts and all kinds of stuff caused by the dirty steel. When learning a process minimizing possible variables can increase the learning curve greatly. On the other hand, its free bang away if you like...? REally good knife steel is not Beelions of dollars. 30$ can get you a 4' bar shipped to your door.

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The mower blades may actually be your best bet (but I doubt it). The spikes and wrenchs aren't going to be anything good. Best bet is to pick up some good knife steel. It's cheap, it's easy to work with, and you know exactly what it is. Look up the website, New Jersey steel Baron, (He's a local on this forum). If that doesn't appeal to you there are other sites like Texasknifemakers supply (slow shipping!). Or Jantz supply (who I actually like for anything non-steel related), although still they do have! Plus Jantz ships fast. 

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Ben, filling out your profile a little may help folks figure out where you are and what suppliers are closest to you for the best shipping.

I like the NJ Steel Baron, but shipping from NJ to AZ is too costly in small quantities, so I buy locally. I also have heavy forging equipment so I can buy steel in any shape and size. If you have a basic set up, you probably want to start with flat or square bars.

To learn basic forging skills, I suggest using mild steel and making stuff other than knives. You would need to learn the basic five techniques:

Tapering, rounding, drawing, fullering, and spreading. When you think about knife making in blacksmith's terms, you realize that everything you need to know how to do to make a knife, you also need to know to make a coat hook like this.

hook.jpg

This hook was made from a piece of 3/8 or 1/2 inch square bar and sells for $30. Materials cost? almost nothing. Learning value? Lots.

So take those railroad spikes and forge them into other objects that are more useful.

Edited by Joshua States
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For cheap stuff to to practice on that isnt too terrible, i went to lowes/home depot and just got some flat stock bars of mild steel that they have... Like 5$ for a 4' bar, perfect for smackin on without feeling like youre wasting any good metal

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13 hours ago, bengodwin said:

  I'll just be making simple knives until I get some practice in. 

This one statement tells me that you are wanting knives to show for your work and not just practice.  This being the case, I  would have to agree with those who suggested getting proper knife steel and not wasting your time while  working with sub-standard steels.  If you are just wanting practice and will be throwing away the end result then use anything.  If you want a knife to show for your work, then use the right steel(s).

For beginning smiths I recommend using either 5160 or 1084.  Either will make an excellent knife and are very forgiving steels and easier to  learn on.  Get some 1/4" x 1" (or 1 1/2") flat bar.  It is much easier to  learn on flat bar.  You can always step up to starting with other shapes when your skills develop more.

Remember, the majority of  the value of the knife is in your  labor and not the cost of materials so always use the best materials that you can. 

 

Good  Luck and Happy Forging.

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My experiance in using reclaimed steels is fun. But go for the good stuf like files spings old tools rr. From there learn the quality that that specific matherial gives you or trash it if useless. Must say that is wil increase the learning curve as it can bite you whit ht. So always ht a small sample and test if it welds. Using the known steels is the best advice to be safe, if you don't mind mistakes you can experiment. 

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I've good luck with junk so far, with some caveats. If you don't know for sure what you have, do a lot of research and testing, be lucky, and know that every attempt is a potential failure.

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Ben,

I see from your other posts that you are just starting out with blacksmithing to see if you like it. You are also wanting to build your own forge and make some tools. This is a very good way to start out and I commend you for your initiative. However, it could lead you to a lot of reinventing and learning through trial and error. Some of us might live nearby and would be able to suggest local groups or smithing associations where you could get some personal training that will take the steepness out of the learning curve. I see you live in Southeast MO. The nearest ABANA affiliates are in either Memphis TN or Little Rock AR. I don't know anyone in the Memphis area, but there are a lot of Bladesmiths in the Little Rock area. Including this guy: http://www.rheaknives.com/

Edited by Joshua States

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Old files make good steel. I'd hit up a thrift store or pawn shop. Leaf springs from old truck are also good. Make friends with an autobody shop or salvage yard. (My father-in-law works in a salvage yard. He surprised me with a complete set of leaf springs one day. I won't need steel for years!)

Another thing is good wood for handles. I found a hardwood floor installer in a nearby town, explained what I was looking for, and asked if I could look in their dumpster. Two employees climbed in, and loaded me down with scraps of maple and oak. I also found out Lowe's sells samples of bamboo and eucalyptus for about .25 cents US. They're not large, but there's just enough to make good scales on a blade.

If you're lucky, scrap metal places like Pacfic Recycling will have PLENTY of metals, including brass for fittings.

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https://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/46655-blacksmith-organization-of-arkansas/

Might be worth your time to check these guys out. Their site is never up to date, but if you pm Arkie on the above forum, you can get info on upcoming meetings. There's a subgroup out of Jonesboro that may be close enough.

My work schedule keeps me from attending, but the interactions I've had with members so far have been positive. 

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I have used junk alot and I actually have a few old dump truck leaf springs from the same truck waiting for a special occasion. I forged a khukuri out of half of one and did no anneal. But it forged very well, let it air cool and it ground, and drilled very well (don't bother to try that with 1095 or cruforge V). I figure at this point the dern thing is mild steel, but I did an edge quench and the file skated across the blade like the plastic puck across an air hocky table. It's a chance you take, but I like free steel. Just quench a test peice and beat the crap out of it to see what you've got. I love that truck spring steel. 

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http://newjerseysteelbaron.com/shop/product-category/high-carbon-steel/

This is the home of Aldo Bruno, the New Jersey Steel Baron.  His 1084 comes highly recommended, it is easy to forge, grind, and heat-treat, and makes a great knife.

http://www.hightemptools.com/steel.html

This is the site where Kelly Cupples can be reached.  Mr. Cupples hasn't really warmed up to the computer age, you'll need to email him for a current price list, but he makes up for it in being a great guy to do business with.  He also has free shipping on orders over $100 on most of his products so it's worth it to buy in bulk.  I highly recommend his 1080 for the same reason I recommend Aldo's 1084, it's very similar.

The mothersite is a great place to get gas forge parts...

https://www.alphaknifesupply.com/shop/product-category/blade-materials/carbon-steel

These guys are great to do business with, and are great for small orders and reasonable shipping prices.  Stick to their 1084, some of the steels they carry are not for the faint of heart...

As you might have guessed, I recommend new steel as opposed to used because you know exactly what you are getting and can get consistent results.  Old files may be case hardened (useless for knives), old leafsprings can have cracks, steel from Lowe's might be good for practicing with but will never make a decent blade, but Aldo's 1084 is always good...

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Thank you to everyone for the information, advice and direction.  I really appreciate all of the help.  I will be purchasing some quality steel, but would still like to play with the stuff I have.  Don't worry, I'll take all of your advice on it before getting too high hoped.  Looks as though I need to do more research on testing out the steel I have to see if it has any quality to it.  Don't know how to do that, but I'm sure Google will help with that.

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