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steel selection

Daniel W

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Hi guys, I'm pretty close to locking in another commission for my work shop to help bring in some gas money.  I'm pretty excited as my order is for a belt/camp axe something I've been wanting to get into for a while. 

I just in the beginning stages of talking with the potential customer over want he's looking for.  So I'm playing around with what method of construction to wrap and weld the axe, or punch and drift.  Before I get into which method to use, I'm pondering what alloy steel should I use for the cutting edge?  4140 has been recommended to me by another axe making friend as it is rather tough material, and I can also get 4140 locally. 

What do you think is 4140 a good choice?  I know HT comes into question - I would expect to temper the 4140 back to a blue temper. 



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There are many steels which will provide an excellent edge for your ax.  I always recommend using the one  that you are most comfortable with heat treating as that is much more  important than the type of  steel.  (if you temper back to blue your edge will be quite soft.)

Edited by Gary Mulkey




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No, 4140 is a poor choice, not enough carbon. Yes, I'm aware that several tomahawk makers are using it, but I believe that's more a matter of convenience and price, than any concern for producing a quality product. Both Gränsfors Bruk and Wetterlings use 55 points steel for their axes.

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I realized after I posted this that I had asked this question before.  My crafting has pretty much centered around making shapes and making tooling from whatever carbon steels are scrapped around.  Therefore, I do not have a very good knowledge of the alloys. 

I do see some of my blade smithy friends select one grade of steel and stick with it, one used 1080 almost exclusively another uses 5160 or O1.  I could have gotten the 4140 like right now if I wanted it, the shop I visit usually has a lot of it around.  


I worked out a few things today - and came up with a game plan that this axe will have to be punch and drifted mild steel with a good bit welded in.  The customer asked me for something viking inspired but still around the cross section of what a standard axe would be.  Cross section not profile thank goodness. I drew things out, and got an idea of the dimensions I need to forge, its a beast.  I'm planning on convincing him of something more modest than a 4" bearded blade.  The customer may also just go - holy crap forget it when they see my estimate too. 

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