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What Steels For tool Making/Starting out


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So I am going to be making a lot of my own tools for when I start forging, I am wondering what steel types and sizes to stock up on.

I figure to start I would use 4140 for cut off hardy and fuller tools.

I am also planning on buying 1/2x1” and/or 3/8x3/4” for tongs.

Also going to pick up some 1095 eventually when I feel up to forging blades again.

So I would ask, are there better options for what I have listed, and what should I get for making my own hammers, axes, hot and cold chisels.

I am planning on spending a couple hundred on new steel to start out. I used only recycled stuff the first time, it does not save money IMO because you waste time trying to forge or cut it to a reasonable size, and half the time a heat treat does not work because you are guessing what it is. 

On the same line, what sort of mild steel sizes should I stock up to do more general smithing?

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Most of my tooling (punches, chisels, etc.) is 5160.  My hardies are 1045, but something like S-3 or S-7  would probably be better, just harder to forge and heat treat. 4140 would be fine, though.  I recently got some H-13 for hot chisels, since the 5160 ones have to be quenched every three or four blows and that gets old.  H-13 is a hot work tool steel and stays hard well into a low red heat.  This means it's a pain to forge, but it's also air hardening and doesn't necessarily need tempering afterwards.  I have yet to use it, but I have it.  If you can find it, Atlantic 33 is supposed to be great for forge-and-forget chisels, and comes in the trademark "flutagon" cross section.  

For hammers, 4140, 1050 or 1060 is fine, 5160 is overkill, and the S-series are also overkill.  For axes, I'd say it depends on the intended use.  I usually do the body from mild steel or wrought iron and weld an edge in, either 5160 or 1084, usually, but W-1 on occasion.

For general mild steel stock to keep on hand, I like 1/4" , 3/8", 5/16", 1/2", 9/16", and 1" square, and 3/8" and 1/2" round.  Flat bar in 1/4 x 1, 1/4 x 1.25, 1/4" x 2 and 1/4" x 3" (coat rack material), and 1/4 x 1/2 is surprisingly useful for fancy hooks. Some 1/2 x 1 for general stuff, and some 1" black iron pipe for candle cups.  That's really a hard question that only you can answer, since I don't know what you intend to make.  For non-sharp-object work I do mostly dragon-head hooks, key racks, and coat racks with the occasional ornamental stands and candle holders, and the VERY rare set of fire tools.  I also keep a pile of hoof rasps on hand to make snakes and snake candle holders out of.  

If you want to do architectural stuff like railings, hinges, boot scrapers, and so on you'll need a different set of sizes from what I listed above.  

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1 hour ago, Stephen Asay said:

So I am going to be making a lot of my own tools for when I start forging, I am wondering what steel types and sizes to stock up on.

I figure to start I would use 4140 for cut off hardy and fuller tools.

I am also planning on buying 1/2x1” and/or 3/8x3/4” for tongs.

Also going to pick up some 1095 eventually when I feel up to forging blades again.

So I would ask, are there better options for what I have listed, and what should I get for making my own hammers, axes, hot and cold chisels.

I am planning on spending a couple hundred on new steel to start out. I used only recycled stuff the first time, it does not save money IMO because you waste time trying to forge or cut it to a reasonable size, and half the time a heat treat does not work because you are guessing what it is. 

On the same line, what sort of mild steel sizes should I stock up to do more general smithing?

Unless you have some parks 50 I would go with something other than 1095 or w2.

Its not impossible to harden 1095 in canola....but I dont think your going to get a blade as strong as say 1084

I just redid a 1095 blade I orig hardened about a year ago. Although it skated a file pretty well after canola.

There was a noticeable difference after the parks 50.....mostly the sound the file made on the edge....if that makes any sense.

 

Edited by Kreg Whitehead
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Ok, so could I water harden 1095?, I thought that it would make an ok high carbon blade material. I might go with 5160 at first instead to weld into axes and blades, thanks for letting me know.

Thanks for the reply Alan, exactly what I was looking for, you listed a lot of sizes I hadn’t thought of... I heard about H-13, Going to look around for a good supply. I was hesitant to order some because getting a 1x1x12 chunck mailed here is going to run me 60 bucks or more from what I saw. :wacko: I don’t mind forging it, you know I will just keep heating and whacking until it resembles a useable shape.

Do you think it is feasable to make riveted or forge welded hardy and fuller tool? I also might look into forge welding a piece of H-13 into the end of hot cut chisels.

Also thinking about buying the 1080 1 inch square from NJ steel barron, would that make good material for hardy swages, nail headers, riveters (don’t know what you would call them), etc?

Basically I want to be able to make just about anything, nothing worse than starting a project and realizing that you have to wait for something to come in the mail.

Edited by Stephen Asay
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Go with 1084 or 80CrV2 for blades, or 5160.  5160 is great for headers and such as well.  It is tougher than 1080, and you aren't going to be heat treating these tools anyway.  Speaking of which, most fullers are mild steel.  Since they are only used on hot work there is no need to go the the expense and effort of using something hardenable.  Your cutoff hardy needs to be tough, but that's all.

If you do get H-13, get it in 1/2" round.  And don't plan on forge-welding it.  

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I recently came into a couple of used jackhammer bits that were being thrown away. It's either S-5 or S-7 according to my limited research, but it has proven to be a good steel for a Hardy cut off and drift.

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I played with all the fancy steels, and found them to work no better then 1045 for any of my hot tools. It is generally just as cheap as 1018 from my local guys, so there is no real reason to fuss with anything else, and it can work well enough for hammers. I basically use it for anything that doesn't need to become a cutting edge. 

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1 hour ago, Joshua States said:

I recently came into a couple of used jackhammer bits that were being thrown away. It's either S-5 or S-7 according to my limited research, but it has proven to be a good steel for a Hardy cut off and drift.

Thanks, I am planning on stopping by a scrapyard just for this reason, I don't know if they will have any jackhammer bits but it is worth looking around.

15 minutes ago, Gregory Lirot said:

I played with all the fancy steels, and found them to work no better then 1045 for any of my hot tools. It is generally just as cheap as 1018 from my local guys, so there is no real reason to fuss with anything else, and it can work well enough for hammers. I basically use it for anything that doesn't need to become a cutting edge. 

Thanks, I don't know if the steel suppliers near me will have any, but I really do want to try forging some. It sounds like a great option for tool making!

 

On 1/30/2019 at 6:12 AM, Alan Longmire said:

Go with 1084 or 80CrV2 for blades, or 5160.  5160 is great for headers and such as well.  It is tougher than 1080, and you aren't going to be heat treating these tools anyway.  Speaking of which, most fullers are mild steel.  Since they are only used on hot work there is no need to go the the expense and effort of using something hardenable.  Your cutoff hardy needs to be tough, but that's all.

If you do get H-13, get it in 1/2" round.  And don't plan on forge-welding it.  

Thanks, 1084 looks like a good option, with the fact that all of the knives I made before were unknown spring steel I am going to pick one (probably 1084 or 1075) and stick with it for a while so I don't have to relearn heat treating every time. I am brushing up on Verhoeven's again, man I forgot so much of that stuff in the past couple of years, not that I was ever an expert.

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1045 feels like mild steel. Its prices vary, but it is usually 10-15% above 1018. Its honestly just easier for me to have around then both, and by the economy of scale I wind up spending the same on steel at the end of the day. I doubt they WONT have it, but it may not be in the size you want. I did it by putting an order in for like 500 lbs and am sitting on the remainder until I need more. 

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3 hours ago, Joshua States said:

I recently came into a couple of used jackhammer bits that were being thrown away. It's either S-5 or S-7 according to my limited research, but it has proven to be a good steel for a Hardy cut off and drift.

That is what all the junkyard steel charts say, but the late Grant Sarver, who ran a business re-pointing those bits, had some tested.  They were all 1045 with a little extra silicon, like 1%.  Silicon adds shock resistance, which is why the S series of tool steels have it at 2% or so.  But anyway, yeah, it's great for hardies and drifts.  Tough as it needs to be.

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1 hour ago, Gregory Lirot said:

1045 feels like mild steel. Its prices vary, but it is usually 10-15% above 1018. Its honestly just easier for me to have around then both, and by the economy of scale I wind up spending the same on steel at the end of the day. I doubt they WONT have it, but it may not be in the size you want. I did it by putting an order in for like 500 lbs and am sitting on the remainder until I need more. 

Awesome, Ha if I ever had 500 lbs of of usable stock. I might just try finding some for general forging, I was thinking of using something like 1045 for arrow and spear heads, and maybe special s-hooks and throwing knives. Just to have a little bit of strengthening ability without getting too brittle. Once again I have a lot of research to do.

 

2 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

That is what all the junkyard steel charts say, but the late Grant Sarver, who ran a business re-pointing those bits, had some tested.  They were all 1045 with a little extra silicon, like 1%.  Silicon adds shock resistance, which is why the S series of tool steels have it at 2% or so.  But anyway, yeah, it's great for hardies and drifts.  Tough as it needs to be.

That is nice to know, I am for sure going to keep a lookout for them then.

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10 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

That is what all the junkyard steel charts say,

What little research I did was to check BladeForum......I guess that counts as a Junkyard chart?:P

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:lol:  If it's not coming from an actual analysis, it's a junkyard steel chart.  (ducks and runs)...

I am sure there are some S-series bits out there, but the ones Grant had tested (and confimed by one manufacturer, Brunner and Lay) were not S-series steels.  And the bits I have are handily stamped Brunner and Lay, so there you go!

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Junkyard steel charts are not worth too much. Per a spring shop near me, and their data sheets on the leaf springs they make their supplier uses 9260. A lot of the junkyard charts are only true for one out of a bazillion mfgs. Honestly, for hardy tooling anything will work well enough until you can spend the money for new steel. 

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On 2/5/2019 at 8:55 AM, Gregory Lirot said:

Junkyard steel charts are not worth too much. Per a spring shop near me, and their data sheets on the leaf springs they make their supplier uses 9260. A lot of the junkyard charts are only true for one out of a bazillion mfgs. Honestly, for hardy tooling anything will work well enough until you can spend the money for new steel. 

Thanks, I called a local steel supplier that I plan on buying from, they don’t keep tool steel handy but he did mention that they had 4140 round stock, didn’t catch the size so might try that is feasible or just make one out of mild or cold rolled square stuff.

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