Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Gerhard Gerber

Best frontiersman steel?

Recommended Posts

You know how knowing better sometimes spoils a thing for you?

I was watching a TV series recently and the hero heats up his knife and seals a wound, and I couldn't get past "man you just messed up your knife" :lol:

Considering this all plays out in the Canadian wilderness during the 1700's or 1800's, I could help but wonder how good the heat treat would be on the average knife in those days.....

Next my thoughts turned to air hardening steels like bloody O1, considering my experiences and another recent thread, I couldn't help but think O1 would be perfect in a situation like this.

I don't know if anybody (except Rambo) really ever used a blade to seal a wound, and I wonder how hard O1 can get by accident, and will it make a passable blade in this state?

 

All hypothetical and not serious at all, I was just thinking along the lines of 1095 and 5160 would be pretty much unusable after that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tempering temps for 1095 and 5160 are not all that far apart, between 350 and 425 F.  How hot would you need to be to cauterize an open wound?  Somewhere between 150F and 200F is what my brief dip into the internet suggests.

Geoff

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Disclaimer: I know we're not serious with this, but It did pique my interest, so...

My Google-Fu indicates two popular ranges depending on the procedure: 800-1200 F and 2200 F.  That would indeed wreck a temper!  I think I've seen that movie, or at least a similar one, and the size of the wound cauterized is not realistic.  They did used to cauterize amputations with a glowing hot iron, call it 1500 degrees, BUT, and this is very important, they used tourniquets to prevent blood flow until after the cautery had been done.  I can tell you from personal experience that without a tourniquet a severed blood vessel in the middle finger can be exposed to 1500 degree steel for a second or so and still bleed like a mofo.  Probably not as badly as if it had been room-temperature steel doing the cutting, but still...This leads us to:

Steels of the "frontier" period.  In western Canada (defined as anything west of Montreal) of the late 18th-early 19th century, what your knife was made of would depend greatly on who you were.  If you were European and had a little money you had shear steel generally equivalent to 1075 or so.  If you were First Nations native or a metis trapper dependant on trading posts your knife was plain old wrought iron, no steel unless you had a lot of cash or pelts.  The Hudson's Bay Company didn't trade steel knives until ca. 1814 or so. This was because of competition from the Northwest Company, who realized you'd get a better deal with the locals if you traded them better quality products and insisted on steel trade knives from the start, in 1779.  At that time the HBC controlled trade with almost all the old northwest, and were notoriously, well, I suppose they'd prefer the term "thrifty" to "parsimonious colonial monopolists with hearts of stone," but there you go.  :P  If your knife was iron, using it as a cautery tool wouldn't bother it a bit, or at least not anything some cold-hammering wouldn't fix.  

All the above reminds me a story my father told me about "initiating" a kid into his scout troop back in the 1950s.  This would be considered a hazing that would scar the kid for life these days, but seemed like fun at the time.  Much like a lot of things that used to happen before the late 1970s, but I digress.  So, they tie new kid to a tree and let him watch as they slowly heat a knife blade to glowing red in the campfire, then they blindfold him, then they simultaneously lay the hot blade on a steak held next to his ear while slapping a slab of ice on his bare chest.  He didn't faint, but apparently it took a while to calm him down.  Can't imagine why... 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Metal content from a blade at a fur post in Minnesota which was abandoned in 1806.

C  0.067
Mn  0.03
P  0.035
S  0.001
Si  0.03
Cu  0.30
Ni  0.01
Cr  0.00
Mo  0.00

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gerhard, I know what you mean about being irritated with inaccuracies in film and television. I have spent a fair amount of time learning the history of the fur trapper days in North America and I can offer one insight you may not have considered. The idea of one "super tool" capable of being a knife (which means a cutting tool intended for use only on materials considerably softer than the knife) a pry bar, axe/chopper/wood splitter, or any of the other abuses we subject "survival" type knives to is a purely modern concept. Knives, all knives, must be re sharpened with repeated use. During the fur trapping boom knives were viewed as consumable tools with an inevitable end point. As such the trappers/mountain men would never range far from a re-supply camp without multiples, sometimes a dozen or more knives. He may have had a favorite that was kept shaving sharp and held in reserve as a last ditch defensive tool but the bulk of the mundane cutting chores were left to the thin bladed, slightly flexable blades we would call a butcher knife today. In the early fur days most of the cutlery was European made, Sheffield blades shipped to the Americas and Canada by the crate without handles attached. Much later American companies started making those kinds of blades here and there are still a couple of companies making and selling the old pattern knives today. Most use 1095 for the blades. I like "Old Hickory" brand, made by Ontario cutlery Co. They average around $10USD each which keeps them in the consumable category as far as I'm concerned! They are thin and easy to sharpen and I do things with them I don't want to subject my finer blades to. If I had to sacrifice one of them to staunch a fount of gushing blood I would feel like it was a fair trade even if I only had the one;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, I know this is all fir fun, but this one hits close to home.  As someone who has designed tools specifically to cauterize bleeding, I will say my experience matches more of what Geoff found on the interweb.  It's less about searing the tissue closed, and more about applying relatively gentle heat to cause rapid coagulation.  If you try to sear the tissue, you just cause it to bleed again when you rip away the flesh that has inevitably stuck to the branding iron.

WRT the scout hazing.  Yeah, that would certainly cause a ruckus in today's world.  However, I bet none of those kids grew up to be adults that got rattled by pointless drama.  What was it Nietzsche said about stuff like that?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Brian Dougherty said:

OK, I know this is all fir fun, but this one hits close to home.  As someone who has designed tools specifically to cauterize bleeding, I will say my experience matches more of what Geoff found on the interweb.  It's less about searing the tissue closed, and more about applying relatively gentle heat to cause rapid coagulation.  If you try to sear the tissue, you just cause it to bleed again when you rip away the flesh that has inevitably stuck to the branding iron.

WRT the scout hazing.  Yeah, that would certainly cause a ruckus in today's world.  However, I bet none of those kids grew up to be adults that got rattled by pointless drama.  What was it Nietzsche said about stuff like that?

I don't know about Nietzsche but I've heard it said that when the ships were made of wood the sailors were made of iron. Once the iron ships came around the sailors became wooden.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, MichaelP said:

I've heard it said that when the ships were made of wood the sailors were made of iron. Once the iron ships came around the sailors became wooden.

As someone who has been underway on both ships of steel and wood (albeit for a VERY short time on the ship of wood) I can comfortably say there is a lot of truth to this. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ask a less than serious question and still learn....what a place! B)

@Geoff Keyes Being Hollywood the knife was glowing red of course.

@Alan Longmire Considering the character most likely, were it real, he would have a wrought iron knife then.  I assume wrought wouldn't mind being heated?

 

I have very mixed feelings on hazing, one instance was utter tyranny, the next utter necessity........Nietzsche is a bit dark for me, more a Heinlein guy :lol:

Still I think most of you missed my point: If you are about to step into the time  machine knowing you might need to do a Hollywood-style cauterization, what steel on your blade?

While unsuccessfully sleeping I thought it might be a great   Mythbusters episode, seeing which steel hardens best quenched in flesh! ROFL :lol:

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Point? Do you have any experience with traumatic injuries? No need for a time machine,it could happen anytime ,any place today.You use whatever is at hand,but if you don't know what you are doing it could do more harm than good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Gerhard Gerber said:

Still I think most of you missed my point: If you are about to step into the time  machine knowing you might need to do a Hollywood-style cauterization, what steel on your blade?

A2 as long as I don't have to make the knife :)

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×