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Aaron Gouge

Help with steel selection and quench oil

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Hey all, 

I am newer to the form. I have been blade smithing for a little over a year now. Mostly making hunting knives out of spring steel. I have a Atlas mini forge with with no heat control system set up. I have been quenching in Canola oil. 

    My brother would like a hunting/skinning knife made for him and a friend. He wanted to know what other steels I could use that would hold a good edge. After lots of reading I have some thoughts and would like a little advice. 

    I would like to do the heat treat myself but don’t have the funds to upgrade my system right now ( so no parks 50 or heat control system for the forge). I have been looking at two options 1084 or W2. From my reading I believe I can do the 1084 in house. My question about W2 is will canola oil be fast enough to maximize the property’s of W2?

    So if my current system won’t work for W2 than I would need to send it out. If I am sending  2 knives out for heat treat do I look at  some S35VN? 

     My brother know how to care for knives so 1084 or W2 won’t be a issue. He also doesn’t abuse knives so I am looking to put a pretty fine edge on it. 

    Thanks,

Aaron

     

     

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You may not get full hardness from W2 in canola. 

With your current setup, your best bet is to use 1084 and decalescence and/or table salt(melts at around 1470°f) 

If you did not experiment with decalescence/recalescence yet, there are plenty of YouTube videos about this fascinating phenomenon. 

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Also, what's wrong with spring steel?  

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Thanks Joel, I was suspicious that conola would not be fast enough but wanted more options.

   Jerrod, I have actually really liked the spring steel!! I feel like I have done really good with getting the blades really hard and refining the grane. I think I am about 14 blades into the hobby and most have been gifts. Here recently I have had some extended familly buy a couple. Most of the reading I have done leads me to believe that 1084 and W2 will hold a sharper edge for longer than the spring steel. I would not have been doing the extra reading on all the other steels if my brother hadn’t asked me about “best steel option”. 

    Anyone else want to chin in?

Aaron 

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I think that the 1084 would probably harden in canola oil ok.  I went to the New Jersey Steel Baron site and the certs listed a rather high manganese level plus a touch of chromium.  80CrV2 would be a little more expensive but should definitely harden in canola.  Not sure what you mean by spring steel.  Was it salvaged from a leaf spring bundle or did you buy it from a supplier who sold it as spring steel?  If the latter I would treat it something like 5160 or 9260 which would actually heat treat about the same.  Remember that holding a edge for a long time can mean having a hard time putting an edge back on it.  You need to reach a balance between the two.  By the way, there is no "best steel option".  There's the best balance in characteristics for the intended use of the knife.  Also some of these steel that form a lot of hard carbides really benefit from a regulated oven so that the steel can be spherodized to make the carbides a small as possible which will make machining easier, as in not burning up your bits as you try to drill pin holes, and to leave a finer edge.

Doug

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Warm canola is perfect for 1084, 5160, 9260, and 80CrV2, and will produce hamon on W-2 even if it isn't quite as fast as Parks 50.  It is close, though. 

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Hey Doug, 

     The spring steel I have is a boundle from a 94 Chevy truck. Picked it up at a friends salvage yard when I was passing through Northern Ohio. It still has all the factory paint on it witch leads me to believe the truck was not drove a whole lot. With the amount of snow they get and salt they use on the road they would of been covered in rust if the truck saw much use. All of that to say I know some frown on salvage steel but so far the spring steel has let my skill  grow and produced some decent knives. 

     I know thier is no “best steel” across the board. It’s a balancing act, tailoring steel to function. I felt like 1084 and W2 were a good middle ground between ease of sharpening and edge retention. On this form I have read that many makers would use these steels for a hunting/skinning knife. But I have no experience with either. 

     Alan thanks for chiming in. Do you feel like the warm canola oil will do justice to W2? I have thought some about trying to creat a hamon if I go with the W2. 

    Aaron 

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If it's less than 1/4" thick W2 will be fine with warm canola.  You'd get a better hamon with something a bit faster, of course.

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Alan it will  be less than a 1/4" thick, between 3/16" and 1/8". That is supper helpful to know that the canola oil will work!

      Unless anyone else wants to chime in with advice on these steels. I will have a talk with my brother and see what his thoughts are. I will update you all when I finish the two knives. 

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The only thing to think about here is how fast you can get it into the quench.  With 5160 you have 6 to 9 seconds to drop the temp from 1550 to under 900.  With 1084 you have 4 seconds.  With W2 you have just under one second, and it will warp if not ground perfectly or if plunged into the oil crooked.

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Alan I keep my quench tank right next to my forge when I am quenching so getting the steel into the oil quick should not be a problem. Should I have the canola at 130 or warmer? I have a oblong quench tank and my blades go in horizontaly edge first, is this fine with W2? 

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Canola will lose speed beyond 130° so try to keep yours between 120-130. I personally did not have any issue quenching W2 horizontally, that's what I did on all my clay covered blades so you should be fine. 

If you're not going for a hamon, I'd go for 80CrV2 though. You'll be sure to get max hardness. I honestly can't tell the difference between my W2 and 80CrV2 kitchen blades in terms of edge holding and I'm using an accelerated quench oil. Both steels are good in the 60-62hrc range though W2 has a tad higher working hardness. 80CrV2 is also cheaper and easier to forge. My two cents :lol:

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Hey Joel, thanks for jumping back in with the help. I’m not sure I want to go for a hamon yet... not sure I want to open that box yet!:-) Knowing my brother if I presented that option he would be like “Sweet, that’s what I want!” 

     After Doug mentioned the 80CrV2 I did some reading up on it. It dose seem like its a good option as well. Would most people agree that W2 or 80CrV2 would have a little bit of a edge over 1084 for a skinning/hunting knife? 

   Aaron 

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32 minutes ago, Aaron Gouge said:

Would most people agree that W2 or 80CrV2 would have a little bit of a edge over 1084 for a skinning/hunting knife? 

At this stage of the game for you, I 'd say your heat treat skills aren't high enough to get the most out of them, so I really wouldn't worry about optimal properties.  I'd suggest the 80CrV2 (or 5160) as they are most user friendly with beginner heat treaters.  1084 would be the 3rd choice.  

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Jerrod I appreciate you thoughts. With having no experience with W2 it seems like a longer step than 1084 or 80CrV2 in my learning journey. I don't mind a challenge but I also don't want to throw money away either. Yet also I would say any smith would have a learning curve with a new metal.

     I feel like I have the heat treat dialed in on the spring steel I have been using.  Before moving on to some of the more picky carbon steels I need to invest in a pyrometer for my forge. I have not invested in any faster quench oil because the family and I will be moving over seas in the next 3-5 months. I plan on taking much of my forging equipment but not oil so it makes sense to stick with the Canola oil for now. 

 

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