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Stephen Ray

Thoughts on sources

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In my search for steel I have been google-fuing (a phrase I adopted from this site thank you.) and have had some thoughts on what might guarantee some reasonably good steel for a better price.

in short: could I spend $10 on a broken jack, bottle or otherwise and use the core on the assumption that it would be a good high carbon steel? what about other things such as ball hitches or padlock shackle (masterlock or brinks for example). Google has provided nothing definitive.

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It's cheaper in the long run to just use known steel from a reputable supplier (since if you know what it is there are loads of published sources of heat-treating methods), but if you're determined to use scrap/alternative steels, you become your own experimental metallurgist and have to figure out the heat treat by trial and error.

Rule #1: do not forge plated steels like hitch balls or padlock shackles.  You don't know what it's been plated with.  If there's any cadmium as one of the layers (chrome plated objects have three or more layers, usually copper, then nickel, then chrome, but sometimes cadmium instead of nickel) it might kill you and anyone downwind.  If it's zinc plated it will make you very sick to breathe the fumes, and might kill you if you have pneumonia or COPD/emphysema to begin with.  I've personally known two people who have died from complications of zinc fume fever.  Just don't do it.

Rule #2:  What the steel was used for is an indication of what alloy it might be.  Automotive leaf springs in the US have been mostly 5160 for the last 50 years, although you will find some 9260, 1075, 1095, or even 1050.  They all heat-treat about the same, which is why leaf spring is generally a good source of high carbon steel suitable for blades.  Automotive coil spring is iffy if new.  Older American coils may be 5160 or 9260.  Newer ones may be HSLA (high strength low alloy) that can't be heat treated by our methods.  Jason Knight says new Toyota coils are 1084.  Post 2008 Ford coils are HSLA.  Sway bars are sometimes 5160, sometimes 1050.  Axles are usually 1050-ish.  After all that, any used automotive steels may have stress fractures that won't show up until heat treatment.  

Prybars are usually spring steel of some flavor, 5160 or 1075 is common. Big lumber mill bandsaw blades (the ones that are about a foot wide and 30 to 60 feet long) are usually either 15N20 for the new ones or L6 for the older ones.  These are not similar in how they are heat treated, so you need to know which you have.  Small home-shop bandsaw blades for wood can be anything.  Pallet strapping is often 1050, but some is 1095.  I don't have a clue what jack cores would be, something hardenable but tough like 1050 would make sense.  

Large roller bearings are often 52100, but can also be case-hardened low carbon.  

Files are usually 1095 or W1, but are also found in case-hardened low carbon on some of the cheaper ones.  

Plow discs are anything from 1065 to 1095.

Logging cable can be 1060, 1075, or 1095.  If you have the label it will tell you in the form of IPS (1060), EIPS (1075), or EEIPS/XXPS (1095)

Rule #3: The above list of "might be, might not be" is why it's usually better to buy a bar of 80CrV2 or 1084 from the New Jersey Steel Baron, or drill rod from MSC or Fastenall (water hardening is W1, oil hardening is O1) so you know exactly what you have and how to heat treat it.  

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Someone I know had a set of almost new pickup leaf springs analysed(can't remember the brand, sorry) and turns out it was 6150 instead on 5160 <_<.  Still ok for large blades but on the soft side for anything else...

Imo, this trade is challenging enough you don't need to raise the difficulty with the additional variables mystery steels bring, especially at beginner stage. :rolleyes:

Edited by Joël Mercier

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30 minutes ago, Joël Mercier said:

Imo, this trade is challenging enough you don't need to raise the difficulty with the additional variables mystery steels bring, especially at beginner stage. :rolleyes:

I completely agree. By an known steel from a reputable dealer. I use Alpha Knife Supply.

I personally enjoy using scrap steel from time to time, but I consider it a medium to advanced skill getting a good blade from it.

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Steel is cheap(and I mean that literally).  Your time is not.  

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