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W1 vs. 1095 - Toughness at High Hardness


David Weaver

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I make a lot of chisels. My recent move from tapering flat stock (and welding on a bolster) to forging round stock so that the bolster is integral has left me with two choices at this point, at least reasonable choices. Precision W1 (1% carbon basically) or 52100. W1 has wonderful dryness and in a brine quench, I'm getting ballpark 68/69 out of the quench without blowing up grain, and 63 after two long 400F tempers. that's great. I can get the same results out of 52100, but it's less easy to have so little variance at really high hardness without bloating grain. 

 

However, I've not been able to find toughness data for W1 at high hardness. I left a message on larrin's blog, but I don't get the sense that these kinds of steels are interesting to him. Originally, someone offered to send him coupons for W1 and W2, but it looks like that never actually happened. 

 

So, 1095 comes into this because in a brine quench, the hardness will be similar, and the toughness is relatively low. The chisels that I'm making out of W1 are decent, but I'm looking for info on where W1 comes in as I've seen it described as an alternative to cast steel with "better toughness". I can't actually see evidence of this. Larrin tested my samples of 26c3 at much higher toughness than the results posted on his page (average 12 foot lbs 63.8 average hardness vs. the furnace samples of 6) - i'm concerned about giving up something significant and haven't yet "manned up" to make some finished chisels and broke them on purpose one next to the other. 

 

Does anyone know of any toughness data at hardness 60+ for W2 or W1? 

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Maybe I should let someone more experienced weigh in, but here goes. Whether it's W1, W2, or 1095, if you heat treat correctly and temper properly, they are all going to be pretty tough. Any one of them can also be broken, however, by someone using the chisel wrong. Your average hardware store chisel doesn't hold an edge very well, so they are probably not properly hardened. W1 and W2 have a lot more tensile strength and slightly higher shear modulus when annealed than 1095, however, so if they are properly tempered, I would expect them to be tougher to attempts to break them. If you properly heat treat and temper, you're already miles ahead of the competition though!

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I suspect that data will be hard to find, because the specs for W1 are wide enough that the carbon content will vary widely.  Burt Foster did a presentation on that many years ago, when he was getting into doing hamon.  I don't have a copy of the results, but he found that depending on the supplier and/or the heat from the mill, while W1 is cleaner than 1095 on average (Mn levels don't fluctuate as much, S always lower), carbon can range from 0.65% to 1.25% and still be in spec, as it will harden in water to 60+ Rc, which is all it has to do.  1095 will have greater variability in Mn content, along with tramp elements like S and P, but the carbon is more tightly controlled to be 0.9 - 1.0 %.  

 

Thus, always ask for the analysis of your steel if you want to keep it consistent. NJSB will provide the analysis of each batch of their W2 (and most other steels they carry) upon request.  Many other places will not, and will just refer you to the standards.

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This is precision Watercrat (that I'm using), so the spec range is narrow - it's pretty close to 1095 - about 1% carbon - but for W1 and W2 both, I think I see slightly less even carbide distribution. it's very even and consistent. this may not be a bad thing, it may contribute to better toughness than 1095 (interestingly, I've gotten 1095 from four different suppliers, and as you say, it's variable - much of that disclosed on melt sheets in terms of composition and condition the stock is delivered in, but both njsb W2 and precision W1 seem to be clean and free of anything ugly when samples are snapped. )

 

NhhOxU3.jpg

 

This picture is  after forge, normalize, cycle, quenching - 75x optical magnification. 

 

You guys may agree, but in the case when W1 is similar in carbon to 1095, it can be hard to tell the difference between the two. The larger bright spots seem exclusive to both W1 and W2, though - the odd slightly larger carbide here or there. Well, at least compared to good 1095. 

 

I guess I'm trying to figure out what the potential is before I get heavy into testing the chisels. they are good, but I want them to be as good as I can make them, and chisels I've made with 26c3 (can't find in thick 3/4" stock or anything of that sort or round rod) seem to be a little better. there's only about a point of difference in hardness, so I suspect the difference in performance is toughness related (in larrin's charts, my 26c3 averaged 12 ft lbs. I did a less than stellar job with 1095 and that was a little overhard and averaged 4, but by larrin's charts, at 63. 4 or 5 is about what would be expected out of a furnace. I've improved that since, but the difference in grain fineness seems to yield only a little difference in toughness - it can't get close to the 26c3 samples). 

 

That's the reason I'm looking for relative numbers - if I'm on the money with what I'm seeing, that W1 really is limited to that half of what I can get out of 26c3, then I may try to keep pounding the ground to find some way to get 1.25% rod from overseas somewhere. 

 

I'm pushing the upper limits of hardness with everything, too, but chisels suffer a different and worst fate if there is retained austenite or underhardening - poor edge stability and burr formation or rolling. 

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26c3 has some silicon and chromium, both of those increase carbides one way or another. For both W1 and W2, the extra metals alloyed in are also added to increase the relative carbide formation. Provided the core isn't brittle from improper tempering, it's the carbides that make any steel tougher than mild steel. I wouldn't worry about it too much. Both W1 and W2 are very tough steels, and if not equivalent to the 26c3, they are probably pretty close.

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Another thought I had, can't you just make up 4 billets, weld a nut to each one, clamp them to a heavy duty vise the same distance from the nut, and use a torque wrench to test them? On the website, their tests go up to ~50 ft-lbs max, so an automotive torque wrench should handle that no problem. 

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5 hours ago, Carlos Lara said:

both of those increase carbides one way or another

Silicone does not at all. As far as I know, it's usually added to improve impact resistance. 

 

And the chromium content of 26c3 is so low that it doesn't form carbides in a meaningful way. It's mostly for strength purpose. 

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I may have shown this before, but this is a group of test coupons that I sent to larrin. I believe at 64 hardness, larrin expects about 6 ft lbs in his unnotched charpy test. 

 

these results are very slightly misleading as the corner of the coupons that would be held by a tong for 26c3 were around a point softer or something than the middle and other end. I don't know if that aided the test. 

 

Z6sA3fF.jpg

 

I mistakenly thought early on because O1 and 26c3 liked the heat treatment routine that i did that I could just do a bunch of other alloys without snapping samples and examining grain. I added the 1095 dot. 1084 was even a little worse, but that wasn't hard to solve - it's just not a steel I'd use for chisels. 

 

I'm heat treating by eye in the open atmosphere so I wanted to see if I could get larrin to comment on why the 26c3 results are better than furnace results, but I don't think he was interested. I think the answer has some to do with how 26c3 will create the steel between the carbides, in terms of sequestering carbon better than a 1% steel, but still taking high hardness in a fast quench. Or put differently, I think a long soak in an electric furnace may not do it any favors because too much carbon is released from the carbides. 

 

This 1095 attempt was a fail, but I'm not sure how much tougher 1095 would be at same hardness vs. Larrin's charts - maybe 5 or 6? Of course, after getting the 26c3 results, I'd hoped to be able to get the same thing elsewhere (same hardness, higher toughness). I haven't sent any more samples after the first two sets, so I don't really know, but the behavior of the W1 chisels in wood is sort of "what you would expect" and the 26c3 performs better than one would expect. It's a difference an experienced woodworker would notice. 

 

Not a difference that would prevent anyone from getting work done, but I'm hoping to make something that people will prefer in use. 

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I furnace HT and also noticed a good difference between my 1095 and 26c3 kitchen knives I daily use. Both are good, but the 26c3 definitely has the upper hand in terms of edge edge holding. IMO it's an excellent inexpensive steel, well worth the extra vs 1095. 

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I think some of larrin's data on toughness was inferred, but not sure. I wonder what the furnace values would be if someone submitted more coupons for testing as his conclusion was that it's a steel to hit a couple of extra points of hardness over steels that land around 62 with a 400F temper (26c3 lands around 400 - my samples above were double tempered at 390F for a little over an hour each temper). 

 

when I have made plane irons, there is a step between 1095 and 1084 in terms of "tooth" to the edge, but I use that term as a feel, as all of my edges are smooth nearly to an optical level. there is a crispness as carbon is added. 

 

26c3 has the same gap over 1095 - there is a bite to it. that bite translates to ease through the cut. Wood chisels used at the bench (like joinery, etc) tend to fail the same way all the time - small little nicks. 26c3 has an ability to hold a more crisp edge. I came to it basically by just making a bunch of chisels, and having a bunch of vintage chisels on hand and trying to get to the point that nothing on hand would hold an edge better than what I could make. It eases my mind to have it for chisels and have some performance margin so that if I decide to start selling chisels, I won't be getting emails about edge life, and it'll take twice as much effort to break it with thoughtless prying, despite it being harder. 

Edited by David Weaver
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It's not that the steel(26c3) necessarily hits higher as quenched hardness, but rather that it has higher working hardness than the usual carbon steel because it's still reasonably tough at 64hrc+. 

Edited by Joël Mercier
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I do get a little bit higher hardness out of 26c3 out of the quench, but not much. maybe half a point to a point - I haven't given it a brine quench yet. W1 comes out of brine around 68-68.5. 26c3 will come out of parks for me if the cross section isn't thick (i don't make thick chisels, there's no historical basis for them for skilled work at the bench for good reason - prying work was relegated to purpose made chisels and we've kind of got modern chisels from boutique makers now that are copies of hardware store or site chisels instead). ..

 

at any rate, I get about 68.5-69 out of the quench in parks 50. And as you know, 26c3 holds a little more hardness in temper. I expect two long 400F tempers with 26c3 will still leave me with 64 hardness. Knives could definitely go harder than that, but a 400F temper for woodworking tools (plane irons and bench chisels) is sweetness if there is no retained austenite issue and no toughness issue. 1084 and 80crv2 are so tough that they can start to form a foil in work sometimes, so I temper them a little less. 

 

This sounds nitpicky, but I did a study of edge failure on old chisels as well as hardness - like Ward and IH Sorby, etc. The good ones are all kind of in the same range and fail the same way. They're a high strength steel, but they will not generally allow a burr to form in work, but will rather chip a little bit. At the same time, their edge stability in planes is at least as good as anything made now, and better than most (better than A2 or XHP, and a little better than O1 - those three are common in boutique woodworking tools). 

 

O1 is OK, but I have less control over the differential hardness of chisels through the middle, shoulder and tang and if I start to make them professionally in a couple of years, non-professional buyers will break them. Their ability to air harden somewhat is also not an asset for me. A2 and XHP and other things of the like aren't on my radar. 

 

On the chisel side, though, it's uncanny how good 26c3 is. it's good for the maker (except CNC maker types who can't tolerate a fast quench) and it's good for the buyer - easy to sharpen, doesn't hold a burr too long for unskilled sharpeners, and will sharpen on anything. They grind for bevel refreshes easily with a lot of spark and not too much heat retained in the tool, too, and duplicate the edge holding that people think is only available in japanese chisels made out of white steel and 1.2+ carbon swedish high carbon steel. 

 

W1 (sticking to the narrow 0.95-1.05% carbon range in the stuff supplied by mcmaster carr local to me - watercrat) does all of those things, too, except with a little less hardness, a little less edge crispness (not much) and a little less edge stability - and I suspect less toughness. 

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On 10/8/2023 at 6:15 AM, Alan Longmire said:

I suspect that data will be hard to find, because the specs for W1 are wide enough that the carbon content will vary widely. 

This was my initial thought as well.  Not only would the data be hard to come by, it would be pretty useless due to the spec ranges.  

 

23 hours ago, Carlos Lara said:

both of those increase carbides one way or another

Joël is correct.  Si is completely rejected by the carbides, and these levels do not produce significant carbides (though there will certainly be Cr in the iron carbide that is present).  

 

18 hours ago, Carlos Lara said:

Another thought I had, can't you just make up 4 billets, weld a nut to each one, clamp them to a heavy duty vise the same distance from the nut, and use a torque wrench to test them? On the website, their tests go up to ~50 ft-lbs max, so an automotive torque wrench should handle that no problem. 

These tests that we refer to with foot pounds are Charpy Impact Tests, not something a torque wrench could do.  There is essentially a calibrated pendulum that swings to break the sample and the energy absorbed in the breaking of that sample (as measured by the reduction of swing in the pendulum) gives the impact toughness.  

 

8 hours ago, David Weaver said:

this is a group of test coupons that I sent to larrin

Notice that the 26C3 range is about 5 foot pounds, or just over 40% of the average value.  I wouldn't read into this result very much.  

 

I am not sure how important impact toughness really is in any of this.  I think tensile strength would be much more important for both knives and chisels.  

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I think I may be able to get results better than those samples. Larrin tested for toughness, but the only thing I was looking for was hardness (I have a hardness tester now, so that's not an issue). 

 

there's a wide range in the 26c3 samples. I'd do more batches, but this isn't something Larrin is interested in, at least from what I gathered, so I stopped bothering him about it. At some point, if  notch tester shows up locally here, I'll just buy it. 

 

As far as what it's good for, there are some lateral forces with chisels, as well as prying. there shouldn't be much prying, but it can be done on a large or small scale. There's a range where chisels are nice to use. Not though enough to hold on to a burr in use - that drastically increases the amount of effort it takes, so 52100 at something like 60/61 is out. It starts to create a small foil almost immediately. And then, based on what I've seen so far, below 5 (using larrin's figures) and edges will experience trouble in use. I don't know how wide that range is around the "5", like is it 6 at a point higher and 4 lower or the other way around, I just don't know. But I do know which tools have had chipping problems and then can pair that with the other results I've had and for things like cobalt steels which have very high hardness and low toughness - they make very poor chisels, but work well for drill bits and can be OK for turning tools. 

 

What makes a good chisel is more like what makes a good straight razor and less what makes a good knife, unless you stipulate what makes a good thin knife that has an edge that will fail always by chipping when it does, and never by rolling. 

 

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1 hour ago, David Weaver said:

As far as what it's good for, there are some lateral forces with chisels, as well as prying.

Charpy testing is not applicable to these.  Tensile testing is.  

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Thanks for the claifications! I'd say make a W1 or W2 chisel and test it. I have worked with W2 steel and it's nice to work with. Haven't heat treated any yet, but it's on the program for the next little while. It has a reputation of being pretty tough, but will it make a good chisel? I think you should make one to find out!

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the precision stuff (saying that only because the spec is tight so you know it's around 1% carbon vs. the wide W1 spec) and W2 heat treat about the same. In anything more than a tenth of an inch, pushing hardness really needs brine. 

 

W1 makes a good chisel. I have W2 flat stock, but never got to making a chisel out of it as i'd gotten W2 mostly because I couldn't or didn't find a tight spec W1.  W1 makes a chisel that's good, but so far, not as good as 26c3.

Edited by David Weaver
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13 hours ago, Jerrod Miller said:

Charpy testing is not applicable to these.  Tensile testing is.  

 

I'm not really following why tensile testing would be better as a test for bending than a side impact test. 

 

the best obvious test would actually be something that buries the edge of a chisel and then pulls the handle to measure two things:

1) how much force until the chisel is broken or permanently distorted

2) how far a chisel can go past an arbitrary bend point and still make it back (i.e., damage to chisels doesn't usually happen with minor bending, so someone who bends and breaks a chisel is usually impatient and already sees the chisel is bending and just wants to keep pushing the issue trying to avoid getting the work done another way. 

 

If I gather what I think you're saying, the tensile strength is a proxy for determining how much force it takes to bend a chisel? I'm thinking of damage at the tip more like someone bending the tip off of a knife. Strength is ideal, but there needs to be some margin of visual indication in more of an abuse sense. 

 

I'm not wild about charpy or really anything as a test of chisels in general if testing in actual use is an option (of course it is, we don't have to come up with arbitrary tests like knives as the use of a chisel is pretty much like hammering a knife at the spine straight through wood - except it's not a day to day activity for hours with a knife in most cases. on a chisel, it's just typical use). 

 

Razors end up being a good test because they fail from impact, just on a much more delicate scale. I would guess that the best chisels for experienced users would typically make good razors. Same for carving tools, though there are good carving tools made now (mostly pfeil), but pfeil are a step lower than the better vintage tools. My pfeil carving tools feel like they are 80crv2 or something close, and 80crv2 is sucking wind a little for woodworking tools unless it's done perfectly.  

Edited by David Weaver
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So, I've helped us get off track from my original question, but I think so far, I gather that the original thing that I read about water hardening steels (that the W series was introduced to improve toughness) is really not necessarily an indicator that it's better than 1095 as far as toughness goes. The lack of an answer is probably better as confirmation of that. If anyone has tested W2, that'd be great, too, as it's very minimally different - in actual snapped samples and some use on my part - vs. W1 and 1095. 

 

But most people making things out of W2 probably are using it because it's easy to get the melt sheet on NJSB and most W1 sellers aren't very good at doing that, or at least providing a spec sheet. Two suppliers show Precision's watercrat either as SDS/specs, or by listing - so it's easier for me to find that. There may be others that are close to W2, but those are the two I've found (diesupplies and at least my local location of mcmaster ships it, and they show the watercraft spec range on their site). 

 

the comment that it was developed to improve toughness is kind of a generic comment, and we're far removed from when it was introduced - I've not ever seen an actual history of it, and the timeline is probably around the same time tungsten started to go into more plain steels. Tungsten is a hard no for razors, though you can find them with it. Tungsten steels didn't last too long in straight razors and i've had a couple - they're usable, but it's sort of like what I'm sussing out here between steels for chisels. 

 

I could probably buy 15 steels and make a suitable chisel. Maybe more. But there is stability in use of 26c3 at the same setup of other steels that other steels don't quite have. W1 comes up a little short, but we are talking about defects that are in the thousandth or two thousandth range, so it's a nitpick. It's a nitpick because an experienced user will notice when a chisel does that and when one does not. 

 

Drawing a parallel to knives is difficult to do because the use is much different. Use of a chisel for joinery is rote for experienced users, and they can be either indifferent or all the way to very picky. I am less picky using a purchased chisel, more making one. I've got a pro on one side who tells me all of the chisels are fine and another who is a full time hand woodworker in lancaster co. PA who pretty much finds the ability to use anything, but always lets me know that he still prefers chisels made in the early to mid 1800s, or as he humorously said to me about a 64.5 hardness 26c3 chisel, he had no problems sharpening it with his current routine and no issues with chipping but "couldn't tell as easily when it was sharp" (a feel when sharpening). 

 

In the end, I'll send a few more W1 chisels around to pros and see what they think. In in-wood tests, 26c3 is preferable to me, but I'm not doing any large projects with wood now and cutting 10 feet of half blind dovetails would be nice - you can find things out that it's hard to find if you just mallet a couple of cubic inches of wood off of a board. 

 

Thanks for the replies. I think I put too much weight in the statement that W series steels improved toughness over crucible/cast steel or whatever the comparison was. I suspect they may not have actually done that and I'm chasing a potential to double the toughness of 1095 or whatever it may be that's not actually there. 

Edited by David Weaver
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3 hours ago, David Weaver said:

I'm not really following why tensile testing would be better as a test for bending than a side impact test. 

Impact failure is drastically different compared to the slower loading of tensile testing.  When you bend material you get an inside radius and outside radius of the bend.  The inside radius is in compression, the outside radius is in tension.  The outside radius is where the steel will fail.  Impact testing is only really useful for situations like swords and axes.  One could make an argument for chisels as they are struck by hammers/mallets, but they typically do not experience impact failure as tested by a Charpy Impact Test.  

 

3 hours ago, David Weaver said:

the best obvious test would actually be something that buries the edge of a chisel and then pulls the handle to measure two things:

1) how much force until the chisel is broken or permanently distorted

2) how far a chisel can go past an arbitrary bend point and still make it back (i.e., damage to chisels doesn't usually happen with minor bending, so someone who bends and breaks a chisel is usually impatient and already sees the chisel is bending and just wants to keep pushing the issue trying to avoid getting the work done another way. 

Geometry factors are going to be huge players in such a test and will likely obscure any alloy/heat treat variables.  

 

3 hours ago, David Weaver said:

If I gather what I think you're saying, the tensile strength is a proxy for determining how much force it takes to bend a chisel?

No.  Geometry is the big factor on force required for bending.  Tensile strength directly relates to material failure.  For example, a chisel that is 50% thicker than another will require a lot more force to bend, even if they have the exact same tensile strength.  It would even take a lot more force to bend than the thinner one, even if the tensile strength was significantly lower than the thinner one (up to a point, of course).  

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Assume there will be a constant thickness across chisels. As in, one would not make a firmer chisel thicker for a less tough steel if there is a breaking problem, they would just choose a different steel because fat proportions a chisel that's intended to be used. So there is some commonality with the charpy test there with standardization. There is absolutely variance in width, though. 

 

The breaking issues for chisels come from levering and not during striking (so slow, just like someone prying with the tip of a knife when they know it's a bad habit - if you do it ten times and get away with it, then it starts to seem OK), though it is possible to place a chisel sloppily and create lateral forces (think chisel going down and moving sideways into a cut at the same time. That creates a non-terminal failure of sorts. I generally only send out mules to professionals because I know if they have an issue of some sort, it'll be reported accurately, and not "oh, I was just malleting it and it broke right in the middle". 

 

After mentioning this earlier, I figured that a good way to check this would be to just forge a narrower cabinet mortise chisel out of W1. Prying is a part of mortising, so the chisels are different than general cabinetmaker style chisels - thicker. the thickness shouldn't cause a problem (hardening W1 in brine) in smaller chisels because they're not that wide.  If I don't break one in vigorous use, then I guess that will tell me what I want to know. 

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I actually do a lot of wood carving with chisels, but I never use my good chisels for anything but carving. I hand sharpen them with stones, and I can tell when the chisel is off because I've been doing other things with it! If I ever drop one of the good chisels, it's back to the stones before I use it again. So I'd be surprised if a pro uses it as a pry bar! That would seem to me to be something only non-carvers do.

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You nailed why I don't ask amateurs about chisels. I try to make tools only for pros at this point because I'm "budding and inexperienced", but once in a while, I'll have someone who has something good to trade, something I can't get, and they'll want something they can't get elsewhere - like seaton chest pattern chisels. I'll do some trading then. Early on, I was making chisels mostly out of old files, which are monstrously similar to 26c3 - part of the reason I came to prefer it. Same qualities, much more predictable and always the same hardenability vs. who knows what sometimes with files. 

 

at any rate, when I trade things with amateurs, they will sometimes have odd request (constantly asking for patternmakers paring chisels they'll never use), or they'll comment that they might like to try another set of chisels in a different steel because "the ones that I sent are chipping". And then you ultimately find "all of their chisels chip" and they're looking for a magic chisel. 

 

A popular concept in amateur woodworking, aside from wanting an exotic steel thinking it makes a better chisel, is wanting a do-all bench chisel that's good for everything. I would typically turn that down. 

 

You're right, though - I've never had a pro tell me anything about a chisel that wasn't a real issue. There's something I call "craftsman's magic", which is with experience, even when you do the same operation and you think you're doing the exact same thing, someone who has moved on from beginner to solid craftsman's capability will be a lot easier on edges. 

 

The carver i mentioned above, mostly carving at least, but some other hand tool only work, always tells me that he never experiences edge damage at all. 
 

oh...the type of pro who will do unholy things with chisels - furniture makers who use chisels very little. I met one locally who is now retired, but he worked through the period where the only real buying volume was substrate type furniture with exotic veneers. I had a discussion with him - chisels were sort of a utility tool, only cleaning out things power tools couldn't get to. 

 

Carvers are ideal places to put hand tools, though - they use hand tools and have feel and an understanding of preventing edge damage.  

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I got a reply from Larrin, who is the only public information source I know of using the same machine and methods to publish a bunch of stuff. Despite the original project showing someone saying they'd send W1 and W2, Larrin confirmed he didn't recall ever testing them. 

 

He didn't answer my second question of whether or not he was interested in testing some samples for hardness and toughness, but if he remembers our exchange about 26c3, he'd know I'm not using a furnace and probably not be interested, anyway. 

 

I have to take credit for something, though - and I may not be right in assuming credit for this, but I think I am. When I sent the first O1 and 26c3 samples, Larrin had mentioned he hadn't seen good samples heat treated in a forge. The next article he wrote, he said something like "only 20%" of the forge samples were suitable. My next batch was substandard because I thought I could probably just use the same method for O1 and 26c3 on 1084 and 1095, and that wasn't the case (what makes the first two excellent will bloat grain on 1084 especially - the 1095 sample wasn't that bad, it just didn't beat anything). And I think he was happy about that. 

 

Larrin's not the only source of information, but he is probably - with the long data sets and no cost to access information - one of the sources people will find early and maybe read the most. I was a little surprised when stumbling onto this forum to find that other people are still heat treating in a forge sometimes and taking it seriously. I got the sense that it was forbidden fruit or something. 

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4 hours ago, David Weaver said:

I got the sense that it was forbidden fruit or something.

 

Not here on the Bladesmiths' Forum.  The only reason I got a furnace was so I could work with stainless for pocketknives, as I said earlier.  Interestingly, at the hammer-in last weekend ABS mastersmith Burt Foster gave a demo on heat treating with a forge in which he talked about the changes in "received wisdom" in this business from the time he started in 1998 to today.  He mentioned the whole "forge heat treat bad!" movement, which peaked a few years ago.  Then he pointed out that as long as you know what steel you have and how your forge works, you can certainly do a very good HT on most common steels in the forge, often with better results than a furnace HT due to atmosphere control.  That is, unless you prepare for it, a furnace is going to decarb the heck out of your steel.  

 

That's the whole reason the drum HT forge was invented, it was to keep a neutral to rich atmosphere.  

 

In general, all simple steels and most low-alloy steels do great in the forge if you know what you're doing.  High-alloy and stainless steels not so well, but it depends on the steel.  The stuff that forges the easiest also HTs easiest with a forge, in other words.  If it isn't easy to forge or if forging is not recommended, a furnace is usually called for to get best results.  

 

Personally I appreciate what you're after.  I don't do a lot of woodwork, but when I do it's all hand tools.  I got into this via flintlock rifle building, and I can attest to the marks you talk about when planing or carving with a very carbide-heavy steel.  No matter how much you polish the edge, it'll leave striations on the wood.  And I've come to love a good chisel.  Paring chisels are great for paring, but only an idiot would try to cut a deep mortise with one.   

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