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Axe Steel


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#1 John Martin

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 10:14 AM

What's the best steel for an axe head?

Only quench steels, no air hardening.

I was thinking 4140 or 5160.

#2 Charlotte

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 10:40 AM

I don't know exactly but we did have a couple of Blue Temper ( At least I think that was the brand) axes that were two different steels one for the body and another for the edge.
I discovered it one day when I was sharpening the felling ax with a file and noticed the difference in the color. This was several years ago and the axes were already some what old.

#3 BIGGUNDOCTOR

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 01:11 PM

If they are for decoration 1018 , if you actually want to use one camping etc you could go with a few different steels. One way to find out what works is to see what your favorite ax is made from-email the company, if they are still around. I have found a lot of companies are very willing to share information. I would think a material like 1095 which is used in leaf springs, and files, would be a good choice due to its flexibility offering less chance of fracturing/chipping. Obviously the edge would be harder than the body. Cost wise it would be less expensive (free) than new chrome moly. 4130,4140,4340 are all good steels and would certainly work, but do you need to use them? S7 shock resistant steel may be good for a Hawk too-look for old jack hammer bits. Again they are hard and tough. A good reference to have is the Machinery Handbook. Look for a used copy, if you feel a new copy is too expensive. They are a wealth of information for folks like us. Old copies actually had some blacksmithing info in them.

Charlotte, I believe the ax you were referring to is True Temper a common brand. The difference that you saw was the difference in heat treating, The edge will be harder than the eye, and back as they take shock , and pounding tent stakes better when softer.

Edited by BIGGUNDOCTOR, 01 August 2009 - 01:14 PM.


#4 Frosty

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 12:43 AM

John:

5160 will make fine axes. Do a progressive temper leaving the edge around purple.

If you're buying new 1060 to 1070 makes good axes.

Frosty

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#5 John Martin

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 10:51 AM

I am looking to get into making high quality axes that will last a long time. I have ordered some mild to play with to figure out how much steel i need for each axe, but that doesn't matter.

I'm looking for something that will hold its edge over time as well as HT. And be super wear resistant.

#6 Charlotte

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 04:22 PM

Snip.
Charlotte, I believe the ax you were referring to is True Temper a common brand. The difference that you saw was the difference in heat treating, The edge will be harder than the eye, and back as they take shock , and pounding tent stakes better when softer.


I have many years under my feet since that day, and a lot of filing and forging also. The axe that I was sharpening was a commercial axe, of some brand name and it definitely was composed of two different steels.

At the time I was in my early teens, and the equipment we used was purchased by my father at local farm auctions. That was roughly 50 years ago. I'm sure that it is easier for manufactures today to use some monolithic steel composition. Since the tool that I was sharpening was probably manufactured between 1946 and 1950 something, and was made in america, it probably was exactly as I remember it, a definite line, as though drawn with a ruler with two different colors of steel.

#7 jake pogrebinsky

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 03:48 AM

I am looking to get into making high quality axes that will last a long time. I have ordered some mild to play with to figure out how much steel i need for each axe, but that doesn't matter.

I'm looking for something that will hold its edge over time as well as HT. And be super wear resistant.


Sorry,but,to be blunt, none of what you list makes the greatest sense:Even the poorest "quality(?)"axe will outlast an average owner,unless lost.
Edge holding/wear resistence are not really a great way to deal with the axe issues.You may only end up with some "Buck"type phenomenon-unsharpenable,and too hard for shock absorbtionto begin with.

Making a good axe to compete with existing manufacturies is VERY tough.Many who only shop at the box-stores are not even aware that many american axe makers are still in business.Look at the Madson catalog,or even Bailey's...Personally,as many axes that i've forged,i'd prefer to use a 1 3/4lb Collins,Boy's axe,for every kind of woodcraft.Last i looked it was just over $13,handle and all...One would be VERY unlikely to wear something like it out in a lifetime.
Naturally,all this is strictly an opinion of THIS crazy man,and is rather questionable to begin with.But still,with the utmost respect,this is one project not worth overthinking...
The very best of luck,Jake.
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#8 ThomasPowers

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 02:31 PM

Traditionally axes had a body of wrought iron and the bits were forge welded on of steel. When you wore down the bit you brought it back and the smith would weld another piece of steel on---this could go on for generations! Part of this was that steel was much more costly than wrought iron---even as late as the American Civil War steel was 5 times the cost of wrought iron.

One advantage of this method was that you didn't have to worry about heat treating issues for the body of the axe as it would stay soft and tough even if quenched. Another was if there was a failure, like hitting an embedded rock, only the edge would fail and could be replaced.

In general axe steels were lower in carbon than knife steels as they are more of an impact tool and so toughness is a plus! 1070 is a "traditional" steel for monosteel axes.
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#9 matt87

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 08:15 AM

Good luck m_brothers, you've set yourself a lofty goal and as they say, it's better to set a high target and miss than a low one and hit it. Perhaps it would be a valuable initial learning opportunity to find friends' axes to try, make notes, compare. Estwing is a popular middle-range American brand. Gransfors-Bruks is a Swedish brand that is held in high esteem, an old company that employs teams of specialist smiths with a lot of specialist forging tools. Their 'Small Forest Axe' retails for about US$100 and their hatchets around $80-90.

As for myself I'm having trouble enough getting customers to understand why a 5 axe won't be much good off-the-shelf (if ever) but then a lot of city folk don't understand what an axe is or what it's good for (and what it's not).




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