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Steel properties - cold sculpturing vs forging


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#1 caotropheus

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 04:38 AM

Greetings everyone.

My first post here in "I forge Steel". I've been around the net to learn as much as possible before I start in my first blacksmithing steps. I would like to start by fabricating a couple of knives and I have a question that many of us have asked them selves:

"Shall I take a chunk of steel and start cold sculpturing it in a shape of knife with files and other hand tools or should I get serious about this issue and mould this chunk of steel by the forge, anvil and hammer?"

First of all, I would like to get a final product as strong and durable as possible. Forging steel may give me these properties because I mould the steel keeping (I think) a fluid molecular structure, reducing stresses throughout my object. On the contrary if I cold sculpture the steel, I simply remove bits of material from the metal, disrupting (I think) the continuous molecular structure of the steel, creating stress points that will weaken my knife.

On the other hand, if I do not know or I cannot harden and temper properly the steel after the work in the forge, my knife will be weak and of low quality. On the contrary, If I am able to cold sculpture the steel into a knife I do not have to worry in the end with the correct hardening and tempering processes.


Please experts, I would like to read your opinions on this issue.

Thanks

#2 Robert Mayo

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 06:13 AM

I do both stock removal and forged blades and both are a valid way to produce a useable high quality blade. Having said that they both need to be properly heat treated to make a quality blade. There are not to many blades that are forged that do not have stock removal involved in them as well. My opinion is that niether one is supperior if done right.

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#3 Don A

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 10:03 AM

I found this to be a very informative article:

Lowdown on forging by Kevin Cashen

#4 basher

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 11:57 AM

that article by Kevin is great .
my advice would be ........
Do whatever feels like it would be more fun!
the journey is as important as the result.
you will have to harden and temper either way..... make sure you post your results.
all the best Owen
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#5 caotropheus

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 01:17 PM

Thank you guys very much for your help. First of all, sorry for my broken English.

If we return to the issue of shaping a knife by cold stock removal(after all "sculpturing" the metal :rolleyes: ) just using an hand file, lets say, from a piece of spring leaf steel, do I still need to harden and temper the metal after I finished the knife? Isn't the stock steel already hard enough for a knife edge?

#6 mrkiddi

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 02:57 PM

Thank you guys very much for your help. First of all, sorry for my broken English.

If we return to the issue of shaping a knife by cold stock removal(after all "sculpturing" the metal :rolleyes: ) just using an hand file, lets say, from a piece of spring leaf steel, do I still need to harden and temper the metal after I finished the knife? Isn't the stock steel already hard enough for a knife edge?

This may come as a surprise but Leaf steel is pretty Hard and durable when it's the way it's supposed to be, but when you put an edge on it, it will not be a very good edge. one thing i learned from stock removal leaf springs is that smaller knifes are terrible if not heat treated but bigger blades that don't need to be razor sharp are OK if you don't heat treat it. but i would recommend heat treating, it's a lot of fun too see the difference between a heat treated knife and non heat treated.

#7 Dave Hammer

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 06:36 PM

I recommend joining a local guild and taking some beginning blacksmith classes. The path to making good knives will be shorter if you learn basic processes and develop those skills first.

#8 MattBower

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 08:43 PM

It's possible to make a good knife from a file by grinding it without letting it get hot. That means dunking it in water very frequently. You'll then probably want to temper the file a bit, since files a very hard -- a little too hard for most types of knife. But grinding a file into a knife, cold, does not sound like any fun to me.

#9 caotropheus

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 11:16 PM

Thank you guys for your replies. I posted these "cold working steel" questions but soon I will be building my first forge ;)

#10 maddog

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 03:27 PM

Stock removal, whether it's the main process or follows some forging, is usually done on steel in its annealed soft state. If you take a piece of leafspring that is already heat treated, you will not be able to cut it effectively with files and saws. You will be restricted to grinding wheels and belts and it will go slow because you cant let the piece get hot.

Forging can save a lot of grinding time since you start with the piece close to its final shape. The differences between a small forged blade or one that is purely ground to shape are subtle and probably amount to nothing unless forged by a skilled blade maker.

Proper heat treating is a very big part of blade making. Probably more than most other kinds of smithing and it's a whole skill in itself. Whether you go stock removal or forging, you will have to invest some serious time in learning the ins and outs of heat treating blades.
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#11 Frank Turley

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 10:40 AM

I believe it was Donald Streeter who said, "Five minutes at the anvil saves an hour at the bench."

Ref Kevin Cashen's article, I do have a brief comment about grain flow. I do not use the term "wood grain" when talking about the fibrous structure of steel. Steel has a longitudinal grain flow. It does not have the wavy zig-zags and returns that wood does.

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#12 ThomasPowers

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 12:26 PM

When making a knife from an old file and NOT wanting to re-do the heat treat it is best to draw it to the final temper *FIRST* as you are then far less likely to have it shatter if dropped during the grinding part. This drawing of temper can be done in a kitchen over as you will be looking for a temp in the 300's or 400's *degF* NOT C!

Just getting into the craft may I suggest you start out with a book like "Step-By-Step Knifemaking: You Can Do It!" (ISBN: 0878571817 / 0-87857-181-7) David Boye

And "Wayne Goddard's $50 Knife Shop (ISBN: 144021235X / 1-4402-1235-X) Wayne Goddard"

Moving on to "The Complete Bladesmith", James Hrisoulas when you are ready.
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