Recently, my passion for woodworking has been rekindled. I spent a few years building and installing high-end custom cabinetry and shutters several years back, before pursuing my current career as a paramedic. Paramedicine is typically characterized by long, loooooooooong hours (often more than 100 hours/week) and pitifully low wages (most of the "life-savers" who respond to your emergencies make a lower hourly wage less than that of a teenager working at In-n-Out Burger....hence the 100+ hours/week) and so after 8 years I have found myself in dire need of a hobby. While much of my previous experience was done using expensive power tools, I have found myself very interested in the idea of hand crafting wood and even the tools for woodworking.
In my research and purchasing of tools, I began to entertain the notion of making my own chisels and plane irons. A premium 2 3/8" wide plane iron made of 3/32" O1 steel is roughly $40 from Hock Tools, whereas 18" of 2.5" wide O1 steel of the same thickness would cost me roughly $28+s/h. Likewise, with good O1 steel chisels running around $70/ea, I could theoretically make four or five for the price of one. Further reading and research led me to a number of ideas and techniques used to make premium hand tools, such as laminating a piece of high-carbon tool steel to mild steel or wrought iron to create a tool with that was able to take and keep a finely honed edge, while still retaining the shock absorbing and impact resistance properties of the milder steel (these were also much easier to sharpen as most of the bevel being hones was made up of the milder steel). I also read that tool steels typically contain 0.8%-1.2% carbon (with the higher quality steels having more carbon) and learned how the grain structure and molecular structures affect how finely and edge may be honed and how well it keeps that edge.
I would also note that my father-in-law has been a professional ferrier for about 30 years, and has a small propane forge, anvil, various hammers and tongs, as well as a working understanding of blacksmithing (at least as it relates to shoeing horses). Thus, I have access to basic tools and enough knowledge to hopefully keep me from burning myself too badly-although, if I DO get burnt...well, there's something I HAVE been extensively trained to handle ;-)
Now on to my harebrained schemes...
1) Use mild steel repurposed from old horseshoes, and forge weld a 0.03125" thick piece of O1 steel to the back of one side (using perhaps sand or borax as flux?), creating the laminated edge that is highly sought after in quality chisels and plane irons. The stock could then be rough shaped on the anvil, finished with files or grinders, and then heat treated and tempered before honing a final edge.
2) Simply anneal 0.25" thick O1 stock; then shape, heat treat, and temper accordingly.
3) Heat the O1 stock to critical temperature, then air-cool 2-3x before forge welding and/or shaping (I read in one thread that it is a common method of further reducing the grain size of the steel)
4) Use a case hardening method to increase the carbon content of the O1 stock from roughly 0.90% to (hopefully) something closer to 1.2% (I have a video tutorial/lesson by the American Gunsmithing Institute that explains and demonstrates case hardening small parts using a propane torch and carburizing liquid that is brushed onto the steel)
Well, these are the ideas I am throwing around in my head. I would greatly appreciate any advise and/or caution from those with more knowledge on the subject.
Thank you in advance!