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  1. dickb

    My First Forged Piece

    You can get an almost unlimited amount of good quality mild steel from local welding shops and steel fabricators like shops that make gates and railings. Bring along something that you have made and explain that you are a beginning blacksmith. Ask them for some drops ( leftover pieces too short for their regular jobs). Local machine shops usually have lots of medium carbon steel leftovers. Great for making tools and knives. If it was good enough for someone to pay a shop to machine something out of it then it ought to be good enough for you. Both of the above will yield good quality new steel and the price is right, usually free. Finally shops that work on automobile suspensions and/or general repairs usually have automobile shocks and struts. These typically yield about six feet of good quality steel for tools and knives. Ask them to remove the spring from whatever it's mounted on because disassembling the shocks and/or struts is pretty dangerous. It's not necessary to straighten the whole coil spring before you use it. Just use an angle grinder with a cutoff disk or even a plain hacksaw and cut off what you need for the project. Good luck
  2. dickb

    My First Forged Piece

    Nicely done. Here are a couple of ideas that you might find useful. Instead of buying stock from home depot, you can get all stock you will ever need from local welding shops and/or iron fabricators (shops that make gates, fences and general iron works) . It will probably be better material and the price will be right. Just bring along a couple of items you made to show them and explain you are a beginning blacksmith and ask if you can have some of the scrap that they would normally throw away. Most shops just throw away two or three foot lengths rather than clog up the shop with unusable lengths. At some time when you get to the point where you want to use hardenable steels, you can visit local machine shops and ask for their scrap. Just tell them what you are going to use it for. 1040/1045 steel is very commonly used in machine shops. Maybe not some of the higher carbon steels. You can also try repair shops that work on automobile suspensions (springs from shock absorbers/struts/etc.) Once again the price is right. A WORD OF CAUTION, don't try to disassemble these yourself. The springs are under enormous pressure and you can easily blow yourself into the middle of next week . The shops where you get these springs usually have the equipment to safely disassemble them . Good luck and hammer on.
  3. dickb

    antique knives

    Does anyone have an Idea what king of iron or steel was used to make knives before hardenable carbon steels came into common use. For example 100, 200, 500 years ago. I made one out of some one hundred year old wrought iron, but of course could not get a decent edge on it and the edge I did edge didn't last long
  4. One of the things that causes twisting, at least in hand forging, I repeatedly turning the work in one direction while drawing it out. You might check carefully and see if this is what you are doing.
  5. The odds are that iron that survived for 100 years without falling apart near the watefront is wrought iron. If there are any areas where the paint is peeling you can take a look at the rust . Rusted wrought iron looks different than rusted mild steel. Of course the best test would be to obtain a sample and notch and bend to see how it breaks . Or a very quick and dirty test is to use a center punch and punch small divot into mild steel and also into the fencing. Wrought iron is a lot softer.
  6. dickb


    Here's another way of doing a very similar job, but technically it is not an inlay. First cut the design into the work, then heat the work to a dull red and apply some flux (borax, borax acid combination, or any forge welding flux) and then place some small scraps of copper or brass over the carved design, reheat and reflux and bring the whole thing up to heat. You will see the brass or copper liquefy and flow filling the carving. When it cools you can file or grind it flat until the brass or copper that was proud of (above) the carved image is removed. Whatever flowed into the carved image will be brazed to the underlying steel. Brass melts at around 1700 degrees and copper melts at around 1900 degrees F. Both well within the temperature for forging steel . I have used brass from rifle cartridges and it works and looks very nice. It's pretty easy and should work every time, but It would be a good idea to practice on a few pieces of scrap
  7. I have some 2 inch round stock that I want to use to make a hammer. I expect to slit and drift the eye. but I don't know how to accurately locate where to begin slitting. Can anyone suggest a way using basic hand tools ? I think maybe I could wrap a quarter inch strip of paper tightly around the stock and then then use a pin to pierce through the paper where it overlaps itself. Then cut it off at each pinhole and fold it in half and mark the center of the strip with a pinhole. Finally tape the strip back on the stock and center punch at the end of the strip and also at the midpoint of the paper strip. I am pretty sure this would work, but is there a better way ? In addition, how do I begin the slitting, that is how do I assure that the stock is properly positioned with the center punch mark at the exact top of work when I begin slitting. We should assume that the ends of the stock are a little irregular. It's a big piece of steel and I want to get right the first time.
  8. How do I fix an off center hole ? I was punching a hole in a 1.5 X 1.5 inch piece of 1045 steel and noticed it was a little off center. It was bulging more on one side than the other so I put it aside and left it to cool . Is there some way I can salvage this piece ? While we are on the topic, how could I fix the same problem if the bar was 1.5 inch diameter?
  9. dickb

    What steel is railway clips

    I have made lots of tools using railroad clips, punches, chisels, hardy tools , etc etc. I made some cold chisels that cut through anything except hardened steel. Have never had a problem and all worked really well. The railroad clips I use are all old stock, probably forty years old so they were made in the United States. Some new railroad clips are imported, so who knows what steel/quality control went into making them. The only problem with them is the large cross section. It may take a lot of work reducing the size to what you need for your tools. The large cross section is great if you are making handled tools.
  10. Nicely done. I use jackhammer bits for hardy tools. You can probably get away without the oil hardening if you are only going to cut hot iron/steel. In the event of a misplaced hammer blow the hardy may dent but it's easy to fix it up again with a file or grinder. Given the choice, I would rather put a dent in the hardy tool in stead of damaging a good hammer .
  11. Many stores that rent jackhammers will routinely discard used jackhammer bits, even the ones that have little or no noticeable wear. They make excellent hardy tools and the price is right. Check Home Depot, I have gotten enough jackhammer bits from them to last a lifetime and usually for free. I just let the work air harden after forging, That leaves them softer than the face of a hammer, but much harder than the hot material you are cutting. A missed hammer blow will put a dent into the hardy, but it's easy to dress it up with a file of a grinder.
  12. dickb

    Mild Steel Pricing?

    If you are anywhere in the vicinity of a shop that makes railings, fences, or does general iron fabrication, then you should pay them a visit and ask if you can have odds and ends they would be discarding. What seems to you like a big piece of iron is usually a very tiny piece to them. More often than not they will give you their discards free. As a friendly gesture it's nice to show them what you have made with their iron. I agree that you should be a little flexible on what size iron for tongs. I like 1/2 inch square . This shape is nice because there it's heavy enough for most beginners projects and it is also as common as dirt in any railing/fence/general iron fabricators shops
  13. dickb

    When to start knifemaking?

    I don't know any strict rules, but It might be a good idea to begin with a hidden tang knife. Much easier to make than a full tang knife with scales and fitting etc. and more likely to yield a satisfactory knife.
  14. dickb

    Favorite handle materials?

    My favorite handle material is hickory. It's easy to work and very durable. There is lot of variety raging from light cream colored with little or no grain visible. This seems to be what is used for sledge hammer handles. Hand hammers are usually made with hickory with a little more color and figure in it. It's not an exotic material and readily available in the form of replacement hammer handles, so it's pretty cheap. Another favorite is black walnut, beautiful dark brown, very easy to work and available in plain with little or no figure to highly figured . Both seem impervious to water damage, but I linseed oil finish them once or twice and they are just about permanently maintenance free.
  15. dickb

    Is epoxy really needed

    I make a few knives from time to time. Mostly hidden tang. The shelf life of most epoxies (or maybe after opening) is pretty short and I always seem to be buying another while three quarters of the last one goes in the trash. I have researched cutlers resin and that seems like an easy solution, but I may have come up with an easier one. While in the process of burning in the tang of a new knife, I noticed that after pushing the hot tang into the handle I had to put the blade into a vice and use a hammer to get the handle off. I use well aged hickory for the handles. Very tough and stable. So I am going to skip using any adhesive and see how it stands up. I can always go back and use some kind of adhesive. As an alternative I may just let the end of the tang protrude through the handle and cleat it. I have a few old Chinese cleavers and they are all made with cleated tangs. Some are over fifty years old and still absolutely solid. The better ones have a small washer and the back of the tang goes through it and is peened in place.