Joel_BC

Winter quench water

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I'm kinda new to metalworking, so I have a pretty basic question. My shop area for doing metal work, due to both space and fire-hazard avoidance considerations, is out back of one of our main outbuildings. It's sheltered by a roof, but is otherwise open-air. Although I have a propane strong-fan space heater that I do use sometimes in deepest winter, usually (especially overnight) the ambient temps get down to the general outdoor winter temps (which tend to be at freezing point or as low as -10 F).

I have an 8-gallon metal pail in which I keep about five gallons of water for quenching fairly small metal pieces when need be. Trouble is, of course, the water freezes overnight, even if I'm going out there and using it (quenching hot metal in it) during the day - and it freezes especially steadily if I have not been using it for a couple days. The running water on our place is inconveniently distant.

Is there any kind of anti-freeze I can add to the water that will not: a) lead to a flame in the can if I put hot metal into it? B) be objectionably toxic in the steam made by dunking a piece of hot metal?

I've been considering calcium chloride, as is used for "ballast" fills - using water - in tractor tires. But I have further questions about it: What concentration of it is needed per gallon? (calcium chloride, by weight or by volume) And will calcium chloride in the water cause rapid corrosion of the steel bucket I keep the water in?

But I'd consider other chemicals, too. Thanks.

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RV antifreeze or Propylene glycol, is non-toxic and would work to keep your water from freezing. You can buy it by the gallon at most home centers.

As for it's effects on the metal you quench in it, someone with more knowledge will have to answer that.

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Why are you quenching? Do you really need to? Could you get by with just a gallon of warm water you haul out to the forge when you go out there and pour out when you leave there?

If you are forging A36 it's a *LOT* safer to normalize rather than quench!

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RV antifreeze or Propylene glycol, is non-toxic and would work to keep your water from freezing. You can buy it by the gallon at most home centers.

Okay, so it isn't something we'd drink (it isn't that non-toxic), but steam that contains it is not toxic - right?

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A idea I have and haven't tryed yet. I'm going to make a bracket that can be put on the little woodstove and keep about 5 gal of water warm while I'm working.But I try to not quench much of my work,mostly it gets used to wet the coal.
Maybe you could use something like this to melt the ice and keep you a little warmer.

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I mixed up a formula recommended to me. (Someone said don't use anti-freeze - the steam can be dangerous, neurologically, if breathed.) The recommended forumla is: 1 lb coarse salt, one cup Dawn dish detergent - into 5 gallons of water. Fully dissolve the salt by stirring.

So far (three days), it has kept the water from freezing hard at temperatures down to 15 degrees F. At coldest points, the water does become a soft slush, but it does not unify and harden into a solid block. I consider this a useful pail of quench fluid for winter (better than a block of ice!). The slush is a form of water I can warm up readily, if I want.

I'm not sure at what temp it would actually freeze solid.

Of course, I suppose I could increase the proportion of salt and Dawn. (It already smells like a sink full of dish detergent. :D)

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I wouldn't advise salt, unless you like having rust all over your tools. I'd have to agree with the heater idea. I'm going to pick one up from the local farm supply store this weekend.

Good luck, whatever route you go.

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What you have in that mixture is a form of superquench (used for hardening mild steel).

I have a 55 gallon barrell in the shop, full of water. I use this water for coal, cooling the handle end of stuff forged (using no tongs ), I take water from it to rinse the shop urinal, and from time to time I use it for heat treat. Sometimes in making tooling or a first part it is more than acceptable to quench something to get it cold so you can go on with the research and development or whatever. I have a 1500 watt stock tank heater that stays in the water during winter. This solves my issues. THe heater is safe and designed for use around animals and humans. There are magnetic heaters with different wattages to meet different needs. In my youth I was around wood fired tank heaters and they worked fair. I would stay away from adding stuff to your water but that is just my opinion. You may want to get your hands clean by squirting some dish soap on them and rubbing it in well. Follow this by a dip in the water and some clean towels. Snow works for washing as well of course. Borax washes the hands pretty fair too.

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What you have in that mixture is a form of superquench (used for hardening mild steel).

Is this because, given the additives to the water, it cools the steel more rapidly?


On another topic- keeping a warm quench can or barrel: even before the current recession, we were trying to keep our costs down around our home/homestead. Consequently, I just heat up the enclosed & insulated shop (using an efficient Scandinavian wood heater in combination with a movable electric space heater) on those days when I want to do a pretty full day of work there. It therefore can be days - even a week sometimes - between warm shop sessions.

Seems to me a stock heater in the quench can could add up cost-wise - but maybe I'm wrong... it may be cheap. Advise, please.

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I have tried the salt deal and I do NOT like it... too corrosive. I made a little ice axe from a piece of rebar and turned a hook on the other end of it. I can knock a hole in the ice with it most days and work away. On colder days I chop a hole in the center of the ice and use the hook end to lift it out of the bucket. If it's cold enough to freeze solid I like to pour the bucket out and take it in with me and then I bring a fresh bucketful when I come out to forge again. I could put a heater in it but it's way overkill for how little water I use. "Ice Nurr" (my rebar axe) was fun to make and I kinda look forward to days when he gets a little work! I use him for the horses water buckets and troughs too when the weather allows (sometimes even WITH a heater it takes daily effort to keep them in water).

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Sounds like you guys go through more work making your quench bucket usable than it would be just a bring out warmish water at the beginning of your day...

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Sounds like you guys go through more work making your quench bucket usable than it would be just a bring out warmish water at the beginning of your day...


Eight to ten gallons of water is a bit heavier than my shoulder would be happy carrying for at over 200 feet at the beginning of each forging session. :D

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