R.C.Reichert

Question about junkyard steels...

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There are a couple auto wreckers in town that have loads of spring steel lying around, but they have random piles of the stuff and only god knows what leaf spring came from what car or truck. How would I go about having it tested and where could I get it done? Is there a way I can test it myself? Say if worse came to worse and I ended up unknowingly forging a piece of 4140 or 1050 or some other steel that was not 5160, would it be so bad? I've heard that even 4140 will make a decent knife. Is there any specific steel that may have been used in leaf springs that would for sure not make a good blade? If it looks like a knife...cuts like a knife....holds an edge well....and is tough as nails....does it really matter what steel it is specifically? If I test it thorougly and it performs the way I want it, should I just call it good?

I know this isn't the proper way to go about things and I should just stick with the "known" steel, but sometimes it seems like such a waste having all that good steel lying around and doing nothing with it. I like the idea of recycling and I make blades that would be called "primitive" anyways. I know even Wayne Goddard forged a blade he thought was 5160 and it turned out actually being something else....it still made a good blade though. Actually, he even gave a list of all the different possible steels used in leaf springs in his book The Wonder of Knifemaking.

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If you are going to manufacture knives and sell them to people who want a consistent product you might want to buy your steel new. You could also get it on the secondary market for a bit less but still have a known steel to work with. Otherwise you would be doing a very traditional thing (for blacksmiths) by recycling scrap steels. Within reach of me as I write this are blades made from at least three different scrap steels and the poorest of them would easily rank in the top 5 percent if compared with knives that I have bought made by others (I tended to buy pretty good quality but not custom level blades back before I made all my own).

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Thanks for the reply. Anyways, what I was intending for the leaf springs was to make some user-grade small machete/large camp knives (nothing fancy) that I could sell inexpensively and save my "known" steel for my higher quality hunters and skinners. Of course I would be honest about it and clearly state to the customer that the blade was made from recycled spring steel. There are a lot of people out there I'm sure who would like a nice useable carbon steel knife, but cannot afford to pay $200 or more for a top quality piece. I would like to be able to appeal to as many customers as I can. I think also that banging away at some spring steel would be good practice for my forging techniques...plus I kinda like being traditional. :D Does this sound like a fair idea?

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I use scrap steel such as leaf springs and files all the time. I like files for my smaller blades and leaf spring for the bigger knives. Beware of hidden suprises like cracks though. Sometime they don't show up until you heat treat. Good luck.

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Springs are made from spring steel;1095/5160/etc, 4140 is not a spring steel. Tie rods, center links, and axles will be tough materials, not spring materials. Application will dictate material used.

Before making a knife cut of a chunk and heat treat it. Did it get hard enough? If so, make a knife. If not, make something else out of it.

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If it's unknown *always* make a sample and heat treat it *FIRST* If it hardens then you can test tempering temps and get that all out of the way *BEFORE* you waste a whole lot of time on a show blade. If the sample turns out ok then you have an "abusing" knife to use around the yard, put in your truck or give to the grand kids.

Note that most places that make replacement springs will have drops that they will know *what* it's made from and often be happy to sell you some at scrap cost or even give you some free!

I've actually run into *1* micro-alloyed strain hardened leaf spring (read as: can't be quench hardened---not good for blades) in the last 29 years of smithing; but always worry that the next piece will be another!

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This is troubling me though... Should I feel bad for wanting to sell knives made of spring steel, even after I explicitly tell people that the blades are made from recycled material? A lot of great masters have made great knives from all manner of junkyard steels...Wayne Goddard being one of them....and those knives probably would sell for a small fortune these days....

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If you have not misled anyone and have done good work why should you be troubled?

Of course I call my smithy "Recycled Ranch" so right upfront folks know I use a lot of recycled material

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If you have not misled anyone and have done good work why should you be troubled?

Of course I call my smithy "Recycled Ranch" so right upfront folks know I use a lot of recycled material


Sounds good to me. Thank you for the help! And thanks to everyone else who posted.

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Don't feel bad about selling knives made from the time tested specialty alloy RTS steel( rusty old truck springs) Countless knives have been made and sold of this time honored material. If the steel were no good it wouldn't have held that old truck up for all those years! Watch for cracks by the way. Any alloy of spring steel from 1060- 8260 will make an excellent knife. The alloy isn't so important as getting the heat treat right, so experiment on a sample piece of the spring first.- Wierdest spring I have run across was old blister steel, it was an old buggy spring.

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Don't feel bad about selling knives made from the time tested specialty alloy RTS steel( rusty old truck springs) Countless knives have been made and sold of this time honored material. If the steel were no good it wouldn't have held that old truck up for all those years! Watch for cracks by the way. Any alloy of spring steel from 1060- 8260 will make an excellent knife. The alloy isn't so important as getting the heat treat right, so experiment on a sample piece of the spring first.- Wierdest spring I have run across was old blister steel, it was an old buggy spring.


That's very helpful! Thank you! :) I tried asking around at a couple auto wrecker shops here yesterday to see if they had any old stuff from like the 50's - 60's, but they only keep stuff from no older than 10 yrs. But if the alloy is not so important like you said, maybe I can still use the springs from more modern vehicles from like the 90's or later. Because they are not so old, maybe they'd be less prone to having cracks...that could be a good thing. B) Thanks again.

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i think your looking at this from the wrong angle, the way the world is atm with being enviromentaly green i would hipe it up that its recycled. some people would love it that "no mining amd smelting has been done to get the steel this time around". as long as you do testing on the blade to make sure its not faulty in any way. i must admit i dont care what a blade is made of as long as its strong, holds a good edge, holds up and works for what its intended for and of course looks good :D

just my thoughts on it
Ben

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i think your looking at this from the wrong angle, the way the world is atm with being enviromentaly green i would hipe it up that its recycled. some people would love it that "no mining amd smelting has been done to get the steel this time around". as long as you do testing on the blade to make sure its not faulty in any way. i must admit i dont care what a blade is made of as long as its strong, holds a good edge, holds up and works for what its intended for and of course looks good :D

just my thoughts on it
Ben



Sounds good! Thanks for sharing your opinion. :D

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if you are having problems with the flat steel then get some coil springs off the front end. They are normally either 5160 or 9260 almost the same material that will work fine.

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