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I Forge Iron

cold climate blade forging

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I hope this tip helps a lot of blacksmiths working in cold climates. One of the tools that I manufacture are slate shingle rippers. My shop is in what is considered the "snow belt", high in the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania. At night, during the winter, it sometimes goes down to 20 degrees below zero farenheit. The handles of these tools are mild steel, forge welded to a 1080 blade which is drawn out under a triphammer and then flattened at the far end into a blade. As I was finishing forging out these high carbon blades, I would toss them on the floor to cool before grinding the blades later. After grinding and finishing them, usually about 100 of these tools at one time, I would send them out to a heat treater. To my absolute shock, a batch came back, ALL cracked on the blades where they have the groove for cutting nails going through slate shingles. I had forged these tools on a day in which the thermometer plummetted to 18 degrees below zero. After finishing the forgings, I had thrown these tools on the COLD FLOOR. The heat treater explained to me that at those ambient temperatures, the floor itself had HARDENED the blades unevenly, causing stresses in the forging. He recommended that I buy 100 lbs. of playground sand and put it in a large container. He suggested that before I forge any slate rippers in cold weather, that I heat up, in my forge, a six inch by six inch by six inch big block of steel welded to a long handle to a yellow heat, then immerse it into the sandbox, stirring the sand around this big block of hot steel to heat all the sand in the box. Then, as I finish forging slate rippers, he suggested that I "quench" the still-warm blades into the extremely hot sand, allowing the rippers to slowly cool down over the period of about 8 to ten hours. By annealing the blades in this manner, it eliminated my problem! I never had a problem with my forgings cracking like that again from accidentally hardening them on my cold floor. I hope this tip helps some people.

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I do much the same too with sand, except I keep it heated over night in a metal bucket wrapped in R-30 and heated with an engine block heater. I have another heater on my anvil also. I am thinking that I won't have to keep my sand hot anymore because I live in Georgia now and it seldom gets below 0 degrees F here.

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