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Welded IceAxe

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I have forged an mountaineering iceaxe head in two sections out of a (likely) 4140 torsion bar.
the first section is the head (pick) and flat bar section for bolting into the handle. (pic 1)
the second section is the adze and two bars coming out of the adze, one straight out, and the other perpendicular.(pic 2)
the idea was that I would forge weld the straight bar of the adze to the top of the pick, and forge weld the perpendicular bar
to the bulb above the flat bar section.(pic 3) This would leave a roughly triangular shaped hole in the middle of the head.

I went to weld the sections and had trouble holding the pieces in alignment as they are pretty heavy. Enlisted my dad's help to hold the adze section.
Got up to nice bright yellow, used borax as a flux and... no weld.
Heated up again, more borax... still no weld. Not even a slight hold.
I have done forge welding with mild before, and I understand that hi-carbon is harder to weld, but it seems ridiculous that there was absolutely no weld.
Both pieces were perfectly clean, I filed clean the sections to be welded until there was nothing but bright steel.

So, is there something I am missing/doing wrong/need to adjust etc.?
I can always stick weld it together, but I'd rather not muck up the finished look with a stick weld.

(And yes, I know this will be very heavy and it's unsafe to use untested equipment, it probably won't get used on the waterfalls, its more for shaping/technique practice than actual use)

post-3391-0-66401400-1293478973_thumb.jp

post-3391-0-84311400-1293479021_thumb.jp

post-3391-0-36948900-1293479058_thumb.jp

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First I doubt a torsion bar will be something like 4140. More likely a spring steel like 5160.

I would also think that yellow is too cold to weld at. All of forge welding I have seen was done at a white heat, almost a sparkler.

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Actually I find High carbon steel welds easier for me than mild,,I always started students on mild, for that reason..If you are bringing the steel to wot you think is welding temp then adding flux you have likely had some sdcale formation. and it may be that the flux was unable to clean it all out. I am not familiar with your experience welding or wot kind of forge you use. But colors are hard for me to tell you to use for temp as wot you may see as yellow I may not. And the ambient light plays a huge part. The same temp that lookd red in day light may be much brighter indoors or as light fades in day. I find that I can weld HC at alower temps than mild. Although that is a guess on my part. But I have done alot of it. My thoughts for you to get this done is to set it aside and use the rest of the steel from same piece and learn to weld it,,then try and break the welds and repeat until you have it down.
Some folks havin trouble with a weld hit it too hard. check and see if that is a problem..
try heat to red, Flux, bring to welding heat and have all your moves down so you can go right to the anvil and tap it a couple of times without any heat loss. Then brush flux and repeat till you have it solid and then back up to welding heat and forge to shape.

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Rich hit it on the head..Not much else to say about the forge welding..
Folks trust their lives to welds every day, they just dont realize it..A good modern weld is much stronger than the parent material..Ive made hundreds of security bar sets and crash gates for the federal bureau of prisons..Welded mostly with a miller 251 MIG.. The parent metal will give before the the weld will if its done right. We tested them, I know..
Im not advocating putting folks lives in your hands lightly. Ive welded for over 20 years and been pressure certified..You just have to make sure its done right..Most of the trailer hitces have the square insert tube held on with about 3-4, 2"-3" long single bead welds..Think about that next time your pulling a 6000 pound trailer down the road ;)

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Here's a link to a pretty good article about forging a traditional mountaineering ice axe.

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1253035/Charlet-And-Moser-Make-An-Ice-Axe-Chamonix-1960

Most modern ice tools, particularly those intended for climbing steep waterfall ice are of modular construction with the pick bolted on so it can be replaced. Most picks seem to be cut and machined instead of hot forged, with the notable exception of Grivel.

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First I doubt a torsion bar will be something like 4140. More likely a spring steel like 5160.

I would also think that yellow is too cold to weld at. All of forge welding I have seen was done at a white heat, almost a sparkler.


my yellow was sparking on the end of one piece, so I don't think the heat is too big an issue...

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Thanks Rich, I was hitting with my heavier hammer, pretty hard. Try the ball peen instead on a few test pieces.
I did add borax at a red heat, before bringing it up to welding temp, but what do you mean about brush flux and repeat? Shouldn't I be doing a quick weld, add flux, back up to welding heat, weld further, flux, up to heat etc. until the weld is finished? Or did I just misread what you said...

Just wanted to point out (AGAIN) that this head is not likely going to be used for climbing, we have proper ones for that. It will be far too heavy, and was meant only as a project to learn technique/shaping etc. The only person swinging it will be me.

It is a mountaineering head loosely patterned after the Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe: (http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524442629209&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302691717) don't know if the link will work.

Thanks SGropp, that is an awesome article, wish I had seen it before I started, but...

The real reason behind doing this in multiple pieces was that I couldn't figure out a way to take the rod, and pull it off in two separate directions and still be leaving enough steel to actually create a good size head. Also by trying to forge weld it the head section is still attached to the shaft by a single continuous piece of steel, the welded on adze is just an extra lump. No power hammer or fancy dies, just my arm and railroad anvil with a ball peen hammer in between, so I realize it will take me a while, not a problem.

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Just a thought, i find that when i weld two thin pieces they tend to lose heat very quickly. Might try to have a heated plate on or near the anvil to keep from sucking the heat out of your piece before you can tap it. Heat management is key, i have pulled sparkling pieces out of the fire and was sure they would weld only to lose too much heat too quickly to make it happen.

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It has been my experience that once HC steel has been heated till it sparks, it is usually ruined and is very difficult to weld.
Another thought, some alloys of steel may contain other ingredients such as nickel which does not weld easily. Your technique may be OK but the metal is possibly contaminated.
Good luck.
Bob

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Thanks Rich, I was hitting with my heavier hammer, pretty hard. Try the ball peen instead on a few test pieces.
I did add borax at a red heat, before bringing it up to welding temp, but what do you mean about brush flux and repeat? Shouldn't I be doing a quick weld, add flux, back up to welding heat, weld further, flux, up to heat etc. until the weld is finished? Or did I just misread what you said...

Just wanted to point out (AGAIN) that this head is not likely going to be used for climbing, we have proper ones for that. It will be far too heavy, and was meant only as a project to learn technique/shaping etc. The only person swinging it will be me.

It is a mountaineering head loosely patterned after the Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe: (http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524442629209&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302691717) don't know if the link will work.

Thanks SGropp, that is an awesome article, wish I had seen it before I started, but...

The real reason behind doing this in multiple pieces was that I couldn't figure out a way to take the rod, and pull it off in two separate directions and still be leaving enough steel to actually create a good size head. Also by trying to forge weld it the head section is still attached to the shaft by a single continuous piece of steel, the welded on adze is just an extra lump. No power hammer or fancy dies, just my arm and railroad anvil with a ball peen hammer in between, so I realize it will take me a while, not a problem.

I was hitting pretty hard with a heavy hammer. Not how I was taught. GET IT HOT and Tap it toghter. Get it hot and smash it you will fail. Don't ask how I know.
Ken.

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From my experience in ice climbing, I would rely only on commercially produced climbing tools. I have seen even commercial picks break in uncomfortable locations, but rarely. I would not trust my life on something I made in my own forge or my buddy's. How to you plan to test this thing, how many will you test. I recommend you hang it on the wall.

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You must have confidence in your work. A properly forged tool should out live it's maker. I make things that peoples lives depend on, mine included. Over the years confidence comes, but one should always guard against cockyness, failure is the by-product of it

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Don't use it! It's dangerous!

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Everybody else was doing it...:P I will take you at your word that you don't intend to actually use this thing as an ice axe.

Tough to diagnose your welding problem, but I will say that some alloys contain elements that form especially tough, flux-resistant oxides that interfere with welding. Chromium is one such element. 4140 is sometimes used for torsion bars (definitely not always; I had one tested and it turned out to be 5160), and it contains about 1% chromium. I've never tried forge welding the stuff, but at least in theory that chromium seems like it could be part of the problem. (5160 has almost as much chromium as 4140. Some people complain that 5160 is hard to weld, too. Others scoff at that complaint. Take your pick!)

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Don't use it! It's dangerous!

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Everybody else was doing it...:P I will take you at your word that you don't intend to actually use this thing as an ice axe.

Tough to diagnose your welding problem, but I will say that some alloys contain elements that form especially tough, flux-resistant oxides that interfere with welding. Chromium is one such element. 4140 is sometimes used for torsion bars (definitely not always; I had one tested and it turned out to be 5160), and it contains about 1% chromium. I've never tried forge welding the stuff, but at least in theory that chromium seems like it could be part of the problem. (5160 has almost as much chromium as 4140. Some people complain that 5160 is hard to weld, too. Others scoff at that complaint. Take your pick!)


Thank you MattBower, I feel like you're one of the only ones who actually read both entire posts, instead of just assuming I have a deathwish.
I have worked with 5160 for a number of my blades, but it just didn't feel like the same kind of steel. Maybe it's just me. Junkyard rules, I wouldn't be surprised if there is other 'stuff' in there.

ironstein: Thanks, thats probably a big part of the problem, I was working outside in the Canadian winter, that probably didn't help.
chichi: In the books I've read "sparks scream weld me". Obviously books are not a substitute for experience, so I'll try a different less subjective way of telling heat than colour next time. it wasn't sparking like nuts or on the anvil, just a bit in the fire.
Francis Cole: Not even going to try fore welding stainless, from what posts, tutorials etc. I have seen it is way out of my range.

Something else I read, it said it had to be a reducing fire. Is there any hard and fast way of telling for sure if it is reducing?

Thanks

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To keep the heat up try squeezing them together with some tongs right in the forge when they hit welding temp. Get them to stick first then start on the anvil.

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A little sparking is OK with mild steel, but you really want to avoid it for medium and high carbon steels. It's bad for them and it's overkill.


As for the reducing fire question, what kind of forge are you running? On a propane forge, dragon's breath (unburnt gas issuing from the door of the forge and burning outside) is a good sign. In a solid fuel forge, make sure to have several inches of fuel between your air source and your work piece (maybe someone else can give you more precise numbers; use a thicker bottom layer if your fuel is charcoal), and don't overdo the blast. If your steel comes out of the fire with scale on it, you either need more fuel underneath, or less air. By the same token, a reducing atmosphere in a gas forge won't cause any scaling.

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Ive welded 4140 and 5160. Ive never had a lot of problems with 5160 but it can be touchy to weld to "itself"..When we jump weld 4140 hammer plates to the head of hammer poll tomahawks I usually go for a yellow fading into white but not sparking. Id try a high yellow anyway.

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I think you have two questions to answer.

1. The obvious one, why didn't your weld stick?

2. The tricky one, is the best way to achieve the final shape?

Lot's of good advice here for question #1, but most of the other discussion has been about climbing with this axe. I think a hand forged ice-axe is a cool project. I do not think that the axe you picked as a model is a necessarily a good design for a blacksmith forging.

I assume that you are starting with a round bar that is too small to flatten and split into your parts. Perhaps you could fold it and forge weld the doubled part to create a 'Y' shape. The doubled part (which will be considerably less than double after the weld is completed) could be flattened into the pick or the tang and you would still have the full thickness of the material to make the other parts. If the welded part became the tang then neither of the tools would exert a splitting force on the weld.

I would suggest punching a hole in the pick or the tang. The triangular eye you've created has sharp inside corners where a carabiner or rope could jam or get damaged. If you dress the hole over the horn of the anvil you can create a nice curve on the inner edges. I know you said it's an exercise, but what's the point of the exercise if you're not going to at least try and see if it works. ;) (Maybe you won't use this one, but you'll want to use one eventually.)

Have fun, be safe.

Lewis

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I'm wondering about the need for a forgeweld at all in your design. Seems to me that you ought to be able to upset a piece of torsion bar to get the mass needed to split off the different parts of your design. Not something you'd want to be doing a lot of, but your doing a one-off... You'd be amazed at how much you can upset a bar with a little care and patience. Good luck and post pix of whatever you come up with.

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ok, had another night of forging, and I decided to just try a separate piece, to see if I could get a weld in ideal circumstances.
I forged out a peice of the torsion bar into flatbar, and gave it slight convex face, so that the slag/flux could leave easy. Low light (nighttime), heated anvil, added borax at red, nice bright Yellow no sparks, just tapping the piece together, ...nothing.
Not even sticky. At this point I decided that it's probably not my technique so much, as the steel itself. Got lots of practice shaping though, ready for the next one.

I agree with the people who have cast doubt on my plan of how to form this Ice Axe, it would be better to do differently.
I figured that if I split the rod down the center(1) and used one side for the head, and then upset the other side for the adze,(2) where the actual split would occur would be a bit of a mess with both arms running on a curve into the shaft(3).
However, if I try using a sort of triangular drift after punching a hole, like fciron says, I might be able to pull off(4).

Do you folks think it's possible to more the metal from the shaft up to the top of the head like that? I've never tried anything like that...

Thanks to all the helpful people!

Ice Axe.bmp

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