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I built 3 Colonial Style Flint Strikers yesterday in the forge. When I strike them against my piece of flint, they won't make a spark. Any ideas what the problem is and how to fix it. I am thinking the steel might not be hard enough. Thanks to everyone.

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First of all, what type of steel are you using?

I generally use old files, but have also used new W-1. Regardless, it needs to be high carbon of some sort.

A couple steps I have incorporated that have yet to fail me:

  1. When you finish forging, normalize a couple time just like you would a blade (heat to critical; let it air cool to black). This relieves the stress in the steel. The one time I decided to hurry up and bypass this step, the steel cracked in the quench.
  2. Before hardening, clean all of the scale off of the striking edge. I usually hit it on the belt sander, but coarse paper or a file will work. You want smooth, bright metal on the edge.
  3. I use a water quench, and I only quench the striking part. I hold the "tail" in some flat-jawed tongs and only quench the striking edge.
  4. I don't draw any temper. I leave them dead-hard. As long as they are used as a striker and not as a pry bar, this will not be a problem.
  5. I re-polish the edge after it is hardened... back to a bright, smooth edge.
  6. Always use a sharp flint. You are actually shaving steel from the striker to make your sparks.


Again, this works for me. There are undoubtedly other ways, perhaps quicker ways, but this method has never failed me, and I've made many dozens of fire steels.


Don
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Also folks just starting making strikers can get a decarb layer on the striking surface even if they do use a high carbon steel. Touching the striking face to a grinder after you have hardened it can help a lot to remove that decarb layer.

Using the proper alloy saves a lot of time and effort in the long run. It is possible to case harden the face; but much simpler/faster/better to toss it and try again with a good high carbon steel.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Steels I have successfully (more or less :rolleyes:) made stikers from:

High carbon masonry nails - easy to work, very little shaping necessary, fair sparks.
Tire tool - little more difficult go work, good-very good sparks.
Hay rake teeth - must be worked at red-yellow, excellent sparks.

I haven't used a file, although it seems most people consider it the gold standard. To harden the masonry nails, I heat entire striker to cherry then hold the striking part of the striker in the quench tub until all color goes from the handle of the striker. Then I cool the handle. This keeps the handle from being too brittle and breaking. Oh, and move the striker up and down a little to prevent a brittle quench line from forming.

For the other steels, I heat entire striker to cherry, then quench the bottom two-thirds of the striking part for about two seconds. I then hold the striker out of the water while singing one verse of "Old MacDonald had a Farm" (yes, I'm seriously disturbed!). A the end of "E-I-E-I-O", I quench the entire striker. Never had one to crack.

After quenching, I grind the scale off the striking face to provide bare steel for the flint to contact.

Not sure if this is the "right" or "best" way but my strikers throw sparks! I have made several for friends and family. Below is a striker made from a tire tool.

my_striker.jpg

bart

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  • 4 weeks later...

It is possible to make mild steel strikers. The best way is to use oak tanned leather.
Take a coffee can, and pack it with pieces of oak tanned leather and a striker or two.
Cover the top of the can with foil
Lay it in a good fire in your forge and let it sit.
(you don't need to force any air - just let it burn)
Its very similar to the process used to make charcoal -
Anyways, when it cools, the chemicals from the leather will have given the steel enough hardness to spark.
def want to make sure the flint is sharp) I have made a few of these simple trade strikers and they work well enough.

The files/high carbon steel that the others have mentioned do make the best strikers, but this maybe a way for you to salvage the strikers you already made.

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Jennifer is of course referring to case hardening, the hotter/longer the piece is in the case the deeper the carbon migrates. However in use the higher carbon layer will wear through eventually.

The temperature needs to be at least low red to be effective. The chemical in the leather is carbon.

It may be like the procedure to make charcoal but it's not like the process! When you make charcoal you are removing all the volatiles leaving only carbon. When you case harden you are migrating carbon into the steel by exposure to high temperature carbon monoxide.

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Jennifer is of course referring to case hardening, the hotter/longer the piece is in the case the deeper the carbon migrates. However in use the higher carbon layer will wear through eventually.

The temperature needs to be at least low red to be effective. The chemical in the leather is carbon.

It may be like the procedure to make charcoal but it's not like the process! When you make charcoal you are removing all the volatiles leaving only carbon. When you case harden you are migrating carbon into the steel by exposure to high temperature carbon monoxide.


Thanks for for procedure vs process correction :-)
Could not remember "case hardening" for the life of me! Thank you!
Like I said, its not the best method, but it will salvage the mild steel strikers already made.
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It's the sort of thing that was done for "trade goods" with the indigenous peoples---why some cultures only use a chisel grind on their blades as that preserves a steel edge longer on them than a double bevel grind.

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You can do it with mild steel if you add carbon to the piece. Instead of taking the long route and case hardening it, put it in the fire and take it up to welding heat. Don't burn it. Then you'll have enough carbon to harden. If you want to see this work do a spark test first, then heat to welding, cool and do another spark test. Lots of carbon!

I also make strikers using titanium. They spark great and no heat treating.

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post-1310-0-06098400-1307145583_thumb.jp

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