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What is a good steel for a 4" hunting knife?


newbieblacksmith

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5160 is a popular knife steel. If your looking at scrap steel, car leaf spring works as does coil spring but you have the added task of cutting and straightening the coils and forging flat. Generally I find it best to start with a shape close to the final desired shape.

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Will you be doing your own heat treating and if so what equipment and skills do you have?

How do you like your blades? (Hardness, Flexibility, stain resistance, etc)

4" is rather short and so you could use some steels that are better for some things but are a bit more brittle---but they generally profit from high tech heat treatment

What about L6? (found at Admiral Steel amongst other alloys) Also most of the knifemaker's supply companies sell good steels by the small pieces.

As to where to get leaf springs---go out to the parking lot and remove from a vehicle! (or look up a local place that repairs/replaces leaf springs...takes junked vehicles, etc)

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A 4 inch blade for a hunting knife is a good length blade. Unless you are going to field dress a water buffalo, a 4" blade is perfect. The longer the blade the more damage it will cause to whatever you are using it for. If you want to cut tree limbs or firewood then get a saw and hatchet. Just my experience from a lifetime of hunting and outdoors.

Mark<><

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Well as a "hunting knife" do you want a skinner or a "camp knife"? Will it be used on large game? 4" is a bit short to disjoint a good sized moose or elk; might be just fine for a white tailed deer and be a bit large for ducks...OTOH *you* will be the maker and it's quite all right to make it and then decide what you want to change for the *next* one!

Mark you do a lot of Moose, Elk, Mule Deer hunting---perhaps we are both thinking of what game is around where we live...

One of the problems my students' have when it comes to making their first knife is I make them answer a whole lot of questions until they *know* exactly what it is they are trying to do---then I make them draw it full sized before we go out to the forge.

As a starter project what I would advise is to get an automotive coil spring, say from a pickup truck and ask a friend with an oxy-acetylene torch to cut it down opposing sides leaving about a dozen curved pieces all of the same steel to "practice" with---both forging and heat treating and take notes of how you are doing things differently on them so by the time you've done the lot of them you should be well along the learning curve. (This can be cut with an angle grinder too but it's a pain...)

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What about L6? (found at Admiral Steel amongst other alloys) Also most of the knifemaker's supply companies sell good steels by the small pieces.


FYI Admiral steel does not have any L-6. they got into a bit of an issue with me and a few others when they were advertising it as inventory they carried. When we ordered L-6, they substituted other stuff <8670M> in its place, with out asking us first. When pressed about it, turns out they never did carry it. They have since changed the web site to show selling 8670M as a replacement, tho they do list actual L-6 "for alloy content" they say.
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You may want to see if you can find Jim Hrisoulas's books in the library first.

I would think that 5160, or 1095 would be a good starter knife, both are spring steels, and can be sourced in wrecking yards, spring shops, farms (hay rake tines), and other salvage type situations. The 1095 obviously has more carbon, and will get harder than the 5160, but edge retention is affected by a few things. You need to determine the end use closer than a hunting knife. I see a lot of knives called a hunting knife that I would not carry personally.

What do you have in your area for industry, industrial suppliers, wrecking yards, farms, etc..

VW bugs that had the front beams used a stack of spring steel flats to provide the torsion effect for the front suspension. Not real big, but may work for smaller blades.

Besides the scrap market, look in the yellow pages for steel suppliers. Some of our local industrial suppliers carry O-1 tool steel in various sized rounds. O-1 is fairly inexpensive.

MSC industrial sells tool steels, as does McMaster Carr. They will have O-1, W-1, 1095, A2,D2, and more.

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