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I Forge Iron

First Knife


SamT

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I asked my father if he would like me to try making a knife for him for his christmas present this year. He seemed excited about it, and I agreed that I would try, but couldn't promise one just yet. I need to choose a steel, and I'm leaning towards 5160 because it is forgiving in the heat treat. From what I've read it should be a good choice, but I've also read that L-6 is a good beginner's steel, as is O-1. I'm planning on a bowie-patterned skinning knife, most likely around 10" long. I would like a bright, polished blade, which has me leaning towards L-6. How bright will 5160 be with a good polish? Are any of these steels more rust resistant than others? My method of choice to make the blade will be stock removal. I have a propane forge, and for tempering I have a small toaster oven, max temp is 500*F if I remember correctly.

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well...shiny is shiny. 5160 is good but,for a shinner i'd use 1080. i use some plow disc that "is" 1080 and it works well. also it's thinner so less work will needed to be done. but for a bowie 5160 is great for being a heavy blade and better for rough use.any way show us what ya come up with.

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5160 is a great steel, I prefer it for large heavy blades like. bowie's and machete's.

L-6 and O-1 are not good for beginners. All will shine dependent upon how fine you polish it :) all have about the same rust ability, but the higher alloy will have issues you do not have to address with the simpler steels like 5160.

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Carbon steel blades like you are looking into will rust. How bad they rust is simply a choice of the user. If they choose to allow rust to ruin the knife it is after all their knife. If your dad has guns and they are rusty that is likely the future of a carbon steel knife. One thing for sure you can do as the maker is to observe when you are grinding the blade,,,With rough grinds you will see rust form right away after to dip in it quench water. As you work into finer grits you notice that does not happen as soon and if you get into real fine grits it alsmot goes away. So if you finish that blalde really nice and shiny it is all you can do. I have a carbon steel blade knife I won many years ago and the blade is not new for sure but the staining on it is so minimal it just has a nice classy old patina look. I show folks wot their carbon steel knife they buy from me can look at if they do their part in upkeep. I suggest they wipe the blade real clean and dry after use and not to store the knife in a leather sheathe, They can pick up moisture from the ambient air and the blade will rust for sure. For some of us that live in dry areas that is not as much of a problem as it is for others.

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Thanks for the replies! I can buy 5160 online, I'm planning on a 3/16 spine since he has been known to pop the bones out of socket with his knife on occasion. It will be a no nonsense blade for sure, he's excited about the fact that I'll be making it, not that its flashy, but a high polish will be mandatory for cleaning and rust prevention.

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I want to check my understanding of the process before I get started. First rough shape the blade with the grinder/saw/hammer. Second heat to bright red, and let cool in air 3x to normalize. Third heat to bright red, quench in warm oil, wipe oil and directly into temper oven at 400* for two hours, repeat temper two more times over the next two days. Should I check for nonmagnetic during normalization and hardening? Just remove from forge every 30 seconds or so and check with magnet on a string?

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Thanks steve, I've got 48" of steel on the way, so I can HT and temper a few test pieces and put them on the rockwell tester at work to check it out. Does the rest of my process look ok? Hayden, I had thought of a file, but I don't have any that don't still cut :) I need a blank of 1.5x12, and I don't think any files are that wide. If there are, then it's doubtful I could get one for less than the approx. $5 ($20 for 48", 48/12 = 4. 20/4= $5 :P) for the piece of 5160 I ordered.

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If you're just doing stock removal, one or two normalizing cycles to relieve stress are probably all you need, since you won't have grain growth issues. "Heat to bright red" is way too subjective. Use a magnet for normalizing and hardening, as Steve suggests. Color perception is very individual and extremely dependent on ambient light. No need to wait a day between temper cycles. Just cool to ambient in between.

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