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I Forge Iron

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Gents,

In researching axe making, seems all are normally a mild steel/wroght iron body with the eye either punched and drifted or forge welded around then always slit open and inlaid with a forged welded high carbon sliver for the cutting edge.

I understand this making a lot of sense when steel was very expensive or hard to find (200 years ago) but would it not be simpler now days to just make the entire thing HC? will the high carbon not forge weld back on itself with the wraps round eye method? are blacksmiths just being sentimental? seems proper tempering could handle the whole shockability issue with HC...is there something Im not seeing?

Josh

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You pegged it exactly - there is no reason not to make the entire head from high carbon; after all, that's what the commercial axe manufacturers have done for decades. I make mine from jackhammer bits so the whole piece is high carbon but I only heat treat the edge and leave the balance of the tool in normalized condition. However the practice of welding in an edge is still a useful smithing skill which should not be abandoned.

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I would argue that with my low skills a laminated design would provide easier and therefore better heat treating.
With my low tech approach, I can never be entirely sure that the temper made an axe that won't break if I use pure HC. Unless it breaks, then I can be sure it wasn't properly tempered.
Also I just plain like the old ways.

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if your slittin and driftin on the anvil by yourself, it is easier to go through mild iron ..... also you can work mild at a much hotter heat and things move quickly .... it all matters if you work by hand

both ways make a good axe



also ... had to edit
you are incorrect about the old ways Persian Tabar axe heads were slitted and drifted in crucible steel ... which is ultrahigh carbon steel uhcs

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I have heard anecdotal evidence that mild steel or wrought bodied axes absorb some of the shock from using an axe. I have not personally noticed this and am quite dubious about it.
If you are forging by hand a big axe in carbon steel is a lot of work, its much easier to make it in mild steel.
As for strength as long as your ht is ok then carbon steel is a world better than mild or wrought.....
I make axes in numerous ways, for numerous reasons from many materials they all have advantages or disadvantages when you are trying to satisfy history, aesthetics , process and material strengths.

old ways encompass about every conceivable way to knock up an axe in every material usable.

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I thought I'd note that the appropriate alloy for a monosteel ax isn't necessarily high carbon steel but medium carbon. An ax needs to be tough moreso than holding a fine edge for a long time (specialty axes excepted). You don't want the edge busting out when you hit a knot in a blackjack oak.

4140 falls in that category. So does 1055, which I believe is what Cold Steel uses for their tomahawks. I remember years ago reading on a forum someone (Bruce Blackistone?) talking about Viking axes that had bits that were at the bottom end of enough carbon to harden, and they were left fully hard without being tempered.

More'n one way to make an ax or skin a cat. :)

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Thanks for the insight gents. I understand the whole hand forging point too, one question is where to obtain good low to med carbon scrap steel. Seems most auto parts are fairly high such as 5160 or 1080 1095 for the usual parts, is axe steel low carbon or any other things commonly found in scrap yards? Or maybe just forge welding a bunch of rebar into a billet? Seems like a waste to buy clean bright perfect low carbon steel (expensive too) from some broker online. Or maybe Im not searching the proper steel dealers?
Thanks again for the help
Josh

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I found it funny where you say "seems all are normally a mild steel/wroght iron body" as there are thousands of commercially made axes of homogenous steel to every hand made one using a multiple alloy mix.

I think that you are being misled by an artifact of reporting where the *unusual* hand made axes get a lot more mention and pictures that the same old same old axes.

Now one thing you might look at is how the heat treating gets done if you have an all high C axe with wildly differing cross sectional areas. (hint "wildly differing cross sectional areas" sets off a pulsing red light to heat treaters when combined with High Carbon Alloys)

Now as to where to get lower carbon alloys---why right over there! Or: not knowing even what continent you are on makes it harder to make good suggestions. Why we suggest folks edit their profile to give some sort of general area---no specific please!

My local scrap yard in Polvadera New Mexico does not have a dearth of fairly heavy section low carbon steel in it---saw some 3/4"x3"x12' last time I was there. You might check a place that does steel girder work for buildings to see if they have any drops you could subdivide or ask at a local blacksmithing meeting!

Cars don't tend to have heavy section low carbon steel as that ups the weight which lowers the mpg and so they even tend toward upping the carbon content to be able to lower the thickness and weight these days.

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