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I Forge Iron

Need advice, looking to start forging


Betta

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Hey everybody, looking to start forging knives from Rebar/Railroad Spikes (At least until I feel comfortable to move up to proper materials)

But i've a few questions and this place seems to be the best place to ask.

First can I start by saying I'm from Ireland, I know this is an American forum but yous still know your stuff :P 

Now in general I know Rebar is a bit of a nono, but if I were to use it, is there anything that I should do with it to make it good for putting an edge on it etc?

And about the railroad spikes, would they be found on old Tram Lines too? 

Also is an everyday Hammer okay to use for hammering a piece of Rebar (OR any steel) into a knife shape etc?

And finally, I have no power tools but a drill, without any machinery to grind a sharp edge or clean the steel, whats my best bet? Is buying the machinery a must?

I only want to do this as a hobby, not a business so I want to spend as little as possible :) .

Any and all tips, links and advice would be VERY much appreciated,

cheers!

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First of all this is an INTERNATIONAL site.  Look at the knife pictures from the smith in Thailand that were posted today.

What you can do to rebar/rr spike to make it a knife grade steel:  scrap it and use the money to buy car springs---both coil and leaf.

Practicing making knives with non-knife grade steels:  Like practicing driving a car using a bicycle!

Define everyday hammer:  all my everyday hammers are smithing hammers except for the carpenter's claw hammers---and I have forged a damascus steel knife with one of those before.

Your best bet would be drawfiling you can make good knives with no access to electricity!

 

Sorry if a bit terse as we are experience posting difficulties

Edited by ThomasPowers
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What Thomas said.  You have a lot of guys make RR spike knives.  They are basically only for show.  What he's saying about the difference between mild steels and knife grade steels is true.  They don't move the same.  I've got a book that features a gentleman in Israel that makes knives, with nothing but a hand drill and various files.  I'm assuming he sends them to a heat treater. 

You want to forge?  Do you have an anvil?  If so you should be able to find old hammers at junk stores and antique shops.  (I find many at those places).

As far a RR spikes go, I believe here in the states up to around 1926 they were made from wrought iron.  Not good for knives, but good to keep for decorative stuff.  I've made many a guard and pommel from the stuff.

 

My shop isn't full of expensive stuff either so don't think money will hold you back.  Remember they made knives and swords thousands of years before power tools.

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The official spec I have for HC RR spikes says that they top out at 0.3% C, AKA 30 points which is the border between mild steel and medium carbon.  Most places in Europe don't use spikes like we do.  I don't know about Ireland; but the trains I took in Wales didn't.

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Welcome aboard Betta, glad to have you. If you'll put your general location in the header you might be surprised how many of the IFI gang live on the island.

Like Thomas says, Iforge is an international forum with folk all over the planet. We have something like 45,000+ subscribed members in 140+ countries. That's another good reason to let folk know where you are. A LOT of information, especially about tools and materials is area specific. For example The USA uses different codes to classify metal, steel in specific for blades so it takes explanation to tell someone on the other side of the planet what PB&J300 :rolleyes: alloy is

Bladesmithing is a specialization of the blacksmith's craft. It's a good thing to learn to blacksmith THEN specialize. Once you're proficient at the craft forging blades is just another shape with a few special processes to learn.

Just so you know this is a really addictive hobby, it won't be long and you'll be making all sorts of things for relatives, friends and financing your next tool acquisition. ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks for all the help lads! I've nothing to do with blacksmithing to my name no anvils etc - yet! I'll do what I can and Learn now as i'm on holidays and when I get back hopefully I can get in on it, problem about the car springs = no scrapyard/junkyard near me, no car dealers either I think but i'll have a look and hopefully i've been mistaken.

And Thomas, I mean just a Claw Hammer you can buy in pretty much any hardware store, would that suffice for anything?

Again thanks for all the advice!

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Well, if you don't have an anvil that hammer won't do any good.  You might start with stock removal and move your way up.  That's how most of us knifemakers (I use that term loosely for myself) get started.  As your skill grows so to does your tools.  My shop is full of tools I picked up a rummage sales, yard sales, and flea markets if you have those.  Have you considered how you intend on heat treating the blade?  That's where it's soul comes from.  The most beautiful blade on earth isn't worth the metal its made from if it can't function as a knife due to a bad heat treat. 

I started quite by accident.  My neighbor gave me some bed frame rails.  I intended on building jigs for car parts.  The metal was so hard I couldn't work with it.  I said to myself, "I'll make a knife from it."  Well that set the journey.  Soon I purchased a cast iron ASO, then built a rail anvil, finally finding a real anvil.  That's how it works for most of us.  One step at a time.

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I getcha, the one thing that gets me, every video I watch and most of the posts I read, all include power tools (Belt sanders mainly) for the edge and polishing, is there any other way besides spending ages sharpening with a metal file to achieve the same result as a belt sander or any power tool would give? Also I saw a video in which the person made a knife from a 10mm drill bit and claimed it was very good, is that a viable source of metal as well as the car springs? And Jmc not sure about heat treating yet, still learning the basics of it, is there a better/preferred method of heat treating a blade?

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That's the thing, you do need some tooling to do the job.  I'm a lot unorthodox as I use a 4x36 sander.  These are a lot cheaper than buying or making a 2X KMG.  You might look into starting with files.  If you do find a 4x36 (or whatever is common) very good knives can be made from files.  You can even work them hard and temper them in your oven.  That takes the guesswork out of the heat treat.   I make quite a few blades from old files picked up a rummage sales.  One mans garbage can be another mans treasure.

Edited by jmccustomknives
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Did you watch the video that was just posted about a Nepalese knife factory making Gurhka Kukris? The backsmithing department consisted of charcoal forges and sledge hammer head anvils. You do NOT need special tools or equipment. Any smooth faced hammer will work fine, it doesn't have to be heavy even, 2lbs. 1kg. is a good max weight to start with.

Check with mechanic and repair shops, springs break and need replacing. Go for long slow drives on really REALLY rough roads, you'll likely find pieces laying in the ditch lines. Spring steel is a good place to start because it's forgiving of mistakes in the heat treat.

While you're at the repair shop, don't forget heavy mechanic shops, (Lorries?) they have lots of good steel. Truck springs may be pretty heavy for knives, especially for a beginner but there are a lot of tools a blacksmith needs spring steel is near perfect for. Hammers, Hardies, hot sets, cuts, etc. lots of good tools. Trucks also tend to break axles now and then a heavy truck axle mounted flange up makes a FINE anvil. Just put the broken end down. ;)

Auto and small pickup axles are good for hammers and bottom tools as well.Auto coil spring makes good tongs, they are springier/tougher than mild steel so you can forge them thinner/LIGHTER and still grip well so you don't have to work so hard holding heavy tools up.

The list of things you can make from scrounged metal is as endless as human imagination and need.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Auto repair places are great spots to look for materials whether it's drums/disks for a fire pot for your forge, or broken springs, axle shafts and so on.

 

As far as a claw hammer, there are two different types of heads. Smooth faced hammers and waffle faced hammers. I've always ground the waffle face off my framers for construction since the 1st time you pulp your finger, web of your hand with a nice new sharp waffle faced hammer you'll know exactly why. Some dedicated framers will still love a waffle face for the added grip on nail heads. I think they also secretly like S&M as well.

 

Other common hammers that are usually easily found are ball peen hammers and small hand sledges. There have been numerous posts on how to reshape a basic hand sledge into a cross peen or rounding hammer, though you will want a small hand held grinder to do so unless you want to hot forge it to shape.

 

I don't remember if Frosty has mentioned yet adding your location to your profile so we always remember you are from Ireland. That way we know in the future if you ask questions in other threads. I'd be surprised if things weren't similar over there to what we have here. I'll bet you can find simple 4 1/2" ( or whatever metric equivalent you all commonly use) at most hardware stores. It's almost a must for anyone who does metal work. Hard disks will remove stock fast, sanding disks work for mid level shaping, flap disks are good for fine finishes, wire wheels remove scale and slitting disks are good for cutting and detailed grinding. Cost shouldn't be too great. I find I have a bunch of different small grinders like this I've picked up used  or new over the years each with a dedicated wheel so I can rapidly change what I need simply by changing grinders.

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Try to find some of the old neotribal metalsmiths knifemaker stuff.  It was a "crafts movement" a couple of decades ago trying to do stuff by hand in the old ways so power tools were looked down on.  I was a moderator on a forum for them as I do some medieval pieces now and then.

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