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I Forge Iron

Need Help Choosing Steel quick

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Hey everyone. Im heading to check out a steel supplier today and I just realized I ddint do my research. Can anyone help me out here? What type of steel do I want? It would just be for beginner projects like hooks and objects of the same manner. What do you guys reccommend? I remember seeing [people sujjest 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch for sizes. But my dilemna is what type of steel to get. Can I just ask for mild or is it more complicated than that? Ill be checking on my phone so my replies might be a tad messed up, but thanks everyone in advance! I can't remeber who first suggested it, but thanks to whoever recommended Logan Steel. That where im heading now.

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For general work, just use mild steel, sometimes referred to as A-36.  Anything else might be overkill and more expensive.

For your beginner projects, you could use 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", and/or 3/4" round or square.  One inch stock will be harder to work as a beginner, but you could give it a go.

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Hot rolled currently is A36 which is a performance specced steel, meaning so long as it has the minimum tensile strength, deflection and modulus of compression it meets spec. Being steel is made almost entirely from scrap A36 doesn't cost as much to make so that's what you get. Here's the rub, it can exceed specs by quite a bit, steel has to be darned high carbon before it doesn't meet the minimum deflection specs so you might get some pretty high carbon or even high alloy A36. It can even vary considerably in one stick.

Cold rolled steel is alloy specced meaning it must meet the correct carbon content and alloying metals specifications. It's ground to dimension after being rolled cold to close. Cold rolling imparts a degree of work hardening so it's stiffer off the rack than hot rolled. Generally it's lower carbon and certainly doesn't contain the wild card metals you can find in hot rolled.

Of course this degree of precision and manufacture makes it more expensive.

Darn I forgot the size I start folk on. I like 3/8" sq. it's heavy enough to hold heat a while, beginners tend to look at the piece while it cools instead of going straight to the anvil with it. Normal normal. It's also heavy enough mistakes don't become permanent so fast. It's light enough to move well and produce a finished project fast enough lessons take. 1/2" sq. is in the max beginner range in my shop but some folk want something heavy and some projects just need the weight of iron for aesthetics. 1/2" sq. is also good weight to learn punching, slitting drifting type joinery. We usually don't get into anything structural early on.  3/8"x 3/4" is a good material for tongs and it's a good weight for frames, grills and such, I like to have a stick on hand.

A stick of 5/16" rd. is what I use to teach basic hammer control. Nails are often 1st. day projects. I have a couple few headers and a couple hardies I don't mind getting beat up.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Hot rolled is just that; it comes to the steel dealer directly from the steel mill as rolled at red hot temperatures it is covered with "mill scale"  and looks dull blackish gray in colour. It is generally a cheaper alloy---though you can buy differing alloys in hot rolled but will probably have to hunt for them or special order.

Cold Rolled starts out as hot rolled but the final steps at the steel mill is to remove the mill scale by "pickling" in acid and rolling it *cold* through polished rollers making a polished silver colour (and is oiled to keep it from rusting).  It is work hardened by that process and It usually has closer tolerances than hot rolled---sharper edges on squares make for more ornamental twists..  It is usually a more stringently controlled alloy as rolling it cold needs to not vary as much to protect the more expensive rolling equipment.  Cold Rolled is generally mild steel with 1018 and 1020 being the classic alloys.  HOWEVER I have seen some cold rolled A36 before as it's cheapness and availability at the mill trumps the extra working costs at times.

My bottom line:  You pay more for cold rolled, (a 12' piece of cold rolled costs substantially more than a 20' piece of hot the same nominal size) and the first time you put cold rolled in the forge you loose the work hardening and polished surface so if you don't need the alloy differences why pay extra and then throw away the money?

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