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I Forge Iron

would like to move to stainless steel

Shamus Blargostadt

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I've been cutting my teeth on 1084 and 1095 making knives for almost a year and a half now. After constantly keeping after rust on my blades, I'm thinking I'd like to try out some stainless steel. I keep reading 440c come up as a good place to start with SS, but I'm kind of confused on the heat treating part. Some folks make it sound fairly easy but I've seen others talking about steel wraps and aluminum plates and quenching in liquid nitrogen. As far as gear goes, I only have a toaster oven and oil I've been using to harden high carbon in. Is 440c (or some other recommended SS) something I can send out and have someone heat treat for me, proper for a knife? I'm thinking kitchen knives.

Does stainless steel forge similarly to high carbon or do people mostly do stock removal with it?

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Forging stainless will test your patience and your manhood.  Heat treating stainless is even more difficult.

First forging.  Stainless like 440C is an air hardening steel, steels like that reach their critical temps around 1900F (+ or-).  So when you are forging you either have to keep it above that temp or never get to that temp.  If you go above that temp and drop below while forging it begins to harden and you've cracked it.  Forging below is slow going (not that it's a pleasure above either).

Heat treating, as mentioned before critical temps takes place around 1900F (+ or -) depending on the alloy.  These steels need to be brought to that temp and held.  I've read that with some of those alloys 50 deg below or above can mean 2 Rockwell points.

For this reason most stainless knives (or air hardening steels) are made by stock removal and the makers send their blades to a heat treater or have a proper oven.

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Hope this helps..  I have been forging 440C..154CM/ats34, 17/4-Ph and a few other SS for about 45 years now and it is a LOT of work. YOuy have to be totally attentive when working or you will regret it.

440C for some reason got a "bad name" in the knife world..why this is I do not know for certain..but when properly worked and the right HT is done.....EXCELLENT steel for short <10" blades...  440 C is a bugger cause it can air harden in thinner sections but I oil quench followed by a sub-zero in LiNi followed by  three temper cycles and I get some GREAT performance from this steel.  

xxxxxx I even pattern weld with it and I do NOT use a can... however if you are just starting out..the best bet is to find someone who has been doing this and have them walk you though a half dozen or so pieces... Just work slow and take a lot of notes and ask questions..




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