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ChickenNugget

Questions about old galvanized steel

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I've got a few questions that I need answered. I've tried asking at other places, and people just freak out when they see 'galvanized' and proceed to lecture me. 

 

I know it's dangerous stuff, definitely not something to trifle with.

 

But, here lies my issue. I just put up a wood fence around my yard, and so now I've got a load of old chainlink piled up.

 

I have read that chainlink is typically made of aluminum or galvanized steel, and that galvanizing can and will wear off, given enough time. Now I know the stuff I have has to be ferrous, because it's all a dark reddish brown color, with pitting and flaking apparent all over. I looked up the markings and numbers on the fence posts themselves, and from what I can gather, the fence was installed sometime in the late 40's early 50's. That's a good 60-70 years ago.

 

Given that amount of time, would it be safe to assume that all the zinc is gone, posing no threat? Does galvanizing penetrate into the steel below or does it simply bond to the surface? Some of the fence posts are rusted, but with risen patches of a silvery metal, what I assume is the zinc layer, leading me to believe it bonds to the surface. I would really like to hear from someone with years of wisdom on this subject. I just can't pass up all this free steel, but if it's better to scrap it then so be it.

 

 

My plan with this stuff, if it's safe to use at this point, would be to cut the chain link into small pieces and melt the bits in a crucible to form usable chunks that could forge welded together, if only just to practice these processes. I assume the steel used for chainlink isn't tool grade steel, probably pretty soft, yeah?

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15 minutes ago, ChickenNugget said:

My plan with this stuff, if it's safe to use at this point, would be to cut the chain link into small pieces and melt the bits in a crucible to form usable chunks that could forge welded together, if only just to practice these processes. I assume the steel used for chainlink isn't tool grade steel, probably pretty soft, yeah?

^ that part will probably get you lectured. 

But as far as galvanized steel, if it's rusty, chances are the galvanizing has worn off. But it's better to be safe and soak it in vinigar and remove it. There are threads on removing galvanizing or atleast discuss it.  

It would probably be cheaper and safer in the long run to buy the steel you need and scrap the fence.

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Chain link fence of the older era was generally hot dip galvanized and more than enough trace will remain in even a rusty fence to be questionable.  Newer chain link is often given a lesser coating (as in making it cheaper than the old days) so would actually be better at the 50 year mark in terms of the zinc being gone.  I personally wouldn't risk it--better scrap to work with is as cheap as dirt these days so you might as well scrap the old chain link and find stock better suited to your needs.

Additionally, the nature of the forming dies for chain link requires a nearly dead soft material.  On rare occasions there were some harder wires used but most is about a low in carbon as it gets.  That makes the material so un-special that it's not really worth monkeying with on a strictly "steel" level either.  

Don't chase your own tail here.  Just move on and trade up to something more beneficial to you when you take the dead fence to the scrapper.

I still drive by some big commercial fence installs my father did for U.S. Steel ("Cyclone fence division") back in 1950 that look like they were put in only a couple of years ago.  They actually tried for value rather than cheap back in the old days so galvanized the heck out of em.  If you see a tag on a chain link fence that says "cyclone fence" (you still see them), it's at LEAST 35 years old now and more likely closer to 50+.

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The cost in fuel to melt the steel will exceed the cost of buying new steel.  The cost of a HIGH TEMP crucible that will handle steel would buy a LOT of steel.  The cost of a forge that will not degrade extremely fast at steel melting temps  would probably buy 2 to 3 forges rated for pattern welding.

The danger of working with molten steel without proper training is immense (even with proper training it's large...)

So yes it can be done but if you want to learn forge welding you would be a year or two further down the road if you didn't try to salvage old chain link fencing...

Shoot stop by and I'll bring you to my favorite scrapyard and help you load up on decent steel!

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