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breaker bits

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hey all

I know this has been covered a bit but I didn't see much in the way of a conclusive answer.


I dropped by my local home depot and asked the rental center if they had any scrap tools such as hammer chisels and breaker bits, they said no but ordered all these and they wont fit our tools.

so they had a pile of bits with what seemed to be an 1 1/8 shank some with chisel heads others pointed these were 12$. and then there was a pile of smaller ones approximately 1/2 inch shank 2$ each. all brand new.

so I bought a couple of the big ones and 10 small ones.

was this a good deal?


homedepot says they are from champion cutting tools. called there sales department and all they could tell me was they are oil quenched and are hrc 50.

anyone know for sure what grade the steel is?

I bought them to make tools, cut offs punches and such.

thanks for any and all help

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Perhaps steel sellers, and scrap yards are more economical sources for the metal that you wish to buy, in Montreal.

It's about 1¾ hours way.

Phoning before hand is suggested.

I hope that suggestion works out.


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I'm be scrap yard hunting in the gta in a few weeks. I'll be down to pick up some other treasures acquired over the winter. 

My dad had a grabbed almost all the steel needed for the power hammer in the first visit.

Also an extra chunk of steel weighing in at around 350 lbs this is now my anvil. Replacing the 100lbs anvil I was using. 

Does that yard in Montreal have a separate area for possible tool steel. 


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If you are willing to spend a couple hundred bucks Vanguard Steel in Mississauga has very good pricing on tool steels.  For local sources of machinery steels like 1045 4140 etc.  talk to local machine shops.  Fab shops tend to use mild steel only and the steel yards that cater to them tend to only have mild steel.  I have heard good things about Kawartha steel down in Peterborough.

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I started this reply 10 hours ago, hopefully I can finish it now. :)

So: I'm a pond away from you but I'm pretty sure there is no such scrap yard that holds possible tool steel seperately. The scrap yard point of view is: magnetic steel or not. It can be wrought iron from the 1700's or bearing used in a race car, whatever. Look for axles, vehicle coil springs, bearing parts. Othervise you really cannot know: I wanted to buy a piece of thicker round stock once, found one, took home and found out it's HSS. I was even able to identify the steel grade. - How did I do that? It was stamped in the stock :)

Spark testing is a powerful skill you must develop if you want to play with scrap material. It's not invincible though. There are just too many alloys with very different qualities...

Now back to the OP: 

Steel grade is quite impossible to know if the maker itself doesn't want to or can't tell.

Nevermind :) That type of tool steel will serve you well if you make your tools from it. Those steels generally are tough middle C content tool steels with some Mo and/or V and/or Cr in them. Sometimes a bit of Ni, too. You can make the tools you mentioned above, and if you find it's not satisfying, you make them again from other stock. It's the way when you use scrap.

One more thing: if you want to heat treat that material do it like this: when you're done with the forging heat it to orange/bright orange, let it cool in air touching no cold surface. (On the top of your ash/slag if you use coal, or on any pile of ash.) when it's cold try it with a not too coarse file. If it bites heat it again then quench it in some oil. Try the file again. If it slides and not bites temper the steel as the needs of the application requires. If the file bites heat the stock again and quench it in water. The file will slide now 'cause it's tool steel so it has to harden in water. Temper it as you want.

The smaller bits around here are oil quench material, the bigger ones go with water.

Okay, this was my add to your questions. Hope you can use some of it.

Happy hammering!



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I always recommend that you buy new steel of a known alloy.  If you don't know the alloy, you don't know how to heat treat it.  If you don't know the proper heat treat, you might find yourself oil quenching an air-hardening steel.  A lot of companies are switching over to air-hardening or water-quench steels simply because it's easier in terms of clean up at the factory.

If you got hold of the company and they told you it's oil-quenched and around 50 on the hardness scale -- great.  You might not know the alloy, but at least you know something of the heat treat.

Did you get a good deal on some tool steel?  Well, how much would it cost you to buy a brand new length of tool steel in that size?

If the bits have the collar on them, they make great hot cuts and other hardy tools because that saves you a ton of work to get the same thing in a plain bar.  Even welding on a collar takes time and materials, so a prefabbed collar is a win.  Anvil tooling doesn't generally require a heat-treat to maximize hardness or durability and the high-carbon alloy is plenty strong enough in its annealed state to make great bickerns, hot cuts, bottom swages, etc.

What I would do is make a few tools that you can sell.  Sell them to other smiths and go back for more of the big bits.  One good hot cut might sell for $30 or more in your area.  That pays for two more big bits. 

Hunting for scrap in scrap yards might be fun, but it's time-consuming and you don't know what you're going to get.  I'd much rather have straight stock in a known size, so I buy straight from the dealership rather than muck about in the mud.  If I just happen to be at a scrap yard, I'll pick something up because I'm already there, but I don't go there looking for tool steels.  

Scrap yards are great places for big pieces that you can't get through the mail.  Sections of big pipe, I-beam, channel.....  those darlings come in handy all over the shop and are worth their weight in gold if you can get them.

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That was a great deal..      Congrats..   I have a Hardie beak, hot chisel, and several punches and 2 handled punches made from jack hammer bits.. Great steel to work with.

One of the best things about being a blacksmith and having an understanding about steels is the ability to figure out how to use a steel suitably for a certain kind of use.. ( in the old days every steel was mystery steel)

A file if hardened and tempered properly can be made into,, A knife, draw knife, punch, hammer, chisel, Hot chisel, bolt header, spring, frizzen, etc, etc...  Each item will need a different temper and each could use a different quench media if you really want to maximize use.. 



Here's where I sound like a complete jerk: I always do but thats besides the point.. 

" Go buy your steel so you know what it is"        is perfect if you need a consistent, easy, by the book process with instruction written out for you..   Especially if you have salt bath's, Heat treat ovens.. etc, etc.. 

 If you are needing a heat resistant steel for deep hot punching or are doing reselling like a knife maker, or selling tooling, " Then go buy the material as this will expedite the process and you can guarantee a certain result consistently offering a product with the qualities you require." 

I know many production guys who follow the directions by the letter and end up with a  very decent product.. Then I know a few guys who go the extra mile and still test each batch of steel they get so they know for a fact that this batch can be tempered a little harder or softer and it will hold a better edge..  

Jerk hat off: 


I use mystery metal all the time for tools.. I have 2 Farrier hammers that got used daily with thousand of nails driven, and clips knocked back that are still in excellent shape, and will last 2, 3 or 4 more generations made from mystery metal,

  I also have dedicated material H13, 4140, D2, A2 and HSS, and 5160..    But for 95% of my tools they are all mystery metal.. 

If you sample and test enough materials it only takes a few minutes longer to sample it to figure out what the material needs for heat treat,  what hardening media and then figure out the correct temper..  

Mind you I'm old school and poor as dirt when learning the trade, so if I need a punch I grab a coil spring uncoil it and 15minutes later I have a punch..     to everyone's Horror I also don't have a big tub of oil  in the shop so harden everything in water, yup I harden oil hardening steel in water..  I'll even harden 4140 in water depending on cross section and required use..  (video on "Nail header making," was hardened in water).. In 38 years of working this way I've had maybe 3 hot punches that have crumpled from water cracks.. 

I also have cold chisels designed for special purposes out of 1095 hardened in water with no temper at all..  "I use them for cutting hinge joints and to my dismay a Blacksmith friend came over while I wasn't  in the shop and broke 2 of them trying to use them like regular cold chisels..  He looked at me and said they were defective.. LOL..  I was like Dude, you broke my hinge chisels.. (Hinge chisels the guy retorted) .They had very long tapers with very thin cutting edges..   

Anyhow..     Learning to figure out what a material is good for by testing has always been a blacksmiths gift..  If used properly it can offer you many tooling options..    

And while a lot of engineers will argue the point that this steel is no good for this and you should use this instead, blah, blah, blah..  This because they are correct.. For the most part since the steel would have been tested to offer advantages here and not so much there..  

I used to love the old flyers on different steel alloy types..   It would show a good, better and best with the steels listed and then have: Hammering, forming, forging, cold work, etc, etc..    Most the steels would overlap, but there would be that one "Best for" under each steel..  How many production facilities would carry all the different steels for each "Best for"....       


Just remember you have to understand the process of Heat treating to get to a desired result or be willing to have a lot of failures and maybe even some injuries as hitting a file with a hammer is not recommended...  any hardened material can have the potential to explode when hit and create  injury you or on lookers if not taken care of properly so PPG is essential.. 


If you are a newbie find some guidance, local guild, meet or group.. ABANA is a great resource to find local chapters..  

But then again if you are a newbie working 1.125 high carbon steel is not going to be fun anyhow.. 

I can remember when working 3/4" Sq 1018HR stock during tong making was nearly impossible.....

As a blacksmith you have a whole world that is open to you...  The correct forging steps, hardening and heat treating. tools, hardware, Wrought iron, low, medium, high carbon steels, alloy steels,  Corten, Aluminum, bronze, copper,   The only limits are what you place on it..  


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Some excellent responses. Thanks everyone. I think I will scoop up more bits before they are gone. 

We have a good number of garages local to scrounge up Springs.  As well as a spring shop that services all sizes of vehicles. 

I reference the heat treatment guide app quite a bit to get an idea of many steels properties but nothing beats people's personal experience with metals. 

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3 hours ago, Creature said:

We have a good number of garages local to scrounge up Springs.  As well as a spring shop that services all sizes of vehicles. 

Need to be careful with any used Springs that have been pulled off a vehicle/trailer as most have micro cracks..  


If you heat it to orange and watch it the cracks will start showing up as darker lines..

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"Best" also can be too expensive for the job.  My copy of Machinery's Handbook lists S7 as a great steel for jackhammer bits; but almost all of them are made from something like 1050 as it's *CHEAP* and will do an OK job.  (I see this on some of the Junkyard Steel lists where they based it on what was suggested rather than on what is typically used and so would be found in the junkyard.)

My hardy was made from the broken off end of a pavement bit.  All I had to do was to forge the stub to fit the hardy hole.  And then reforge it to have a a bit that sticks out under the heel of the anvil so when students used it on a different anvil it can be tapped free without riveting  the end into the hardy hole.  For some reason hand made things like anvils show some variability in their construction...1" hardy holes may be tight or loose on a piece of 1" stock...

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Try to contact the technical support team instead of sales. They should be able to help out with identifying the specific alloy used, especially if you can give them a part #. It has worked for me on several occasions. The sales department only cares about selling. Talk to the tech department and they have all the good info we need.

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