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Hello all I have been doing a ton of research and I've finally got my first forge plan laid out. I've been researching steels to use and as it would appear 5160 is the easiest for me to attain where I'm at I'm doing research to get familiar with spark testing. My real question for this thread is what are your opinions for forging tools and knives from 5160? I intend on attempting to use a pair of channel locks to forge my own tongs and tools for my forge. My ultimate goal is to forge knives. I've searched the forums and I only see light mentioning here and there of the good but rarely any bad with 5160. I'm building my forge to burn charcoal. If that adds to any differences of good or bad for 5160. Thanks in advance for any information I intend to post images of my forge as soon as it's built.

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Oh there're a lot of pros and cons regarding spring steel, there's no guarantee it's 5160 anymore. The downside of using scrounged springs is the potential for micro fractures acting as stress risers and initiation failures. If you can get new spring steel you have it made, it's good for many different things.

On the up side, 5160 is more forgiving of mistakes in heat management and heat treatment, the stuff will cut you more slack than say W1 or O1, both good blade steels. 

4140 is excellent steel for tongs, hammers, impact tools, pry tools, etc. Not much of a blade steel though.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I personally wouldn't bother making tongs out of 5160 unless they were scrolling tongs, hammer making tongs, or power hammer tongs. I haven't had any issues or complaints with any of the mild steel tongs I have. Also if they are made from spring steel, you have to remember not to cool them off in water when they get hot, or else they could crack.

I enjoy making blades out of coilspring, but who knows for sure if it is true 5160.

                                                                                                                        Littleblacksmith

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7 hours ago, Jay.bro said:

it would appear 5160 is the easiest for me to attain

Really? If there are any steel suppliers in your area (which you can find out from the Yellow Pages), they probably sell "drops" (offcuts from larger jobs) of mild steel at a discount. My local place asks 75¢/lb.

 

(P.S. I think you mean "obtain", not "attain". :)

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5160 is probably not the steel you want to learn the basics of hammer control, temperature control and moving steel. Mild or A 36 is good for that and (S hooks, bottle openers, candle holders, etc---typical beginners projects...)

As for it's use for tools: Yes, No, Maybe depending on the *tools* and how *you* work with them.

For knives it's a good steel for large knives if properly forged and heat treated. For smaller blades not expecting as much impact and flex, I prefer higher carbon alloys.

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Thank you guys for the info I've done my research for suppliers here and there's not any very close by in the yellow pages other than scrap yards and I've tried looking in other forums but I found that springs from half ton trucks from the 80s were generally 5160 but again I want to learn to spark test and this is why I asked I've spent about 3 weeks researching different steels and calling around. I'd like to get really good before I spend the money on ordering steel online to make knives I don't want to waste good quality steel. eventually I'm going to get with a few transmission shops and see what I can get as far as gears for future projects. Like I said I'm still learning and doing my research to get everything ready I plan on practicing my hammer technique and heating on some scrap mild steel I have laying around the yard like an old scissor jack, some lawn mower blades, etc. I plan on building my forge and shed in the next week or so and I'm trying to find a piece of railroad iron to use as an anvil until I can afford a good one. I only know of one guy that lives near me that does anything forgeish he's a farrier and I just heard about him yesterday but I just wanted to know the good and bad properties to use it to make tools and knives around 9" to 12" long for future endeavors. I have read its harder to hammer but I know you guys wont shy away from giving me your honest opinions. Thanks guys oh on quenching 5160 is used canola oil a good medium

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4 minutes ago, Jay.bro said:

Thanks guys oh on quenching 5160 is used canola oil a good medium

The consensus around here seems to be "Yes, but it goes rancid." Some folks recommend adding vitamin E oil as an antioxidant; I keep mine in the chest freezer.

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Last time I checked Arkansas had an active blacksmithing organization and there was a knifemaking one too as I recall.

Spending a Saturday afternoon with a smith that knows what they are doing can save 6 months or more of trying to learn it from the internet or books. (I learned it from books and trial and error as the internet wasn't when I started...)

Not to mention that the American Bladesmiths Society school is located in Southern AR; one of their classes would REALLY get you started on blades RIGHT!

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I have read that there was one before and arkie has mentioned it a few times and I'd love to get some time with an already established smith to teach me but right now I don't have a ton of time to take trips I'm looking for a job and helping my wife take care of our baby I want to start this out as a hobby and see where it goes from there I'm trying to figure out how I could attend a few classes buy right now I don't think it's gonna be easy.

40 minutes ago, JHCC said:

The consensus around here seems to be "Yes, but it goes rancid." Some folks recommend adding vitamin E oil as an antioxidant; I keep mine in the chest freezer.

Thank you I keep seeing it's a good medium but I read somewhere it needs to be heated a little to get a good quench with it I know a lot of ppl say don't believe what you read online but it's one of the easiest places I have for info my local library is lacking on blacksmithing books.

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Just now, Jay.bro said:

I know a lot of ppl say don't believe what you read online

Excellent advice, unless it's been discussed at length on IFI, the great self-correcting repository of reliable blacksmithing information.

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Ahh you do know you should be able to ILL books at your local public library by asking at the front desk.  I live in a small town in rural NM and I can get books from any of 90+ other libraries including several universities using Inter Library Loan; costs me a US$1 a book and I get to check it out for 3 weeks. Shoot I was able to get one that I had on Amazon book search for 5 years without a hit.

It's a good cheap way to check out books you think you may want before you spend the money to buy them.

Also the COSIRA blacksmithing books are available free online.

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Well canola oil is my first idea I've read tons on it but I had an idea about this broken space heater I have that is basically an electric radiator with oil in it I don't know if it would be a danger to experiment since I have yet to find information on what the oil actually is but I'm still researching away I feel like my reading isn't teaching as well as just doing it would seeing as I'm a kinetic learner but I am still trying not to blow up the little shed I'm  building for my forge especially with me in it. I'm also not understanding what you mean by ILL on the books.

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18 minutes ago, Jay.bro said:

I'm also not understanding what you mean by ILL on the books.

Inter-Library Loan. It's a system where if one local library doesn't have a particular book, they can get it for you from another library. 

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My post seems to cover that to me.   Ask at the local public library's front desk about Inter Library Loan; they may have to ask a real librarian but they should be able to explain it to you.

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Okay thanks also I think I know the answer to this but I want to test what I think it is. I've read somewhere that large bolts make fairly decent knives I don't know for sure since it looks like stainless but ive always assumed they were mild steel but would you suggest using a bolt to make a knife even for a practice piece

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On June 1, 2017 at 0:43 AM, Jay.bro said:

Hello all I have been doing a ton of research. it would appear 5160 is the easiest for me to attain. what are your opinions for forging tools and knives from 5160?

Well, 5160 is a very tough steel but it's very fast to rust.

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2 hours ago, Jay.bro said:

Okay thanks also I think I know the answer to this but I want to test what I think it is. I've read somewhere that large bolts make fairly decent knives I don't know for sure since it looks like stainless but ive always assumed they were mild steel but would you suggest using a bolt to make a knife even for a practice piece

There are many different grades of bolts.  Some could make decent blades, but others will not.  Grade 8 is the highest I've seen in normal use. Some bolts have the grade designated by the number of radial lines on the hex head. Three lines is grade 5 and 6 lines is grade 8 if I remember correctly, but even grade 8 is still medium carbon content, which is barely suitable for decent knife blades. Bolts you may think are stainless could be galvanized.  If there is any question throw them in a vinegar bath for a day and rinse them off before forging.  That will get rid of the zinc coating, but wouldn't do much of anything to stainless steel.

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I didn't see it mentioned yet, and I realize you said you are just beggining, so this information will really only do you good down the road, but...

True 5160 is a bugger to forge weld to itself. It contains chromium, which can form chromium oxide when heated, not a big deal when simply forging it, but if enough builds up between layers in a billet, it will fight you the entire way. I have experienced this, and it's frustrating. Not to say it's impossible, it's just tricky. There are a few threads on here that talk about it in more detail if you're interested. 

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5 hours ago, Will W. said:

I didn't see it mentioned yet, and I realize you said you are just beggining, so this information will really only do you good down the road, but...

True 5160 is a bugger to forge weld to itself. It contains chromium, which can form chromium oxide when heated, not a big deal when simply forging it, but if enough builds up between layers in a billet, it will fight you the entire way. I have experienced this, and it's frustrating. Not to say it's impossible, it's just tricky. There are a few threads on here that talk about it in more detail if you're interested. 

I'm nowhere near forge welding research yet I'm curious to if you can do canister damascus without powder but I'm not even trying to look into that yet I know my grandfather said something when I was young about if it's a charcoal forge you can fold the steel and the carbon from the charcoal burning can add carbon after several folds and hammering. He also said repeatedly working it like that will make it purer but I haven't really researched it that much. I'm more focused on researching heating hammering and heat treating until I get comfortable with adding more. I don't want to try to jump too far into it and just ruin what I'm trying to make by taking on too much.

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Forge welding almost always lowers the carbon content in the steel your working. It's called decarburization. Plus if your working with two steels that have different carbon contents, say 1095 and mild steel, you have to deal with carbon diffusion, where the carbon diffuses over the whole billet until it is homogenous. Basically that 1095 and mild steel billet, when solid, will likely end up with .4 or .5 % carbon across the whole thing (or something like that, idk the exact %) 

Repeated welding making the metal more pure sounds like he was referencing either bloomery steel or wrought iron. Modern alloys are already pretty darn pure. 

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The idea that forge welding raises the carbon content of steel is a very common "myth".  In reality it usually lowers the carbon content of steel.  Japanese Swords often start at nearly 2% C in the billet and after repeated folding and forge welding end up near 0.5%.  It doesn't matter what fuel is used, coal, charcoal or propane!

Repeated forging out and welding does help refine real wrought iron.  Unfortunately over 99+ % of forge work nowadays does not use real wrought iron.  Also the idea that forge welding makes steel better is generally untrue as well. It does allow you the chance to take a very nice alloy and trash it through decarburization, sulfur contamination (if using coal), oxidation and inclusion of crud from the forge.  The better you are the less likely this is to happen; but thinking that you can crudely do better than several thousand years of research and practice in the refining and production of steel reeks of hubris.

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Another aspect of the repeated folding and forge welding of Japanese steel was that it gave it a more consistent carbon content throughout, rather than with that content varying considerably in different parts of the original bloom. 

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