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H13 steel for blacksmithing tools


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I read that H13 steel is great for blacksmithing tools, because it's heat resistant. So I got some. But now I wonder how do I deal with it? Especialy regarding heat treatment.

Found some information on line, but the proccess seems difficult. Don"t know what I realy need for smithing purposes.

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There is also the tempering, which requires several long cycles at about 500c. All this is not possible in a simple smithy with a coal forge.

I wonder if the forging proccess itself will suffice for the hardening phase? And is the tempering that important in the specific aplication? Or - is there a reasonable and practical alternative?

Thanks,

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A blacksmith ht for H 13 I have used is after forging heat to a yellow heat quench with a fan or even wave it around till the colour is gone.  Let it cool to room temperature then temper by heating to a barely visible dull red that is visible in a darker area of your shop.  I have heard of using an oil quench to get a better hardness but have never done it.

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H13 is delivered new as annealed, so if it a struck head tool like a pritchel, don't heat that end. Leave it annealed. The other, business end is heated to 1950 - 2100F (lemon or yellow colored) and forged, but not below 1650F (bright red). Anneal at 1550 -1650F (bright red) in wood ashes, builder's lime, or vermiculite (all insulators). Harden at a slow rising heat to 1825 - 1900F (orange color heat) and air cool in still air on a non reactive surface. Temper at 1000 - 1200F (dark red incandescent color); air cool..

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I have made some hammer eye punches out of h13 they i have only ponched 1 hole but the punch heated to dark red in use and did not deform at all 

 

my heat treat was as mentiond above brought to high orange/ yellow heat for a reasonable soak time of 15 min per inch of bar thickness then quench in moving air or still air should work for anything less than an inch thick especially in winter temper at a blood red heat about how hot iit will get in use 

H series toolsteels are hot work die steel they were desighned to stay hard even at high temp i am sure you will notice this when forging it 

a perfect heat treat cycle is not neccicary to make good tools from h13 as even annealed at a red heat it will still be harder than most other steels you will work with

Enjoy

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I suggest sending H13 to a heat treating place.  I know there's the do-it-yourself part missing in that, and everyone has to set their own parameters where that line is, but after spending hours or days making a decent die, why wreck it in ten minutes?  There are other alloys that are easier to deal with if you want to go the in-shop route.  For drifts and smaller punches that are going to get a lot of heat transfer, I like the M series--M1 or M2.  Old high speed drills with morse shanks are good for that (though you'd have to spark them to be sure) and you can buy HSS stock for lathes and such in rounds, flats and so on.  These are great for hot drifts because of their high melibdenum content.  Almost everything else can be made of good old spring steel.  I even have sheering dies made from spring, for hot sheering, and that you can heat treat yourself quite easily.  I have a spring hot cut that I made from 5160 (spring) in 1999; I use it regularly, and it's still doing fine.  But that's another story not about your question.   

Metallurgists made those confounded high alloys like H13; let them deal with them.  We're blacksmiths. :) 

Joel

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

Generally you wouldn't get H13 to it's correct hardening temps---and it's draw temper temp is in the glowing range.  It's good hot hardness is why I like it.  Only need to upset the tip of a punch in a hole a couple of times to decide that a punch that resists that sort of thing is nice...

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have been using H13 for around 30 years. It is my favorite steel for making tools I expect to abuse by getting too hot. The method described by Frank Turley has worked for me for long tools that I do not need to get the whole tool hot in making. (though the struck end may work harden and will need to be dressed from time to time.) For a handled tool like a hammer eye punch you will need to get the back of the tool back down to not too hard or you might be joining some of Gerald's friends down at the ER. Here is how I harden my tools I know this is not as good as it could be but it has worked for me. I use  a tempil stick to gauge my heat, after forging my tool I set ti aside, it will be hard all over when cool, I use a gas forge, so you may need to make some adjustments but I take my tool back to harden without anealing, (I know this is not correct, just trying to keep it simple) I put the end I want to harden into the fire, with the back taking a lesser heat, the end I want hard needs to get to 1825F I want the back end to get to nonmagnetic. I will let air cool, I think the optinum temp for hardening quench is 60f in still air I go with whatever the temp is in the shop. We rarely get to 75f here. I expect these tools to get too hot that is why I make them from H13 so I normally do not temper them. (I also know this is not correct, but this steel has been pretty forgiving in this area for me.) after the tool is cool I test with protective gear on to see if I met my goals for hardness and a softer striking end, setting the punch or hot cut to cut a A36 plate and checking to make sure my hammer dented the stuck end. No doubt this can be done better, but it has worked for me, since you already have the steel you might want to try this with a small piece to see if you think it will work for you. The most common problem I see other people have with this steel is after forging their tool they let it air cool and do not know how to get the back end down to soft enough to be safe. At nonmagnetic an air quench does not harden H13 it needs to be more like the 1825F.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I apologize for the newb-ish  questions, but I'd like some clarification and education:

@metalmangeler If I'm understanding you correctly, you're heating the finished tool (let's say a drift), with the working end in the fire. It needs to get to 1825F before being allowed to "quench"/air-cool. The striking end -sticking out of the fire - will get hot enough to reach the transformation point, but still be "softer" than the end that was in the fire? 

How soft are we talking? Soft enough to be safely struck with a forge hammer (or do you use an annealed hammer for striking tools)? Is there any way to further anneal that section of the tool, once the other end is hardened?

I don't have access to a power hammer, but I occasionally work as a striker for a smith. Is an axe drift something that we could reasonably hand-forge from H13?

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That depends on what you feel reasonably hand forge. It's tough stuff. My only experience with h13 is a drift I'm currently working on. It needs to be hot to move and even then it dosent move easily. I'm working it at yellow heat and back in the fire at orange. Even with my 8# hammer it's slow going.  It's do-able but be prepared to burn some fuel

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Snuffy I am using my forging hammer for striking tools, I expect my tools to be soft enough that this should not cause a problem. My hammers are mostly either 4140 or truck axles tempered somewhere between straw and light bronze. Just getting to nonmagnetic is not hot enough to be hardening with an air quench on H13. If you go from just finished forging to heat treat with out cooling you likely will end up with a tool too hard on the struck end.

My soft hammers are more for helping people with poor hammer skills learn to forge.

As far as making a mandrel from H13 for say axe eyes it might make sense if you are planning on lots of axes if you are only going to make half a dozen or something I would not bother. I made quite a few tools from H13 before I ever used a power hammer, the steel is hard forging but the end product holds up well, you should be able to forge it by hand. I would be sure I knew what I wanted my mandrel to look like before I made one  from a high alloy steel.

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