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I Forge Iron

Feild test for steel quality.


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What would be a decent test, nonscientific of course, that one could use to determine if a random metal would make a decent knife. Not a high quality, indestructable knife, but something that would hold up to light use. Like , say a reinactor, or rondezvouer, who would never actually use it.

I collect just about any metal that is of appropriate size, then hit with the grinder before trying to make anything. The more it sparks, the greater a blade it seems to make.

My knifes are sold cheaply, and the buyers made well aware of what they were made from. It seams the more unusual the material, the higher the price they fetch. My proudest sell was to a motorcycle dealer who gave me a part from a bike to make a letter opener from.

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Pete is right---but it doesn't always hold true: I have run into a lot of weird metal choices on farm equipment that look like whatever was on the scrappile when they went to repair something. I have also run into a microalloyed strain hardened leafspring that was low carbon and could not be quench hardened!

So test anyway...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey Cliff..

I asked this very same question of my teacher MS Wally Hayes and was told thats it's usually not worth the time in playing around with different unknowns... Either find or buy specific steel, which you know what it is, then there is no guess work..

I guess that takes the fun out scrounging for steel to use,, however if it's knives you want to make,, it will save you time, money, energy and resources making knives you aren't sure of.

I couldn't argue with that...



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ya if its a real question mark it might not be worth messing with .. haveing said that a lot of things are obviously spring steel and will work .. Car leaf springs and coil springs are a couple that are obvious ...i use a lot of garage dor springs for small knives and strikers they are easy to come by and usually pretty good steel . I cut a section of coils(about 5 inches worth) heat in forge till its all red or better grab one end with tongs .I put a round rod or pipe in my vice slip the coils over it and give a good pull .... straitens out a section nice and long to work with! now if you were into damascus you could weld the unknowns with a good edge holding known and try it .. might not get a good pattern but should end up with a knife that will hold a edge...

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Don't give up on the scrap pile yet!

If you can figure out it's original use, that may help with its classification. Collect useful size pieces and the use the spark test when you get back to the shop... Just because all of it isn't tool steel or "weapons grade", doesn't mean that you can't use the "odd" steel for tangs (hidden only - show/display pieces, not for normal use), guards, pattern-welding billets, and (dare I say it.... ) regular blacksmithing.....

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