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4340 vs 4140 vs 1045 for chisels, hammers, punches, fullers, and hardies


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Which steel would be best for making all of the below;

Hand hammers andSledges

Swages, Fullers, and other hardies

Punches and chisels

I can get some 5160 as well for punches and chisels.  

Im not necessarily looking for the ideal steel, but one that can do all or most of the above solidly and effectively.  

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Great because there is no BEST steel as what one person likes in their tooling may not be what another person likes in their tooling.

Personally I like the high alloy steels (like H13 or S7) for tooling that gets buried in hot steel--like hot chisels and punches

For drifts I would probably go for 5160. Swages 4140 or 4340.

Hammers; well I haven't made many hammers as I already have close to 200 of them from flea markets and yard sales and scrapyards...I do have a Titanium hand sledge in the planning phases (just because I can!)

BTW none of those are Hardies though some of them can be tooling for the hardy hole so "other Hardies"???  My most used hardy is made from 1050 jackhammer bit. Doesn't spall and easy to sharpen with a file---I teach college students...I had to forge down the bottom of the stem so it protrudes under the heel as even when colour coded with paint they can't figure out that a 1" stem does not go in a 7/8" hardy hole!

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H13, S7, and the like are certainly preferable for hot punches, but 5160 certainly works, if that’s what you’ve got. Just cool often, lube well, and be prepared for it to occasionally need straightening. 

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5160 has been my main steel for forging tools for many years.   I've made many swages and fullers from it, and it lasts very well.  Many of my spring fullers are one piece from 5160, and it works well for the springs too.  (Others have 5160 for the die body with A-36 springs welded on.)  Be sure to anneal it when you're done.  In my experience a drift made from 5160 does not work well at all, because it galls quickly.  The heat transfers into the drift and rips the surface apart.  This pulls your work down into the hole and doesn't make a clean hole like a drift that's smooth--not to mention it takes more power.  I haven't used the other alloys you mentioned for drifts, but I expect they would do that too.  Molybdenum in the mix works best for drifts, like the M-series high speed steels.  I usually add a dollop of mig weld to the top of any drift made of HSS so I don't dent the hammer die.  

5160 is a deep hardening alloy, so you need to preheat it before you weld it and then keep it hot to let it cool slowly.  Otherwise it'll crack apart by the weld.  

I've made a lot of detailed, cut dies from 4140.  Seems to last as long as I need it to.  Again, it's annealed when I use it.  It also works well for tongs, though most of mine are 5160. 

4340 is a pain to cut and machine.  I have a good supply of that as well as 4350.  I avoid the stuff unless it's going to be forged to shape and never drilled or turned.

1045 makes decent tongs.  Again, don't expect it to hold up with a lot of heat transfer.  It's less than 1/2% carbon--the rest is iron--so it's pretty low alloy.  

Just to help you choose your steel, keep in mind that most of the wear on power tooling is from abrasion, not distortion.  Fire scale is gritty stuff, and hammering (and pressing) is gobs of pressure, so between them the dies are eaten away wherever there is flow and less where there is not flow--like directly in the die center.  I don't know much about hand tools, but I expect the same is true. 

Joel

 

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Price, ease of working, ease of heat treating and will it do the job. These are all factors in how I decide which steel to use.

I have and still use 4140 as my primary punch and chisel material.

I use mild steel for all my tongs, light hammers, and top and bottom tooling. When I think it necessary, I case harden. (When I heard Kasinite was going out of business, I bought a case)

If I was making daily use forging hammers, I would use 4140 for no other reason, that I know smiths that use it for hammer making and I have it on hand.  I try to keep my life simple.

For cold work, I use W-1

Why 4140? For the reasons stated at the beginning, but price is a big reason. Currently I pay $17 per 12' length of 3/4”.  It's hard to find known steel at better prices.  I have started to use S-2 for my high use punches.  It was used as jackhammer bits and I acquired 50 bits.  Great stuff and a bonus, it's water quench.  4140, while normally a oil quench, will tolerate a water quench, so my heat treatments are similar.  W-1 for same reasons.

If you've met Mark Aspery or read his books, you might notice a similarity, it's not an coincidence. I learned most of my tool making/use knowledge from Mark.

 

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Chisels, punches, and fullers tend towards 1045 sometimes 4140. I can get those cheaply in 1/2"R and 3/4"R. Easy heat treat and when abused by students easily fixed with no great loss.

Hammers tend to be the same, and I make my personal use hammers. Occasionally I'll case use mild for small hammers and case harden. I had made some beautiful S-7 chisels and punches, etc. once upon a time, then later realized they were harder than my poor hammers I made. Think I gave them away.

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1 hour ago, Rashelle said:

I had made some beautiful S-7 chisels and punches, etc. once upon a time, then later realized they were harder than my poor hammers I made. Think I gave them away.

I have that problem with the S-2.  At some point, my heavy forging hammer is going to become my light forging hammer from the redressing :-)

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LOL. I'm having more issues with breaking hammer handles lately then with redressing. Except when people get ahold of my hammers when I'm not in the shop. The rule is no one uses my anvil and the tools at my anvil other then me and my assistant Caleb. But someone has been when we aren't there. That is causing quite a bit of redressing tools, grrrrrrrrrrrrrr. The hammer handle breaking issue is just me mostly. The more effort I put into making pretty tools the sooner they get broke. I like pretty hammer handles. Next is an osage handle methinks.

Had some H-13 hammer eye punches. They lasted good until they didn't. I went back to 4140 and 1045 for ease of maintenance and cost. No great loss when damaged.

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It's the lesser of the inconveniences Glenn. As is the homeschool and forest school personnel occasionally bring their students in when I am not there. I did use to keep my personal tools some of them locked up, but found that the bulk of what wasn't kept locked up is used regularly for demo's. Going oops got to find a tool during a demo sort of negatively affects the flow. Especially with youth students. The adults aren't so bad when that happens. I normally ensure everything for a demo is there but things get interrupted and thus forgot till the oops moment.

On the plus side the blacksmithing and bladesmithing programs are expanding. I'm getting a new building and we'll have multiple classes going at once. With that the blacksmith staff will increase and I can restrict access to only allow other instructors in, with students to when one of my staff is present. The new building will be before Summer. 

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I just found a steel supplier near me that will sell drops of a proprietary 4140/4150-type alloy steel. Looking forward to checking it out. 

They also sell H13 and S7, but I’m not confident in my skill and equipment to do a proper heat treatment. Plus, they sell it by the inch, so no drops. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I like 1045 for making hammers.  It's a simple fairly tough, but not harder than my anvil.  It's super easy to harden with just a water quench.  4140 is fine for hammers too.

4140 and 5160 for most tooling.  I especially like them for tongs, you can forge the reins down pretty light and springy.  You need to be careful to not forge too tight a radius in your transitions from boss to bit, and bit to reins.  They are stress risers and will fatigue with heavy use.  Crisp transitions make for a pretty tong, until it snaps...  I like making handled struck tool/top tools out of 4140 & 5160 as well as swage type  bottom tools/ hardies.  Most of the time heat treat is very simple, forge to finish, and allow to normalize.  

I really like S7 and H13 for hot work tools, but I have to keep a few brass and copper hammers for striking the fancy tool steel.  The struck end will be much harder than a 1045 hammer face, or even a 4140 hammer face.   I have tools that I made at least 10-15 years ago, that have seen a fair amount of use that I rarely have to sharpen.  I only had to redressed the struck end on my running chisel, because I used a cheap Chinese #2 hammer on it, till it spalled badly.  I have easily cut over a hundred feet of steel with that running chisel.  H13 is flat the best thing going for making a long hammer eye drift that you will use as a mandrel to forge the cheeks of the hammer eye. I don't recommend either steel for turning forks, I made an S7 hardie turning fork and it split? Could have been a bit hot short, or other bit of operator error.  Better to use a tough steel with some vanadium in it, safer and less expensive.  Blacksmith shop heat treat for these is get them hot let them cool.  Don't be afraid of them, they are air hardening, so it's basically like normalizing any other steel. Except they get hard and stay pretty hard.  S7 you can do an interrupted oil quench if you want to push the material as much as possible, but you don't need to, and it's safer with expensive steel to just do the air hardening.  If you hit these tool with a good hammer with a hardened face, bad things will happen, A.) you will damage your good forging hammer, B.) the struck tool will eventually spall.  These spalls are very dangerous, when the steel lets go there is a great deal of energy and heat.  Not something you want to catch in the face, and not something you want a spectator to catch...

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Thanks for all the advice everyone!  I really appreciate it. I think I am going to go with 4140 and / or whatever I can find at the scrap yard. I will look for things like forklift Forks and Axel's Etc and I I will test them and see how it goes.  I will see how expensive 4140 is for me and if it's reasonable then ill pick some up for sure, but reclaiming old steel is fun too.

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  • 3 weeks later...

1045 for hammers, its easier to forge, cut, grind, and basically everything. 4140 for struck tools, especialy hammer punches. If you make hammer punch from 1045 it will bend, its got to be 4xxx or 5160 to hold up. And I prefer 4140 for top tools just because they last longer, they dont mushroom as fast. 1045 will work for most top tools, its just that they dont last as long and mushroom quickly.

                                                                                                                                             Littleblacksmith 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have been using 4140 for hammers and it works great but there are somethings to keep in mind. It is an oil quenching steel. Yes large section will tolerate water but it is guess work. 1575f max on the Hardening  temp and temper immediately . Both failures I have had happed after it was water quenched and left for 15 min before tempering. It hurts when you spend a lot of time on something only to have it crack on the final steps.

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It sure rubs your nose in the TEMPER IMMEDIATELY AFTER HARDENING thing doesn't it?  (You are very much not alone in trying to get away with not following that...and failing.  Why a snap temper to a lower degree can be a big help if you don't have the time to do a proper temper immediately.)

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  • 1 year later...
  • 2 months later...

Ah yes; made from "Best Scrap pile Steel"---the best of what's to hand and around the right size.  A lot of my stuff is made from old chisels/punches that I find at the fleamarket or scrapyard.  The older ones seem to spark much more High C than the modern ones.

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