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What types of steel for tongs and hammer heads?


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I posted on here the other day and you guys answered all of my questions but my thread got deleted for some reason and I can’t remember what everyone said so I need to ask again I guess. What type shape and size of steel do I need to make strong light tongs and which type of round steel will make hammer heads? Also what width, thickness and length of 5160 do I need to make a hog splitter or a large cleaver?

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That is strange Matthew, not only do I remember your question I replied and I don't see it in your history. Well . . . lost in the Pet Roms again. <sigh>

I like a medium carbon steel for tongs it lets me forge them thinner and lighter while remaining stiff enough to hold securely. I like 4140 chrome moly, 1/2" sq. or 5/8" rd. but I don't use enough to buy a stick so I mostly use salvaged coil spring with a wire diameter around 5/8" dia. The down side to using a medium carbon steel like these is two fold. Both steels are harder for forge and require a higher level of heat management than mild steel. The second is again heat management you need to keep an eye on their color when in use they do NOT play nice when tossed in a water bucket at red heat, they can become brittle or break outright. Either withstands work hardening well but if they are work hardened and you toss them in water when HOT you might hear the dreaded PING! You have to develop the habit of tossing them on the floor to cool.

Hammers are a good candidate for 4140 also but most any medium carbon steel works well, Heat treat will depend on what you acquire. Old pickup axles are an excellent source of salvaged hammer and top tool stock.

I'm not a bladesmith guy but can say 5160 makes good enough knives especially for heavy use. I don't like leaf stock for forged knives though it's not a beginner project to get a flat stock to behave while forging a single edge blade. Coil spring is much more user friendly even though it's counter intuitive. I also do NOT recommend blades as beginning projects but wanting to or going ahead on one isn't uncommon, it's just much harder to be successful at it.

A last note about automotive spring steels, gone are the days when we could expect auto springs to reliably be 5160, now anything that meets performance specs might be what the company makes them from.

Crossing my fingers that this reply stays up. :unsure:

Frosty The Lucky.

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Note that as a smith you are more interested in the WEIGHT of material as you can change it's width, thickness and length with forge hammer and anvil.  So weigh an example of what you are going to make and add at least 50% more as a beginner. The more experience and higher skills the less wastage from scaling and hammer marks needing to be ground out...

Theoretically as a bladesmith you can start out with a sphere of metal and many bladesmiths working 52100 start with large ball bearings.

HOWEVER the further it is from the desired shape at Start; the more time, effort, fuel and chances of messing things up to get it to Final shape.

Strong light tongs alloy: Titanium! (5160, 1050, 1045, 4340, 4140)  Note that higher carbon alloys do have issues when being quenched after being heated too high in use---common with people starting out. They are also harder to forge. Sucker rod is often a decent medium carbon steel and cheap to find used in the scrap yards; though the oil area of AR is more down south IIRC...

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