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When to use mild or tool steel for certain "tool" uses


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Hello,

I'm doing a series of tools and things and have been thinking about steel uses. For certain applications, it's pretty obvious when a tool steel would be appropriate, but for some applications I'm not sure if it's worth it, and was wondering what some other people's opinions on the matter are.

Things like farm / garden tools. Hand trowels, rakes, hoes, etc. I imagine traditionally they weren't tool steel, but I don't know. How would a tool steel version compare to a work hardened mild steel variant?

Same goes for tools like a compass or something similar. I imagine the tips should be [forge welded] tool steel, but how much would it matter for the body?

I'm also going to do a saw frame, which I assume should be tool steel since it needs to hold tension, but once again I'm just not 100% sure.

I have access to both mild and tool steel, I just do a lot of decorative filing work, and even if it's properly annealed, mild steel will always file nicer than tool steel.

Thanks for your thoughts and time.

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It actually sounds like you have it under control as far as which steel to use, mild vs tool. 

For your farm/gardening g tools mentioned, mild steel or even wrought.

As for dividers, I'm sure you know "back in the day" most tools were made from wrought with high carbon steel used for the working edge. This was due to the expense of carbon steels. 

Cost is not the issue today, so how you do your tools is your choice. 

 

 

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It all depends on your use and desired durability. Like mentioned before for wear higher carbon would of been forge welded on. For hori hori's I have people use 5160. For other garden tools I've had people use mild or a spring steel. Compasses and dividers I normally use mild. If I intent to use as a scribe on steel I have used spring steel. It's sort of frustrating when you make a tool and it bends or deforms in use. So it really depends on the intended use. Not'm also in Portland.

 

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Funny all my commercial large shovels say TEMPERED or high carbon  on them. My garden rakes spark as HC  as do the hoes.  Higher carbon also has greater wear resistance in contact with soil/sand.   I think a lot of the really cheap garden tools flooding the market recently are mild steel and I've listened to a lot of complaints about them...As I tend to buy used and older stuff I avoid such issues

Have you read about using mild steel for post vise springs?   Steel has pretty much  the same Young's Modulus for both HC and LC and so it doesn't make much difference until you reach the yield point.  I use a bow saw frame made from mild steel as a hacksaw using a section of bandsaw blade for the saw blade. The hand forged hacksaws I've seen used A-36 for the frames

Is you imagination based on a solid background of experience and research?

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Like Thomas said. I have hacksaw frames made out of mild. Used to be people would sharpen shovels and such. Re-reading my post I usually have them use spring steel. I also frequently have people case harden or use super quench if mild steel was used. Most of the tools I made or have others make are medium or high carbon. Coworkers have asked if I'd make garden/hand rakes and such for them as the ones they buy aren't very durable, so spring steel will be what I'll use when I get around to it. It's non wear tools that are usually mild such as compass, dividers, saw frames, brackets. I have some set tools as well as side sets that have been in use for years that are mild that was case hardened.

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I've made a jeweler's saw out of A36 that I work hardened after, seems to be holding out fine. I had been considering using spring steel anyways or something of that sort for hack saws though, just as some insurance essentially for keeping it strong. But it might not matter as much as I'd think based on what I'm hearing. It's awfully tempting to use mild though I must admit.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

My take on it is this. If the item will be used in rocky soil or pried on like pulling a section of layered rocks apart than having a hardened cutting edge and the ability of the steel to resist deformation is paramount.( the shape of the item has a lot to do with the resistance to deformation) as an example is not an apple to apple approach. 1018 vs A36 really in my mind is not the same when we talk mild steel. A36 if heated yellow and quenched will, in fact, be harder than 1018. 

Or if the item needs to be able to work or mark another steel when that other steel is cold. scribes, chisels, punches, etc, etc.. 

In a few of the videos, I use mild for the body or wrought iron and weld on 5160 for the working edges/ends.

The other thing I do sometimes for a tool that will be used appropriately is to bring that item up to yellow a few times in the coal forge or charcoal forge and the amount of carbon uptake at that temperature is pretty good. The item will, in fact, take up enough carbon to harden when quenched.  the problem becomes not knowing how much carbon but id done correctly will skate a file easily and if the edge is tempered will hold up quite well. This process can then be used again and again on an item as the item wears or the edge is knocked off. 

I recently demonstrated this to a newer smith who came over to help me with a steeled wrought iron hammer and gave him a quick tutorial on forging a knife out of mild steel then added the carbon and hardened the edge and tip of the knife. It would skate a file easily and when bent past 90 did not break but it took about 10 times of bringing it back and forth 90 to 90 before it snapped off with a nice clean fine grain. well as good as it can get for mild steel.

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