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I Forge Iron

How 'bout rebar?


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I have had a few pieces of really old rebar that I thought was actually pretty good stuff.

Meaning predictable,,,and acting like mild steel.

I don't know if I have any of it left or not.........the thing is, it's so old that the patterns of ridges on it are far different than modern rebar.

I've had poor luck with the 'modern' rebar.
A couple years ago I broke one of my logging chains and needed to make a quick repair.
I found a piece of 3/8 in. rd. about 7 or 8 in. long and figured it would 'do in a pinch'
I heated the piece with the A/O torch, bent it into a crude 'link' shape and arc welded the two ends.........no forge.......no quench.

The first time I used the chain after the repair, it broke like glass.....right next to the arc weld.

So, I still use rebar once in a while........but not for 'critical' uses.

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I have made several rebar knives. In the end, it's a gamble. Modern rebar is often the fruits of recycled material, which is only tested for its tensile strength, not carbon or any other alloy content. There's an old story of "grade 60 rebar" being .6% carbon, but I think that was a bladesmith seeing the name through our lens... you want to believe it referrs to what's important to us, carbon.

It is fantastic for novelty blades, especially those that see light duty or occasional use... like keeping one on the fishing boat for cutting line once a month, maybe. I keep one in my shop for rough work I don't want to damage other knives with, like prying, scraping things off brick, etc... it's really my "I don't care about the blade, I just need a wedge or sharp edge for a second..."

If you have a lot, and want to use it, it's also quite good for practice. It has enough stuff in it to react differently than mild steel, in my opinion, so if you want to develop a new forging technique (upsetting, offsetting, bevels, etc.) without putting time into material you'll feel bad about screwing up if you get it wrong, rebar can't be beat. I used a length of it when I made my custom hammer, and forged an awesome persian recurve blade that I still keep in the shop for reference... the hammer totally changed the way I hit metal, and when I show people the blade, they can't believe it came from rebar. Will it slice? Sure, but I'd never put it to hard use or sell it to a customer, 'cause "who knows" when it might let go or do something unpredictable.

Hope that helps you out some. Good luck.

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For a relative beginner like myself, I find rebar quite acceptable, as I have found it easy ish to work with, and quite forgiving. I think this is an important trait in a steel for learning techniques with.

If you arent a beginner, however, then this a defunct way of thinking. Use some nice 70-90 point carbon steel!

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If you are wanting to learn to forge knives I advise learning on high carbon steels even if it's just automotive coil spring. Otherwise you are learning mild steel habits that you will need to break when you move on to HighC.

Sort of like learning to cook over an open fire by using an electric stove; some things transfer but a lot of stuff that works on the electric stove will leave you hungry when done over an open fire.

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Nothing I can add that hasn't already been said.............. great for practice & ornamental & decorative items. I never pass up rebar when I can get it. Coil & leaf springs are good for starting out on knives. Just my 2 cents..............


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