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Forging alloys


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Hey there! I don't know why I never thought to come to a blacksmith forum before regarding blacksmithing! So I have a quick question about forging alloys. I recently acquired a huge amount of copper nickel fasteners from an old marina that was closing up. I was wondering if there was any thoughts on forging this? For the life of me I can't find any information on this material (forging or recycling). Any advice would be appreciated. 

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Welcome aboard Choppy, glad to have you. If you'll put your general location in the header you'll have a chance of hooking up with members within visiting distance. 

Have you tried hitting it with a hammer on an anvil? Have you searched out the manufacturer for information on the alloy? You might have to check more than one manufacturer for the alloy. Once you know the alloy or a selection of possible alloys, look on the alloy's manufacturer for working characteristics. 

If not be VERY CAREFUL of potential toxic fumes, beryllium is extremely toxic, a true carcinogen a little in your system WILL give you cancer if you don't die from poisoning first. Fumes from heat or particulates from grinding are breathing hazards. Do you have suitable PPE? Beryllium is included in brass or bronze alloys for strength. Additional strength might be a desirable characteristic for marine fasteners, don't you think?

If you wish to forge a copper alloy I recommend pure copper or silicon bronze till you get the hang of it. The Zinc in brass is another breathing hazard though not nearly as toxic as: beryllium, chrome or nickel, zinc oxide can do you a serious mischief. 

Were I faced with your present dilemma I'd probably either put them in a coffee can against future use. Or visit a metal recycler and put the money in the shop kitty. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Monel is forgeable and was used for marine use as were some other forgeable copper alloys.  What you want to avoid are alloys with Lead, Beryllium, and Zinc, (Arsenic is not common but also a baddie).

The thing about hot forging most copper alloys is that they forge at a very low temperature and melt if you get much higher.   One way to try is in a DARK shop, when the workpiece just begins to glow faintly it's at working temp for a lot of alloys.  Remember DARK SHOP!  It can be handy to have a disposable tray for the bottom of the forge if you use a gas forge to "collect" mistakes...

Monel is a silver colour and stronger than Mild steel and was used a lot in the 1920's and 1930's for it's strength, colour and resistance to corrosion.  I'd have to dig out it's forgeing temp as it's much higher than low glow, IIRC, due to it being appx 65% Ni!  Use plummeted with the need for Ni in WWII and then the rise of stainless steels.

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Whether or not a particular alloy is forgable is probably best determined by experimentation.  If you get it hot and hit it with a hammer and it crumbles, then it is not forgable and probably has lead in the alloy.  If it just distorts under impact you can forge it into shapes.  HOWEVER,  this will not tell you anything about the alloy except that it probably does not have lead in it if it doesn't crumble.

If you know the manufacturer of the fittings contact them and ask about the alloy they use.  If you cannot determine the alloy it may be best to dispose of the fittings as scrap and use the money to buy metal which has a known composition.  I have used bronze brazing rods or bronze I bought from a retail metal supplier who provided the alloy data sheet.  I will use scrap brass but not for hot work.

When I forge bronze or copper I time how long the metal is in the fire rather than judging by color.  If I'm using the coal forge I use the number of turns on the crank of the blower, e.g. 2.5 turns for X size stock.  If I am using my gasser I will count to myself how long they are in, e.g. one one thousand, two one thousand, etc..  Copper based metals will only show a dull red glow and then suddenly melt. 

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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