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I Forge Iron

I require advice on treating my first sword


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Hello everybody. I'm a new forger. I've been experimenting with forming hot metal for about 3 years but until recently it's been very casual. I have a sword that I've been working on for about 10 hours. This is my first large project, everything else has been made of rebar or rail road spikes.

 

The sword is shaped and I've made the guard and handle. After some more sanding on the handle, it'll ready to be put together for the last time and the pommel made and fit. Therefore, I guess the next step is treating it. I've been looking around for how to go about this process for a long time, longer than I've been making this sword actually, but everything seems to be steel type specific information. I do not know what this sword is made of. I dug a massive rusted bolt out of the ground and used that. When grinding it gives a long spark trail with a massive amount of sprigs that form immediately. I assume it to be medium carbon steel but I'm not sure. I do not think that it's high carbon nor do I believe it to be mild. 

 

How do you think I should proceed? I would absolutely hate to break it. I'm planning on hardening it with motor oil (that's all I've got) then tempering it at 350 for 2 hours. Is that a good idea or should I do something else? 

 

The dimensions are about 2 1/2 ft long. The blade is about 3 inches in height and maybe 1/8 -3/16 inch thick before it tapers into the point around 7/8th of the way down the blade. I'd post a pic but I don't have any means of doing so unfortunately. 

 

 

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Yes, yes and I've read the pinned threads, followed the links (yours included) and although there was a lot of certainly good information, it seemed to be information for people who know exactly what they're working with. My answers might be in there but I don't want to dig through 200 reading hours worth of info that I don't currently need to find what I do when somebody more knowledgeable than I could read my post and give me some quick advice. This is all a learning experience.  

 

I don't have a lot of money. Used motor oil and mystery metal is the best I can really do right now. 

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From the sounds of it you are probably at High risk of severely warping the blade if you try to heat treat now. And who knows what success you might even get from it.  Might want to finish it up and call it a wall hanger, then call it experience and move on to the next one with Steves advice and more knowledge. 

Hate to see 10 hours turn into a severely warped blade. Least you could have something that looks nice and get some experience from what you did. 

Just a conservative view of hours of work. 

Its probably good the motor oil is missing. That stuff has some real nasties in it. 

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Welcome aboard from 7500' in SE Wyoming.  Glad to have you.

A couple comments:  It was probably not an optimum decision to start a sword with an unknown piece of steel where you don't know how it will harden and/or temper.  But now you've gone to all that work and you have a big step ahead of you that may or may not work out.  You may end up with something that is good only for a wall hanger rather than being functional.  Or, it might all come together.

The biggest issue for heat treating a long piece of metal is getting it evenly heated before quenching.  You can move it back and forth through your forge until it reaches its critical temperature (nonmagnetic) or you can build a long forge to heat the entire length at once.  This can be as simple as a trench filled with charcoal.

For a quenching medium used motor oil is not the best because the additives can be a health hazard as the come off in smoke.  There are much more expensive and better quenchants but I often just used generic vegetable cooking oil from Walmart.  Make sure you used enough so that it stays fairly cool when the metal is inserted.  If you have to little it will boil, smoke, and may burst into flame.  Some folk recommend pre heating the oil to about 140 degrees F before quenching.

The size of the blade you describe is more of a club.  Historic blades were much lighter.  You could not swing something this size for very long in combat. I suggest you research the weight of historic blades.

BTW, for a wall hanger you do not have to heat treat it at all.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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Welcome from the Ozark mountains. All good advice so far. I would finish up the sword and just normalize it and like Das & George said, make a wall hanger out of it so you can look back and see how your next sword made from good steel, that can be hardened (quenched) then heat treated comes out. Making the fittings out of mystery steel or brass/bronze or even wrought iron is acceptable. How about adding a picture of your current sword, we love pictures y know. I once made a D-guard out of rebar (took some kidding over that but all in all the short sword performs well.

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54 minutes ago, Daswulf said:

 

I just got done quenching it in water. It didn't warp at all and definitely hardened. Whether or not it formed micro cracks is a different story. I figure 10 hours of work is going to either result in a fantastic learning experience or a sword. Time will tell which. I agree with your comment about the oil, but it is what it is. 

 

46 minutes ago, George N. M. said:

 

Hello George, I've read a lot of your comments while lurking around the past couple months. Good to finally say hello and thanks.

 

As you read above, I did the heat treating and it appears to have worked out. About the motor oil, I know it's not advised but I have a lot of it. Health hazard, yes. Potential detrimental effects on the metal, yes. But it's what I've got (had) and it worked alright for my other little projects.

 

I wouldn't call it a club. It sort of has the look of a bayonet. I may get a picture up some day if I can find a camera. It's not supposed to be historically accurate or to imitate anything really. I made it to my own specifications for light use while hunting. 

43 minutes ago, Irondragon ForgeClay Works said:

 

Hello Irondragon, I've read a lot of good comments from you as well. I'll look around for a camera. I hope to have it finished in a presentable shape in the next couple days.

Edited by Chuck92
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Chuck92: Welcome to the forum. Pics would be great!

Just a heads up on the quote function, due to worldwide viewers and potential limited bandwidth the mods like to keep quotes to a minimum. So generally just do something like this post where you call out the name of whoever you respond to. Or if a post you are responding to is a ways back, use the quote but trim the content to match just what you are responding to. 

I ran into that a few times when I was new to the forum, every forum has it's own quirks to learn so don't be put off if a mod trims your post up.

Are you still planning on the temper cycle? Would probably be a good idea so it is not brittle. Though I have some cheap harbor freight punches that are made of junk-o-nesium and I occasionally just water quench them and leave them as is they are so low in carbon. 

 

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Oh, thanks for telling me about the quotes. I'm still learning formatting on this type of forum. I'm used to chatting on a reddit clone. 

 

I have it in the oven right now. I guess I'm going to do 350 for an hour then a slow cool down since (in my ignorance) I suspect it to be somewhat on the lower carbon content side. I still doubt it's mild coming from an almost 5 foot long, 1 7/8 inch diameter bolt. This weekend I'm going out to the forest so I'll give the sword a good using. If it breaks :(, if not I've still got about 4 feet of giant mystery metal bolt to play with. I'll look for a camera since everybody wants to see but be warned.. It's not the purtiest thing around since it's my first real blade. It's been a fantastic learning experience though, I've really learned a lot about what not to do. I think the next one will be a beaut. 

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Chuck, all my sword references are still in boxes from a recent move.  I hope to have the library built soon.  So, this is mostly from memory.  Hunting swords generally were shorter than combat swords, maybe 16-24" blades.  Usually single edged.  Used for dispatching wounded game and for dressing the animal, e.g. splitting the rib cage or pelvis.  Your comparison to a sword type bayonet is apt.  Sometimes they looked like machetes.

My comment was triggered by your statement about thickness.  1/4-3/8 thick is VERY thick for any sword, 3/16" at the thickest point is probably more common.

I'd say that for a short hunting sword total weight should be no more than about 2 pounds and 1.5 would be more typical.

Also, and this is shutting the barn door after the horse is gone, but when using steel of unknown quality for something that will be heat treated the best procedure is to take a small piece (a "coupon") and test it to see if it will harden at all and what quenching medium will work best.  On a large piece like you have take notes so that you will have a record when you go to use it again a few years down the line.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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7 hours ago, George N. M. said:

My comment was triggered by your statement about thickness.  1/4-3/8 thick is VERY thick for any sword, 3/16" at the thickest point is probably more common.

 

16 hours ago, Chuck92 said:

The blade is about 3 inches in height and maybe 1/8 -3/16 inch thick before it tapers into the point around 7/8th of the way down the blade.

It looks like he's in the ballpark there.  It's the unknown steel that concerns me.   

It would have been good to cut off a small piece of the tang (assuming you had a little extra material there) and do a test quench and temper on that to get an idea of how the steel will respond to heat treating.

10 hours from the start to the point of heat treating on a sword is far from excessive.  If anything it might be a little on the low side.  Regardless, with an unknown steel and therefore uncertainty regarding the heat treat ..... let's just say I wouldn't want to be standing nearby the first time that sword hits something solid.   It may be fine, but you should approach any testing with it as if you expect it to fail to avoid injury to yourself or anyone else.

If you do get a phone, tablet, camera, etc. (or could borrow one) so you could show us what you've made I'd love to see it.

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You have some biased preconceptions: why would the size of the bolt indicate carbon content?   Why is free vegetable oil from a fast food fryer more expensive than motor oil?  I have a book on Hunting Weapons from the middle ages to the 20th century.  My local FREE public library will ILL books they do not have locally; have you tried?

Scrapyard Rules: test all "found"  metal BEFORE using for carbon content and heat treating requirements---only takes a few "oopses" to see that this is the fast and cheap way to get good results with found metal.

Good Luck!

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There are LOTS of different kinds of bolts out there.  They vary in dimensions, shape, and, for blacksmithing applications, material.  Here is a link to a useful page which tells what kind of steel are used for different classes of bolts and the markings on the head.

https://www.globalspec.com/learnmore/mechanical_components/mechanical_fasteners/bolts

Brief war story re classes of bolts:  My first job after graduating from law school was Assistant City Attorney in Cheyenne, WY.  Just across the hall was the office of the fire department.  I kind of hung out with them because my father had been a Captain on the Chicago Fire Department.  One of their jobs was to inspect for safety carnival rides and they were trained for that.  One year they shut down the largest ride at the carnival at Cheyenne Frontier Days because the bolts had been replaced with common hardware store bolts rather than hardened and tempered high carbon bolts of a different class.  The ride was shut down for about 3 days until the appropriate bolts could be flown in from California.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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