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Economical Quenching Oil?

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Sorry if this has been talked to death, but I did a search but didn't find a lot.

I'm getting ready to try to make a timber-framing 1-1/2" chisel from (I believe) 5160 from an old school bus leaf spring.

My online searches lead me to believe oil is the best quenchant for this steel. I see "Parks 50 oil" recommended here, and here I see "Parks AAA, Mcmaster 11-second, Houghton G" recommended.

Short of using free drain oil, I would like to buy something economical for my purposes. And since I have close to 100# of this leaf-spring material, I would like to find an oil that works well and stick with it.

What oils are you folks using for quenching? And can anyone recommend a particular type (and source) of oil for quenching this 5160?

Related question: Assuming that I am forging in say 50°-70°F ambient air, would ambient-temperature quenching oil be OK, or should I heat it up before quenching?

Lastly, can anyone recommend any books or websites that might have this info, so I don't have to pester you folks for it?

I know experience is the best teacher and I don't want to analyze this to death, but also don't want to get discouraged by failures early-on that make me quit trying...

Thanks for any help.



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5160 is a deep hardening steel that doesn't need a fast quench.  Any 11 second quench oil will do, and in a pinch canola as well.  Canola should be preheated to around 120 deg. F to keep the viscosity thin for more effective quenching.  Kevin Cashen's website is a great resource for better understanding knife heat treatment: https://cashenblades.com/bladesmithing-information/


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Thanksgiving will be coming up. Ask around to see if anyone you know will be frying a turkey. They usually only use the oil once and it works fine for me for quenching leaf and coil spring steel. 

I wouldn't recommend used motor oil. It can contain some nasty stuff. 

And you'd be wise to follow Steves recommendation. 

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I get used fryer oil from the local "Safeway" deli counter. I bring a clean 5gal plastic jug clearly labeled for what I'd like and my name in large felt pen on both sides. Be nice, chat the guys at the counter up, especially the bakers! Ideally they'll fill it with oil from the donut fryer! They have to change oil every couple days at most and if you luck out your shop will smell like donuts when you quench something. 

DONUTS Mmmmmmmmm.

Frosty The Lucky.

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This is all good news ... glad to hear 5160 is forgiving, and I have just the place to ask for fryer oil...a local watering hole whose manager is a lovely young lady I've been wanting to talk to...:D

Thank you all, again.

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Quickly looking it up a 5 gallon bucket of Parks 50 is ~$200. Where as 5 gallon of vegetable oil is ~$50. 

I would say economically there are a couple other questions i would ask myself.   Am i planning on being a blade smith, if not how many blades do i plan on making, what steels i will be using. 

I am not a blade smith but i do some hardening and tempering. I have been using the same bcuket full of vegetable oil (mixed with a bit of bacon grease and about 1C of tranny fluid, the tranny fluid was already in the bucket no specific reason) for about 6 or 7 years. For me and what i do with it, it is ideal.  It is not economically feasible for me to invest in the more expensive quenching oils. Now if i was to switch to being a blade smith then i would invest the money into those oils. 

Upfront cost of the oil is only one of the aspects that needs weighed when speaking economics of a purchase. 

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