Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple minds

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Re: "Absolute Cheapskate Way to Start Making Knives "

Post by ninja-elbow » Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:06 am

So as to not have too many stickies up top I merged Stormcrows "Cheapskate Knives" and "Simple Heat Treating" threads. Both are referred to enough via links and the question comes up almost weekly.

Great sources of info that I hope I did not make too confusing via merging them.
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Re: "Absolute Cheapskate Way to Start Making Knives "

Post by maldon007 » Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:37 pm

This thread is made of friction forged 68hrc awesomeness.
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Re: "Absolute Cheapskate Way to Start Making Knives "

Post by SteveCA » Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:19 pm

Found this awesome thread while searching around for various zombie weapons.

I started making knives and weapons a few years back.

One thing I can say about the hardening process is that learning about decalescence had a profound enlightening affect. I read in depth about decalescence before hardening my first blade and I think it smoothed out the learning curve a lot. There are still many, many more aspects to hardening and tempering but learning how to watch for decalescence when hardening without a temperature controlled oven, I feel, is crucial.

Here's a few videos I've posted on youtube. Oh, don't watch any of my other videos, I'm a strange, strange cucumber. :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8Wtw-Z0JVQ" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Forging Zombie Axe
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKjy9fnL4YY" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Waste Oil Forge
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBBkjt8TbQ8" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Some Finished knives
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Re: "Absolute Cheapskate Way to Start Making Knives "

Post by SteveCA » Wed Nov 07, 2012 11:41 pm

Osiris Risen wrote:Definitely going to try this; I'm looking online for steel, but can't seem to find much thinner than 1/4". I'd like to start with a smallish knife for my first try and that seems a little thick. Should I just go with that and file it down some?
If you're still looking for steel, Admiral Steel is where I got most of my blade steel from. Check the clearance section first, sometimes there are some good deals in there.
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Re: "Absolute Cheapskate Way to Start Making Knives "

Post by SteveCA » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:02 am

One thing I can add for tempering in a home oven is that you want to use a muffle of some type.

Why?

The On/Off cycles of the oven actually raise the oven temperature considerably higher than the set temperature and taking into consideration that the knife edge, the most critical part of a good knife, is the thinnest, it will be the first area to be affected by the higher heat and thus lower the hardness of that area first. I ran a couple of tests with a muffle using electronic temperature probes inside the muffle and another probe just in the oven at the height of the rack. to put it simply, the temperature just inside the oven varied widely and the temperature inside the muffle was very steady.

for a single blade, a muffle could be as simple as loosely wrapping the knife in aluminum foil to get a minimum of 2 layers up to 3 layers, if you are doing many knives, a half inch of play sand in the bottom of a baking sheet and another half inch of sand on top of the blades will also work. For clarity, the 2 - 3 layers of aluminum foil wrapping, when I say 'loosely wrapped' means roughly 3/4" - 1" of thickness/radius around the blade. Because I was making a lot of blades, I made a custom muffle that was basically a very large cookie sheet bottom, a piece of chicken wire wrapped in aluminum foil - 2 layers on each side, lay that in the cookie sheet and place knives on that and cover with basically the same setup as the bottom.

Here's a graphic of the data from the tempering temperatures inside and outside the muffle: This oven was set at 375F. So without a muffle and a temperature probe, you can only make a likely very inaccurate guess as to the hardness attained after tempering.

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You can pick up a multimeter with temperature probe for under $20.00.

I personally recommend a single temper for 3 hours using a muffle rather than 3 tempers for 1 hour without a baffle. Your knives will love you and you will love them. Using a muffle requires longer temper as it takes roughly an hour or more for heavy blades for the whole blade to come up to temperature.
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Re: "Absolute Cheapskate Way to Start Making Knives "

Post by SteveCA » Fri Nov 09, 2012 12:38 am

maddmatt wrote:
rainbow_pact wrote:What do you think of A2 tool steel? It's my understanding it's air-hardening.
Oh god, A2 gives me nightmares. I have tried forging it, and it crumbles under my hammer blows, I have tried cutting it with and acetylene torch, it cut like crap, I never could get the stuff annealed in my wood ashes. I still have a bar of 3/8"x4"x4' that I'm trying to figure out what to do with it. I may see how our table cuts it at work, and making it into steels for my lathe. Starting out I would avoid A2 like the plague, and stick to a good 1095 or O-1.
A2 is typically a grinders steel or CNC mill, ie, guys that use it buy flat bar in the thickness the ricasso will be and grind or mill the blade shape then heat treat. I believe A2 requires a precision controlled heat treat oven and stainless wrap to properly heat treat, maybe even cryo treatment to finish off the quench but that might be D2, I never worked with stainless blade steels myself.
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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by SteveCA » Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:44 am

I found a couple pictures of my original incarnation of the oven tempering muffle from 2009.

It is pretty basic, an air cushioned cookie sheet on the bottom (a cookie sheet that is double layered with an air pocket between the two layers) this could be sumulated by placing a layer of aluminum foil across the rack and turning a regular cookie sheet upside down. Then a cake pan that holds the knives, a crumpled layer of aluminum on the bottom of the pan and a crumpled layer on top of the knives and a layer of aluminum foil covering the cake pan. This is the setup that I took the temperature measurements with.

Image
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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by maine1 » Sat Dec 08, 2012 2:49 am

Finally got around to reading Stormcrows HT thread.

DAMN GOOD!

You guys who are just strting out might not realize that he just GAVE you some hard won knowledge ( I know this because that's how I got it, and its the only real way) that will take you further, faster than you would have gotten on your own.

Stormy, i am finding you and i think a lot alike when it comes to making real blades. Well done!

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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by Rednex » Sat Dec 08, 2012 10:15 am

Im not sure on the steel used or to what extent the factory heat treatment is. That said i have used different putty knives at work and then used a random orbital sander to put a makeshift bevel and edge on them. They were used as junk work knives mainly used to scrap/cut a tar type of caulk off the edges of glass peices.

I did use a band saw to shape a putty knife blade into a more knife like shape. It runined the temper as expected. The blue and tan colors streaked across the steel. Though a retemper job may make it into a decent cheap knife. So what do yall think on putty knife tool steel good enough for a small knife?
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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by survivaljoe » Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:03 am

Using UNgalvanized metal was mentioned earlier, I would like to know how to determine if it is or isn't. What methods can I use?
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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by SteveCA » Mon Dec 10, 2012 6:31 pm

If it's really old AND not rusty, it could be galvanized. You should be able to use a dull implement of some sort, butter knife and scrape some galvanizing off it it is there. Often on an old piece corners will have worn through and will be showing rust in contrast to the flats, which would be a dull gray on an old piece. On a new piece you should be able to see the crystals like on galvanized sheet metal, it will also be softer than steel and will scrape off.
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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by Storm Crow » Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:03 pm

Take a look at a metal garbage can or unpainted corrugated roof tin. That's galvanizing. As it ages, it may dull and get some whitish oxidation. If it's heated, it will put off greenish yellowish whitish fumes and stink. If you're exposed to the fumes, drink a lot of milk as the calcium binds with it in your body.

As for the putty knife question, given how flexible they are, there's a decent chance. The rule of thumb for turning scrap steel into a tool is that if in its previous life it flexed, cut, or resisted impact, it's probably good toolmaking steel. Take your blade you've cut out and beveled, heat it above non-magnetic, quench it in canola oil, then check if a file bites into the steel. If it doesn't bite in but skates across, put it in your oven and temper it at 400 to 425 for an hour, three times. If it does bite in, try heating and quenching in water. If the file still bites in, it's not worth messing around with to make a knife.
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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by ctrlHorst » Wed May 15, 2013 2:13 am

Thank you Storm Crow for this amazing thread. I will soon make my own knife using the stock removal method. I actually bougth a file, because I want to be sure I use the right steel on my first knife (if I succeed I will try making knifes out of scrap, but first I want a fully functional, self-made knife). I hope I can get a camp fire hot enough to heat treat the steel because I don't own a torch or a forge... If I fail, I will probably get a torch. Anyway, if I manage to make a more-or-less useable knife, I'll upload some pics.
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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by Storm Crow » Wed May 15, 2013 11:07 am

You should be able to get a wood fire hot enough if you have air flow going in. A hair dryer would probably be the easiest way, though you could also go with a bag bellows. This one is made from a cement bag, but I've seen it done with a contractor trash bag, and traditionally it would be leather.



There is a stick on either side of the opening to hold it straight. You open it on the up stroke to fill with air, and close it on the down stroke to push it out into the fire, raising the temperature. You could even run two of them, alternating, and have a more constant air flow. There's several different ways of setting up a bellows, but this is probably the least complicated and cheapest, though not necessarily the easiest to run.

Better video, though I don't know how to imbed it:

http://vimeo.com/6002687" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by ctrlHorst » Wed May 15, 2013 3:47 pm

Thank you for the fast reply! If think a hairdryer won't work since I don't have electricity available where I want to set up the fire. But I will sure take a bag with me to try this method. I had, however, some sort of modified bicycle pump in my mind to keep the air flowing. I just shaped the blade, but I probably won't be able to heat treat (or at least try :wink: ) for another week or so.
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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by We'reWolf » Wed May 15, 2013 7:03 pm

good read guys
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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by mzmc » Sat Nov 07, 2015 7:15 am

Storm Crow, this is this a very good thread an I've learned a lot here.

It also has the added bonus of the subject line being incredibly funny. Your thread title makes me laugh every time I wander into the "Other Weapons" subforum.

Thank you.
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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by DAVE KI » Sat Jan 30, 2016 5:51 pm

Some pretty good tips here. Personally I sharpen after shaping then heat with a rosebud tip(carefully)
since the one side is so much thinner than the other to a dull cherry red, and always used 30wt motor
oil to quench it in while stirring all the while to prevent air bubbles from forming which tend to pit the steel (leaf springs). Then when everything is cooled and cleaned and the edge honed with sand paper(as mentioned) I give it a whack on another piece of steel usually mild steel and see if the blade rolls or chips if so carefully regrind as to not heat excessively and try it again sometimes even a third time but almost always end up with a blade that takes it and remains sharp.Haven't made one for sometime but it worked pretty consistent for about 20 years. Gotta try some of the alternative ways of firing though! Good tips on that S.C.
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Re: Simple heat treating simple steels for (and by) simple m

Post by Storm Crow » Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:21 pm

Dave Ki - Canola oil will harden the steel better than motor oil, with the added bonus of being less toxic, a *lot* less toxic than used motor oil.

I'm not seeing you mentioning a tempering cycle. Using a blade that is hardened but not tempered is *very* dangerous as the steel is going to be very brittle if you did a decent job hardening. Which means a high chance of breaking, possibly with jagged pieces, under stress. *Always* temper your blades!
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