Checking my learning curve (more advice requested)

I've been reading through this thread waiting for somebody to say it plainly but never saw it. One of the first things I did in blacksmithing was pound
out a 1x1 inch piece of railroad hardware into a Wak blade. I was similarly depressed at the rate of progress and went looking for a bigger hammer - I'd been using a two or three lb. Cross Pene. I went on this trip to home depot with mention of a straight pene being easier to use echoing in my head. So as I'm wandering down the long handled hammer isle I spot a splitting maul. Lightbulb goes off in my head and 12 dollars later I'm dragging an 8 lb. straight pene hammer home with me. When I got home I cut the handle to about 14-16 inches, ground the the wedge down till I had a nice round pene and did some contouring on the flat head side. Armed with this weapon of smithing I can break down the bigger pieces of material pretty fast. Yes, it will take a toll on your arm. You have to let it do the work and just concentrate on raising it in the air.
The point here is that there is no substitute for mass. In your anvil and in the hammer. Hitting it harder just wears you out faster. With a bigger hammer you just have to take your time, get smooth rhythm going and build some endurance. When breaking down thick stock you definately want to make use of the pene.
Something I learned while experimenting with making forge welded blade stock is if you can get a couple friends interested in tandem hammering the metal will move incredibly fast. Picture one person holding the work and one on either side of the anvil taking turns hitting the steel. You don't even have to be trying to hit it hard with a couple of eight pound hammers working in tandem. You can see the metal moving a lot in a single heat.
GA
wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 15 Feb 2007 20:27:44 -0800, "Kyle J."

That very thought has crossed my mind, to be sure. It's nice to see that it's not such a crazy idea after all. I'll be looking into that this weekend for certain. I've also been tossing about the idea of putting a handle on my spare splitting maul head and grinding the blade end back to make a cross peen that goes the opposite direction.

The bigger hammer, I can do- but the anvil is going to have to wait for a while. While I'm more than willing to run out and buy one, my checking account disagrees.

That seems like a tall order, though I guess it couldn't hurt to ask if anyone I know is interested in swinging a hammer.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I suppose it depends on the crowd you go with :-) Some folks are surprisingly interested and even have a lot of fun smacking hot metal. My brother-in-law calls it hammer therapy. Keep a cold beer handy.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Why can't you hit it bright yellow: They say that tool steels can't take the heat that mild steels can. I am not sure if any damage you do with high heats is irreversible, but I have heard that grain growth is an issue, at a minimum.
Treadle Hammers: In my view, the more parts you have rubbing together, the more of your effort is lost to friction and the less there is available to do the work. Don''t discount the simmple "swing hammer". The "dies not matching" is not a big problem, especially if you use the adapter design at www.spaco.org/bk.htm and go to the treadle hammer page.
Pete Stanaitis
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You need to know the specs of the metal you are working. Some steels are hot short and some cold short. I can never remember which is which but some steels don't react well when you beat on them at too high of a heat and vice versa. Some of the Railroad material that I played with tends to crack if you don't keep it pretty hot while you work it. I've seen it with leaf spring too (5160?... maybe). Working most basic high carbon steels at welding heat will burn out the carbon over time. The higher the carbon content the lower the forging temp I think is the rule though. Higher alloy material will usually need to be worked hotter (1800+F or so). If at all possible, read the manufacturing specs. They are generally provided in the sales info. The only "irreversable" damage you are likely to do is burn out carbon. Grain can be worked down through proper treatment. Even carbon content can be raised, though you don't want to go there...
GA
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Fri, 16 Feb 2007 18:25:48 -0800, "Kyle J."

Unfortunately, there were no specs with the metal- I just got it off a rack and the guy cut it in half for me quick. It was a very informal sort of thing.
So, if the problem is a loss of carbon, does it make sense for me to use sparks flying off the piece when it is struck as an indicator that I am forging too hot? That didn't happen much, but it did occur a couple of times when I had it at what I would judge was it's highest temperature. That would really be an easy to spot and useful indicator if it means anything at all...
I'm still learning about the higher carbon steels. I've had the opportunity over the years to work with mild steel, stainless steel and 4140 in a machining capacity along with the odd bits of bronze, 12L14, and a few tool steels- but I've never worked in a shop that did anything that I can recall with 1095, and no hot work at all prior to a couple of months ago, so I'm just guessing at it for now.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

If you bought known material from a dealer then there are specs. Look it up on the internet. Try places like Pacific Tool Steel, Admiral or Crucible steels for reference data.

I'm no expert but I think you need to get it hot enough that it starts to sparkle while in the forge before you are burning off carbon. Most steels are safe to work between 1200F and 1800F if you don't want to get technical about it then try to stay in that range. Ultimately the steel will let you know if you mistreat it too badly. of course by that time it may be too late... :-) If you are going to make knives then you should take time to test the results of your work. I recommend using some rods and play around with the heat treating then see what it takes to destroy them. I learned the hard not to make assumptions about the temper of your steel - about the chemistry of it too...
GA

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sat, 17 Feb 2007 09:09:24 -0800, "Kyle J."

It would seem that there is no way to avoid being technical about it. I'm a little amazed at the level of sophisitication in blacksmithing, as I had always considered it kind of a primitive "heat up the metal then beat it with a hammer" sort of situation. But considering how long it's been around as a trade, I shouldn't be all that shocked.
That's all right, though. I'm up for it, and it would seem that the idea of doing it has got the gears of some people I work with rolling. It's kind of funny that over a decade of woodworking as led to a small handful of paying jobs, but a couple weeks of goofing around with blacksmithing perked up so many ears that I have to remind people that I'm not very good at it yet so they don't try to give me jobs I can't handle.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Just remember: There are two things that will send a blacksmith to Hell; hitting cold iron and not charging enough. :)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Prometheus wrote:

About a hundred years ago it was iron with different levels of carbon in it that you could detect with a spark test if nothing else... now there's all these alloys to deal with...
Alvin in AZ (not a blacksmith)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

I'm still a little unclear on this. Is it that hitting the steel too hot causes the grains to grow when it goes into the final quench, and it does not get as hard as a result?
It's still quite possible that I'm not hitting at high yellow. It's certainly nowhere near that white heat I saw in your coal forge, and my garage is much darker in any case, especially given that I work at night with a single 15 watt bulb. But that is no reason to disregard the correct way to do it, of course!

Perhaps I should have looked more closely the first time around- for some reason, I had it in my head that the adjustment to get the dies to match involved lengthening or shortening the arm on the hammer head- which seemed like it was likely to be more work over the long haul than designing it differently in the first place. The adapter on your page makes a lot of sense, of course. After looking at it again, it does seem like the way to go. It uses far less steel than I had in mind for the other design, which means I can do it that much sooner.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Grain growth begins at "the" critical temperture and continues as long as it stays at that temperture (or hotter). Growth rate may accelerate at higher tempertuers. With a plain carbon steel, this temperture is is around 1450F and grain growth after this point is fairly fast, so I wouldn't recommend leaving it above this temp. more than say 15-20 minutes at a time. Alloys tend to retard the rate of growth considerably and usually REQUIRE much longer amounts of time for carbide formation when hardening. Growth DOES NOT occur as a result of hitting it while too hot. Hitting the steel breaks up the grain - as does Normalizing and Quenching (fast cooling from critical).
GA
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Kyle J. wrote:

Holy cow, Kyle! :) That is cool. :)
Alvin in AZ
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sat, 17 Feb 2007 09:25:33 -0800, "Kyle J."

Perhaps I'm missing something here, and I'd certainly appreciate the guidance.
I read through a book on metallurgy, and what I gathered from it was that after the steel reached the critical temperature, it transformed into another state where the atoms in the metal crystals rearrange themselves into a different geometrical configuration. From what I more or less know (or at least can guess at) from basic chemistry, my assumption was that this structure persists as it continues to heat up, with the essential difference being that the crystal structures begin to move further and further apart until they are arranged in a strand formation rather than a grid, and can easily slide against one another to form a liquid state.
From my understanding (which may be wrong,) the annealing process is a matter of bringing the material to the critical heat and allowing it to cool very slowly. The slow cooling allows the grains to grow without fracturing, resulting in a more malleable structure. Quenching causes the grains to fracture quickly, resulting in a very fine grain structure that is harder and more brittle.
It didn't really mention grain growth when the material is past the critical temperature, but it was not a very detailed textbook. It was pretty frustrating considering the way they dealt with topics- basically every process was a very simple broad explanation followed with a picture of a giant industrial machine and a a caption that said "here's a big machine in Pennsylvania (which you could never afford) doing this to 10000 tons of steel per hour."
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Keeping in mind that I'm no metallurgist I don't see anything too off in what you just said. My understanding of it is that the carbon material tends to flow along the grain lines and the more stratification you get, the less strength you will have in a hardend work piece. You get a better molecular bonding from a fine grain when tempered since all that cabon is well mixed with the iron. In addition I'm told that a finer grain structure reduces the depth of hardening at quench. This is what helps to create the really cool swirls and color variation so charished by those in pursuit of hamon lines. Another benefit of shallower hardening is that the blade will be less hardend in the middle, making it less prone to catastrophic failure from impact or torsion.
Again, I'm just another dummy on the newsgroup and I probably have a fair number of my own misconceptions. Do your own studying and challange what you think you know, then back it up with practical experiments. There is no substitute for destroying a piece of metal to find out what works.
GA

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 18 Feb 2007 11:55:50 -0800, Kyle J. wrote:

It was hard for me to accept this at first, but now I don't mind so much. I'm playing with some 1095 samples right now, it's almost like I don't care if I heat-treat my project knife or not.....of course I have others planned. :)
matthew ohio
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Which one? :)
"Metallurgy Theory and Practice" by Dell K Allen is the one to buy.
Last I looked the shipping and the book were about half and half the cost from Amazon.

Yes and iron's the only metal to do that too. Funny but both crystal forms are 83% full of iron atoms.
One is magnetic and the other is non-magnetic.
Both 83% full but the empty spaces are arranged different and certain spaces turn out to be bigger empty spots when the iron is non-magnetic. Just big enough for carbon, boron, phosphorous or nitrogen to slip-in. :)
You quench the iron and those "impurities" get trapped inside the magnetic crystal structure and distort the crystal putting both stress and strain on each crystal that happened to.
That results in a "hard" crystal. ;)

Not really but I suppose that's close enough. (Figs. 6-1 and 6-2 P-160 and P-161)
Oooo... P-165 Fig. 6-4... Those aren't welding rods! ;) The process is working the other way... sorta like they are forming "welding rods" but are really plates and we are seeing them edge on. (always wanted to post that;)

Yeah sort of, plenty close enough like Kyle said. :)

That's one type of annealing.

Sorry but "sort of" and "close enough" are not going to cover it this time. ;)
Grain size is dynamic while heating and forging and cooling freezes the grain growth, especially after the iron becomes magnetic again.

Yeah, not written for practical use. :/
MT&P is a classroom textbook but was written more like a book from the 30's and is geared towards a more "hands-on" time in history.
From MT&P...
http://www.panix.com/~alvinj/graphFig6-7.jpg
For a knife blade or a grain size reducing step the trick is to catch the steel at ~1500F and not give it time or temperture for the grain size to grow like is shown at ~1800F. So quenching or cooling the steel from ~1500F will result in small grain size. Not shown is forging it at say, ~1900F and how that breaks up the grain size too.
Cool diagram huh? :)
Rant mode on ;)
Alloying has made a big difference with what a guy can get away with. I figure there are many little things that used to have to be done to get simple straight carbon steel with "too much" sulfer and phosphorous in it to turn out as good as the old timers got it to turn out.
Some of that might be lost. :/
But in my experience most is not "lost", it's more sinister than that...
Made fun of and/or claimed to be un-necessary hocus-pokus "because I don't do that and it turns out fine" but they are using the new cleaner steels, see? ;)
And so certain methods are no longer "supported" by the "in crowd".
Betcha that's-done-more to "lose" the old ways, more than anything.
Been There Seen That many times! :/
Alvin in AZ
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mon, 19 Feb 2007 02:34:20 +0000 (UTC), snipped-for-privacy@XX.com wrote:

Okay, that makes sense. It's a much clearer mechanism than what I had as a working idea. From what I had seen, the iron in an annealed state had a Fe atom on each corner of a "cube", as well as one in the center of each "face" of that cube. When it was heated, it appeared that five of those atoms on the faces migrated elsewhere (presumably to go make another cube) and one of them slid to the center.
That would account for the space where the other elements slip in, if I'm understanding this correctly.

Not at all- it belonged to one of the welders at work, and I suspect that that particular class was just filler when he got his degree.

That has to be the best picture I've seen of the process by far. I think you just sold me on the book with that one. Thanks for the link.

Yep. I think you're right on. That happens with every trade, from what I've observed. I always try to arrange working next to the oldest guy I can find- they usually know a trick or two, and I like to learn 'em.
Thanks for the detailed response- that did fill in a few gaps, and certainly helps out!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Each of those "faces" is shared with an identical "cube". Insead of "making another cube", those atoms are likely to migrate into the center of a neighboring cube.
John
Prometheus wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Wed, 21 Feb 2007 19:04:34 GMT, "John O. Kopf"

That makes it even easier to visualize- so rather than having all those little cubes to think about, it's more a matter of planes arranged in a grid shape. When the heat is applied, the middle grid shifts.
Obviously slightly more complex than that, as there would have to be "grids" in multiple axis, but it's definately easier for me to relate to that way than trying to think about one crystal- and probably more useful, too.
Still not sure where or how it's useful, but it never hurts to get at least a working handle on things like this. Better to have information you don't need than to need information you don't have, is my motto.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.