followup on scrap tool steel query

Hi. A short while ago, I asked a question on this forum about whether
it was worthwhile to rework Harbor Freight punches and chisels into
blacksmithing hot work tools. The general tone of the replies
suggested that I try to use some other source (cheaper, more suitable,
less deformation when hot). The reason I originally asked is that I
had to make an emergency punch out of mild steel. There was no
superquench available (period accurate shop) and the punch died after
the second hole through 1/2" stock.
I did not find any star drills at garage sales. These are getting
hard to find. I did go to a sale where this old woodworker was
disposing of some junk. He had a box full of junk and broken tools
that he was selling for a quarter each. So, I bought several
screwdriver bits and things that looked like good steel. There was
also a huge chisel in the box marked "cast steel" with an arrow emblem
on back. This was too nice to chop up, so I sharpened it and it works
just great. The woodworker asked me what I was looking for, and I
told him junk tool steel. He pulled out a huge box of old files and
told me that I could have any ones that I wanted for free. Then, he
said that he suspected that I am a blacksmith. He suggested that we
could make a deal. I could make some woodcarving blades and he would
make handles and we would swap. I had a worried look on my face, so
he fetched one of his creations for me. It had an ugly stock removed
blade, and a beautiful exotic hardwood handle. I started to get his
point. If I could work the steel, he could do the wood. He then
showed me another tool with a deformed edge. He said, this is what
happens when you use mild steel or you don't temper correctly. Talk
about preaching to the choir!!! Amazing what folks you could meet at
garage sales. Now I might have to learn something about knifemaking.
Anyway, I tried making a punch out of one of those bits. It looked
like a wide flat bladed screwdriver with a 3/8" shank. It would
become a 3/8" drift. First, I tried to square the end. The tip was
hopeless, so I quenched it in water and smacked it with a hammer. It
cracked off, and the sharp end was quite hard when I used it to clean
up a weld bead. Good. At least better than mild steel. The
troublesome part was squaring up the blade. At its widest point, it
was wider than the shank. When I hammered on the side, it looked like
it was being upset, with the corresponding unpleasant misalignment and
bending. I tried to apply corrective blows, but ended up with a
depressed channel down the business end, terminating in a cold shut at
the tip. It was pretty ugly and painful grinding this out. Anyway,
the sparks were very short and bursty at the ends, showing some kind
of alloy steel, but without the longer branching typical of carbon
steel. It wasn't that great, but it should beat the silly mild steel
punch that I made under emergency conditions.
Are there any suggestions on how to avoid this "upsetting" channel
down the length of the tool when rounding flat stock? More practice?
For a picture of what goes wrong, one can view ebay item # 6115705324
My apologies to the seller, but it is already closed. This tool is
apparently quite old, so it has lasted for some time, but that channel
sure is ugly.
Reply to
Eric Chang
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Do yourself a favor and pickup a copy of "The Complete Modern Blacksmith" by Alexander Weygers (ISBN0-89815-896-6). Not only does it cover how to make woodworking tools, it also goes into detail on how to make most tools you'll use in the shop - from punches, to cutters, fullers, swags, hammers, chisels.. everything.
Mark H The Blade Guild
Reply to
Mark Henry
If you want to make woodworking blades, Weygers is just about indispensable. He was a wood sculptor as well as a blacksmith and he knew his tools.
Speaking of scrap: A couple of days ago I asked my wife, who is an expert at anything to do with fabric, to start saving her old sewing machine needles for me.
"You realize by the time I get done with them they're either dull or broken," she says.
"That's fine," says I. "You know what you call a small piece of tool steel that's dull or broken?"
"What?" she asks.
"A tool blank," says I.
Reply to
Rick Cook
Save your money - that book's the biggest piece of rubbish I've ever bought,
If you need a "tool steel" blank in a hurry, sacrifice your oldest, rustiest and most clogged file.
Let's be honest - our files are in a terrible state. We've all got a box of rusty old clunkers somewhere under a bench. But they're great steel - just waiting to be forged a little into chisels of punches. Then you have the best excuse to go out and buy a couple of shiny new Groberts.
Do yourself a favour - get some new and _sharp_ files.
Reply to
Andy Dingley
I can respect that you might not have found the book as useful as I did. I'm interested in what parts of the book you take such strong offense to? And can you recommend another available reference (I'm always in the market for good reference works)?
Maybe the working files in your shop are in terrible shape, but mine are all in good working order. That's not to say that I don't have a box of old farrier's files in the corner (along with about 100lbs of railroad spikes) waiting to be made into something useful.
Mark H
Reply to
Mark Henry
The reason I originally asked is that I
Super quench won't help you when punching hot steel. The heat will anneal the steel quickly.
Get yourself one old GMC truck coil spring. It'll last a long time and will work reasonably well for lots of the things you are talking about.
Yes. As Bob Bergman says, if the height to width ratio is no worse that 3:1, you can control the reshaping well. But, you have to get the part plenty hot and then hit it hard. If you don't hit hard, then the material only moves at the top and bottom surfaces and not in the middle.
Pete Stanaitis
Reply to
Pete & sheri
It's not that bad a book in itself, it's just mis-represented as to what it covers. Read my Amazon (UK) review for the rest.
It's all about shade-tree bodgery, not smithing. Now this is handy stuff, but most people with an inclination to real smithing are long past this. This is the sort of stuff I picked up as a kid, hanging around with my dad.
When it comes to smithing, there's just nothing in it. The subject doesn't appear until very late, there's nothing on welding and the heat treatment advice is dubious. "Tempering" _is_ a historical term for what we now describe as hardening, but for this book to repeat the term unexplained is just hopelessly confusing to a modern reader. There's no advice on scrapyard shopping and what sort of old steels are worth having or best avoided. With this book you could easily end up trying to make your punch by forging a piece of galvanised mild steel fencepost, then hardening it by heating it gently and looking for temper colours.
I'm still looking - for references it's hard to find one.
Bealer is always interesting to look at, but it does have a few howlers in it (Bealer was an observer, not a smith). Keep your eyes out for cheap copies - there's lot around.
Peter Parkinson's "The Artist Blacksmith" is glorious and inspiring, but it doesn't really try to be a reference.
Dona Meilach's books are similar
The "Edge of the Anvil" is well spoken of, but I don't know it myself.
Jim Hrisoulas' three blade smithing books are obviously specialised, but the first and third are interesting to any smith "Complete Bladesmith"
"Pattern-Welded Blade" is especially good for anyone looking to do pattern welding for any reason.
Equally Leon Kapp's "The Craft of the Japanese Sword" is a fascinating read about an alternative tradition - very good on the process of iron or steel manufacture from ore, on a small scale.
My own are perfect - I had a deliberate purge a year or two back and replaced the lot. Before that they were mostly 50 year old gov-surplus, in a wide range of conditions.
Reply to
Andy Dingley
[deletia fore and aft]
Tempering softens, not hardens.
Reply to
Tom Stovall
No. Try OCS (Old Chevy Spring) which doesn't have to be from a Chevy. Old car springs can be forged, machined and heat treated into good tools.
Make one out of OCS (Old Chevy Spring). Both leaf and coil car/truck springs are made of some very good steel and are usually available free. On coil springs, I cut of one or so rings and heat and straighten (hammer and anvil). Heat to "cherry red" and bury in ashes to anneal. Saw/machine/grind/file to required shape. Heat to cherry red and quench in oil. Clean to bare metal and gently heat to a brown (hard) or purple (not quite so hard but tougher) and quench again.
After he broke his third Snap-on cold chisel, I made one out of truck-size coil spring for my mechanic son-in-law. This was several years ago. He says it may soon need to be sharpened.
Reply to
Ted Edwards
Andy D has got, at least that part, right on the money.
Not always! :)
Some steels, as quenched, are softer than after a temper draw of an hour or more at 900F... it's called- secondary hardening or when refering to a graph showing it- a secondary hardness hump.
There are a few alloys that cause this and the mechanism for it is usually muddled over as if it's still not decided. :/
You find secondary hardening in high alloy steels as diverse as D2 and HSS.
Alvin in AZ
Reply to
In modern terms, yes. But before the mid 19th century, there was no real understanding of ferrous metallurgy and no distinction made between "hardening" and "tempering" as we now make them so distinct. "Tempering" was the term of common usage for the whole process.
In bronzeworking for edged tools, "tempering" is still used to represent the hardening process, even though this is a work-hardening process, not thermal.
Reply to
Andy Dingley
i was not impressed with wygers either. i think the two most useful are "new edge of the anvil" and "a blacksmithing primer". "professional smithing" (donald streeter) is interesting but not everyone will like it. if i could just have one, probably primer. but i'm still looking for a reference on metals.
Reply to
It's important to use a heavy enough hammer here. Too light and the effect won't go deep enough, you'll end up bradding the edges over like a rivet.
On the other hand, when you want a shallow effect, use a lighter hammer.
Reply to
Carl West
Andy Dingley Spaketh Thusly:
Exactly. and as I'm sure most of us know, it's still used like that WAY too often. Even by people who should know better - like authors who don't do the slightest research whatsoever. Iris Johansen is one example. Avoid those books - I got one at the supermarket because my amazon order hadn't arrived yet and I needed something to tide me over... big mistake. Even in the 60's it was quite prevalent in advertising, which confused me for years as a scout when I was closely studying all those ads. I don't know if it was like that in the UK.
Speaking of files, garage/yard sales usually have bunches of rusty old ones for cheap or less, I was given 3 unused but rusty ones for free just so the guy could get rid of them - nobody would buy them. This was very good because at the time I ownly owned 2 or 3 and they were still very usable.
-- Bill H. [my "reply to" address is real]
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Molon Labe!
Reply to
Steels or all metals ?
The usual college text in the UK is Higgins' "Engineering Metallurgy"
Other useful books I find are to go to a S/H bookshop in any rust-belt town and find apprentice's texts from the '50's or '60's. Industrail techniques of the period are about right for reproducing in modern craft-scale workshops, and the writing level is about right for smiths who don't necessarily want to become professors of metallurgy.
Reply to
Andy Dingley
After wasting an inordinate amount of time trying to draw out a large piece of 1x1 inch stock with a 3 lb hammer, I finally went out and bought a splitting maul. You know the old style with the wooden handle. I ground the splitting side to a nice rounded straight pene and cut the handle down to about 18 inches. It works like a charm. There is a big difference between what happens to the steel when hit by different weights . Read the anti-wannabe-swordmaker disertation on He mentions that only an obsessed fanatic would actually try to draw out a lump of steel with a hammer to make a sword. 8-) I'll post pictures in another couple of weeks.
Reply to
Cool! :) Looking forward to them. :)
I feel like I learned a lot in this thread. And here I'm an "ace hammer mechanic" too. :/
My qualification for "ace" hammer mechanic is when you experience more than once and finally learn your lesson that... You can pound the crap out of a large pin or something all day and -not- budge it .001" and then move it 1/4" with the first blow from a much heavier hammer. :)
Somehow just felt like it was the same lesson in different crafts.
Alvin in AZ
Reply to
No doubt it is. Its that mass/energy ratio. You ever consider the martial arts implication of E=MC squared ? I learned a long time ago to stay away from the quick little guys ;)
Reply to
Or do you mean F=MA?
I once knew a fellow who was dating a woman who was decidedly larger than he. When asked what it was like, he said, "Eff equals Em Ay", and smiled.
-- Carl West
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>>>>>>>> change the 'DOT' to '.' to email me
Reply to
Carl West
Andy Dingley
[B]efore the mid 19th century, there was no
".... Thirdly, the heat for tempering or letting down. Between the extreme conditions of hard and soft steel there are many intermediate grades, the common index for which is the oxidation of the brightened surface, and it is quite sufficient for practice. These tints, and their respective approximate temperatures, are thus tabulated:-- 1. Very pale straw yelow...430 deg.}tools for metal .... 12, Still paler blue, with a tinge of green,.... 630 deg} too soft for springs. [He goes on for a number of pages]
"The Practical Metal-Worker's Assistant," Ofiver Byrne, 1851.
Frank Morrison
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