Hi. I found myself at a forge without my favorite tools. I needed to punch a hole, and ended up having to make a punch out of mild steel. Those books are sure right when they say that such punches do not last long even when they are cooled frequently. I really missed my alloy steel punches (made out of salvaged 8 pt bolts). It would be nice to have some junk punches that I could just carry with me in case I get stuck without any.
So, there don't seem to be any more bolts available since there have been no large car crashes recently in my neighborhood. Guess I have to buy something :-). Someone referred me to the Poor-Boy-Blacksmith-Tools store on E-bay, and there are old GM coil springs for sale for $2.49 for 10" of 1/2" round or 8" of 5/8" round, with a $1.00 handling fee, plus USPS postage. It states that these pieces might be 5160, but the seller did not really know except that they seemed to work well for punches or chisels. Then, I noticed that Harbor Freight has a 12 punch and chisel set for $8.99 with their standard low postage (HF shipping), but with sales tax. These are assorted sizes in the correct size range. Obviously, I can reshape some of them to square or slitting punches. Again, HF is unknown or lower quality, but is their steel as (more?) reliable than the old car coil spring? Is it safe (safer?) to reforge and reharden them? Somebody in this group mentioned that it might be dangerous to use old car springs for hand tools, since they may have residual cracking. Might the Harbor Freight cheap chisel and punch set be a better deal, despite the unknown steel pedigree? I am fairly certain that they are better than mild steel, since my experience shows that to be marginal, and only suitable for emergencies. Anyone tried those HF tools?