Does anyone know if cold chisels would make good steel for making
woodworking tools from I want to make my own wood chisels and carving gouges
Since cold chisels are meant for metal and stone they might be a suitable
source of the right kind of steel also they are easy to get and not too
Judging by the price of woodworking tools im going to save quite a lot of
money by making my own.
Many thanks in advance for any advice you can give me on this
I'm not sure of the carbon content of the steel in cold chisels, but they
are fairly soft to prevent shattering, and may not harden well.
Several sources for good steel for woodworking tools that I've used (learned
from my father, are:
Old files - grind off the teeth to reduce the chance of cracking.
Leaf springs from trucks or older model cars.
Coil springs - takes some forge work to straighten, but nice steel.
Power hacksaw blades - lovely steel. Dad made kitchen knives that would flex
90 deg but only needed sharpening once every 2 or 3 years.
Supposed to be ~1080 but spark testing has shown me they are less
Yep. :) They are what's referred to as "1.22% carbon steel" in the
ASM books. ~6 out of my 60+ files are higer carbon content than
that tho. Higher carbon helps with edge retention.
Those are basically the same steel and usually referred to as 5160.
There's a bunch of different alloys tho, they use them as they get
them and also they are formulated for the thickness of the spring
and price etc... but they all boil down to being just like 5160.
That's my favorite stuff, high speed steel usually M2. It takes and
holds an edge better than anything else me and a bunch of my buddies
have ever messed with.
I've just finished going through all this with a guy from the
woodcarving newsgroup. :) For simple knives the best to be had are
those made from "hard-back" non-flexible power hacksaw blades.
If/when you're serious about making your own post here and we can go
over which ones are worth making knives from and which ones are a
waste of time. (the bi-metal ones are obvious and I wasn't talking
about them there:)
There's a guy selling all that stuff on the internet and makes the
gouges from O1 drill rod and the knives from HSS. The "wood carver"
sent me a Jpeg...
I was wanting to make a couple knives for him so he could go and
brag about HSS to his friends.. but no need for me to make any now
the word is already out in that crowd. :)
They are made "not to break" as opposed to be the best edge holders.
Files are opposite of that.
Hoof rasps are heat treated for maximum edge holding using similar
carbon content to cold chisels, so the steel isn't a -bad- choice
just not the best choice IMO.
Cool but like re-loading your own shells I don't reccomend it for
those only wanting to save money. At the same time I wouldn't be
into guns if it weren't for re-loading. :)
Same with making knives.
Alvin in AZ (hobby knifemaker/fixer)
5160, cheap, easy to find, easy to forge, easy to heat treat. Will take and
hold a razor edge. work at orange, quench at bright cherry in oil, draw in the
cook stove to 375 degrees for an hour then air cool to ambient... Rc 56-58.
That's what most car/truck springs are usually made of. I have made
quite a number of metal, both smith'n and machining, and wood tools from
them and have had good success. What you've heard is wrong.
One should always normalize before hardening. This is true for most
I've only had one crumble on me, and that was from an oooollld piece of stock
that came from a springpack from the Thirties.
Use 'new' stock and don't have any troubles. I've never had a lick of trouble
forming 5160, welding 5160, machining 5160, polishing 5160, sharpening 5160...
Compared to the 6160 axle stock, it works like butter. (I LOVE metal with a
memory, forging five times is sooooo much more fun that forging once.) YMMV
Sorry, I guess that dates me. That came from the Olde Dayes, when 300 baud was
lightning fast and memory was measured in Kbytes.
Seriously, I use a LOT of 5160 and am quite happy with the results, and being
a lazy SOB, I don't use metal that requires a lot of sweaty hard work to
fabricate. It makes GREAT swords with performance that will absolutely blow
your mind. Chop right through an 'A pillar' in a car, coupe to convertible in
a half dozen strokes, flex in excess of 45 degrees out of true and spring back
to true a million times, get run over by a tank without damage, drive it into
a rockface and use it for a diving board, this stuff is the 'miracle metal'
that the Vikings wished for. It will take and hold a 'hair popping sharp'
edge, and the chrome in the alloy helps resist corrosion.
And it's Cheap! I give a buck a pound, and it comes in bar or round in 20'
sticks in sizes from about 1.5 by .200 to 6 by 1 for bar and .3 to almost 2 in
Good stuff Maynard...
OK, I'd like dozen... wha? oh yeah. Sold me! I've been doing a lot of
reading and based on availability first and properties second, I was leaning
toward 5160. I have been trying to track down 1060 and having a REAL hard
time of it - for the sizes I want. If I can oil quench it without having to
carefully temperture control the quench oil and do ballpark normalizations
and critical and NOT have jump three times in counterspin to the moon while
chanting imprecations at Thor the All Father then it sounds good to me.
BTW, (uh... oh yeah) I did my first quench ever last night and the first
real strong impression that I had of the experience (well right after "Woa!
the bubbles are cool!) was that there is this incredible smell hanging
around my work. Actually it's my wife who noticed it most. I used gear oil
'cause it was cheap in volume and the auto stop. Is there a recommended oil
quench that doesnt smell quite so strongly?
Those rectangular-section rail anchors are about 1060.
Not the right size?
In thin sections like knife blades, oil will work on water hardening
steels like 1095. That's what I have personal experience with.
Holy $#!#. :(
Ok but I got to tell you ATF will smaoke to beat hell and every
once in a while a ball of fire will roll (roaring;) up through the
smoke! Don't stand in the smoke with polyester clothes on. ;)
Real quenching oil hardly smokes at all, has additives for that and
to increase the speed and modifying the cooling curve etc too, plus
the additives were chosen to keep the good aspects of it going as
long as posible.
Quenching oil that stops working right has to be changed out so it's
been a competition to make some that holds up well and does a good
job. Getting the "real thing" for a hobbist just makes it so you
only have to buy it once and eliminate quenching problems at the
same time. win/win
I got my quenching oil from Brownell's (dealer prices) but I
recommend calling around to the industrial oil/fuel suppliers and
buy a 5 gallon bucket of it. It'll work better for you, you won't
be able to wear it out so as long as you keep water out of it, and
covered, it'll last you a lifetime.
I use a Coka-Cola stainless steel tank with the top cut off for a
quench tank. Got it from the scrap yard, cut off the top third and
sold that hunk back to them. ;) I've got 2 gallons of oil in it.
I figure you'll want something bigger. A large target is important
for small thin water hardeing parts. You need to do it fast. Pull
it from the fire and as fast as you can without missing the tank or
knocking the tank over get it in the oil. :)
I could use another gallon of quenching oil. If I buy one more
gallon from Brownell's I'll have more money in it than if I'd bought
a five gallon bucket from a local oil supplier... without dealer
prices. :/ And with shipping being a larger percentage of the sale
it's gotten almost out of hand.
Back in the 80's a guy could mail order stuff and pay less than
the "sale tax percentage" (5%) on the shipping ...about 4% ...on
automotive goodies and guns and knives. (used to have an FFL and
a Case knife dealership too)
Alvin in AZ
I haven't had time to play with it yet. Your saying the square stock is no
good? The one on the right is channel stock. Least amount of steel in the
batch. I was hoping the square stuff was good since I could fairly easily
draw it to the length and thickness I want.
I'm not overly concerned with things like Hamon at this stage. I will be
happy if I can turn out a reasonably good blade at all
I'd heard that its really tough to get a Hamon line out of 5160. So long as
you can get a hard edge and a softer back then the goal is accomplished...
Unless you need visual proof of the differential hardening. I suppose it
would be a selling point. See my goal is to become a reasonably good
bladesmith and then do it as a retirement fund kind of thing. I figure I
have about 20 years to get it right.
I just wanted to verify actual temperature while I'm working it so that I
can coordinate all these bits and pieces of wisdom into the work. Once I
get to know how everything looks and acts then I don't think I would need
it. Then again, any time you start working a new kind of metal the rules
I'd heard it said that with oil quenches you want volume to offset the
tendancy to flash. I found a turkey roasting pan and filled it mostly up to
do 12 inches of blade stock. Seemed to work pretty well. I do want to put
together a tank for doing swords.
I figure most of what I will do will be between .2 and .3 inches thick. .3
seems to work really cool for big ugly blades that only Conan would actually
try to swing. I don't care for flat sword blades with a small bevel at the
edge thing. Makes 'em look like cheap wall hangers. Better to have a
thicker back with a long bevel.
All that I am really sure of is that it's not your basic steel. I really
want do do some comparative experimentation with a known medium carbon
I experimented with clay masks for a bit, I didn't get the hard hamon, more of a
difference in luster. It did differential harden though, upwards of 10 points
Rc, depending on the mask thickness. The real problem is 5160 doesn't like water
a bit, forget brine. I actually had one tear itself apart from the edge inward
in brine, little hairline cracks spaced about one thickness apart. Hung it on
the Wall to remind me.
Temps for SAE 5160, data from "The Heat Treater's Guide" original data from
Bethlehem Steel Corp.
Forge above 2000 F (orange-yellow)
Normalize: Bring to 1600 F and air cool in still air.(cherry pink)
Anneal/spheroidize: Bring to 1380 F and decrease 75 F per hour to ambient.(fire
Harden: Bring to 1575 F and quench in oil until convection no longer visible in
tank, Full Hard Rc 62-63 (bright cherry red)
Draw to desired hardness in oven for one hour and cool to ambient in still air.
(min temp aprox 300 F)
You need volume to take the heat load, unless you don't plan on quenching more
than one at a time in a given day.
My tank is made from six inch pipe welded to a base plate, IIRC it holds about
ten gallons. I quench vertically, point first. Yeah, it flashes fire, but only
until the work is completely submerged, so welding gloves and a leather jacket
are usually enough 'armor'. Watch for hot oil splatter, wear that face shield!
2" by .291", evidently a fairly popular leaf spring size, judging from the
supply the local shop keeps on hand. (They're really not that bad in the swing,
if balanced properly. If you'd like, we can talk about balance for a meg or
so.) If you just hold it out in an engarde', it'll get heavy, but you don't do
combat with swords by standing around in engarde'. I cheat, I use a mill and
fixtures for the swords. I get better results and it's a hell of a lot easier. I
use a computer controlled oven for HT, you can't beat +1/-3 degrees off the
setpoint for producing reliable repeatable results in production. They've paid
for themselves a dozen times over in the decade I've used them.
5160 is the bottom of 'high carbon'. the chrome makes it a little tougher in the
forging, just use a bigger hammer.
Just for interest I wanted to tell this story...
There was a local spring shop that heat treated springs and the guy
claimed that re-heat treating springs didn't work out so good, he
didn't know why. I keep thinking it has something to do with the
surface rust, hydrogen or what it is, I don't know.
Anyway I figure that for sword making there is no real problem with
used leaf or coil springs as long as the surface looks good. ??
Because the re-heat treated springs were, for the most part, working
pretty good just that every once in a while there was trouble and in
a business like theirs a few times is a few times too many. Back
when, they had re-heat treated them for years and then the liability
problems or whatever put a stop to it.
Also... Re-arching was done cold... with a hammer, and still done
that way. :)
Hot rodders would hammer-cold the old leaf springs "from a frown
into a smile" so the eyelets would be on the other side. :)
Alvin in AZ
This implies that you have another differential hardening method to use?
Can I ask? Never too much information, just so little time.
Sounds like this railroad steel I've been playing with. After the first
crack in the steel I got really cautions about working it hot and still
managed to fracture it on the edge. I'v been thinking that I tried to move
to much metal too fast. Maybe I just need to keep it even hotter...
Been thinking about using a cut off oxygen bottle for this. Lot of oil but
the vertical thing makes sense for long blades. Thanks for the flash
warning though, I thought that might be a problem with vertical tanks.
Local shop??!! Christ, our local steel supplier claims they can't get any
spring steel of any kind. I have spent day and days trying different
sources on the net to locate 1050 or 1060 in guages upward of a quarter
inch. Finally had some luck with Security Steel.
By all means! Tell me what balance means to you? Is it in the taper of the
blade, the counter weight of the hand grip and pommel? I'm working on a
broadsword that is a straight blade for about 32 inches till just before the
tip. The pommel I made for it is like a half pound and it has an extra
heavy duty cross guard. I figure only Conan would actually try to swing
this thing. I'm doing it as a dry run so to speak. I'll hang it on the
wall when I get done.
Cheater...No offense! Sounds like you do this for a living. You have a Web
site I can see your work? Do you make real money doing this? I keep
looking for ways to get the hell out of the city and still make a living.
I've found that 5160 works best as a deep hardening alloy, differential
quenching was more effort that it was worth in the end. With swords, you want
some spring in the final piece, to resist shock impact failure. There is a lot
of bending force in a chop, with a homogenous blade you want some give.
Usually, a crack under forging means too cold, or too much movement in a single
stroke. Don't try to forge a razor edge, that's what grinders are for. Leave the
edge at least a sixteenth of an inch thick, then work it by stock removal.
Good plan, but weld it to a baseplate to increase the footprint on the floor.
Tall oil-filled tanks are inherently tippy, and a couple layers of cinderblocks
on the baseplate bring the center of gravity down low where it's safe.
Check the Yalu Pages for spring fabrication shops, they are usually quite
friendly to makers, and they usually have scrap end piles to dig through for
Balance is a compromise between follow through inertia and manuverability. The
closer to the guard, the better the mauverability, but the less the follow
through inertia. Sort of like the difference between a sprint boat and an
aircraft carrier. The traditional balance point for one-hand swords was
one-seventh the distance from the guard to the point, which gives a fairly good
feel in the hand, insures that the sword will hang properly on the hip, and
maintains enough FTI to cleave through armor and keep cutting. Being a retired
Airframe Mech, weight and balance are second nature. You have three weights to
work with; the blade, the guard, and the knob. the blade will have a natural CG,
and this can be found by balancing the blade on a round rod, like a
teeter-totter. After you find the CG for the blade, you can start doing the math
to find out how much each other weight will move the CG toward the desired
balance point. Polish up those solid geometry skills, they'll help with design.
Steel weighs 7.9 grams per cubic centimeter, alloy doesn't matter that much
unless you use something with tungsten in it, which will be heavier. Brass and
bronze are on average 7% heavier than steel per volume, but don't have the
structural strength of steel, a serious consideration for guards. Weight in the
knob will move the CG more than weight in the guard, having a longer lever arm
to act upon, and that's what we're after, moving the CG to the desired
location.. It's all first class lever math, do it on a cheapo calc. Weight X
lever arm length = moment of inertia. Get the same moment on each side of the
CG and the sword is balanced. I make a 30" blade parallel edge Viking sword,
with a one hand grip. It takes a two pound knob to drag the CG back to four
inches in front of the guard. This sounds like a lot, but the feel of the sword
when it's moving is pure joy. One of my 'Large Lad' customers took down a four
inch diameter oak tree in a single stroke. That's like chopping through a fence
post... It's been lotsa years since I did the math, I'll dig into the airframe
textbook and post the formulas for moving the CG here later.
"Real Money"? Nah, but you can make beer money at it, you might even pay the
bills if you're Really Good and Really Fast. No website, no digital cameras, no
scanner for the fotos my Photograher took before he croaked, po folks here.
So would you use it for a sword or just stick to knives? I thought the
whole point of differential hardening was to provide the softer back and
prevent breakage? Or are you talking about a happy medium between hard edge
I figured that I probably was hammering it too hard after the second time
since I was pretty careful about keeping it hot. Dull red at the absolute
minimum. I wouldn't bother trying to get the edge too thin. I want to be
able to take off some layers to plane the steel out after the forge work.
I *know* I'm not good enough to expect a nice flat surface without some
serious work at the belt sander. I got a nice basic bevel on my last knife
at the fire and then planed it smooth on the belt sander and finished up the
edge with a side grinder and sanding disk. Worked pretty well. If I can
harden it without cracking then I figure I got a good method going. I DON'T
want to do much to the edge after it's hardened. Too labor intensive.
Good thought for all kinds of reasons. I'll do that.
Never even heard of one. I'll check it out.
Sounds like solid info. Please do add the formula. I skipped most of the
math thing in high school and started at a real disadvantage when I realized
I needed a better education to support my family. I took just enough math
to get my electronics degree and I'm afraid that's getting a bit rusting in
my career life. I do more logic than pure numbers these days and geometry
hardly fits in.
That was kind of my impression of the bladesmith thing. I've noted that
there are those who sell blades dirt cheap for the implied labor and those
who ask a pretty respectable to almost outrageous price. I wonder about
the available market for the latter type. It would be nice to be in the 2
to 4K sword market some day (when I'm old and grey with a LOT more
Interesting story: I spent some time working as a bowling ally
mechanic. Got to be the most boring job in the world. You go disloge a
stuck pin about every 20 minutes or so most of the time. Anyway I made a
seudo katana out of mild steel in the back when I wasn't actually working
and had it around for a while. I tweaked the blade hitting an old wooden
chair with it and decided to put it out on a yard sale not long after. Now
this thing was basic with a welded on cross guard and a leather wrapped
handle. Not much to look at. I had it out in the yard sale for all of
about 30 minutes when some guy gladly gave me 40 bucks for it. I tend to
think that there are a lot of folks around with a gut desire to own a sword
and pretty and polished isn't necessarily a selling point. Especially with
so many stainless steel mock ups available these days for dirt cheap.
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