If I use automobile leaf spring material to make woodworking cutting tools
(gouges, mortise chisels, plane irons) should I attach a harder steel, like
axe-hatchet edge material, to the cutting edge, and then temper? Will the
steel from these springs be sufficient by itself, to get a hard, sharp, edge
(after tempering), without being brittle?
Incidentally, where can one find tool edge material like axe cutting edges,
to attach to a base material?. I'm assuming the axe-hatchet is basically
mild steel with a high carbon edge attached.
OCS is perfectly fine material for woodworking tools, if properly
hardened and tempered. If you want more carbon, or other fancy alloys,
the most cost effective method (if your time is worth anything) is to
simply make the whole tool from the desired steel. I very much doubt
that any modern production axes and hatchets are made by the old method
(when high carbon steel was rare and expensive) of laminating in a bit,
and even if they are, that bit is likely to be less of a high-carbon
than might be desired for woodwork - the axe is an impact tool which is
tempered to be filed sharp, while chisels and plane irons tend to be as
hard, or harder than files in the working condition, as they are (with
the possible exception of pigsticker mortise chisels) not subject to the
high shock and impact loads an axe will have to take. Some of that is
done with tempering, but a steel best suited to chisels is likely not
the same as one best suited to axes.
Anyway, tool steel can be gotten from most steel or industrial suppliers
in a wide range of shapes and formulations - drill rod is the round
stock. MSC, McMaster and Enco are the big three general industrial
supply outlets with web presence - there are many more local industrial
suppliers, and also places that specialize more just in steel supply.
Note - these are almost always not the cheapest possible source - they
are often fastest and most convenient for smallish orders, though.
www.mscdirect.com www.mcmaster.com www.use-enco.com
Since I don't recognize you as having been here before, you should
definitely go download files, especially the one with the very cryptic
numeric name (7-5.pdf), from this web site, mentioned here not too long
ago, but probably before you joined us.
Thank you for the assistance. I have not worked a forge before, but I plan
on doing so soon. I see the 'Forge & Anvil' program on DirectTV (sat) and
watch any of these type programs. I'm really more interested in the
'smithing' part, as I can buy the woodworking tools that I may need. It
just looks like it could be a great hobby. And I can make custom tools.
Could you tell me what the 'O' in 'OCS' means before I download the .pdf
file? . . . . xxxx carbon-steel.
Heh,heh! OCS means Old Chevy Spring, otherwise know as 5160 chrome
vanadium spring stock, which has .60 percent (or 60 points) carbon in
It's a very forgiving, medium-carbon, stock for knives, etc. as well as
for auto leaf springs. Once upon a time, a lot of knives, froes, adzes,
and on and on, were made from salvaged truck springs -- and probably
many still are. I know I keep one of my very first efforts made from
that kind of stock.
New 5160 stock is best because road-worn springs can have micro-cracks
that have an uncanny way of showing up just as you reach the final heat
treat and/or finish stages.
5160's good stuff. It can be almost as rust resistant as stainless
without the smith having to deal with stainless' other ingredients.
Another good knife steel is 9260, a chrome silicon stock often used for
coil springs. Ky friend, Kim George, has made many beautiful pieces from
it -- when he's not wasting time messing with pattern welding. :)
Kim gets his as cutoffs from a local spring shop. I think he might get
some 5160 there too.
OCS also makes good cutting and punching tools, not as good as the
specifically made tool steels, but quite good enough if nothing else is
handy. I have some set tools and punches made of 9260 that are several
years old and still going strong.
You don't necessarily have to use some expensive exotic alloy to make a
good knife, plane iron, punch, chisel, whatever.
Channel 379, program name is; 'RFD'
on DirectTV satelite.
They mention ABANA in their programing...Incidentally, my dad was a retired
boilermaker (International Assoc. of Boilermakers, Blacksmiths, and Iron
Ship Builders). From my youth, I remember the union newsletter called the
As best I can tell the following is shown in the DirectTV recording section.
Times are Mountain Standard
. . . .A Gathering of Blacksmiths;
11/20 @ 01:00AM
11/20 @ 10:30AM
Forge & Anvil:
11/20 @ 10:30AM (same as 'a gathering')
11/21 @ 12:32PM
11/21 @ 10:30PM
11/27 @ 01:00AM
11/28 @ 12:30PM
11/28 @ 10:30PM
11/29 @ 04:30AM
The above link worked for me. I Googled it and it does point to the
programs host site.
Hope this helps.
You betcha. Old car springs are great for wood tooling. Work at orange/yellow,
about 2200 F. When it gets down to red, back in the fire. Quench in oil. Vet
Grade mineral oil works quite well, do not use old crankcase drippings or other
auto fluids. Auto petro products usually have metallic soaps to reduce foaming,
and these can contaminate the work at quench temps. 5160, which is what most
leaf springs are made of, will go to Rockwell 61-63 full hard. Draw in oven at
375 F for two hours and allow to cool in still air to ambient; Rockwell 55-57
I have an old blacksmith's and toolmaker's book I bought on ebay for a
small fortune. In 1918 the book sold in Sears for about one buck.
The author recommends steel from sixty to 75 points carbon for nearly
every purpose short of lathe tools. I don't know if the advice
contained there is still "state of the art" but it is certainly
Today, on the side of the highway, I found a big broken piece of leaf
spring from a big truck. It's probably 18" long by 4" by 3/8" or
something like that.
Because of your suggestions I've decided to heat it to yeller, and give
it a whack.
See what you've done? You've created a monster!
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