Hank Rearden

I want to tell the readers that I'm a beginner.  I've been buying tools for the past two years and this was the first coal forge I've used with coal.  I set up in my driveway and it takes about a 1/2 an hour to get a everything out of the garage.  With the exception of high school my experience comes from reading forums like The Iron Forge Fire and books I get from the local library.  I encourage beginners to just start somewhere.   

My first project for "Iron In The Pot" was going to be a fire steel from an old flat file. However I burned the metal. I'm hoping someone can tell me why. I wonder if it was because the file was thin. I had started to cut it with a hot cut in an orange heat. On my fourth heat, I didn't leave it in any longer than the other times an it broke in the fire. Maybe a cheap file? I know I cooked it. Did I use the fire before the coal was burning better and not so green?

My tool list: 2 1/2 lbs. cross peen, hot cut, small flat tongs, 203 lbs. Soderfor anvil on oak stump, 2 1/2 inch flatter and coal forge.

Techniques: Square metal from round bar, drawl out and taper, cut and scrolling.


 coal forge 1.jpg

The result afterward was a burnt file that fell apart in the fire. (See below) Time for back up plan.

burned file.jpg 

I found a 1/2 piece of round stock in the garage and put it into the fire. Much better results. The first thing I did was square the end and draw out a taper about 4 inches. Then I scrolled the end on the anvil horn. The was easier than doing the other end which required me holding the work with tongs.

coal forge.jpg 


anvil iitp.jpg

I was happy with the end result. This is slightly large for my hand. I can tighten up the scrolls on one or both ends. Although it's not that big of an issue.  

fire striker profile.jpg   fire striker side.jpg   fire striker.jpg 

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jmccustomknives
I don't know how I missed this post. 

High carbon steels must be forged at a lower heat.  If it is sparking, you've got it to hot.  Basically, by my eyes, in the shade your knife quality steels should be forged between the red orange to orange colors.  Yellow is getting into the danger zone for over heating.  Red heat is too cool and cracking can occur if you try to move too much material.
The other material you used was mild steel, it isn't much good for a fire steel as it will not harden so the sparks thrown may not be enough to start a fire.  You might have noticed it was much easier to work and wasn't as sensitive to the heat.  Mild steel is much more forgiving having a forging range from near black to yellow/white.

Next time you work with the high carbon stuff, lay it on top of your fire rather than sticking it down into the fireball.  That will help you keep from over heating the piece.

It's a good start.  Keep it up.

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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Hank Rearden
Thanks, I was burying it in the fire ball. I was hitting hard as well to spilt it. I wasn't sure about the spark on the mild steel. I might repurpose it for a bottle opener. On the other hand it is my first project. I'll mount it on a plaque and hang it on the wall.
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jmccustomknives
If you can, find a modern truck leaf spring (80's and up).  These will usually be some version of 5160 which is very forgiving as a high carbon steel.  It's easier to forge than the file steel, easier to heat treat and makes a decent knife (or fire steel). 

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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Hank Rearden
There's a truck spring manufacturer about 10 minutes from work. I think I can go by at lunch. I remember them having a huge scrap bin when I delivered there a few years ago. Might even be able to ask for 5160 specifically. Thanks for the spec info.
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Hank Rearden
I was wondering if I should forge weld the file tang to the mild steel. The tang wasn't over heated. Any thoughts?
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jmccustomknives
I'd stay away from forge welding just yet.  The process, while simple is tricky.  The heat for welding is close to that point where the steel breaks apart.  You'll see that process quite often in making axes and hawks.  I've done a couple, and had one ore two fail from over heating.

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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NorrinRadd
Good job and a great start! I started almost 2 years ago. It didn't matter what I was trying to make the first few things I tried all turned into fire pokers, really ugly ones [wink]  Glad you're finally getting some forge time.
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Hank Rearden
I got a broken truck spring yesterday from a local spring manufacturer that's been in business since 1922. Asked for 5160 and he took me to a dump bin with a bunch of used springs. I'm not sure that's what this steel is. So, I'll try to make the fire steel again this weekend. If it doesn't rain. Looks like a 40/60 possibility. Although last nights storm dumped in Louisville KY.
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Hank Rearden
Finally nice weather. I should have the forge burning throughout the weekend. I plan to repurpose the fire steel to a bottle opener. Then CREATE a new post for a fire steel made from the truck spring.
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jmccustomknives
Fire up that bad boy.  Inspect that spring for cracks, since it's broke there may by cracks that will show up.  If it is fatigue cracks it probably won't hurt the fire steel but making a knife could be problematic.  You might get some borax and sprinkle some one the piece on the first few heats at welding heat, any cracks might weld back although that is theoretical.  I'm heading out to Batsons in a few minutes. 

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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Hank Rearden
Well I spent the best part of a day working with the forge. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to shape a useable fire steel yet. Some of the issues today were some friends stopping over to visit and the fire dying down. As well as a broke a fan blade on the blower and it's lying in the tube. I do have a back yard fix for that until I fix or find another blower fan.

I cut the end of the truck spring to form a fire steel. Heated it to critical temperature then quenched it in water. I reheated to a bright red and started to shape. I believe I got this too hot and again hit it too hard. We had full sun all day today.

fire steel cut.jpg 
You can see the cracks after the second heat.

fire steel f.jpg 

I did get other work done. I started a file knife. See in my other post in the iron in the pot challenge.
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jmccustomknives
Any problems?

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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Hank Rearden
I cut the end of the spring. I think I got it too hot again and hit it too hard.
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jmccustomknives
Try getting an old bucket or something to use as "shade".  put the piece under it to help judge the color.  I used a cheap little shop vac that I could switch the hose to blower mode.  That uses a lot more coal and is noisy but works.  If I were to put a gate on it that would also make a big difference. 

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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jmccustomknives
Looking at that pic of the cracking again it appears that you were forging too cool.  High carbon steels have a narrow forging range.  Too hot and it breaks apart like cottage cheese.  Too cool and it can cracks.

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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Hank Rearden
Ok. I'll try it again and get the color chart out. I'm determined to get this done.
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jmccustomknives
If you aren't sure, use the magnet.  As the temp comes up touch it.  When the magnet ceases to stick note the color.  This is the bottom end of your forge range.  The top end is 2 steps below sparking.  If the material isn't wanting to move, don't force it.  As your familiarity with high carbon grows you'll learn to push the boundaries.  Try to find some shade to work in.  [cool]

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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Hank Rearden
I posted my improvised blower set up under forges. If I can use it a week or two before I burn the motor up that would be about right. It does push a lot of air. Plus the power pack can control the speed.
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jmccustomknives
What size hammer are you using for this?

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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Hank Rearden
Jmccustomknives I'm using 2 lbs. Vaughn rounding hammer. Sorry for the late response.

Well I'm on another attempt to making my fire steel. This time I cut a larger piece of 5160 spring steel. I annealed the steel by bringing it up to critical temperature then I  let it cool in the forge by the fire to air temperature. After I finished tonight I took a file into it to see if it would bite the steel. It did. So I hope in a few days to shape it into the fire steel similar to the one I started to make out of mild steel. This way I have the basic dimensions since I can compare it to the mild steel practice item. I call it the practice one because I didn't realize mild steel wouldn't throw good sparks... therefore it must be the practice one...

I spent the rest of the evening showing some basics to a newbie. Yes the blind leading the blind since I'm basically new also.

fire steel 5160.jpg 

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Hank Rearden
Well I finished a fire steel. The pic above is approximately 5/8 square with one edge rounded by 51/2' long. I already annealed the steel. So today I started to shape it. Everything moved well and I was able to draw out one end. Then I let it in the fire and burned about one inch off. Since I had only been heating the one end I thought I wouldn't have a problem to work with what was remaining.  

fire steel burned.jpg 

This project has been more about not burning or cracking the steel. I ended up drawing the steel to 1/4" in width. Down from 5/8". I don't have any flint to strike it. So I hope it throws sparks. You can the burned end in the pic. It did clean up nice. After I burned it I made sure to take the heat to orange and stopped forging when the color faded out. I didn't have any issue doing it this way.

fire steel scroll.jpg 

I started the scroll on the horn. I would have preferred to draw it to a taper but was afraid of burning it again so I kept it thick. The overall look is fair. Amateur at best. That's okay because that's where I am working with carbon steel . I had a harder time with it than I would have thought.    


fire steel hardy.jpg 

After getting the scroll started I used a hardy swage to help turn it. I worked pretty good. I tried to fuller a finger grip in the center but I didn't do to much. Again I didn't want to create a weak spot and ruin this project. The one made from mild steel posted at the top is and idea design. Easy to hold and overall I think looks and functions best, if it could only throw a good spark. (Darn that mild steel).



firesteel 1.jpg      firesteel 2.jpg 

I'll more than likely make another one later down the road. When I do here's what I learned from beginning to end.

1. Choose the right steel for the tools purpose.  Use carbon steel to throw sparks.
2. Cut steel as close as possible to the finished size before forging it. I did a lot of work just to get the right dimensions.
3. Watch the fire and the heat of the steel to prevent burning it. I tried to multi-task. ie. (Video tape).
4. I plan to draw a design and make a plan before I just start hitting it. (I should have upset the center first so I could fuller a better grip.

It took me three tries to get this done. Lot's of learning LOL.

On to the next project.

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jmccustomknives
Good rules.

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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NorrinRadd
Looks pretty good, kinda Nordic'ish.
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Hank Rearden
Thanks for the kind words. It isn't what completed like the steel I was trying to duplicate. I wanted thinner scrolls with a full twist and a fullered grip . What I wanted was a steel that was complete. I LEARNED tons with this project.

I'm ready to do another one to see if I can actually correct the errors I made here. "I think I can."
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jmccustomknives
You know Victor, a while back I cut a piece of spring out and forged up one of those just for the experience.  I had trouble getting it symmetrical.  I never took a pic of it, but gave it to my nephew who asked me for a knife to strike flint with.  He never knew those existed.  I didn't have a clue how it worked until I made it, then it made sense.

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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Hank Rearden
Thanks for the insight James.

Anytime I can get feedback adds to the confidence bank. I have to admit, the fact it was difficult for me forge, adds to the value of the project for me. That being said, I want to become proficient at each task I do. I didn't realize my learning curve would be the steel it's self. Which is kind of cool. I expected the difficulty would have been nil on this project. One of the reasons I picked it in the first place.

So far I've improved in areas of blacksmithing I took for granted. Now, that's what I think is exciting. Unexpected learning!
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Hank Rearden
Question. Do I need to temper the striker to throw sparks or can I leave it in it's current form?
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jmccustomknives
5160 air hardens somewhat.  It won't hurt to try it out.  If it doesn't throw sparks then heat treat it.  Let us know how it works.

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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Hank Rearden
I tempered both fire steels to a setting of 450 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes then let air cool in the toaster oven. Although the picture is a little blurry you can see the temp stick I used to check the temperature. I started with a 350 degree temp stick that melted as soon as it touched the metal. Then a 400 degree stick and it melted a little. Then a 450 degree stick which required me to hold it for a few seconds before it began to melt. When I pulled the fire steels out of the oven and hour and a half later, you could see areas of blue. That would indicate a temperature of about 560 degrees. I do want to mention that the blue was only in a few small areas and it's hard to see. But it is there. I don't think a camera can actually pick it up.

I don't have any flint stones. So I picked up lighter flints to make a spark. Both steels created a spark. Unfortunately I could only strike it so I only got one or two sparks from the small flint. 


temper.jpg
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jmccustomknives
A temp stic?  Nice.  For future reference if you do a knife you can (and should) polish it up a little before tempering.  At 450F that steel will be dark brown. 

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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