Metalman
Hi - Now this is strictly 'For what it's worth'.  I make little tools off and on and some of them I case harden.  Lately I am at this again.  What I am using for the case hardening compound is 'Sodium ferrocyanide' and it works as easy as anything that I have found.  I bought a 1# can in about 1960, for a dollar.  Now some people will say that this should not be used because of the 'Cyanide compound in it...yes it contains a cyanide compound, BUT, BUT, the iron ions are so tightly bound to the cyanide compounds that it only very slightly disassociates to the point of not being toxic.  Fact is most of us consume this product every day and just don't know it.   Morton salt company puts it in their common table salt and puts a little logo on the box of a girl walking in the rain with a container of salt pouring out of the box she is holding...with the words, "When it rains it pours".  It keeps the moisture in the air from causing the salt to 'Cake'.  And it is common for the highway departments in the north to put it in their salt which they sprinkle on the roadways in the winter times.  This helps keep the salt from again caking and plugging up their 'spreading systems'.  It is safe to eat and work with.  I understand that it is basically the active ingredient in most case hardening compound powders.  Now if one adds an acid to this, it will cause a 'Hydrogen cyanide gas' to be given off - don't do this.  But this is like a lot of things - just be careful with what you are doing.  This is the same gas that use to be a popular execution method.  Oh yes, this Sodium ferrocyanide is not the same as the Sodium cyanide - both very different.  If one would pour some vinegar or lemon juice or such on some table salt, and breath it they would be breathing some sodium cyanide gas, not so much from the salt, sodium chloride, but from the small amount of the Sodium
ferrocyanide.
And I found on the web this for sale in a 50 pound bag for 29$ - Plus postage.  And different sellers just repackage it and sell it for whatever, 19 to 29 a pound...  They may typically add somethings just to make it their proprietary compound. ---no more space.
Quote 0 0


Metalman
Me right back - Let me add this little knife making story since a lot of blacksmiths get into knife making.  I was just leaving my local super market one time and just after I finished putting my groceries in the car a guy came up to me with a nice looking knife and ask if I would like to buy it for 15 $.  I said no that I had plenty of knives...but it looked like a nice knife and he was a very personable guy and I started talking and he told me about his little business.  Okay, he said that he buys these finished blades from someplace in India for 4 dollars apiece with the brass guard and full tang...200 at a time.  He buys these exotic wood flooring boards from Home Depot and where ever and makes the handles and just epoxies them on, takes no time for rivets etc.  He makes his 15 dollar one and 18 dollar ones.  The 18 dollar ones had one or two imitation turquoise stones embedded in the wood.   His only labor is in these handles.  He didn't bother with making scabbards and that's it.  The potential customer just sees mainly the nice looking handle and only the presented one knife.  The sale is decided in a like a minute.  He said ever once in a while he will go to Albuquerque with 200 or 300 hundred and sell them in a weekend or maybe an extra day...just in super market parking lots.  His very likable personality had a lot to do with it also.  

Now there is this custom knife maker, that I met on the web, has a a nice looking web site and makes these super custom $300 a piece knives with the latest exotic steels at precise Rockwell harnesses and nice looking handles, etc.  At last emailing he said that he made and sold 29 the past year.  Now that's a lot of labor making these from scratch.
300 time 29 = 8700 dollars.    And...200 at 15 dollars a piece = 3,000 dollars....minus the blades at 4 dollars = 800 $, minus the wood for the handles and maybe a weeks labor.  There is a lot of difference there.  No wonder this local guy was always so happy.  I doubt if he ever had a regular day job. 
Quote 0 0
anvil
Lol, great story. The moral is "You are what you make" and " if you build it, your clientel will find you. [wink]
Quote 0 0
Metalman
Hi - Just a quick follow up....This custom knife maker that I was referring to is 'Ray Rogers Custom Knives'.  He went out of the business a few years ago so I am not advertising for him in any way.  But his old web site it still up I notice so one can see what he was doing.  One can see that he had a good site and see pictures of his knives and shop, etc.  But, I assume that he couldn't find enough people that needed his $300 knives.  Plus he wasn't cranking these out in just a few hours so one can imagine his rather low return.  Maybe something to ponder if one is considering doing something like this.

And I was writing in the past tense of the local guy selling his knives in the parking lots...because he did 'pass' of a freak accident.

Last night I was finding on the web finished knife blanks as low as one dollar out of Pakistan, with minimum orders as high as 1200. 

My first civilian over seas job was in Japan in 1967 and 80 % of their steel export was rebar. They had not yet gotten into the good steel business.  And Tokyo Hilton, 7 $ a night.      
 
Quote 0 0
jmccustomknives
Ray's still around, he's just retired from knifemaking.  He's now into HAM radio's.  lol. 

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

Quote 0 0
Metalman
Yes Jim - A couple of years ago Ray bought a hand-held radio and built some kind of relay station just to communicate with the outside world.  He lives in what would really be called 'isolated'.  I just looked with Google Earth and his 'home town' of Wauconda is showing just one main building, Post office, store and cafe.  He said that the nearest Walmart was so far that he only gets there once a year.  You say he got into Ham radio...I got my ham license 25 years ago.

When I was a kid most regular knives were just made of mild steel and case hardened...and Japan was noted for that, and even here in the states.  After the war most of the knives for sale here were made in Japan just that way.  And I still think that cheap mild steel makes a good usable knife, case hardened, just not classy today, I know. 

I think I saw where you had made some knives - if I could easily send some pictures, I could show you some back-yard knives.  Have a good day.    Hey, I just see the comment below, 'Insert photos'.  I'll try it.
 
Quote 0 0
jmccustomknives
Didn't I give you a bottle of case hardening powder at the blacksmiths meeting?

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

Quote 0 0
Metalman
Oh no, not me Jim...I haven't been east of Colorado for let's see, maybe 7 years.
Quote 1 0
Metalmelt
That was me Jim, the other metal guy. All my stuff is packed up to move but our contract fell through so here we sit.

Quote 0 0
anvil
For what it's worth, I'm between Durango and Cortez.



Metalman wrote:
Oh no, not me Jim...I haven't been east of Colorado for let's see, maybe 7 years.
Quote 0 0
Metalman
anvil wrote:
For what it's worth, I'm between Durango and Cortez.


Hi anvil - I am just down to road from you...70 miles east of Durango...here as we know is 'just down the road'.  I am some what familiar with the area.  I Use to go to the Votec school just east of Cortez for a machinists course after I retired.   


Quote 1 0
theengel
So how well does case hardener work?  Like say, with a RR spike knife?  Anyone have any real luck with it?  I've never tried it.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
Quote 0 0
Metalman
Hi theegel - Since no one else has jumped in here I can say something, firstly, "No one knows more than an almost infinitesimal amount about anything".  I think that can be chiseled into your nearest rock.  Along that line, I think it follows that most inputs to such are 'opinions',  And my humble opinion is that since I am not a Blacksmith and am not really into any kind of exotic knife making metal and my social security number starts with a '7', and I have hundreds of pounds of rail-road iron in back of my garage...all of which I have collected since I have lived here as retired.  I keep reading, again as opinions, that the 'HC' stamped on most of the railroad spikes that I have collected stand for a "High-carbon equivalency", a hardening equivalent and not 'high carbon'.  I have a feeling that they are made of a 'low or mild carbon steel with some additives.  They just make them as cheap as they can so they make them big enough to not break - I personally have never seen a broken railroad spike.  I have never made a blade from one.  But since I am partial to case hardening, I would just hammer out a thin piece and case harden it and check it with a file.  With this you will know first hand how hard is 'your' case hardening of 'your' rail road spike - not someone else's case hardening...of 'their' spike.
If you happen to have some rail anti-creepers, they would make one tough knife blade, in my opinion...twice as big as a spike.  My first job out of high school when I was 17 was on the Northern Pacific Railroad and I put these anti-creepers on the rails, among other things.  One can just walk along a rail road and pick up some of these anti-creepers - I have a few that I picked up just like this.  Anti-creepers help to keep rails from running down hill and on double road-ways from running along the flow of traffic.  
Quote 0 0
Metalman
Oh hey - Let me add this...on case hardening.  In the past few days I have read different inputs on case hardening.  A couple of examples, "I have used 'sugar' as a case hardening compound and it has always worked."  Another, "I use Calcium Carbonate as a case hardening compound".  

Let me say this...that I have just tried each of those in the past couple of days just to see what I would  get...and I did not notice any, that is not ANY case hardening...just my result.

Yes, over the olden years, before there were any really good case hardening compounds, people use charcoal, leather and such as bone meal, rice husks, etc...and these will still work, but in my opinion not as good as 'Sodium ferrocyanide', again in my opinion.  This is for our backyard case hardening, not the professional gas vapor type case hardening.  I tried my best charcoal alone, yes it works, a little - but not impressed.

I will say again, if one wants to know just what they may get from case hardening, do it yourself.  

Quote 0 0
jmccustomknives
theengel wrote:
So how well does case hardener work?  Like say, with a RR spike knife?  Anyone have any real luck with it?  I've never tried it.


Ok, so the mechanics of what is going on.  The carbon atom is 1/30'th the size of an iron atom.  That is important for this reason.  Iron atoms arrange themselves into a cube.  When below a certain temperature that "cube" is too small to allow the carbon to move but above that temperature the carbon goes into "solution".  It can literally move through the iron like water through a sponge.  And like water, it wants to go from areas of highest concentration to lowest.  This is called "carbon diffusion". 

When carbon is in solution it moves at a blistering .010 of an inch an hour.  When something is case hardened, that shell is only as thick as the time the carbon was introduced can move. 

In forging carbon diffusion also works in reverse since carbon more readily oxidizes than iron it is drawn out.  When one spends a lot of time forging a blade for example the steel can suffer "decarb" where the carbon on the surface has been removed.  As one goes deeper into the steel the carbon content will increase.  Often these blades will see better edge holding as the lesser carbon steel is worn away.

As far as knives go, case hardening has been used in the past.  During the 1700's trade knives were made that were case hardened.  The Indians would have to sharpen to one side so that hard steel would make the edge. 

I have used case hardening techniques on cable Damascus before welding, but the only reason it works is the large surface area of the wires.  In all other homogeneous and Damascus blades there is little to no benefit.  The only way to truly make a blade worthy RR spike is to forge weld in high carbon steel for the edge.

One last thing, back to the iron cube.  When carbon is in solution it can enter the "cube".  Quenching snaps the cube down trapping the carbon atom and putting the iron molecule under tension.  When enough of this formation (martinsite) is present the steel hardens.  RR spikes range anywhere from .14-.35% carbon.  For steel to be considered "high carbon" the content needs to be .7%.

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

Quote 0 0
Metalman
theengel wrote:
So how well does case hardener work?  Like say, with a RR spike knife?  Anyone have any real luck with it?  I've never tried it.


Anti-creeper.png 

Okay, these are railroad rail anti-creepers...I wouldn't start with the type on the left.  The type on the right are usually about one inch by one inch square - this will give you one fairly big hunk of steel for a big tough knife.  My guess is that they are heat treated to some level of spring steel.  They are made to install on the bottom of a rail with one smack of a spike maul.  I have helped put on 30 miles worth.  And I very soon learned that this was not for me.  A good thing is that they are completely free, just to pick up along a rail road.  I have some but are covered with our first snow of the season.

A funny thing, probable most people would not think of a railroad rail running down hill or along a roadway.



Quote 0 0
jmccustomknives
Those Clips are 1060 if I remember right.  These aren't mystery steels.  REMSA is the governing body over the rail lines, they've published all standards down to the metallurgy of the rails and components.  It is difficult to find unless you want to buy the book from them.  lol.

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

Quote 0 0
anvil

"Hi anvil - I am just down to road from you...70 miles east of Durango...here as we know is 'just down the road'. I am some what familiar with the area. I Use to go to the Votec school just east of Cortez for a machinists course after I retired."

Im just north of Mancos on 184.
I was on rhe eastern slope for 35 years as a working smith.

Im building my third "dream shop"from logs, stone and iron. A grand project.

Perhaps our paths will cross one day.
Quote 0 0
theengel
Tons of information.  Thanks all.

Yeah, I have a couple of those anti-creepers.  Wasn't sure what they were, but I had grabbed some.  You're saying that those are actually high-carbon steel?  1060 is even higher than the coil springs I've been messing with.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
Quote 0 0