Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to our FAQ page. Here you will find quick answers to many of the most commonly asked blade related questions. This resource was created in answer to the problem of "burn-out" that can occur when our veteran forumites are faced with frequently answering many of the most common questions. So please feel free to refer to this page and the forum search function as often as needed.

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FAQs


What is a good steel to start with?
Where can I find steel suppliers?
Can I heat treat with a torch?
Can I make a blade from this...?
What is Metallurgical Bladesmithing?
I forgot my blades in the temper and heated them for longer than intended, are they ruined?



What is a good steel to start with?

1070, 1075, 1080, or 1084 are great beginner steels.. When you are just starting out not only will you make some mistakes that will require a simple and forgiving steel, you will probably also possess less equipment as the old timers. The more basic your skills or tools the more basic you will want your steel to be in order to learn clear methods for success. The steels listed here are the simplest available. They are fairly inexpensive, and are the least demanding in time and temperature requirements, allowing you to produce excellent blades right from the start with less effort and expenditure. Beware of steel recommendations based on hardenability alone (e.g., O-1); for most steels the heating and time requirements increase with hardenability, and the alloying involved raises the price, so you may get much less of the steel’s potential for three times the price.
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Where can I find steel suppliers?

There is a list of steel suppliers on our LINKS page . This is an excellent question since many guys starting out are not aware of the many suppliers of steel suitable for blades. Often you can find a steel distributor in your area listed in the Yellow Pages, but the Internet has made things simpler yet. Aside from our LINKS page a quick search for "steel suppliers" will also list countless sources of good steel that, with a credit card and a press of a button, will have your raw materials delivered right to your doorstep so that you can be forging or grinding in no time!
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Can I heat treat with a torch?

Yes and no. A small blade made from the simplest steels can be made into a decent knife with an oxy-acetylene torch; a simple propane torch is not really hot enough for hardening. However, larger blades and richer alloys will exceed the limits of a torch flame to evenly heat and properly soak the steel. If digital controllers are not your thing, the simplest of forges will provide a much more even and gentle heat than a small intense torch flame. A simple coal or charcoal fire can be controlled to provide an excellent shielding atmosphere, when compared to a torch, for preventing scaling and loss of carbon.
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Can I make a blade from this...?

...lawnmower blade, old rasp, leaf spring, etc… You can make a blade from almost anything, but is it worth it for you in the long run? For the new guy starting out this is a very attractive proposition as it seems like free steel, however the time and materials lost on a blade that will not properly heat treat makes mystery steel some of the most expensive material to work with. Often old timers will say old scrap is just fine, but they also have decades of experience to work with. The new guy starting out will learn the most by working with known materials and addressing one variable at a time. In the old days when carbon levels were the only major change a bladesmith would find in different steels, it was easy to deal with and the same basic methods would work, but modern alloying changed all that. Today’s alloyed steels each have their own unique heat treating requirements and not knowing the chemistry is a challenging stab in the dark. Even if the mystery chemistry is revealed through analysis, the history of that piece of steel is not. Prior heat treatments and stresses can have profound effects on the outcome of your efforts. For less than $15.00 plus shipping one can have Admiral Steel deliver 5 feet of good 1"x 1/4" 1080 carbon steel, in factory condition, to your door. That makes the steel the cheapest part of the entire process of making a knife, and at a price that is hard to beat for the peace of mind. If however you have one of dear old grandad's files and think it would make the coolest sentimental knife, there are folks in our Beginners and Hobbyist Bladesmith Forum who can give you some ideas on how to make it into a serviceable knife.
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What is Metallurgical Bladesmithing?

What is "Metallurgical Bladesmithing?" First of all, you can relax; it is not metallurgy or any other intimidating branch of science. Metallurgical Bladesmithing is an approach that recognizes above all else that knowledge is power and, since making a knife involves working with metals, the more we know about our material, its properties, and true behavior, the more effective we will be in accomplishing our goals. It does, however, focus on objectivity and the scientific method in coming to conclusions about the subjectivity of how to best make our knives.

In a field where so many "experts" present their craft as mysterious or metaphysical in order to portray themselves as sole sources of hidden knowledge, the Metallurgical Bladesmith insists on arming himself with facts. Facts that will allow him to see though hype, marketing and misinformation to recognize that claims which contradict proven principles, or even common sense, are not beyond question simply because they managed to get published in a magazine.

This approach rejects subjective claims, supported solely by appeals to authority, tradition or common beliefs and practices in knifemaking. Instead it embraces the study and use of the proven principles and techniques utilized by every modern metal working industry outside of the pop custom knife culture. It is not a reaction to the problem of modern blade folklore as much as it is a solution to misinformation.

If assuming, believing or feeling just cannot take the place of your actually knowing, then you may be a Metallurgical Bladesmith.

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I forgot my blades in the temper and heated them for longer than intended, are they ruined?

Relax, unless you forgot them and went on vacation, probably not. Many heat treating operations for knives involves the diffusion of carbon atoms. Diffusion is both time and temperature dependant with more of it occurring over time and much faster with higher temperatures, but temperature is much more influential than time. Tempering is a diffusion based process. The lower the temperature, the slower the effects of diffusion will be, and at most tempering temperatures diffusion is so slow that time is almost irrelevant. A proper temper in a oven is recommended to be around 2 hours, if you forget your knives for any time measured in less than days you most likely have not destroyed your work, but have certainly insured a thorough temper.
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