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Heat Treating and Metallurgy Discussion of heat treatment and metallurgy in knife making.

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Old 01-31-2011, 01:09 PM
Radeo Radeo is offline
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heat treating a railroad spike

i am making the ever popular RR spike knife for my first forged knife, and was curious about a recommended heat treat that has decent results. i can only temper to 450 degrees
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Old 01-31-2011, 02:40 PM
Doug Lester Doug Lester is offline
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You're in luck, IF that knife can be hardened you're not going to have to temper at anything like 450 degrees. As with all mystery metal, which RR spike kind'a-sort'a qualify as, you are going to have to search for the right combination, I'd start out with warm oil and probably start experimenting with the temper at 350 degrees then test the blade for hardness. If it's too soft you will have no choice but to reharden and retemper at a lower setting. If the edge wants to chip out, the you can grind out the chip and temper at a little higher setting, like 25 degree incriments, until the edge stops chipping. If the edge seems real soft, like it just basically folds over after tempering, you could try it as quenched. You might even consider a water or brine quench.

Just be aware that at around 35 points of carbon, assuming that we are dealing with "high" carbon spikes, you will be right at the limit of getting a blade that will hold any kind of an edge. Also fighting you is that the alloy for RR spikes usually has copper in it to increase toughness. RR spikes have to almost bend 180 degrees to pass quality control testing. Whatever increases toughness will almost certainly decrease hardness and wear resistance.

Some people really like RR spike knives and can move them at a lower price. I wish you well on your experiment. Post pictures why don't you?

Doug Lester


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Old 01-31-2011, 06:33 PM
Radeo Radeo is offline
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will post when done, I have no plan of selling it, just playing with my 5 1/2 brick forge and 3/4" side arm burner. I made it from 4.5" x 9" x 1.5" stove bricks that were free. It takes about 30 min of forging to get it good and hot, but since I got 70#s of FREE propane, who cares. I dont need to soak my mystery metal for extended time do I?
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Old 01-31-2011, 06:46 PM
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Ed Caffrey Ed Caffrey is offline
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As a general rule, RR spikes make a neat little novelty "knife", but the material is simply not suited to building a blade that is intended to cut anything. For years I have heard people claim that any spike with "HC" on it is a "high carbon"....it just isn't so. At least not from the perspective of it being hardenable.... a spike that is marked with "HC" will normally have NO MORE than .35% carbon....which is barely within the amount of carbon for a steel to be considered hardenable.


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Old 01-31-2011, 07:38 PM
Doug Lester Doug Lester is offline
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Ed makes a good point, the HC on a railroad spike only means that it is high carbon FOR A RR SPIKE not high carbon as in high carbon steel. I think I remember reading in one of my metallurgy books that once you pass about 30-35 points of carbon in a steel alloy you have achieved all the additional strength that carbon will provide. After that you're dealing with hardness and wear resistance.

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Old 01-31-2011, 07:52 PM
Carey Quinn Carey Quinn is offline
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I have heard of some folks saying the use 'super quench' with decent results. I have never tried it myself but since you are playing, you might as well give it a shot.

I can't help you with the recipe but you should be able to search around and find it. I know it has been used by our blacksmith friends in a number of applications so don't forget to look on blacksmith sites too.

Still, about the best you're going to get is something good enough to cut a little bologna.

Carey


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Old 01-31-2011, 11:06 PM
Radeo Radeo is offline
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i figured it would end up as a letter opener. it looks neat though, when i find my usb cable, i will upload a few pics.
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