Hand Tools Archive

beating a dead horse some more - 1095-52100
Response To:
One of the videos... ()

David Weaver
I've been listening to Joe Calton and some other youtubers today talking about the various alloys (staying away from the 5160 stuff, and up in the higher carbon steels that would be usable for woodworking).

The knife testing is kind of a two part thing aside from the abuse - I guess that's the third part, and if it wouldn't come at the cost of something, it would be useful.

I've been wandering through bar stock listings and of the things widely available that aren't O1 (I already have plenty on hand, but I want something more crisp edge and simple), 1095 is pretty much it and 52100 is more of an alternative to O1 (they're not the same alloy, but I mean a steel that's got just a little bit more alloying than the plain steel).

There's another inexpensive crucible steel called cru-forge, but it has surplus vanadium in it with the intention of leaving vanadium carbides. I can't think of something I'd like to have less in a cabinetmaking chisels than excess vanadium.

So that leaves 52100 and 1095, and then it gets more interesting talking to someone like Joe Calton, who can make a knife that performs better than peters heat treating (based on actual separate user tests -calton was able to make a 1095 knife that holds up fine at 1095 to basic test, even some basic toughness tests like deflecting the edge on brass). I'm sure these knives can be broken pretty easily, but not the same way you can tap a quenched 1095 blank and break it like ice.

What Joe said was interesting for two reasons - he is supplier specific for 1095 because he can buy 1095 and not get the same results (which suggests some suppliers may have lower quality or foreign steel that's not done as well finishing - I'm guessing it's rolled to a finish). So, I ordered a couple of bars of 1095 from one of his two preferred suppliers (strangely enough, they're cheaper than most places, too).

Then, he mentioned 52100 bar, which I was on the edge of buying, and said that he only makes his knives from 52100 round, because you have to work round stock to get it into a knife shape, and without that heavy forging work (Which is really only doable with a whole lot more heat than I have, and with wider round stock, with a power hammer), the 52100 doesn't really work as well. He said he hasn't found any 52100 bar stock that's made a good knife without the extensive forging, and since 52100 is widely available in round and limited in bar stock (harder to find and often high priced), he'd not advise buying 52100 bar stock.

I don't have anything on my plate for work this weekend, but the mrs. is at lowes trying to buy doors for me to hinge and fit to replace the doors in our house >(

Hopefully, she'll have no luck finding anything in stock there that can be delivered any time soon. I'd like to make a half dozen or more chisels this weekend and start some experimenting with hammered and not hammered, etc.

At any rate, calton gets unusual performance out of 1095 and 52100 in terms of high hardness knives that some testers are surprised by.

So, that leaves out the stuff like XHP (which I have no interest in turning into chisels and probably not even knives unless I have some urge to make a stainless knife), 154cm (too soft for chisels, anyway) and most of the other highly alloyed steels that have surplus elements other than carbon to make carbides.

What I learned listening to comparisons of 1095/52100 quality knives vs. s30V, and others, is that knife people consider our initial edges as "beyond a working edge" and a working edge is anything that continues to cut paper reasonably.

Using their terminology, 1095/52100 last about the same amount of time in the "beyond" range and then fade quickly once that edge is gone and get through the "working" edge without much more work. S30V, on the other hand, doesn't last any longer in something like a hair shaving test, but will continue to maintain "working" sharpness (passing the paper test) for many times longer.

This isn't really a surprise (and is in line with comments about high carbide steels settling into a mediocre edge and then staying there for a long time).

What Calton is doing is more interesting in regard to making chisels- focusing on the fine edge holding and reasonable toughness.

I'll report back at some point regarding whether or not the new 1095 feels the same under the hacksaw as the stock I already have (which came from NJ steel baron) after both get the same heating in the forge.

(52100 steel also has a reputation for being a lot better with a 15 minute soak at high temperature before quench, and I'm not sure I want to faff with that. It has better wear resistance than 1095, and is more forgiving and moves a lot less in quenching, but it sounds like a pain for someone heating open atmosphere and oil quenching without wanting to do a bunch of high heat work and forging).

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