Do you use the forge to heat up to critical temp or use a Kiln Oven or Molten Salt bath??

I used to use the forge and guess with the color of the steel was before I heat treated and t was always a guess and hoped it turned out with no warping and I got a hard blade... This really bugged me and drove me crazy not knowing if I was getting the best results I could. Using a propane forge for this is hard to be even in temp throughout the blade and very hard to let it soak for any amount of time. I knew I needed something different....

SO I purchased an EvenHeat Kiln so I could control the temp better and let the blade soak for the desired time. This really did help with many issues I was having before which also includes having an actual heat treating oil like Parks 50 and AAA that I mentioned in a previous article. A problem that still occurs is that the knife is exposed to oxygen and creates decarb on the blade once its quenched. With some knives its okay and wont hurt the blade you just need to finish grinding enough to get through it. If you grind to close to an edge and this occurs you it can be a problem. So I am looking at purchasing a Salt Bath.

The salt bath heat treat process involves immersing your blade into molten salts. Once immersed, the blade quickly reaches its critical temperature. The blade is then allowed to soak in this bath for the amount of time you desire. Once the soak is completed the blade is pulled for further quenching and processing. The salt bath process provides an oxygen-free environment so there's no need to wrap blades and temperature distribution around the blade is very even throughout.

How Do I Choose A Steel For My Knife???

You can discuss steel and alloys for a week but it comes down to personal preference and what you are wanting to do with your knife. 

I personally need a steel that will be durable with a lasting edge but that can be sharpened in the field as well. You can heat treat many alloys that are in the mid 60s for hardness but that won't do you much good when it comes to trying to sharpen a knife in the woods with stones. So even though you can obtain a rockwell hardness of 66 you need to temper that knife evenly to around 58-59. This can be achieved by using an oven and using vermiculite to make sure your temp stays more consistent through the 2 tempers at 2 hours each. I personally always do a snap temper at 300 degrees immediately after the heat treat to relieve any stress in the steel.  

I use mostly all high carbon alloys and alloys such as 1095 L6 O1 52100 1084 1080 all of these will get you in the mid 60s but again they need to be tempered.

Again because I am forging frontier style knives I want my knives to be at a hardness customers can put an edge back on. I could get a 63-65 rockwell hardness and get an edge because I have a belt grinder to do it easily but with stones its a different story. Anyway I hope this information helps on picking out a steel.

Caring For Your Knife

When it comes to caring for your frontier knife or any knife for that matter you want to avoid rusting especially on high carbon blades but even stainless will rust when water is present. I personally use Frog Lube to coat my knives and wipe the excess off. DO NOT store your knife in a safe sheathed. Listed below are a few suggestions on taking care of that knife and keeping it nice!

1. Take care of the tip. Never use knife to pry, dig or chop unless the knife is designed to.
2. NEVER THROW KNIVES unless it is a throwing knife.
3. Do not leave knives and sheaths in direct sunlight or high heat. Sunlight oxidizes wood.
Heat affects hardwoods and weakens adhesive bonds.
4. Hand wash blades when necessary with a gentle detergent. DRY THOROUGHLY.
5. Clean handles and sheaths with a damp cloth and buff with a soft dry cloth.
6. Do not oil sheaths. This will cause them to soften and weaken.
7. Protect carbon steel and Damascus knives with a light coat of hand rubbed wax. Renaissance wax is very good but a good Carnauba only wax can be used, no synthetics. Oil will attract dust and can weaken sheath but is better than nothing at all for steel.
8. Wood handles usually benefit from a light coat of wax and a good hand rubbing with a soft dry cloth.
9. Brass and nickel silver fittings can be buffed and lightly waxed. Polish brass often. Coat with wax and hand buff with a soft cloth.
10. For long term storage, do not store knife in the sheath. Chemicals used in leather can react with moisture in the air leading to corrosion of even stainless steels.
11. KEEP YOUR KNIFE SHARP. Most accidents occur with a dull knife.

Heat Treating

Heat treating is one of the most important parts of making a knife. Keys to keeping it easy is being able to use  a kiln or a salt bath which there are many out there. Evenheat provides both of these. This allows you to control the temp which is a lot more precise than looking for a color in the forge. Using alloys like 5160 are very forgiving but using a 1095 or higher carbon steel you are asking for trouble. A lot of steels like 1095, 52100, 1084, will get you into the mid 60s for Rockwell hardness but you dont want to leave it that hard unless you are making kitchen knives so you must temper and make the blade edge more durable which now comes with the tempering process....

The next way to help in forging knives and getting that harden and temper you want is to know what alloy you are using. If you don't know then you would not know what temp to get to before heat treat.... Once you know this info getting a professional oil quench is very helpful as well and sets you up for success right off the bat. Quench oil like Parks 50 and AAA work for most steels you will use. I get all my Quench from Kelly Couples. He is full of knowledge! 

Get your steel from a reputable place...... I personally buy most of my steel from New Jersey Steel from Aldo and Pete! Great guys to work with!

I like Frontier Style knives so I like the forged scale left on the blade! So I have to forge to get that awesome texture so many desire on a knife. I am not much of a chrome polished shiny knife guy. You will commonly see knives forged by people who are into bushcraft, period style, woodsman, mountian men.

So knowing some info on heat treating and tempering is always helpful! 

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