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Medium carbon steels

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Siddley03/01/2013 10:18:10
150 forum posts
1 photos

I forge knives in a semi-traditional Japanese style and I really struggle to get the medium carbon steel which is needed for this kind of work. Currently I'm importing it from the US, but the shipping, custom duty and IVA ( Spanish version of VAT ) is a real nuisance.
Does anyone know of a UK supplier of medium carbon steel in small quantities ? I'm looking for .60 to .80 carbon
I have tried a few so called 'specialists' in the UK who claim to cater for small orders, but they can't supply anything less than a 6 foot square piece of the stuff for about £300

Russell Eberhardt03/01/2013 10:40:29
2695 forum posts
86 photos

Surely you need more than one type of steel. Traditionally a low carbon steel was used for the core and a high carbon and a higher carbon steel were folded together several times to produce the hard skin steel.

I am sure the exact compoition is not important my sword was made in the 15th century and is still razor sharp. I don't think they had a means of chemical analysis at that time!

I hope you are not going to use the traditional method of testing that was used on swords!


Siddley03/01/2013 10:59:38
150 forum posts
1 photos

Hi Russell - I did say 'semi traditional'

I mostly use the differential heat treatment method after forging to create a 'hamon' - although sometimes I use the 'San Mai' construction method of a core steel wrapped in low carbon steel and forge welded.

The fully traditional method is to use bloom steel which has very poor quality control by it's very nature - it has to be folded to distribute the carbon content more or less evenly.

Your 15C sword is probably a very valuable piece, you may be surprised at what it is worth when authenticated.

speelwerk03/01/2013 11:17:30
414 forum posts
1 photos

Perhaps this one in the Netherlands **LINK**


Russell Eberhardt03/01/2013 19:24:55
2695 forum posts
86 photos

Posted by Siddley on 03/01/2013 10:59:38:

I use the 'San Mai' construction method of a core steel wrapped in low carbon steel and forge welded.

I'm not familiar with San Mai construction. My sword is made the other way round - a soft (tough) core with a hard folded steel wround the edge and sides. The sword was a present to myself when I was awarded my first black belt thirty years ago.


Stub Mandrel03/01/2013 19:53:19
4311 forum posts
291 photos
1 articles

My brother has (or had) a cavalry rapier, 19th century I think., by Wilkinson Sword. No edge, except near the tip, and a fat, rounded I in cross-section. It has to cope with a horseman running someone through, it being twisted right around and withdrawn so it is very flexible.

I'm sure it is not what you are meant to do to such an item, but he used to drop it point-down onto the bedroom floor. It would go through the carpet and embed itself and then swing back and forth like an inverted pendulum for some time.


David Littlewood03/01/2013 19:56:21
533 forum posts


I have one of those; its blade can be bent to 90 degrees without any permanent set, quite incredibly well tempered.


Bazyle03/01/2013 20:03:18
6005 forum posts
220 photos

No steel in the home of Toledo? Are you shopping by quoting the EN/sae/BS numbers that would suit you or just asking for medium carbon steel? One problem being that most fo the small suppliers for ME just do 'mild steel' and 'silver steel' and don't go into detail about what it is. I think there was a link on a post recently to a supplier with a bit more range which I will look for later. Thought I'd bookmarked it.

In the end I suspect you would do just as well using the leaf springs from a Santana and finding a formula (like the original blackmiths) of heating and folding that raises of lowers the carbon to what you need. Used to be the norm in Africa and if you look at travel doumentaries showing old trucks and cars abandoned by the road they always have lost their springs.

For information for non balcksmiths the taraditional methods blindly followed formulas that had been proved to work. In practice it involved heating in air to cover the steel with iron oxide, fold and hammer repeatedly to finely break up the oxide which when hot oxidised the carbon to co2 and reduced the carbon. Alternatively heated under the charcoal to add carbon into the surface etc.

Peter Tucker04/01/2013 16:56:07
183 forum posts

Hi Siddley,

What about going to your local building supplier and buying some high tensile reinforcing steel, quite cheep and the rough shape shouldn't matter as your going to forge it. Several grades should be available.

Good luck.


Siddley05/01/2013 16:12:46
150 forum posts
1 photos

Bazyle - it is a bit ironic, living in a country that has a knife and swordmaking tradition, but not being able to get the steel easily. Spanish companies don't make much use of the internet so it's almost a word of mouth job. That can be very frustrating. Good call on the Santana leaf springs - the problem there is finding a scrapyard - they don't seem to exist. I can get leaf springs sent out from the UK though. I have a 21" Sirupati ( longer version of the Khukri ) which was made by a top Kami ( bladesmith ) in Nepal from a Mercedes truck leafspring and it is superb. I used it for agricultural tasks for years ( actually what the Sirupati is designed for, it's not primarily a weapon ) and it holds a fantastic edge.

Peter - Rebar isn't really suitable for monosteel knife making, it's too variable in composition. I know people who have tried and got pretty poor results

Michael - Gauge plate is a great knife steel but it isn't suitable for differential hardening. All the things that make it so good for industry and home workshop use actually work against you if are trying to get aesthetics of a Japanese style blade.

It looks like I have found a good source of steel in the UK thanks to a forum member though, good as in probably perfect
Now I just need to get rid of the cold my missis kindly brought back from the UK, which has laid me up for two days..

Edited By Siddley on 05/01/2013 16:13:52

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