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Thread: How to heat treat T-304 Stainless steel?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Phoenix AZ.
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    How to heat treat T-304 Stainless steel?

    How can I heat treat this?
    I'm pretty new to knife making itself but i'm completely new at heat treating and I want to give it a shot. I can temper in the oven and I have a very small brick coal forge outside which I could use, if not I have access to a gas forge.



    Thank you
    -Pedro
    You look at things and say "why?"

    I look at things and say "why not?"


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    Knoxville, TN
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    304 doesn't have enough carbon to be hardened. It's pretty much just iron and chrome. It's good for guards and fittings, basically useless for blades.

  3. #3
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    You can't add carbon to it somehow? I've gotten pretty far and I don't want to put more money towards the blade if it's useless.
    You look at things and say "why?"

    I look at things and say "why not?"


  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pedro G. View Post
    You can't add carbon to it somehow?
    No. Well, not unless you own a foundry or steel mill

    Get you a piece of 440C if you like stainless, it's inexpensive and makes good blades. Or spend a bit more and get CPM-154, it makes excellent blades. Either will require a well-controlled kiln to HT, or you can send it to TKS or Peters' HT (my personal choice).

    If you want steel that makes good blades and can be heat-treated with a very simple "backyard" set-up, go for 1084 high-carbon steel. It's good stuff and also happens to be about as inexpensive as cutlery steel gets. It's not stainless, though.
    Last edited by James Terrio; 06-16-2011 at 04:48 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Sundre, Alberta, Canada
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    James is right. 304 will not harden enough to be useful by today's standards. You may have already found that it work hardens (difficult drilling?) but not enought to be used as a blade. Having said all that, man used to field dress deer with a blade made of bone. 304SS would outperform the bone. It would make a nice letter opener.

    I'm sure there are dozens of us on this board that made our first start with a non-useable steel. Mine is hanging on the shop wall. :-)

    James suggestions are excellent. I would add the suggestion of not using recycled steel (old files - saw blades etc.). Using mystery steel can be fun and recycling is noble, but it is definitely not a beginner project. Welcome to the addiction.

    Rob!
    Knifemaking is science - but there's an art to getting the science right!

    KnifeMaker.ca
    Proudly Canadian!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knifemaker.ca View Post
    I'm sure there are dozens of us on this board that made our first start with a non-useable steel. Mine is hanging on the shop wall. :-)
    Mine was mild low-carbon "welding" steel, ground with a dremel tool, heated up in a charcoal grill and quenched in olive oil I threw it away years ago, I was so embarassed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Knifemaker.ca View Post
    Having said all that, man used to field dress deer with a blade made of bone. 304SS would outperform the bone. It would make a nice letter opener.
    That's a really good point. I'd say finish it up, at least grind it to the shape/bevel you want and polish it. It will be good practice.

    Then order a piece of better steel. If there's a McMaster Carr, Fastenal, MSC or Grainger catalog or store handy, they can get you D2, O1 and maybe 440C, all of which have plenty of carbon and make good knife blades. Or order from USAknifemaker, TKS or other knifemaker supply houses online.
    Last edited by James Terrio; 06-16-2011 at 08:23 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
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    Deatsville, Alabama
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    "That's a really good point. I'd say finish it up, at least grind it to the shape/bevel you want and polish it. It will be good practice.

    Then order a piece of better steel. If there's a McMaster Carr, Fastenal, MSC or Grainger catalog or store handy, they can get you D2, O1 and maybe 440C, all of which have plenty of carbon and make good knife blades. Or order from USAknifemaker, TKS or other knifemaker supply houses online. "

    Those are good choices James, but I'm of the thinking that newbie's like myself should stick with the high carbon, 10XX series of steel, 1084 is cheap enough, the heat treat is practically fool proof and it will make a knife that you can be proud of, even if it is ugly! Like my first, I was proud of it when I made it, not so much now, BUT it still cuts like crazy! Which is the objective here, cutting tools. With 1084, profile your blade ever how you want, or can, grind your bevels in at the very least giving some degree of angle from the spine to the edge, then heat it up red hot and check it with a magnet, once it no longer attracts the magnet, stick it back in and heat it another minute to regain the heat you lost from checking it, then full dunk it in whatever kind of quenching medium you choose( we can go into further deatil about that later), I recommend some sort of oil. If your on a budget, you can use many of the cooking oils, like Olive oil, peanut oil <you can buy that in 5 gallon buckets used to fry Turkeys>, there are several others that will do a good job, once you find that this addiction is not going away and your desire to make high quality tools, it will be time to invest in better quality stuff then. Most all of us started the same way you are, ALL of us are as passionate about it as the day we started, I can't explain it, I really didn't so much want to make knives as I HAD to make knives, hard to explain, but it's true, and I'm sure there are several that would agree, just keep on working on it.

    Tell you what, if your interested, I'll send you a piece of the finest 1084fg money can buy, to give you a little better shot at making something you can be proud of, all ya got to do is let me know. I need to know if you have a way of cutting it, and about what size you need, and you would have to pay flat rate shipping, just let me know and we'll get-er-done, Thanks, Rex
    Last edited by McClellan Made Blades; 06-16-2011 at 09:35 AM.
    McClellan Made Blades
    Deatsville, (Autauga Co side) Alabama
    (334)358-5278
    My Avatar is a knife I made, I call the "BEAST" with a wicked HAMON!!!


    "Try not, do or do not, for there is no try." ~Yoda~

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Phoenix AZ.
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    James: I see what ya mean, I'm personally more of the carbon steel fan rather than the stainless. I bought a big chunk at a metal junker. But yea I think i'm going to finish this blade completely just for the practice. I'll post it up here once i'm finished!

    Rob: Haha yea, mystery steel is fun to use. The worst one i've gone for is rebar.

    Rex: How many times can you reuse the oil? (I would probably stick with the cooking oil) That would be great, Thank you very much! Just a 10"-12" long piece, 2-3" wide of whatever you have would be more than enough. I'll be glad to pay the shipping.
    You look at things and say "why?"

    I look at things and say "why not?"


  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Sundre, Alberta, Canada
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pedro G. View Post
    .... Just a 10"-12" long piece, 2-3" wide of whatever you have would be more than enough. ....
    That reminds me of another beginner's tip. (Just ignore me if I talk too much). BIG knives are a huge amount of work. It's often better for the learning curve to start out with smaller knives like bird and trout - caping - utility. Not so much about the price of the steel, but the major stock removal, hours of sanding before and after HT and the thousands of last minute scratches that show up on a large canvas. ;-)

    Rob!
    Knifemaking is science - but there's an art to getting the science right!

    KnifeMaker.ca
    Proudly Canadian!

  10. #10
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    Jul 2010
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    Rob: I understand exactly what you mean and personally I like smaller knives in general (Not picket knife small i mean like 2"-1" blade kind of small. I just like having a back up piece incase I mess up. Now I just got a plasma cutter which helps with the cutting out of the knife... the thing is is that I have to find a way to get around the warping of the steel from the heat. Thank you for the tip!
    -Pedro
    You look at things and say "why?"

    I look at things and say "why not?"


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