Mystery Steel

johnnyjump

Active Member
I forged this blade from part of an old plow I found out in the woods. Not sure what type of steel it is, though it produced a fair amount of sparks while grinding. After etching, I ended up with this curious pattern similar to Damascus though there wasn’t any other forge welding done. Anybody care to comment on what the wavy lines might be from? The blade is plenty hard and sharp.
 

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johnnyjump

Active Member
Interesting. Could high tensile steel produce those markings? The plow is probably over a hundred years old. A tree had literally grown around and through parts of the plow!
 

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
Hi Johnny,

I don't do any forging...all stock removal. I do listen enough to the forging guys on here to know they'd tell you to steer clear of mystery steel and use a known material.

That knife has great lines and is overall a nice job. The blade looks de-laminated to me (once again I'm not a forge guy) but apart from that everything is super clean looking.

hope this helps.
 

johnnyjump

Active Member
Thanks! Yes, I agree with the risks of using mystery steel in knife-making, but every now and then I like to experiment with old steels just for the nostalgic value of taking something from history and transforming it into something new.
 

Chris Railey

KNIFE MAKER
I think your knife looks really cool with the "layer lines". I have no other guess except for Old Wrought Iron due to the age of the plow. There are others on here with way more knowledge than me though. I am sure they will be along shortly...
 

johnnyjump

Active Member
That's what I was thinking, but I've been looking at other knives on the web made from wrought iron that shows the same wavy lines. Those also had some serious pitting on the blade, which mine surprisingly do not have. I've tested the edge by chopping and hacking through 2x4's and there's no chipping and rolling of the edge. It's also sharp enough to slice through the proverbial piece of paper. The question remains how long will it hold the edge. That could be doubtful with such low carbon content. But it was a fun project and a cool looking piece to show "before and after."
 

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Chris Railey

KNIFE MAKER
Take a piece of the same steel and heat it to non-magnetic then quench it in water. See how hard it is to break, that will be the best test short of a scanning electron microscope to tell you about the carbon content in hot dog steel. The "wrought" thing was just a guess based on the appearance of "layers" and the age of the plow. Also, the plow may have been "fixed" on the farm with whatever steel was lying around. There were not too many tractor supply stores around 100 years ago so farmers often had a small forge set up for just such occasions so they could fix stuff. So even if the piece would have originally been one kind of steel or iron it could have been replaced. In any case, it is a cool knife and a great use of steel that would sit and rot otherwise.
 

Chris Railey

KNIFE MAKER
Exactly. Very generally speaking after a water quench, HC=shatter like glass, MC=will break with effort, LC= not much of a difference. Again very generally speaking.
 

Doug Lester

Well-Known Member
I would think that it's wrought steel, basically wrought iron with enough carbon in it to harden. The stripes that you are seeing would be strands of slag. Just my guess, anyhow.

Doug
 

johnnyjump

Active Member
I think you are right about it probably being wrought iron. Just performed the water quench test Chris suggested. Not much of a difference, meaning low carbon content. It does seem to be hard and sharp, based on my chopping and slicing exercises, but with low carbon, it may not hold the sharpness very long. At least it was a fun little project and a great learning exercise.
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
What did the sparks look like? Wrought iron sparks are pretty straight, not much crackly/ sparkler/branching.

Grind a piece of known high carbon steel or a drill bit or something and compare.
 

BossDog

KnifeDogs.com & USAknifemaker.com Owner
Looking at the original metal, I'd guess wrought also by the way it seems to have torn on one end and the severe bands of junk.

I understand the romance of reusing steel but do you want to use mystery steel that ends up not holding a decent edge and your customer/client/friend/whoever who gets it isn't happy with it? Will they complain to you or everyone but you and kill your reputation?

All isn't lost. Wrought iron is great for guards, pommels, D guards, etc.
 

Justin Presson

Well-Known Member
Cool steel and knife for sure. If you could do a San mai with some know steel in the middle would be a really nice piece.
 
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