Walking into a store and buying a factory-made knife might seem easier than crafting your own. However, unleashing your creativity to build a knife has a lot more benefits.
Besides being fulfilling, it gives you limitless freedom for customization, giving your final product unique character. Forging your blade will also cost less, especially when using scrap metal.
What is the best scrap metal for knife making? The best scrap metal for knife making is sturdy and flexible enough to be reshaped with a keen edge. It should not break or chip easily. But not all scrap metals meet these requirements.
So, if you just jumped into the knife-making wagon, we’ve got you covered. This article contains all the information you need to choose the most suitable scrap metal for the job.
How To Choose Scrap Metal For Knife Making
The success of any DIY project begins with choosing the right material, and making a knife is no exception. But not every forgotten metal sitting in the back corner of your garage or workshop is suitable for forging knives.
So, before you quickly rummage through junk for the available metal ready to sprint into crafting action, you need to keep an eye on the following.
Evaluate The Type Of Scrap Metal
A scrap metal can be any metal, and you should gather enough information on its contents before proceeding to use it.
If you do not already know about non-ferrous and ferrous metals and their properties, do your research and ensure you can discern them quickly. Understanding the metal helps you make the right choice for your knives.
Knife blades can be made from steel, cobalt, titanium alloys, copper, brass, and bronze, among many other metals and alloys. But anyone who knows their metals will agree that there’s no match for steel when it comes to hand-making solid knives.
Bronze, brass, and copper have been used for centuries in the making of swords and other edged weapons. They can be options too. Just don’t expect the same level of hardness as steel knives.
Bronze is harder than brass but still brittle. Brass and copper may be preferred for shape-shifting qualities but have poor edge retention. These metals can lend themselves to making decorative knives. Their warm tones are aesthetically pleasant.
Steel is the best metal for knife making. It is an all-in-one package; strong, rugged, durable, high performing, affordable, and excellent at edge holding. But there are various steel grades, and not all cut the mark when it comes to making knives.
Some grades are too soft. Others are brittle or prone to rusting. So then, which is the best steel for knife making? There are three types of steel that you can’t go wrong with when making knives.
1. Tool Steel
Steel is less commonly used purely due to its ferrous nature. Ferrous metal is iron-based and thus corrodes and rusts with exposure to elements. Ultimately, steel is combined with various elements such as nickel, cobalt, and manganese to offer unique properties.
Therefore, tool steel is carbon steel plus alloys that enhance its mechanical properties. The alloys also improve corrosion resistance.
Tool steel is a popular choice for knife crafters. This steel is distinguishable for its strength, hardness, and incredible resistance to deformation. It is also corrosion resistant but at a lower level compared to stainless steel.
There are a few commendable grades of tool steel for knife making; O1, A2, D2, and M2.
- O1 Tool Steel grade is considered the premium, oil-hardening, and non-shrinking material. This grade combines chromium and manganese, making it an ideal choice for cold work applications. It’s also proven as an incredible choice for making knives. O1 is cost-effective and widely available. Moreover, it makes it easy to sharpen the finished products due to the characteristic low wear resistance.
- A2 is just as great as maybe even better than O1, except that it is air-hardened steel. It has a high degree of hardness, wear resistance, and superior edge retention.
- D2 tool steel is an ultimate choice for superior edge retention levels. Also, it has better corrosion resistance properties than A2 and O1. D2 has its reputation intact, and it’s inexpensive compared to most knifemaking materials.
- M2 shares similar properties as D2. However, it tends to be more brittle.
Tool steel is undoubtedly a durable and sturdy material with a high level of toughness and hardness. It’s also abrasion and heat-resistant, making it the best option for cutting tool applications.
2. Carbon Steel
Carbon steel is another fantastic type of steel for knife crafting. While stainless steel is a prevalent choice, carbon steel may be preferred for making knives due to its outstanding hardness and strength.
Carbon steel knives hold up very well to the rugged use of such cutting tools and will relentlessly maintain their sharp edge. You can chop varied items without damaging the blade.
The high carbon content means the knives will be strong and withstand unforgiving surfaces. However, treatment is necessary and must be done skillfully; otherwise, the blade may turn out too brittle or too soft.
Most carbon steel is not susceptible to corrosion or rust. Notwithstanding, it lacks chromium and may rust if it is not combined with sufficient corrosion resistant alloys.
Proper cleaning and maintenance are critical to avoiding corrosion. Some of the best grades of carbon steel for knife making are C1045, C1075, and C1090.
3. Stainless Steel
A quality set of knives should last for a long time without getting scratched or dented. Stainless steel knives stay strong and sharp even after many years of usage.
When the blades become dull, you only need to sharpen them with a common sharpener. Stainless steel knives are the most ubiquitous knives in kitchens, homes, and culinary establishments, as well as for crafting applications.
Its popularity is perhaps due to the fact that it offers the most potent defenses against rust and corrosion. It is easy to source and pocket friendly too.
Unlike carbon and tool steel, stainless steel scrap metals have the advantage of chromium. It is also packed full of alloys that prevent staining or rusting.
Making knives using stainless steel means having excellent edge retention. The blade keeps its original sharpness even when used regularly. Everyone loves a blade that can be maintained effortlessly while retaining its pristine condition. And for that, stainless steel has it all.
The corrosion-resistant and durable nature of stainless steel make low-maintenance knives. The scrap metal has a non-stick and smooth surface to make the cleaning routine seamless.
Stainless steel also offers many features to allow the knives to be regularly used by professionals in fishing, outdoor camping, and hunting. The higher tensile strength ensures the knives are reliable and last.
Currently, stainless steel metals come in over 60 grades. However, this shouldn’t worry you because you only need to confirm the quality of the material.
Since it has a higher chromium content and alloys, it lies below the other two types of steel discussed in hardness. Therefore, you must opt for carbon-packed grades of stainless steel if the blade’s life is an integral aspect of the knife.
However, you’ll sacrifice a little bit of resistance to corrosion. Ferritic and martensitic grades of stainless steel such as 400, 420, and 430 are ideal for knife making, especially for domestic applications. It is the only grade of stainless steel that doesn’t contain nickel and attracts magnets.
Consider The Weight And Size Of Blade
If you want a heavy knife, then go for heavier scrap metals. But it would be best if you aimed at forging light yet sturdy knives for easy handling as a beginner. This way, a lightweight scrap metal will be the ultimate choice.
You also need to factor in the size of the scrap. You do not need much for a blade since the scrap metal will be flattened. So, while you can reshape steel into countless forms, you’ll need extra materials for big or multiple knives if the scrap is small.
You can not add more metal if the blade turns out smaller than you anticipated, but you can certainly chuck off a piece to reduce the size of the blade.
Run Tests To Determine The Scrap Metal
Now that you know the best scrap metal to use, there are a few basics for making sure that the scrap metal you have at hand is, in fact, what you think it is.
There are methods of testing what kind of metal you have and if it is suitable for making reliable knives. The first and easiest way is to use a magnet. Ferrous metals attract magnets, and non-ferrous ones don’t.
A quick look at the color can also help identify what you’ve got. Simply scratch the surface with a sharp tool to see what’s revealed underneath.
Brass tends to be yellowish, while copper can range from pink to reddish-brown or greenish-blue if tarnished. Most other metals, including steel, will be different hues of silver, grey, or gunmetal.
You can use a spark test where you take the metal and touch it to the grinding wheel to determine the type of metal or the carbon content of the steel. The spark test differentiates steel from iron by the number of sparks produced. Ideally, steel generates more and longer sparks compared to iron.
Alloy steel (high carbon steel) produces long white-hued streams of up to 60 inches, accompanied by plenty of forks and sprigs. Iron sparks are long and yellow in color, while nickel sparks are red. Titanium produces bright white sparks.
There will be an absence of sparks with nonferrous metals.
Best Scrap Metals For Knife Making
Scrap metal can be anything from a can of soda to a metal pipe. If you’re a budding knife designer or smith, you might be confused on where to begin.
You can start with any of the following scrap metals to craft your first knives.
1. Suspension Springs
A suspension spring is a great scrap metal for designing durable knives. The spring is flexible and hard to give your blades a keen edge. A suspension or coil spring is made of steel, guaranteeing durability.
In case you are wondering what suspension springs we are talking about, they’re the metal coils sandwiched between the body and the wheel of a car.
Being parts of a car means they’re strong, flexible, and can conform to different shapes. Although they’re made of various metals, steel, bronze, and titanium are the most common metals.
Once you uncoil the spring, you get extensive material for forging. Fortunately, these scrap metals are readily available in different places.
You can find a few in a garage and other workshops. Alternatively, you can get them from a suspension shop; there are always a few faulty ones set aside awaiting a lucky scrap collector.
Suspension springs come in various sizes and prices. They’re also readily accessible, and if you’re lucky, you can get springs for free from friends and neighbors.
You can watch how to forge a rusty suspension spring into a razor-sharp Kunai knife in this video by Random Hands for inspiration.
2. Leaf Springs
Leaf spring is made of AISI 5160, strong steel identified to be pliable and resilient. In addition, the steel has a unique ability to be post-heat treated and shaped into different forms.
Conventionally, leaf springs are sturdy steels comprising 0.9 wt.% of carbon. AISI 5160 is excellent steel and has been used in making gen 2 European swords.
And since they’re in a wide, flat shape, forming a knife from this scrap metal is relatively easy.
3. Steel Cables
Steel cables might be tricky to get, but they make outstanding scrap for knife forging. The cables are durable, so your blades will not break easily. And if you want a sleek, minimalist, or modern look for your knives, steel cables offer the same aesthetic.
Making knives using steel cables ensures your products are resistant to corrosion. It is tolerant of harsh weather conditions. But you may avoid using blades on anything that contains chloride.
And if your budget is tight, a steel cable can be the best bet. While the scrap metal has both aesthetics and strength, it is cost-effective.
Steel cables are manufactured with alloy nitinol for easy twisting without breaking. So you can carve your knife to any shape without the worry of breakage from manipulation.
4. Saw Blades
The old saw blade lying idle in your garage is an incredible scrap metal for making knives. Saw blades are manufactured of high-speed steel for enhanced longevity.
But as you work on your fun project, be careful when cutting pieces from a blade. And if possible, use older blades instead of the new ones.
Older blades tend to be stronger and hold the shape pretty well. They also create a sturdy knife with excellent edge retention.
5. Railroad Spikes
If quality and sturdiness are what you want in a knife, use railroad spikes in your forging. You need blacksmithing tools, such as wrenches, hammers, and tongs.
Working with spikes is easy and triggers your creativity. The spikes are already shaped, so you only need to flatten them further. The metal is stress-free to work with, and carving unique designs in knives is quite effortless.
The railroad spikes consist of high levels of carbon steel. With this, you’re assured of making blades of superior strength. Moreover, you can forge the knives to form twisted handles.
Where Can You Get Scrap Metal For Knife Making?
This is actually the easy part of knife making; finding scrap metal. You can extract these yourself from old appliances and equipment no longer repairable such as refrigerators, washing machines, deep freezers, ovens, fryers, and lawnmowers; mechanical and automobiles such as bikes, wheelchairs, and cars; metal furniture like beds and desks, etc.
Your neighbors will be more than happy to get rid of their junk. If they already did, the next place would be in dumpsters and dumpsites. Local hardware stores and facilities such as hospitals and schools have such junk too. Construction sites are a great place to hit a jackpot of scrap metal.
You can unearth a lot more scrap metals for making knives, but we have picked the top-notch choices to help you carve the best knives.
Still, if you prefer different metal varieties, keep an eye on the hardness and the strength.
Using scrap metals to carve knives can be dangerous. Working with the wrong material can expose you to toxic fumes and particles. To be safe, gain an in-depth understanding of the metal you’re working with.