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Thread: Why not 52100?

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    Default Why not 52100?

    I don't see any custom makers using 52100 and wonder why not? I undeerstand Zowada uses his own recipe of o-1 and L-6. And some are using ats-34 ... amazing steel, but with its own compromises.

    Any info?

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    Senior Member ByronTodd's Avatar
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    A question better asked of the razor makers in their sub-forum - "The Forge". Should get more attention and responses here.

    Any questions, please PM or email me (or if I'm online, find me in on the of the various chat facilities).

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    Razorsmith JoshEarl's Avatar
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    From what I understand, 51200 is a little tricky to heat-treat properly. It also doesn't seem to be readily available; at least the steel suppliers I work with don't carry it.

    I think the main source of 51200 is ball bearings, which have to be forged down into a bar before they can be useful. Since I don't have a power hammer, this isn't worth the effort for me. There are too many other good steels out there to play with...

    Josh

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    52100 is a fickle mistress and not for the faint of heart or inexperienced. Done well, it is one of the best knife steels, and I would then presume a good to great razor steel. The original CATRAL testing in the UK (pre-CPM steels) showed it to be the best at the time. Strangely enough, unhardened wootz was a superior cutting edge, over the hardened 52100.

    It requires tight temperature controls during forging and heat treatment. Sadly, not all ball bearings, or bearing races for that matter, are 52100. The metals industry used a lot of different steels for those purposes.

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    Razorsmith JoshEarl's Avatar
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    Thanks for straightening me out, Mike. I was thinking mainly of Ed Fowler, who forges his 51200 knives out of 3" ball bearings. But that doesn't mean all ball bearings are 51200, just some of them.

    Out of idle curiosity, is there a commercial source for that stuff in a more user-friendly form? It sounds like a fun challenge for someday, when I have all the rest of this stuff mastered.

    Josh

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    Ed made his claim to fame on ball bearings. I don't know of any commercial sources, mostly because after I got done chewing up the interest in the material, I haven't looked for it again. Plus I'm set up for heavy forging and could easily get inch-plus round bar from several folks who would be glad for me to take it off their hands.

    I'm sure there are some specialty steel outfits that sell the stuff in flat bars or strip stock somewhere. I'd be willing to be they will ask a pretty price for it too. Plus slitting and shipping won't be cheap. Ask for "drops" or cut-offs from someone else's order that they can't get rid of and are too expensive to scrap. You might get a good deal that way.

    Grinding it from flat bar eliminates the possibility that it got screwed up during the initial forging to flat. But then, you have to hope the steel company has it in the thickness you can work from.

    Thermal cycling is Required and is a different routine than simple carbon steels need. It can be done, but it's a steep learning curve.

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    Razorsmith JoshEarl's Avatar
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    Thanks, Mike. Not sure if I'll ever go down that road, but it's good to know it exists.

    Josh

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    Default 52100 source

    Mcmaster.com sells a high grade 52100 in round bar, or your ball bearings. I love these guys....highly recommend them. I get parts for all m commissions there.
    Their shipping is awesome, (in the tri-state area it's next day standard) and a 5/8th inch round 36 inches long is $12.93 not much more than the W1 I use from them like its my job... wait it is my job isn't it?
    Last edited by Twalsh341; 06-04-2008 at 03:53 AM. Reason: update

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    Senior Member mastermute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twalsh341 View Post
    wait it is my job isn't it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Twalsh341 View Post
    Mcmaster.com sells a high grade 52100 in round bar, or your ball bearings. I love these guys....highly recommend them. I get parts for all m commissions there.
    Their shipping is awesome, (in the tri-state area it's next day standard) and a 5/8th inch round 36 inches long is $12.93 not much more than the W1 I use from them like its my job... wait it is my job isn't it?
    McMaster rules for everything! They also sell great diamond pastes.

    They have a wide selection of steels, and info on heat treatments, etc. (see attachment)
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