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Carbon Steel Question: 5160 vs. 1060

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by flatgrinder, Jan 29, 2008.

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  1. flatgrinder


    Dec 20, 2005
    The composition of 5160 and 1060 is quite similar, but why is the performance so different?

    5160 holds an edge longer and gets sharper in my experience, why is this? Could the slight amount of chromium make a difference? :confused:

    Anyone who's tried both steels, I'd like to have your opinions on this topic. Thanks!
  2. Dave Bowen

    Dave Bowen

    Feb 12, 2007
    Carbon 0.56 - 0.64
    Chromium 0.7 - 0.9
    Manganese 0.75 - 1
    Phosphorus 0.035 max
    Silicon 0.15 - 0.35
    Sulphur 0.04 max

    Carbon 0.55 - 0.65
    Manganese 0.6 - 0.9
    Phosphorus 0.04 max
    Sulphur 0.05 max

    1060 is a simple carbon steel, and 5160 is considered an alloy steel. The inclusion of Chromium and silicone make them act very differently. Chromium adds to rust resistance, and makes the steel harder. I think silicone adds to toughness, but I'm not positive without looking it up.

    1060 can be quenched in water, and 5160 can't.
  3. Sam Salvati

    Sam Salvati

    Aug 6, 2007
    5160 is deep hardenign where 1060 is (I think) shallow hardening.
  4. Daniel Koster

    Daniel Koster www.kosterknives.com Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 18, 2001
    Not true. ;)

    I have quenched many 5160 knives in water with zero failures.

    Kukris made in Nepal are made from 5160 and are water quenched.
  5. Dave Bowen

    Dave Bowen

    Feb 12, 2007
    I stand corrected. :eek:
    However, every 5160 blade I have quenched in water has cracked. Are you talking about brine, or straight water?

    I use regular water to quench 1050 and 1060, so I have never tried it with brine.

    I use oil for my 5160 blades.
  6. Jeff Clark

    Jeff Clark

    Apr 27, 1999
    The Kukris are only edge-quenched with water. They use a teapot and pour water along the edge. The edge gets quite hard and the body of the blade is quite soft.
  7. Kevin R. Cashen

    Kevin R. Cashen

    Sep 9, 2003
    5160 was made with oil quenching in mind, 1060 is designated as a water hardening steel, but in thickness' such as blades can be done in fast oils. As mentioned, that chromium makes the biggest difference, and silicon does indeed add toughness. Which property rises to the top in either steel will be highly dependent on the heat treatment.
  8. WalterDavis


    Nov 23, 2005
    I'm still pretty new at this, could someone explain this in a little more detail for me. I picked up some 5160 for use this summer and would really like to know how I would adjust the heat treatment for different properties, or is it just a matter of adjusting the tempering temperature?


  9. SteelSlaver


    Feb 17, 2007
    That little bit of chrome has a serious effect. Think of this the difference between mild steel and hardenable steel is that tiny bit of carbon, incidentally, about the same percentage as the chrome added to the 1060 that makes it 5160. Same amount of change would happen if you added a tiny bit of tungsten. It doesn't take much sometimes. Just 3% or so nickel and now you can make a sharp blade steel that can be used in a bandsaw
  10. Daniel Koster

    Daniel Koster www.kosterknives.com Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 18, 2001
    The ones I have done were straight water. Perhaps I lucked out? ~20 times in a row? *shrug*

    And, like Kevin said, thickness makes a huge difference.

    Lest anybody get any funny ideas...I do 99% of my quenching in oil - usually Brownells ToughQuench....sometimes transmission fluid. I would much rather use oil.

    Just was responding to the "can't" part of your statement. :p

    Jeff has it right about the kukris - teapot with hot water...it's done that way so the bladesmith can watch the colors change during heat-treat. If they had a way (impossible) to edge quench reliably, I'm sure they'd use it.
  11. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    As to 5160 and 1060 being very "similar", remember, men and women are genetically nearly identical. That little extra piece of DNA that make a Y chromosome into an X chromosome makes a HUGE difference, though. Same with a little chromium.
  12. Daniel Koster

    Daniel Koster www.kosterknives.com Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 18, 2001
    Dang....I'm gonna use that next time I'm at a hammer-in.

    "You see, guys.....chromium is.....well, it's like sex"

    :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:

    just yankin' ur chain, Stacy!! :foot:

  13. T Blade

    T Blade

    Aug 25, 2003

    No wonder I like forging 5160 so much :D
  14. SteelSlaver


    Feb 17, 2007
    and all thoughts of actual metallurgy flys from their brains to be replaced by............................................................,,,,,,,,,,,..............................................................owwwwww thats hot!
  15. Don Hanson III

    Don Hanson III KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 3, 2002
    The difference between men and women is much greater than the difference between 5160 and 1060 :D But a good comparison.

    With carbon as low as .60, a little alloy is needed to boost performance. I prefer more carbon to get the job done but these are pretty good knife steels. 1065 is noticeably a better performer than 1060.
  16. sunshadow


    Oct 2, 2006
    I believe that brine actually is a more aggressive quench than straight water due to the the boiling temp being raised by the sodium and chlorine ions, kinda like antifreeze, multiple ions raise boiling point so it can absorb more heat before phase change,I'm thinking there may also be a nucleation effect of salt dust when it does vaporize helping to make smaller steam bubbles, but I do not have the science background to be able to take that (nucleation that is) beyond theory


  17. Dan Pierson

    Dan Pierson KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Nov 24, 2003
    According to Tool Steel Simplified, as modified by my memory :rolleyes::

    Brine would theoretically be a slower quench than plain water but the nucleation is much less which leads to:

    • Faster quenching because more steel is actually in contact with water during the early phases, and
    • Lower stress quenching because there aren't large bubbles that cause some of the steel to cool much slower than adjacent parts of the steel (can you say ping?).
  18. john0270


    Feb 9, 2008
    Antifreeze raises the boiling point, but at higher concentration's has a negative effect on heat transfer. I keep meaning to do some experimentation on pure antifreeze as a quench liquid. So if 5160 isn't cracking in water, what steel's can absolutely not be quenched in water? I have some 1" mistery round(rod weeder rod) that I forged down to 1/4" and it just cracks all to heck in water.
  19. AcridSaint


    Jun 23, 2006
    I was just about to post about the vapor jacket situation.

    For what it's worth, 1060 is not a shallow hardening steel, the higher maganese content determines this in 10xx series steels.

    I would be interested to see if there is any micro-cracking in 5160 blades quenched in water. Not saying there will be, I've never thought of using water with 5160 before.
  20. mete

    mete Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 10, 2003
    Brine - the salt is there to break up the vapour barrier which it does fairly violently.That in turn makes for a faster quench.
    Metallurgy recently has become micro-alloying. Standard alloys can be changed significantly by adding a pinch of this and a pinch of that !!
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