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Flint striker steel, O1, W1, or 1095?

Discussion in 'Hammer & Tongs' started by Will52100, Aug 26, 2017.

  1. Will52100


    Dec 4, 2001
    I've been making them from old files, but they are getting hard to find down here and I'm not forging my good files until they are worn out.

    I've seen a lot of people talk about using W1, 1095, and O1.

    I'm looking at buying new steel and was wondering what the better steel would be? I have a little O1 on hand, so that'll be an easy test to do, but of the two, W1 and 1095, which would be the better sparker?

  2. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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

    Aug 20, 2004
    W1, W2, 1095
  3. Will52100


    Dec 4, 2001
    So little to no difference?
  4. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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

    Aug 20, 2004
    All get vey hard, all have about 1% carbon, all have little other alloying.
  5. Will52100


    Dec 4, 2001
  6. Will52100


    Dec 4, 2001
    Well, I got some W1, and other than a crack it seems to do as well or better than O1, though it's hard to tell for sure.
  7. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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

    Aug 20, 2004
    If the steel is cracking, it is too hard. Temer it down a bit.

    The steel needs to cut off tiny pieces when it is struck against the flint. It is the burning piece of steel that makes the spark and starts a fire ... not the stone fragments.

    The steel needs to be hardened, but softer than the stone. Start with a temper around Rc 60 and test the steel. Re-temper at 25F higher and test again, continue until the steel shaves bright showers of sparks.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2017
  8. Will52100


    Dec 4, 2001
    I'll give it a try. Normally though, I leave un tempered, only edge quenched, the softer the steel, the less sparks. I'm using flint and it's a good bit harder than the steel.
  9. mete

    mete Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 10, 2003
    Please always temper after quench even if it's only at 350 F. Stainless steel also will spark if it's a high carbon type.
  10. Will52100


    Dec 4, 2001
    Actually, from what I've been able to find out, most flint strikers are not tempered. I do draw the handle section and heat the whole thing to around 200 to melt bee's wax on it for corrosion protection, and for a stress relief, but not an actual temper. The downside of strikers is that the harder and more brittle they are, the better the sparks. That's one reason you'll see a few broken ones at a fire dealer. Of course, from what I've seen, a lot of the early strikers were wrought iron with a high carbon shoe on it.
  11. Rick Marchand

    Rick Marchand Donkey on the Edge Moderator

    Jan 6, 2005
    I too, noticed that most strikers were not tempered... then, I realized they had no idea what the hell they were doing and why they didn't temper.

    Temper your strikers. I did an experiment a long while back and "sparkability" starts to drop off around 54HRC. A temper cycle at 375F will toughen your striker without affecting its performance. Just about any plain carbon steel works. I have never seen a stainless alloy work no matter what carbon content. Screaming hard, over heated, water quenched strikers do throw amazing sparks... they also make a cool sound as they shatter into pieces at the most impromptu time.
    GABaus likes this.
  12. Will52100


    Dec 4, 2001
    Thanks, I will give it a try on a bar of W1. What I normally do is just harden the first 1/8" of the striker's face. The test striker I did out of W1 had a crack in it from flinging it to the concrete shop floor a couple of times, but it's still in one piece.
  13. Kentucky

    Kentucky KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Basic Member

    Dec 13, 2008
    We make and sell hundreds of strikers per year. W1, full hardened in parks50. No temper. Dead hard. Normalized and properly austinized they will not break. In fact I'd say in the last ten years we have sold around 3000 or better and I can tell you exactly the number of strikers that's been reported broken during use. That was Two... I can drop one on the anvil face from five feet up and it will just bounce. Now on some of the more intricate designs we will draw a temper on the thin curls. Normalizing is the biggest key I think. Back when I was just a blacksmith and didn't know a thing about heat treating knives Mike Ameling(well known in blacksmith circles for smithing firesteels and a lot of meticulous research on the subject of historical firesteels) told me how to normalize strikes to keep them from being to brittle after hardening. Normalize and don't overheat.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2017
    Will52100 likes this.
  14. Will52100


    Dec 4, 2001
    Good info. I finally got around to testing some more W1 strikers. Seems this bar of W1 like Parks 50. Every time quenched in water I'd get hair line cracks in the edge even though I was just edge quenching. Not an issue as the back and curls were never hardened, but it bugged me. Tried Parks and no more cracks. Not sure why I didn't have that issue with the files, but this bar does not like water quenching. I'll agree whole heartedly with normalizing as well, along with a couple of sub critical heats for good measure. Just like knives, just took some time and destroying a few to figure it out.
    Kentucky likes this.

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