more help with choosing steel


Gold Member
Mar 7, 2000
Hello all. Okay, so here is my dilemma. I am in the preliminary stages of designing a machete-type tool. Actually it might be better described as a short scimitar type sword (but something that can be used as a bushwhacking/camp blade). I want it to be reasonably lightweight, but also quite strong with good edge holding properties.

I was planning on going with my stand-by of 5160, but thought that I'd better look into my options.

I'd like to stay below 1/4" thickness (for less weight) if possible. I believe Jerry Hossom makes some swords out of 3/16" ATS-34; is this really a good, strong choice? It only needs to be somewhat corrosion-resistant, as I live in the desert and always keep my blades coated/protected.

What would you all suggest?
I would go with the 5160. The bigger question is the heat treat of the blade. The avantage of using 5160 is that it can have a thinner cross section than the ATS-34. The thinner cross section will give you better chopping perfomance. If I made a long blade out of ATS-34 I would grind it so that it had a thick cross section so that it would stand up to the impact of chopping.

Ray Murski
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My choice for a bushwacker would also be 5160. Its a great chopper and edge holder. It comes in 1/4' x 2" and can be forged or ground for a long distal taper from the hilt to the tip. Very forgiving on heat-treating the edge and leave the back as is. Bruce B
Thanks folks! Do you think for a piece this big (~18" blade), that going any thinner than 1/4" thickness is a mistake? If the area above the grind line is fairly large (along the spine), would 3/16" be strong enough? Or do you think I should stay with 1/4"?

[This message has been edited by Kumdo (edited 05-07-2001).]
Kumdo,I've got an old WWII bolo here,its got to be at least 1/4" thick.It is the most ungainly club you could imagine.I would not want to be doing any chopping with it.If I were going to make a stock removal blade for chopping,it would'nt be any more than 1/8"stock.Take a look at all the commercial machetes,they are less than 1/8"usually,there's a reason for this.People that use these things for a living dont want heavy blades,they are miserable to use for any length of time.If you are going to forge the blade,a good distal taper from 3/16" would probably be ok.Just .02 from a person who has swung a lot of machetes.