? for Ken Scharabok and any other blacksmiths.

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by r.h. in okla., Aug 23, 2004.

  1. Recently I ran onto a picture of homemade small game arrowheads that were made out of Nails. No description other than what one's mind could imagine of how they may have been pounded down with a good size hammer and sharpened. So my question is can these be hardened with heat or will they melt easily? I pounded a nail down yesterday and shaped it into a somewhat of a ideal of an early cave man type arrowhead. Might look somewhat like what the very first arrowhead that was invented might have looked like! :rolleyes: After getting it somewhat flattened enough to sharpen it was very flimsy. Also it took a lot of pounding with a 16 oz. hammer. I thought a good ideal maybe is to start flattening them and then drive 25 miles to town and lay them on the railroad track and let the train do the rest of the flattening. (Hopefully it wont derail the choo choo) Any pointers from the blacksmith?
  2. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    Apr 30, 2002
    North Alabama
    Im no blacksmith but as a teenager my grand father showed me how to pound a horsehoe nail into a small game arrow head. We heated them, pounded them on his anvil and dipped them.

  3. BrushBuster

    BrushBuster Well-Known Member

    Mar 30, 2004
    i would think that a regular nail wouldn't be so good because i think they're low carbon and won't temper very well. but a cut nail or any type with a high carbon content should do very good but would have to be heated in order to shape it, then re-tempered.
  4. henk

    henk Well-Known Member

    Jun 20, 2003
    The Netherlands, EU
    Yeah thats roughly the cycle ... you could/should at a reheating step after the tempering to make the material a bit softer/less brittle.

    I would not use high carbon iron/steel since it has to be heated over 1400F/800C to get a workeble material. Maybe you could get some scrap iron from a local blacksmith to experiment. Dont know many other sources of (soft) iron, maybe horseshoes ect. Next is heating it to high temperature and forming it, or heating and cooling it, shaping it and reheating it to high temp. Tempering is done by cooling from high temp to lowtemp. probebly best to use an oil for this or a large vessle of water (be carefull). After this reheat it to about 400F/200C for a few hours (upto 24h) so that the material doesnt break that easely.

    btw i am by no means an expert but had some education in material science years back ;) also making high grade weapons from iron is an art/science dont expect succes at the first try.

    good luck,

  5. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

    May 11, 2002
    Your common round nail today is made out of mild steel. At one time almost every rolling mill had a nail mail. Usually first run and reject steel were sent there to be processed into nail. Mild steel usually has less than .02% carbon in it, such as 1018 mild steel, with the 18 representing .018 carbon. In order to harden properly steel really needs between about .025 and .035 carbon. Above that there is so much carbon the steel becomes brittle, such as a file. (This is a lot more complicated than I made it sound.)

    If heat low carbon steel and quench it in water you will get a tad of additional harden to it, but not much. A guy who works for the Sandis National Laboratory, Robb Gunter, became intrigued with steel hardening and developed a soap-based formula which actually does seem to harden mild steel - and not just a case (surface) hardening only. I have actually seen him do the mild steel chisel demonstration at a blacksmithing conference.


    For mild and low carbon steels

    Robb Gunter demonstrated this stuff at an ABANA conference. He made a chisel from a bar of ½” square, 1018 bar stock (mild steel). He then cut the “chisel” off of the parent stock heated to light cherry red, rapidly quenched it (e.g., swished it around in the bucket) and then sharpened the chisel and cut up the bar it was made from with it! The mild steel chisel even held its edge! This soap quench makes it very easy to use mild steel for short run tools. Saves you shop time and money!


    - 5 Gal water
    - 5 Lbs table salt
    - 8 oz Shaklee Basic-I (a wetting agent) (www.shaklee.net for dealer listing or white pages or you can order direct from www.shaklee.com)
    - 32-oz of the “Original” Dawn dishwashing liquid (the blue stuff) – or – 24 oz of “Ultra” Dawn dishwashing liquid

    Mix Well

    Quench at 1550F (light cherry red)

    Expect 43 to 45 Rockwell C on 1018 mild steel

    Can be used over and over again. Turns a green color when spent.

    (Source: NRBA Fall 2003 Resource Guide)

    (Supplemental note: Don’t allow quench water to become warm from quenching. If doing more than one tool, allow it to cool back down to at least room temperature before next use. It wouldn’t hurt to put it outside during cold weather. Also note the comment on short run tools. Don’t expect them to perform like tool steel.)


    Note this is not the tempering process. For that steel is brought up to what is known as the critical temperature, the point at which a magnet will no longer stick to it. The portion of the stock to be tempered is then quench to about room temperature, given a bit of a shine (such as filing off some scale) and then the heat which remained behind the quenched area allowed to run back into it. A color band will appear as the area is reheated. Each color represents a certain degree of hardness and what is required for cutting edges is usually between blue and straw. When that color reaches the outer edge, the tool is then completely quenched, locking in that degree of hardness.

    There have been a number of quenching solutions used over time. Some preferred urine (salt quench), blood (remember quenching the harpoon tip in Moby Dick - salt again), sea water, a fat slave (salt again) or various oils.

    As noted above, cut nails (because they are a harder steel - more carbon - than regular nails) would be better stock to begin with.

    You can buy blacksmithing crosspein hammers on eBay. For spelling check: crosspein, crosspeen, cross pein, cross peen. I would recommend one with a 40 oz (2 1/2 lb) head. Using the proper weight hammer greatly facilitates your work. Forging hammers also generally come in 2 lb and 3 lb. For most people 2 lbs is too light and 3 lbs is too heavy. 2 1/2 is a nice compromise since if you use your shoulder you can make it act like a 3 lb and if you just use your wrist you can make it act like a 2 lb. The cross peen serves to fuller metal sideways usually.

    Interesting metal arrowheads were among the first trade goods produced for the Native American Indian trade. However, they didn't go over well and they continued to use their stone arrowheads for a long time. Primary reason for this usually given is the metal ones didn't have the kill rate of stone ones (which usually left a fatal wound). Also, arrowheads were lost on a regular basis. They could replace the stone ones themselves, but had to depend on the white men for replacement metal ones.

    There is not one particular book on blacksmithing I would highly recommend for a beginner. Two often cited though are The Edge of the Anvil and The Art of Blacksmithing by Jack Andrews.

    While many think of blacksmithing as a dying or dead art, there is still a fairly strong interest in it today. There are about 50 blacksmithing-related groups in the U.S. alone. Many hold regular meetings, usually with a demonstration, and some hold regional conferences. For example, the Quad-State Blacksmithing Conference to be held at the Miami County Fairgrounds in Troy, OH the last full weekend in September is expect to have a total attendance of over 1,000 with six demonstrators and about 2-3 acres of tailgate tool sales. On September 11-12 the Alabama Forge Council will hold a conference at the Tannehill State Park near Birmingham. In mid-May the nine Southeastern groups hold a large conference in Madison, GA (to the east of Atlanta). I know the CA group also puts on a large annual conference. To find blacksmithing groups near you go to www.abana.org and on their home page look for the link to affiliated groups and chapters.

    For tools, at any one time there are about 1,000 listings on eBay. There is a category for Collectibles/Tools, Hardware & Locks/Tools/Blacksmithing, or do a search on blacksmith* in all categories. I have a small, part-time, business making and selling shop-made or modified blacksmithing-related tools on eBay through my store there: Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools.

    Ken Scharabok
  6. kyguy

    kyguy New Member

    Jul 27, 2004
    Northern Kentucky
    Ken has given you much good information. There is not much that I can add except to encourage you to continue your pursuit of metalworking. I started out using any scrap that I could find. For those of us on a budget, there is a book out there called "WAYNE GODDARD'S $50 KNIFE SHOP". It is a real good read, and you can use many of the ideas for general blacksmithing too. The Quad-State Blacksmithing Conference that Ken spoke of is a great event. If you can make it , go!

  7. Thanks everyone for your replies. I had thought about using either horseshoe nails or concrete nails but am not sure if I need to heat them and take the temper out of them first before pounding or just pound on them as they are. Also the nail I did use was a #16D nail and was quit long when I finished and I really don't need one that long. So maybe if I cut about half of it off and resharpen it shouldn't be quit so flimsy. Well maybe next Sunday I'll have a chance to play around again and see what will work and not work.
  8. you may also want to look into truss nails or hanger nails meant to hold the sheetmetal hangers for joists they are harder than a standard nail yet not as hard as the concrete nail kind of short but real large diameter seems like it may be ideal for your use. I seem to remember reading somewhere traditional quenches for tempering were fine sand water and oil
  9. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

    May 11, 2002
    If you are cold forging the nail you are not going to change the hardness of it to any degree. I don't know how hard horseshoe nails are, but I don't think much more than a common nail. Shape would be nice tough as they have a fairly large head for the shank size.

    Generally ashes and fine sand were used for annealing, rather than quenching. Annealing is to bring the metal up to critical temperature and then slowly cooling it, trying to keep it unhardened. For example, one thing I do is to take handled hot cuts (wedge-shaped with a handle), cut off the point to make into a hardy and then use the remainder of the head as a base for a flatter. To cut off the end I first heat it to critical temperature in the propane forge (without handle of course) and then leave it inside the forge (shut off) to cool down with the forge itself. This softens the metal and makes it far easier to cut on the bandsaw. Then I reharden the point to again become hard. Thus, I annealed, made the tool, then rehardened.

    Just try different nails until you find something you can work with. Sound like what you are making are bird points.

    Ken Scharabok
  10. Yep, bird/squirrel/rabbit points. I'm not much for blunt points for squirrel hunting. Some of the squirrels we have around here are tough little fellers so I'd rather use something sharp on them. Heck, to be truthful with you, I shouldn't really be to concerned about the sharpness. 99 percent of the time I miss when I shoot at the little critters anyway! :rolleyes: However if I can shoot cheap arrow/broadheads and miss, it will be better than shooting expensive arrow/broadheads that run from $5 to $10 only to see them flying off in the distant forrest never to be seen again.

    What I'm trying to do is have fun doing a lot of shooting at small game animals and not worry about the price.