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Up Topic Welding Industry / Technical Discussions / Welding trailer springs...
- - By DaveSisk (**) Date 04-16-2003 21:01
OK, I'm looking for the right parts to make a somewhat light-duty grapple/clam-shell type deal out of a small basic front-loader bucket. I was looking for something to use as the tines (or fingers, whatever you'd like to call them) that is strong, reasonably lightweight, and has some spring to it. I was hoping to find something suitable at a junkyard that already has some curve to it (to minimize the cutting and welding efforts). Someone gave me a fantastic idea: trailer leaf springs! They fit the bill surprisingly well.

The bucket is presumably mild steel or possibly a slightly higher tensile strength mild steel alloy. What alloy are trailer springs? I could go with TIG or Stick, but I think I'll use stick in this particular case (should go faster with the thicker material, based on my previous experiences). Any suggestions for what stick electrode to use? Any other suggestions?

Parent - By TimGary (****) Date 04-17-2003 11:53
That way you don't have to worry about detrimentally affecting the physical properties of the spring steel and they're a lot easier to change out when you break one.
Parent - - By CHGuilford (****) Date 04-17-2003 13:40
I like Tim's suggestion to use bolts. While there are some electrodes that will join the two metals together, you won't know what the heat will do to the springs. The bucket itself won't be the problem. But if the spring steel will see a lot of stress, I would be concerned they will break; possibly at a high rate of speed and in unpredictable directions.
You could anneal the springs but then I don't think you'll have much of a strength advantage over low carbon steels.
Parent - By jwright650 (*****) Date 04-17-2003 13:57
I too like Tim's suggestion. You'll lose the spring properties when you heat it. It's hard to drill, but I'm sure they make bits to handle it.
John Wright
Parent - By chaikwa (*) Date 04-18-2003 01:49
I welded spring steel back when I was young and stupid, (ok, so now I'm OLD and stupid), and it broke immediately when I put a slight amount of pressure on it. Of course, at that time, I knew nothing about pre and post heating, so that may weigh heavily on the success of such a venture. Unless I heard someone say it could be done successfully though, and they knew the proper process to achieve it, I wouldn't waste my time welding springs. Just MY 2 cents worth.
Parent - - By Ken Dougherty (**) Date 04-19-2003 04:01
One of my recent blacksmithing journals published a list of "junkyard" steels. Leaf springs were listed as 1085 or 5160. Machinery's Handbook was listed as one of the sources of information. Hobart's little welding handbook suggests 7018 as a possible electrode for low, medium and high carbon steel. Some preheating may be helpful.

I have used leaf springs, often of unknown metal, as quickly available metal for tool making. With respect to hardness, I use a magnet to determine if I have gone to/above the critical temperature that affects hardness. Once the metal loses magnetism, it is at that critical temperature and if allowed to cool slowly it will be soft. If reheated to that temperature (a slow "soaking" heat recommended) and quenched immediately, (mineral oil is safest but I have used motor oil as well as transmission fluid outdoors) it will be hardened. Water is used often too but with unknown metals or high carbon metals the quench may be too severe and result in a dangerous condition. Then depending upon how hard I want the metal to be I first sand a spot shiny, reheat it gently and watch the shiny spot turn oxidation colors (i.e. tempering). If you want the metal to be rather hard, as soon as it turns a straw color, quench immediately (water probably ok at this point since you are relieving the hardening stresses). That will result in something about as hard as a hammer face. A cold chisel oxidation color is in the bluish/purple range. Not an exact science but it works. I do most of my heat treating in a forge but a torch will work too. Be careful with unknown metal. Sometimes great stresses are produced and the metal can shatter if not tempered. Also avoid hardening/tempering up to a specific location on the metal (i.e. a nice straight line) as it may crack at that point. As much as possible swish the metal around in the oil or plunge in and out.

Since your project sounds too large to treat the entire length of spring, you may just want to heat treat the end or if just the springiness is important it may be ok as welded.

Hope this made some sense. I'd be interested in other people's thoughts on the issue.
Parent - - By TimGary (****) Date 04-21-2003 18:14

I found your post fascinating as the blacksmithing metods are un-familiar to me. I would like to learn more about them and was wondering if you could recommend a couple of books that might help?
Question - How would hardening the spring steel make it better for this application.
Thanks in advance,
Parent - - By Ken Dougherty (**) Date 04-23-2003 03:09
Hi Tim,
There are many great books available on blacksmithing. The Complete Modern Blacksmith by Alexander G. Weygers is actually three books in one now. It covers tool making and many practical aspects of smithing. It is readily available to order at a bookstore and sometimes you will even see it on the shelf. The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex Bealer may be another book of interest. It is fun because it covers some history as well as technique and Bealer was instrumental in giving modern blacksmithing a kick start. Jack Andrews has published several good books on the artistry of blacksmithing and a recent one on Samuel Yellin, one of the foremost smiths in this country at the beginning of the 20th century. Dona Meilach is not a smith but she has several books that are very well done about the craft, its techniques, art and people. Blacksmithing is a very broad field and there is something in it for about anyone who is interested in the metal trades. The Artist-Blacksmith's Association of North America (ABANA) might be an interesting site for you to visit.

My thought about hardening the steel was in case the application required a more rigid quality or for wear resistance. Maybe no heat treatment would be necessary but it was fun to babble on about it. With respect to the welding, I probably should have mentioned the electrodes should be fresh and the metal well cleaned and dry or you would negate the advantage of the low hydrogen (7018) electode.

If you have trouble finding the above resources let me know and I'll suggest others.
Parent - By TimGary (****) Date 04-23-2003 12:37
Thanks for the info Ken.
I'm looking forward to reading those books!
Parent - - By GRoberts (***) Date 04-23-2003 14:21
A great place to visit to learn a lot about blacksmithing is
Parent - By jwright650 (*****) Date 04-23-2003 14:54
Spring steel is a funny animal because it's hard but flexible enough to give without breaking(to a point). I don't understand all of what goes on with this type of material.
John Wright
Parent - - By stever (**) Date 04-23-2003 14:59
You can check out at these blacksmithing forums. (open forum no moderator) (moderated very closely)

These forums are usually very chatty and any and all are welcomed. Although, you will find arguements that you are NOT a blacksmith if you use a welding machine. Just read past those posts.

It's nice to see fellow blacksmiths in the welding area!

My latest project is a treadle hammer that utilizes a flat spring with bolt eyes ( a piece of solid round stock or pipe drilled lengthwise to bolt diameter) welded to each end. Preheat to 400ยบ F and weld with the E-7018. No PWHT.

This spring is one of two that support a 75 pound hammer head that is foot operated. This will free up the smith's hands to hold the hot materials and other tools.
Parent - - By Ken Dougherty (**) Date 04-24-2003 05:54
I understand even Francis Whittaker had an arc welder! Creating ornamental iron using only "traditional" techniques is fun and challenging but I have never really understood the logic of not using "modern" techniques. Even traditional techniques were modern at one time. I guess the issue is doing ironwork faithfully from some time period. Does not seem useful to lock yourself into such a period though. I had fun making a gate using only forge welding, collaring, slit/slot and drift and mortise and tenon. It was more work but the result was worth it. I will say that sometimes a forge weld is faster than using a modern welder and grinding/blending the weld. Sometimes only modern techniques are possible. It is an endless debate.

I have considered making a treadle hammer. I know they can be quite handy. Getting a single strong blow is often useful. Power hammers are generally unreliable producing a single blow and finding a striker when you need one is like finding a cop when you need one. Are you going to put a safety device/chain on the hammer to limit the depth of the blow? I have heard of smith's tools slipping resulting in the hammer going all the way to the anvil resulting in a crushed finger/hand. Perhaps your design is inherently safe. I'd like to see a drawing/picture sometime.
Parent - - By stever (**) Date 04-24-2003 13:33
When I get it completed I'll post the pictures of the treadle hammer on blacksmith sight. There is a page called the Sketchbook where everyone post their projects and other stuff.

I've never seen the hammer stroke limiter. Good idea. Extended jaw vise grips and tongs keep the fingers out of the way.

I've heard the story about St. Francis, but have never seen a picture of his welding machine. I suppose that if the machine were to be found it would be like telling people that Santa Claus ain't real being as how St. Francis is held up as "THE" blacksmith's blacksmith.

One of the guys that post on the keenjunk sight is a die hard *constant volume forging* promotor. He's got a good reason in that it keeps the true blacksmith art alive. Fact is, because of him, we now call it TRUE PATH blacksmithing. Just to keep things stirred up I'll promote *additional volume forging* or welding.

Understand that I am not trying to turn this forum into blacksmithing. I like this forum the way it is. But I do think the two disciplines have a common denominator.

Come visit. Look for Rutterbush.
Parent - By jwright650 (*****) Date 04-24-2003 14:19
Sounds interesting, I might go over a give a look around. I had seen some blacksmithing sites, and was interested in going back to browse, when I was looking for info on railroad spikes a while back. I love the ornamental aspects of that trade(art/skill). Hinges and hardware that was made, plus all those hand tools,etc...
John Wright
Parent - By Ken Dougherty (**) Date 04-25-2003 04:58
I'll put keenjunk in my favorites and check it out from time to time and am looking forward to seeing your hammer. In retrospect, it is good that some smiths stay with the old ways. We need to keep the techniques alive. The beauty of a well prepared slit and drift just can't be duplicated any other way. I attended several of Francis' workshops in the mid 80's and maintain fond memories and notes/pictures of the occassion. Also saw one of his crosses in the Smithsonian museum when I was in DC. Paley's famous gate is there too. Talk about some heavy metal!
Take care.
Up Topic Welding Industry / Technical Discussions / Welding trailer springs...

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