Types of Metal and Their Uses

Forging metal is like transforming a blank canvas into a masterpiece, and for blacksmiths, choosing the right type of metal is crucial. Whether you’re crafting a durable knife or creating ornate decorative pieces, selecting the wrong kind of metal can lead to frustration and less-than-desirable results.

But with so many options out there—each with its own properties—it’s easy to get lost in the sea of steels and alloys.

Here’s one thing that might catch your attention: carbon steel is often the go-to choice for many blacksmith projects due to its versatility. However, its carbon content can vary widely—from mild steel with low carbon amounts to high-carbon varieties—which impacts how it behaves under the hammer and fire.

Now imagine an article that not only explains these differences but also guides you through picking the perfect metal for every project on your anvil. That’s exactly what we’ve got lined up! Get ready to heat things up as we forge ahead into the world of metals used in blacksmithing.

Dive in to spark your skills and mold your mastery!

Key Takeaways

  • Blacksmiths use different metals like carbon steel, alloy steel, stainless steel, and precious metals for making tools and art.
  • The type of metal picked for a project depends on things like how tough it needs to be or if it should resist rust.
  • Special heat treating steps make the metals just right for different uses, such as making them hard for cutting or strong for hitting.
  • Blacksmiths need to know about each metal’s special qualities and how to work with them using the right tools.
  • Getting metals can be done from new sources at suppliers or by finding used pieces that can still work well.


Overview of Common Metals in Blacksmithing

Various metal bars and rods on a blacksmithing workbench in industrial setting.

When it comes to blacksmithing, a variety of metals are commonly used. From carbon steel to stainless steel, each type offers its own set of advantages and challenges for the blacksmith.

Understanding the properties and uses of these different metals is crucial for creating quality forged items.


Carbon Steel


Carbon steel shines as a star in the blacksmith shop. It’s got just the right mix of carbon, making it a favorite for shaping all sorts of items. Blacksmiths love this stuff because they can make it hard for cutting tools or keep it tough to resist shock in hammers and axles.

You can’t beat its versatility; whether forging knives or decorative pieces, carbon steel is up to the task. But watch out – if you get too much carbon in there, your steel might just snap.

Moving metals around and giving them shape needs heat treating to get them just right – like baking cookies until they’re perfect. And that’s where alloy steels strut in with their extra elements.


Alloy Steel


Alloy steel is special because it has different elements mixed in. This mix makes the steel stronger, better at fighting rust, and easier to shape. People like to use alloy steel when they need something really tough that lasts a long time.

But this kind of steel costs more money than regular kinds.

Blacksmiths often pick alloy steel for making things like tools or parts that must be very strong. They add stuff like vanadium or molybdenum to make the metal even better for certain jobs.

After talking about alloy steel, let’s explore another important type: stainless steel.


Stainless Steel


Stainless steel is a favorite for its strong resistance to rust and stains. This metal stands up well against weather and wear, making it great for outdoor projects or items that get lots of use.

It also looks shiny and clean, which is perfect for decorative pieces or tools you want to show off.

Working with stainless steel can be tough for new blacksmiths as it’s harder to shape when forging. But once you’ve learned how to handle it, this type of steel offers excellent strength and keeps its good looks over time without rusting quickly.


Scrap Steel


Moving from the shiny allure of stainless steel, we find scrap steel as a treasure for blacksmiths due to its availability and affordability. Blacksmiths can turn this often overlooked material into something valuable.

Scrap steel comes from many places like old car parts, broken tools, and leftover building materials. It’s great for trying out new ideas without spending much money.

Blacksmiths must be careful when picking scrap steel since its quality can differ a lot. Still, it offers plenty of chances to practice skills or make cool things like knives or garden art.

Local shops are good spots to look for steady types of scrap metal that work well in projects. This way, blacksmiths support their community too! Used pieces of metal give new life to what once might have ended up thrown away—making them perfect for creative hands ready to shape and transform.


Wrought Iron


Wrought iron has low carbon content, making it perfect for decorative pieces. It’s more resistant to rust and corrosion than other types of iron and steel. In the past, it was used for tools, weapons, and architecture due to its strength and workability.

When heated at high temperatures, wrought iron develops a unique grain pattern. While not widely manufactured now, it can still be found in older structures or repurposed for blacksmithing projects.


Precious Metals


Precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, iridium, and copper are commonly used in blacksmithing for jewelry making and smelting. Each of these metals has unique properties and is used for different applications in the craft.

For example, gold is prized for its malleability and resistance to corrosion, while platinum is known for its high melting point and ductility. Understanding these properties is crucial for blacksmiths working with precious metals as it impacts how they handle and work with each metal type.

The right equipment also plays a vital role when dealing with precious metals. Blacksmiths must have access to individual crucibles for each type of metal as well as the appropriate furnace that meets the diverse heating requirements of different precious metals.

Local blacksmiths can provide valuable insight into where they acquire their precious metals because sourcing trustworthy materials directly impacts the quality of work produced by blacksmiths.

Specific Types of Steel and Their Uses

A blacksmith crafts a blade in a traditional workshop.

There are various types of steel commonly used in blacksmithing, each with its unique properties and applications. From 1080 and 15n20 for blade making to 4140 and 4340 for tool manufacturing, understanding the specific types of steel is crucial for successful blacksmithing projects.



1080 high carbon steel is frequently used in blacksmithing due to its excellent wear resistance and toughness. It is often preferred for making knives, chisels, and punches due to these desirable properties.


When heat treating 1080 steel, it involves heating the metal to around 1500°F, just above its critical temperature, followed by quenching it in oil. This process helps achieve the desired hardness and strength necessary for various blacksmithing applications.

Understanding the specific properties and treatment processes of 1080 steel can greatly benefit blacksmiths looking to create durable and high-quality tools or decorative pieces. Incorporating this knowledge into the crafting process can lead to exceptional results, particularly when working with hot-working tool steel for bladesmithing or other intricate projects involving heat treatment techniques.




Moving on from 1080 steel, another essential metal in blacksmithing is 15N20. This steel is widely used in crafting Damascus steel, renowned for its striking patterns and high contrast.

With a carbon content of 0.75% and 2% nickel15N20 steel exhibits exceptional toughness and the ability to create vivid contrasts when etched – making it particularly popular among blacksmiths and bladesmiths for manufacturing visually stunning knives, swords, and ornamental metalwork.

The nickel content plays a crucial role in producing bright contrasts during the etching process, contributing to the appeal of this steel type for creating intricate patterns in blades and other metal items.



4140 steel is widely used in blacksmithing for creating tools such as axes, power hammer dies, punches, drifts, hammers, top tools, and bottom tools. It offers improved edge retention compared to 4340 steel due to its lower nickel content.


This specific type of alloy steel is well-suited for various equipment applications in blacksmithing owing to its strength and durability. With a composition containing chromium and molybdenum, 4140 steel provides enhanced properties crucial for blacksmithing activities.

Furthermore, it presents distinct advantages in terms of hardness and toughness when compared to stainless steel and other types of carbon steel commonly used by blacksmiths. The inclusion of chromium and molybdenum contributes significantly to the superior qualities that make 4140 an asset in the field of blacksmithing.

Understanding the features of different types of metals enables better decision-making when selecting materials for varied blacksmithing needs. Moving forward with this knowledge helps ensure successful outcomes in metalworking projects.




4340 steel is a high-strength alloy known for its toughness and exceptional tensile strength. It finds use in aerospace, automotive, and oil & gas industries due to its great strength and flexibility.

This type of steel can be heat-treated to achieve different levels of hardness and strength, making it versatile for various applications. Comprising elements like chromium, molybdenum, and nickel, 4340 steel offers good fatigue resistance and impact toughness.

Its excellent performance makes it ideal for heavy-duty environments where high strength and wear resistance are crucial.




1045 steel is well-known for its moderate strength, toughness, and wear resistance. This type of steel is commonly used in blacksmithing to create hammers, tongs, chisels, and punches due to its excellent weldability and formability.

Additionally, 1045 steel is frequently chosen by blacksmiths for making blades and knives because of its ability to maintain a sharp edge and resist wear. It can also be heat treated to achieve the desired hardness and strength for specific projects.

Furthermore, this versatile material can be readily forged and shaped, making it suitable for a wide range of blacksmithing applications.




Moving on from discussing the specific type of steel known as 1045, we delve into another essential metal for blacksmithing: H-13 steel. H-13 is a hot working tool steel that finds its primary application in high-temperature conditions within the realm of blacksmithing.

This particular type of steel serves as an ideal material for crafting tools such as punches, drifts, power hammer dies, and hot cutters due to its exceptional durability and resistance to deformation under extensive use.

Moreover, H-13 steel stands out for maintaining its shape and strength even when exposed to extreme heat – a crucial feature for various projects requiring high heat resistance and toughness.

Tools to Use with Different Metals

A blacksmith using traditional tools to shape wrought iron in a workshop.

When working with different metals in blacksmithing, it’s important to use the right tools. Here are some tools suited for specific metals:


  1. For Carbon Steel: Use a hardy or hot chisel for shaping and cutting, and a punch for creating holes.
  2. For Alloy Steel: Employ high-speed steel cutting tools due to alloy steel’s hardness, and ensure proper cooling during cutting.
  3. For Stainless Steel: Utilize carbide-tipped tools or ceramic cutting inserts to withstand stainless steel’s toughness.
  4. For Wrought Iron: Select traditional blacksmithing tools like hammers, tongs, and swage blocks that suit wrought iron’s malleability.
  5. For Precious Metals: Employ specialized jewelry-making tools like jeweler’s saws, files, and torches designed for melting precious metals at precise temperatures.
  6. When Sourcing Metals: Consider using recycling centers for scrap steel and established suppliers for new or specialty materials.


Where to Source Metals for Blacksmithing

A cluttered workshop with a pile of rusty scrap metal.

When it comes to sourcing metals for blacksmithing, there are two primary options: new or fresh steel and used or “found” steel. Each option has its own benefits and considerations, depending on the specific needs of the blacksmith.


New or Fresh Steel


New or fresh steel is crucial in blacksmithing, offering superior quality and consistency for various projects. Sourcing this type of steel from reputable suppliers is essential to ensure success in blacksmithing endeavors.

By utilizing new or fresh steelbetter control over the material’s properties and performance during forging can be achieved, leading to high-quality outcomes for decorative blacksmithing or tool-making projects.

Utilizing new or fresh steel provides greater flexibility and reliability due to its consistent composition and structural integrity. This results in improved workability and machinability, making it an ideal choice for intricate designs such as blades or ornamental pieces.


Used or “Found” Steel


When searching for metals for blacksmithing, used or “found” steel can be a practical and sustainable option. This type of steel is often obtained from scrap yards, old machinery, or discarded items like springs or automotive parts.

While the quality of found steel may vary widely, it offers an environmentally friendly way to repurpose materials and reduce waste. Local blacksmiths can provide valuable insights into where to find usable scrap steel and how to assess its quality, making it essential to build relationships within the local community.

Utilizing used or “found” steel requires careful inspection and testing due to potential variations in composition and quality. It’s recommended to source such materials locally for more consistent pieces while also ensuring that they are free from hazardous substances through proper cleaning and preparation if required.


In conclusion, understanding the diverse types of metals and their specific uses in blacksmithing is crucial for creating quality forged items. From carbon steel to precious metals, each type brings unique properties and challenges.

By acquiring knowledge of different metal compositions and forging techniques, blacksmiths can expand their skills and produce exceptional works with confidence. Experimenting with various metals is essential for honing one’s craft, as it leads to discovering the best materials suited for different projects.

Ultimately, mastering the use of different metals empowers blacksmiths to create durable and impressive pieces that showcase their expertise in this time-honored craft.


1. What is high-carbon steel used for in blacksmithing?

High-carbon steel is great for making strong tools like saw blades and knives because it can be very hard after heat treatment.

2. Can you tell me about alloyed metals in blacksmithing?

Alloyed metals, like nickel alloy steel and chrome steel, mix different elements to make stronger or more flexible metals. Blacksmiths use them for special items that need to last a long time.

3. Why do blacksmiths use stainless steels?

Stainless steels are used because they don’t rust easily. This makes them perfect for things that touch water or get left outside, like outdoor decorations or parts of buildings.

4. What’s the difference between tool steels and structural steel?

Tool steels are made to create tough tools that cut or shape other materials, while structural steel is usually found in big building supports since it’s strong but less expensive than some other options.

5. How do knife makers choose their metal?

Knife makers look at carbon content and how the metal acts when heated—high-carbon steels can be really sharp when finished right.

6. What does forge welding mean in blacksmithing?

Forge welding means heating two pieces of metal super hot then hitting them together until they stick into one piece; this way, you can make complex shapes or combine different kinds of metals.