52100 steel


Active Member
Hey guys
I have got a bunch of 52100 steel. I started working it tonight. Hard is not the word to describe this steel. Having a hard time working it. My idea was heating up to was heating up to 1500 degree. Which a magnate would not attach to eat. Put metal back in forge and cut the forge off to allow cool down slowly. Will this make it easer to work? Or should have I done it a different way. Any comments

Doug Lester

Well-Known Member
I've forged it before and I take it up to yellow and stop hammering when it gets down to orange. Not the easiest steel to heat treat without a regulated high temperature oven because it takes a bit of a soak, 5-10 minutes, at about 1550°-1575°. Remember that temperature is more critical at getting proper carbon solution than time. Two test knives that I made with it came out alright. If marquenched one blade at M50 to try for a 50/50% bainite and martensite structure. It held up well on chopping and edge retention and bent to almost 90° before it snapped. It sticks in my mind that I had to soak it in hot oil at about 450° to complete the conversion. That meant that the oil was near the temperature that it would flash over. Not worth the risk of burning the shed and garage down over.

The other blade that I did I soaked as best that I could watching for decolesence and recolesence for about 5 minutes and then quenched in warm oil. Not sure of the tempering temperature, probably close to what Kevin lists, for two two hour cycles. Great on chopping and edge retention and I had to beat on it with a 4 lb mall to get it to break.

Not really the best steel to use if you don't have a regulated high temperature oven if you expect consistent results.

I am currently up to my elbows in 52100 lab testing and study. I have dozens of samples of various heat treatments mounted for polish and I need to go out to the shop yet today and prep a dozen more on which the mounting should be fully hardened. My first DVD was 1080/1084 and with 52100 I have now picked a steel at the exact end of the spectrum of simpler steels in the complexity of how you should work it. 52100 is even more susceptible to previous treatments than I thought, and what I am now seeing under the microscope explains a lot of the whacky shamanistic type heat treatment rituals that people come up with when not prepared for the nature of this steel.

Larry, I can say this with certainty- do not proceed with your planed method of annealing. This steel is all about carbide behavior, and what you propose, and what so many other makers would naturally do, will trash that steel. Heating to 1500°F, or better, and slow cooling (the slower the cool the worse it is) will not only make it almost impossible to machine, it will make a real mess in the internal makeup. Not only does this steel need to be spheroidized, due to the chromium content it will do so much better than say 1095 would.

Normalize and do nothing to slow the cooling, the quicker the air cool the better. Then follow this up with a soak at 1300°F for about 40-60 minutes and then cut the oven off. You could also try following the normalization with a few cycles in a forge at dull red and fully magnetic.
Last edited:

Doug Lester

Well-Known Member
Ok, Kevin. Call me dense. Tell me I shouldn't stay up past my bedtime but I'm a little confused with "not only does this steel need to be spheroidized, due to the chromium content it will do so much better than say 1095 would." Does that mean that the chromium content dictates that it needs to be spherodized? What will it do so much better than 1095 will?

Hello Doug,

Rather than clutter up the knife steel reference pages with my technobabble, if you would like to do a private message or discuss it in the Heat Treatment forum I would be happy to explain it better.


Well-Known Member
Kevin, you referenced your 1080/1084 dvd, will your next DVD be for 52100? Hope so, I know a lot of folks that have been waiting 7-8 years for a definitive 52100, me included.