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blacksmith, forging, lubricant, punch, drift, dies, Forge Ease 3512, lubricant

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Blacksmith Punch Lube Comparison

Informal Test Report

Introduction - Alkaline salt lube for Forging

By Jeff Reinhardt AKA Ptree - August 2007 September 2009 anvilfire guru's den

The alkaline salt lubes represent millions in R & D. Then there were the trials in industry. At the shops I worked at, we spent more on lube than one can ever imagine. We were using 7 totes of 350 gallons of concentrate a week at the last big forge I worked at. Now that was expensive! That shop had been a graphite shop prior. Everything was black/grey from the graphite smoke, including the people, inside and out. The graphite needs a binder to stick to the tools, and most of the binders create smoke. We changed to the polymer binder alkaline salt lubes at TWICE the cost per pound, and saved huge amounts of money. The alkaline salt lube made the tooling last much much longer, and allowed the metal to flow with much less force, saving wear and tear on the machines.

Cost of the lube is actually tiny in a blacksmith shop. I have the same quart, that has been in use in my admittedly weekend shop for 5 years. I do have to add replacement water as it evaporates, and I did spill a smaller dip pot I had by the vise. I have a stack to remove coal smoke on my shop, and on my demo trailer as I don't want to breathe that stuff, and I will not breathe graphite smoke either!

Last but not least, the graphite and soap combo's stick but flake off leaving no lube. The alkaline salts stick like no other forge lube I have seen. Tom Clark was a graphite and soap user until I gave him a small sample in 2002. He tried it, and never went back. The late Rich Waugh (Vicopper) tried it, and went to the trouble to arrange for delivery at Quad State, and then ship it home in the Virgin Islands on his own. Most of the folks that say this stuff is expensive or not needed and so forth have never tried it. Most of them will spend $100 for a special hammer, but not less than $30 for what is really a life time supply of excellent safe lube.

08/18/2007

Testing:

I did a somewhat scientific comparison of forge lubricants. After the controversy over using table salt I did some basic safety research as noted previously, and gave some thought on how to compare the relative merits of several lube's. What I really wanted to do was to use a slide hammer arrangement, so as to remove the variability of how hard the hammer blows would be. Not having a slide hammer big enough to do any real work, I settled for the following test set up;

One bar of 3/8" x 3/4" A-36 steel for punch testing. 1/8" handled punch, struck by a 2.5# hammer. Three blows, with lubricant after the first and second blow.

Bar heated in a gas forge to ensure even heating. Brushed with a heavy brush to remove scale just before the punching. Supported by 125 lb. Trenton anvil, well mounted. All three blows from MY standard head high lift, but swung in a mostly gravity mode. (three blows to try to even out any variation if energy).


HAND PUNCH TEST RESULTS
Lubricant
Depth of
Penetration
Sticking
Comment
None .120" (3.05 mm) Slight Normal sticking can be severe
Beeswax .125" (3.18 mm) No Thins quickly, Burns off
Coal Dust .125" (3.18 mm) No Smoke and flames
Moly Paste in Oil (MoS2) .250" (6.35 mm) No Flaming oil, Dirty
Table Salt (NaCl) .020" (0.51 mm) No Noxious fumes, Sodium flare
Alkaline Salt .200" (5.08 mm No Commercial lube

Notes, the bare punch stuck but did not mushroom, one tap of the hammer and the bar came off. With the exception of the alkaline salt punch lube, all the other lubes gave off flames, smoke or vapors. The table salt gave off acrid vapors that were instantly was noticeable, even with heavy ventilation. The salt left on the bar gave off a heavy yellow/orange flare when inserted into the forge, causing my departure from the area.

From both a safety standpoint, and a usefulness standpoint, I can not reccommend common table salt as a forge lubricant.

Then I tried a plain, moly paste and Seal release 920 on a touch mark. This touch mark is about 1/2" square, with the logo cut into the end of the mark. These require both penetration and back extrusion of the steel to fill the impression. One blow, in a 1/4" thick bar, again heated in the gas forge. Again a 2.5# hammer, one blow. I did not continue with the table salt as the lubricity was simply not worth pursuing.


TOUCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Lubricant
Depth of
Penetration
Fill
None .030" (0.76 mm) Good
Moly Paste in Oil (MoS2) .040" (1.02 mm) Fair
Moly Paste in Water (MoS2) Untested N/A
Alkaline salt punch lube .030" (0.76 mm) Best

From the above (and left), I can say that if punch sticking is the reason to lubricate, all of the lubes tested worked. If best penetration of the punch is desired, a modern lube with the alkaline salt or a moly disulfide paste would be indicated. A water based moly, that sticks to the tool would be better than the moly in oil that I tried but I did not have anything like that on hand. 

If I had bothered to mix up the SealRelease 920 to exact specification, I may have had better penetration as well. The batch I used is the one I mixed several years ago, from a similar Henkel product. The SealRelease 920 was enhanced for the method we use as blacksmiths IE dipping instead of spraying, and had more solids and I have just added water from time to time.

08/26/07 anvilfire guru's den

The industrial lubes tend to be designed for spray application, as in closed die, it is hard to evenly swab the upper die. Especially in a tupping steam hammer! These spray lubes are principally water in content to perform the vital cooling needed when a die is used every 5 to 20 seconds 3 shifts a day. Without the constant cooling the dies overheat and fail. The best forge lube I have been associated with was sprayed into/onto the dies between every stroke, on a system striking every 6 seconds. The lube content was about 5%, and if more was used built up too much. But in that case die life went up about 200-300% with tha alkaline salt type over the graphite emulsion used before. I was able to gain a sample, and brought it home and found it very nice. Big Blu's Josh also got some, and later bought more. It is used at Big Blu as well. Unfortunately, the friendly dealer did not survive the economy and merged. That lube is no longer made, neither is a similar lube Henkle P3 Forge 185. I could get a drum, but at great cost:( A pint, mixed with water is hobbyists lifetime supply, so a 55 gallon drum is not practical for me. The lube of choice now is Fuchs Forge Ease 3512.

ptree - Tuesday, 09/08/09

Blacksmiths:

Dilute Fuchs Forge Ease 1:1 with water for general use in the blacksmith shop. A lower percentage of lube can be used in automatic operations on forging machines.

Try this punch lube on a nice thick hunk of scrap before you do any real work. Well lubricated tools penetrate deeper for the same effort. A lubed hot cut may clean through a part that took several blows before and then damage the anvil and cut. I like to cool hot cuts after every couple of blows as this cools that sharp edge. Small diameter punches get cooled more to keep the punch in its working temp. While this material is almost magic on hot steel, NO lubricant can prevent the tool end from mushrooming if overheated.

This material MUST be applied to a tool hot enough to flash off the water, and leave behind a whitish tan colored film. The dry film is the lubricant. If the tool is too hot the film will look like burnt on black grease and is ineffective. BUT the good news is, dip again til you get the right film. Learn from the use when to dip. I always try to dip a hot tool before I replace it in the rack so that it has that film when I pick it up for the next use. I like a deep pan about 6" is diameter and probably 16-18" deep. This lets me dip a drift easily. I keep a small natural bristle paint brush there to coat anything that won\'t fit in the pan. My SS pan is a tapered pan, so if the lube freezes in the winter, it rises up and then melts back. Have not split the pan in several winters, and since the lube mostly gets slushy at the 50:50  mix I use, no biggee. I have a hinged lid which helps keep evaporation down, but I just add water back when needed.

On clapper dies, touch marks etc this is the best stuff I have ever seen.

Ptree

WARNING NOTE: Using this material on open dies that are not perfectly aligned OR are in loose guides that can shift will squirt metal in unexpected ways. I found this out quickly. Be careful.

WARNING NOTE: Sensitive alloys such as H13 should not be quenched when red hot or at high heat as damage to the tool may result. The tool only needs to be at the "sizzling" point of 350°F (177°C) or above to produce the necessary coating of dry lubricant.


EDITORS NOTES:


Moly Paste
Molybdenum disulfide, MoS2. A naturally occuring metalic black compound that lubricates similar to graphite. Paste is a mixture of MoS2, water and emulsifier or MoS2 and oil. It is an excellent high pressure and high temperature lubricant. It is often used to prevent galling on highly stressed screw threads.
The Molybdenum Disulphide molecules arrange themselves into plates with a laminar structure in which each molybdenum atom is sandwiched between two sulphur atoms. The sulphur atoms are attracted to metal and therefore become plated or bonded on to each of the adjacent bearing surfaces. In between these two platings further layers of molecules form. The sulphur-to-metal bonding is very strong, but the sulphur-to-sulphur bonding between adjacent molecules is very weak.

Thus, there are two bearing surfaces, each protectively plated by a layer of Molybdenum Disulphide molecules with sliding or lubricating layers of molecules in between. In this way direct contact of metal-to-metal surfaces is prevented, friction is considerably reduced, with the consequent elimination of local heating, wear is inhibited and protection achieved even under extreme conditions of pressure and temperature.

The molecular thickness of Molybdenum Disulphide is such that there are approximately 40,000 lubricating or cleavage planes in an MoS2 film one thousandth of an inch thick!
Fine black molybdenum disulfide stains skin and clothing and is difficult to clean.

Table Salt
Sodium Chloride, NaCl.

At high temperatures salt dissassociates into is component elements, sodium and chlorine. The chlorine is a pungent, noxius toxic gas. Metalic sodium has a low melting temperature and burns easily. When sodium compounds are heated in a furnace they produce a bright orange flare that is difficult to see through.

P3-FORGE 165
You may have heard of P3-FORGE 165, SealRelease 920 and other similar products mentioned in the past. However, they are no longer available from the manufacturers. Fuchs FORGE EASE 3512 is an improved formulation in wide use that works as well or better than these other graphite free forge lubes.



Fuchs Forge Ease Punch Lube

Adobe PDF Document FUCHS Forge Ease Technical Data Factory information sheet.

Adobe PDF Document FUCHS Forge Ease 3521 SDS Material Safety Data Sheet.

References and Links



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