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I use thick gauge copper wire from the hardware store for pins/rivets. Works well.
Make sure it's something you know is high carbon, or buy some known steel like 1095/1085/1075. I work primarily in 1095, but 1085 and 1075 work just fine for big heavy choppers, and are more forgiving when heat-treating, and aren't very expensive. I buy my steel from New Jersey Steel Baron. Good folks there. They ship quickly, and have a great selection in lots of sizes.If you're really strapped for cash, or have a need to re-purpose, I would suggest very old files or very old mill blades. New files and saw blades sometimes are mostly made of low-carbon steel, with just a tiny bit of good steel welded to the working area, making them unsuitable. In the past, this wasn't the case, as the labor needed to do this cost more than the savings in using less good steel. Now, though, robots can weld it all together in a fraction of a second, so it now makes economic sense.I hear leaf springs are decent, but haven't tried them, so I can't personally vouch.
With epoxy, they'll likely stay on just fine for a very long time. It forms a very hard and very durable resin. My first terrible knives just had epoxy holding on the handles, and they're still on just fine.
Heating (non-stainless) steel to critical and cooling slowly softens it. For example, I anneal files for knifemaking by heating them up in my forge, and jamming them in a bucket of vermiculite to cool down very slowly.When you heat steel and then cool it quickly, this hardens the steel. Generally water cools too quickly, and can lead to the steel cracking. Some people do water for a moment, and finish in oil. Personally, I heat to critical (~1500f for non-stainless), and quench in room temp canola oil. After that, the steel is in fact too hard, and is brittle. I temper in an oven at 450 for two hours (for 1095 steel, which is what I primarily work with) to soften it enough to remove the brittle quality.Stainless is different, but it's not something I'm set up to work with, so I can't speak to the process much.
That was a heat treat, not a temper. Tempering is reducing hardness afterwards, which can be done in an oven or toaster oven.Quenching in water is a bad idea, generally. High carbon steel often fractures when quenching in water. If your blade survives it, it may be that the carbon content is too low for it to harden, or that you didn't get the blade hot enough. The temperature needed for most high carbon steels is around 1500 F. Test with a magnet. When it goes non-magnetic, you're approaching critical.The temperature to temper at is difficult to say exactly, but with unknown steels, I generally do 450 F for a pair of two hour cycles.
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