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Thread: E.C.E. plane iron alloy

  1. #1
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    E.C.E. plane iron alloy

    This thread has no redeeming value. You have been warned.

    Got an ECE block plane here recently. Solely out of curiosity went I looking around, and found LV carries ECE planes, but not this one, but they do have replacement blades for it - which I will never need.

    Even so - I was pondering stuff and so asked LV Customer Service if they knew the alloy used in that plane iron. They did not, but asked ECE, and here is what came back:

    Honestly, we do not like to name the specific number of the steel that we use. We have been using this steel for many, many years and are convinced that this is the best steel for our plane irons. I can only say that we use a low alloy tool steel.

    Fair enough. I'm good with that. Won't impact my life in any way.

    But now I'm wondering - why? Might they feel this is some competitive advantage to be kept secret?
    When I started woodworking, I didn't know squat. I have progressed in 30 years - now I do know squat.

  2. #2
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    Once a label is attached to something a lot of internet trolls will start debating its worthiness for the intended use.

    It'll have too much carbon or not enough. Same with any alloys mentioned.

    It is easier to say it is proprietary than it is to deal with the headache inducers.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  3. #3
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    It's soft. You can get them really, really sharp, but the edge doesn't even last as long as O1.

  4. #4
    Or... they might be having trouble sourcing the steel, so they've had to change in the past or are worried they might have to change in the future to keep up with demand. So they don't want to back themselves into a corner and say it's one thing, when it might be something else. Or they might even get the irons from two different sources who use slightly different steel alloys, but don't want customers to be convinced there's a good alloy and bad alloy to watch out for. Or, maybe they don't really know themselves.

  5. #5
    ^^^^^^^All of the above^^^^^^



    The phraseology suggests to me they are using plain old water hardening steel, maybe as simple as 1095.
    Theoretically W1 (still water hardening) would be a slight step up. W2 could be even better, except the range for some of the elements that make it better is too wide. Carbon, e.g., could actually be a little lower than W1.
    So all of that could be a factor, too.

    Water hardening steels get quite hard and really sharp, at the expense of some toughness.

    Hardness is a proxy for strength. Enough strength is needed so the edge does not fold.
    But not so much that the charpy V-notch value is low. (toughness value - too low & edge is chippy) .
    See where this is going?
    Good water hardening steels fall right in that range, but need to be sharpened a bit more frequently than higher alloyed steels.
    However, they are easy to sharpen razor sharp.
    Higher alloys add toughness and promote carbides, so a "good" alloy "properly" hardened might not attain/might not be delivered at as high a hardness so it is tough and not chippy, but enough hardness so the edge does not fold, with more carbides so it wears a bit longer.
    The farther "up" the chain, the more aggravating to sharpen some steels can be.
    ETC.

    Regardless the alloy; a good bit depends on what the maker expects to get as "optimum" and whether their process control makes it routine to attain that.

    I like CPM M4 for plane irons.
    Many people would object to having to grind and hone them.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    Once a label is attached to something a lot of internet trolls will start debating its worthiness for the intended use.

    It'll have too much carbon or not enough. Same with any alloys mentioned.

    It is easier to say it is proprietary than it is to deal with the headache inducers.

    jtk

    we've seen that often enough, eh?
    When I started woodworking, I didn't know squat. I have progressed in 30 years - now I do know squat.

  7. #7
    A 1985 catalog describes these as Chrome Vanadium steel.

  8. #8
    I can only say that we use a low alloy tool steel.
    A 1985 catalog describes these as Chrome Vanadium steel


    Hmmm...so a bit of subterfuge?
    "Chrome Vanadium" is sort of low alloy, if it is the stuff wrenches and cheap drop forged edge tool implements (some hatchets/axes) are made from.

    If it is an edge tool steel with elevated levels, it kind of seems disingenuous to call it low alloy.

    https://www.crucible.com/eselector/p...&dchemtbl.html

    Take it to your local scrap yard* and have them shoot it with their X-ray florescence gun.
    The guy will tell you "it's just steel, not stainless & not HSS"
    Make him scroll through the ingredients and percentages, which the gun will display; and write them down.

    I do that when buying "Aluminum" or "Brass" or "Bronze" the specific alloy often makes a big difference in application.

    There are other brands on the market, but this is an example.
    https://elvatech.com/applications/pmi/

    * or possibly local community college

  9. #9
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    Chrome Vanadium is a family of steels. Some formulas are suitable for cutting edges, others are designed for toughness.

    This premium Vaughan & Bushnell drop forged plane has vanadium steel for the body and also for the cutting iron, not the same formula, though. The pimped Harbor Freight chisel next to it is made of drop forged chrome vanadium steel, it's a good chisel.

    20240619_081609.jpg

  10. #10
    Chrome Vanadium steel is used for chisels like Narex, Aldi, Mifer, Two Cherries and Hirsch.

    I think the chrome in these tools is somewhere around 1%, unlike high chrome steels: A2 (5%), D2 (12%) or PM-V11 (16%).

    I used a number of ECE planes in a shop about 45 years ago. The steel was fine. At that time they offered coffin smoothers and "English pattern" jack planes.

  11. #11
    My point was that if they claim "low alloy steel" and if it is a Cr-V steel, that is not inspiring.
    Then pointed out that some Cr-V steels are used for edge tools, but that it is a bit disingenuous to call that range with higher content of more alloying elements "low alloy".

    CPM 9V tempted me when i started making CPM M4 irons.
    It looks good on the chart - until you read the foot notes about it being tested at a lower hardness than the rest.
    I can HT the CPM M4 to get better hardness and better toughness (Charpy rating) at that hardness.

    A lot of knife makers apparently like CPM 9V, and they probably work with it at somewhat lower finished hardness than plane iron makers.
    Last edited by stephen thomas; 06-19-2024 at 11:32 AM.

  12. #12
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    There are two options:

    1)...send the metal off to a Lab to do a full, in depth study of what the steel is, pay for THAT report..and report back here...to be argued about for another 3 or 4 pages..

    or..

    2)...sharpen the iron and put it to work..and let everybody know how it does...

    ( I prefer Option #2....as I MIGHT be able to get SOME work done)
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  13. #13
    Steve - i suggested a simpler, cheaper option:
    Take it to the local metals scrap yard and have them shoot it with the X ray gun.
    That is what labs often use these days, at least to start, and they are quite accurate.
    You just have to make the guy take the time to let you write down the specs.

    I do agree that the proof is in the tasting - it does not matter what the material is, if it does not work satisfactorily.

  14. #14
    The treatment can make a huge impact on the steel as well. You can have two identical steel blades, one treated one way, the other a different way, and they'll act like two completely different metals. The relatively new methods of cryogenic treatment has really changed in the game in how a given steel will perform.

  15. #15
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    I'm no expert in metallurgy, but it seems Cr-V steel would qualify as a "low alloy steel" if this Wikipedia description Chromium-Vanadium is accurate.

    Those are pretty low values. In any case, we don't have any idea what composition ECE used when they actually described their irons as Cr-V steel.

    On another site they distinguish steels in two broad categories: stainless steels and low alloy steels.

    CPM 4M and CPM 9V would qualify as "low alloy", neither one is a stainless steel for sure.

    ---

    At the end of the day, what the steel is really doesn't matter. As long as it takes a decent edge, lasts a reasonable amount of time and it's not a pain in the ass to sharpen, I'm happy.

    Many people are very happy with PM-V11, which is a mystery steel. People are not upset not knowing what it is and accept the marketing description of the steel.

    Some people claim it is CTS-XPS. A hardenable stainless steel.

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