Tool steel

I keep reading in books how to make your own chasing tools and
punches and chisels so finally got some pitch and a pitch bowl and
went tromping off to the biggest tool store in the area and asked if
they had any tool steel blanks I could make punches out of. They
didn’t know what I was talking about, and showed me some really short
extremely fat steel blocks for machining and said thats all they had.
SO WHERE DO I FIND tool steel blanks so I can make my own chasing
tools? Anyone have a clue? Dave

Hi Dave Stephens, You can get tool steel in all sorts of shapes From
Mcmaster carr catalog and/or the MSC catalog Hows the river boat
jewelry doing?


Metalliferous in NYC carries tool steel blanks in a variety of sizes,
about 12" in length. I just purchased some 3 ft. long tool steel
blanks at Home Depot, but haven’t done anything with them yet.

G. Middleton
Brooklyn, NY

You can use steel stock for drill bits - available in a wide variety
of diameters - I’ve made chasing tools and planishers out of this
material for many years and they have worked great. Be sure to harden
the working surfaces after the final polish. L.J.

Dave Stephens, I get all my machining supplies from MetalMart online.
Great prices and service. You will want either drill rod or square
bar stock. I have seen some very nice custom punches made from square
stock that is twisted to make and attractive and easy to hold tool.

Chris Maugham
Harrsburg, PA

Again, check out the Artists Blacksmith Association of America’s site, and see if they have anything in their “links"
to tool suppliers. These guys (us guy’s really, I’m in ABANA) make a
LOT of their own tools. I sometimes can find “drill-rod” at local
hardware stores. It’s a water hardening steel in thicknesses up to
1/4” which should be fine for most chasing tools. Good Luck. David

Hi Dave, I make lots of chasing/repousse tools every week and always
get the steel I need from Victor’s Machinery Exchange in New York
City. They are expensive, but will provide you with any size and type
of steel you want. Be sure to harden and temper the tools after they
are finished (I am sure you know that) and always ware eye protection
while doing chasing and repousse. The number to call is 212 226 3494 I
direct this also to the people who attended the recent
workshops in Arizona, New Mexico and Maryland, and asked me for a
tool steel supplier. Good luck! Valentin Yotkov

Although I couldn’t lay my hands on a direct source at the moment, you
might try rec.crafts.metalworking FAQ. My husband is building a
recumbant tricycle from scratch and has located all his steel
suppliers through this site.

As a side note, Ann Hollerbach is teaching tool making at Metalwerx in
the Spring, in preparation for Valentin Yotkov.

If you contact her directly, I am sure she can give you a proper

Hope this helps.


Karen Christians
10 Walnut St.
Woburn, MA 01801

Current Artwork:

Hi Dave, Chasing tools can be made from any steel that’s hardenable.
Old (or new) chisels & punches, exhaust & intake valves from car &
truck engines etc.

If you want to use new material, industrial suppliers sell drill rod,
usually in 3 ft lengths, and various diameters. It’s available in 3
types, water, oil & air hardening. For your application, get the least
expensive, water hardening. If you need shapes other than round, tool
steel is available in flat & other shapes of various sizes from the
same sources. The yellow pages will probably have a local supplier
listed. If you can’t find a local supplier try or

Unless you have a requirement for an unusual shaped tool or want to
use the exercise as a learning experience, it’ll probably be less
expensive to buy some ready made chasing tools.


I have several of Bill Fiorini’s hammers that I purchased years ago,
they are favorites… He also makes chasing tools and forged blanks for
making your own custom punches.

Dave i can make rounds or square blanks in what ever length you
desire.The ends are finished squared off or you can have
coned,rounded,flattened,or in number of shapes.A 6mm round, square
ended,3 inches long is about 3 dollars plus shipping. I make custom
stamps,design stamps,and heat treat. I am a toolmaker machinist for
20 years and like to make tools to help artisans make new ideas work.
Cache Dickerson
@CaChEtex 1409 Ardmore
Arlington Texas 76018

It was suggested for making punches to use . . . .

Be careful! I’ve heard that some old exhaust/intake valves were
filed with sodium. I can’t remember whether it’s air or water that
reacts violently with sodium, and I don’t know if this is
acurate, but I’d take care anyway. Perhaps just skip the valves.

If they are really filled with sodium, you really need to avoid
them like the plague! Metallic sodium reacts violently (and I do
mean (VIOLENTLY*) with water. It can even catch fire, and throw
flaming bits all around.


Be careful!  I've heard that some old exhaust/intake valves were
filed with sodium.  I can't remember whether it's air or water that
reacts violently with sodium, and I don't know if this is
acurate, but I'd take care anyway.  Perhaps just skip the valves.

G’day; I can’t think of any possible reason why any manufacturer
would want to go to the trouble of filling vehicle valves with sodium!
Sodium metal does react with air to give sodium oxides, which are
immediately converted to sodium hydroxide by the moisture in air.
Sodium metal does react with water - with extreme violence; it takes
fire in many circumstances and explodes violently if under restraint
when in contact with water. But few people are likely to have much
to do with metallic sodium.

Hi Dave, Sodium reacts with lots of things. I seem to remember some
ads talking about valves containing sodium as well. I don’t think you
have to worry about running into any elemental sodium (the stuff
that’s so reactive) in valves. The sodium in the ads was some sodium
compound, you know how Madison Ave screws everything up! The Native
Americans in the SW have been making design punches from the rod
part of engine valves for years. Another Dave

Hi, Sodium filled valves were used in some of the high performance
engines from the big three auto makers in the late 60’s - early 70’s

  • the sodium was used to provide extra cooling for oversized valves in
    very high output applications. It is not too likely you would run
    across too many of them. I would question using them for tool steel
    for a struck tool as well since valves tend to very hard and a bit
    brittle. You are better off to find a source of tool steel or high
    grade steel - check out a spring company in your area - they may have
    some shorts hanging around or a mail order supplier.

Cameron Speedie
Island Gem and Rock

If they are really filled with  sodium, you *really* need to avoid
them like the plague! Metallic sodium reacts *violently* (and I do
mean (VIOLENTLY*) with water. It can even catch fire, and throw
flaming bits all around. 

Some years ago, my partner had a couple of burned Porsche valves that
we decided to experiment with. We ground the valve down pretty deep
before reaching the sodium. Dropped them in water and got a little
reaction. I expected something on the order of the reaction that my
7th grade physical science instructor demonstrated with sodium and
potassium dropped into water. Sorry. No rocket science here. Just my
personal experience. Bruce

Bruce Holmgrain
JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler

As an aircraft mechanic in the Navy some years ago I was taught that
the valves onmost reciprocating radial aircraft engines had sodium
filled valves to aid in heat dissipation.

G'day; I can't think of any possible reason why any manufacturer
would want to go to the trouble of filling vehicle valves with

As I recall, the reason for sodium in valve stems is for heat
transfer. At valve head operating temps heat can be a problem, so
liquid sodium is an excellent stable heat transfer medium in secure
environment. They are expensive valves so check with a parts house,
go by the price, don’t cut up hyper expensive ones? Often the parts
book will specify the sodium content. Usually only used in High
performance or high speed engines. efw

Wow, one that I can actually answer with authority! Wouldn’t you
guess it only has distant bearing to jewelry! :slight_smile: There’s no worries
on this count. There are indeed valves containing sodium, however
they’re only used in racing or similar high-end applications so the
likelihood of running into them at your neighborhood machine shop is
fairly negligible.

Why put sodium in valves in the first place? Cooling. Normally,
heat travels from the hot valve head down the valve stem and is
transferred to and carried off by a thin layer of circulating oil
around the stem. If this didn’t happen the valve would warp and
possibly melt down. In sodium-filled valves, the pocket of sodium
runs from the valve head down partly into the stem. Sodium happens
to absorb a relatively significant amount of heat when it melts and
has a melting point which lies between the temperature experienced by
the valve head (exploding petrochemical) and the valve stem (oil
temp). By melting at the head and solidifying at the stem end, heat
is transferred more efficiently than in a solid steel valve – ergo,
less chance of heat-related failures in high-end applications.