Hot Drop Forging

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It is also important to remember that some technologies are unbeatable for obtaining the best possible mechanical characteristics: hot forging is emblematic in this case.

When Oskar Eckenstein, the famous inventor of crampons, stepped into the Grivel's smoky workshop in 'Les Forges' in Courmayeur in 1909 the family was already renowned among alpinists for the quality of their ice axes. The story goes that old Henry, controversial and always ready to take the mickey, used to convince even the most wary clients of the strength of his tools were by striking them on the huge block of granite outside his workshop. But where did this strength and above all this self confidence come from Precisely from the technique of hot drop forging, exactly the same that produced the blades of the Sword of Damascus and of Toledo, world famous for their superior strength.

Steel doesn't have the cold and uniform characteristics that we usually give it but is instead groups of molecular chains that line up and distribute themselves according to lines of force that create the strength of the piece of 'iron'. A bit like fibres in wood that we're used to seeing and choosing according to their natural formation to get the best possible stamina. The huge advantage of steel is that it can be shaped to how we want it when it is heated to 'cherry red' temperature (about 950'C). Mantice At this point it can be modified through being beaten to align its fibres according to the lines of force needed to obtain the maximum strength in the direction that we want: for example following the length of an ice axe's blade.

To summarise: the fibres in steel are internally aligned in a casual sequence, these can be re-aligned which ever direction we want when the steel is heated to a certain temperature and then 'ironed out' by beating it and forcing it into the desired alignment. This operation, followed up by heat treatment (what was once known as 'tempering' that fixed permanently the internal structure), is precisely known as 'hot forging'. It is how the best characteristics and the desired form are obtained from steel. No other process has ever, and ever will, better this one: quiz a specialist in metallurgy and he'll confirm it.