I decided to try making a die, partly because I needed a particular one. It is a 4-48, obviously standard, but not in stock locally at my local tool joint, and I didn't want to wait for it.
I had recently picked up a considerable amount of what appears to be mostly A2 tool steel. I say "appears to be" because it was all together, and everything that has a mark indicates A2. Of course I can't prove it for any, except those where the wrapper is still un-opened.
Anyway, I made the die, as far as the machining, and went to harden it. Having looked up the A2 info, I determined that I didn't have what seemed to be needed to do the job (air blast, temp controlled furnace, etc), so I decided to use the advice in the recent article on die-making, and simply heat and water quench, drawing back to a straw as a temper.
I also figured that if it turned out to be W-1 or O-1, I'd be doing the right thing anyway.
So, I got it up to a nice bright orange, as hot as I could get it, and dunked it, as usual.
Surprise...... it wasn't hard.....! it was a little hardened, but still quite file cuttable.
So, I said a few unprintable things, and thought a while. I considered what it might be, decided it for sure isn't O-1 or W-1, might be CRS, etc.
Being stubborn, I decided to have another try.
This time I was persistent, and decided to hold it in the flame longer, in case it could get any hotter. As far as I can tell from color, it was not one iota hotter, although I held it in there quite a while. Same orange color.
Side note: Since the whole die is only 0.640 diameter and 0.250 thick, it was hot right through even the first time..... So no cold spots that didn't get to hardening temps.
So I dunked it anyway. Same quench process.
This time, it came out hard enough that a file could not bite on it.... glass hard. So I drew it back to a straw color, heating it on a small metal plate for even heating.
Aside from a difficulty starting the die, due to inability to grind a good start, it seems to work OK, although it isn't entirely pretty.
Anyhow......... Does the apparent need to soak longer at temperature indicate that it really may be A-2?
Most of the A-2 instructions indicate a need to soak a while, although I didn't quite get to the times recommended.
I know that regular W-1 or O-1 would have been hard if quenched directly as soon as they reached the proper temp. I never have any trouble hardening those.
So I am thinking that the soak time requirement may be an identifier than this stuff really IS A-2.
BTW, yes, this is a case of spending $40 time to make a $8 item. But I just wanted to do it, OK?