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View Full Version : Western folks; Is "black steel" the same as sweet iron?



sublimequine
May. 20, 2010, 02:47 PM
So I FINALLY found a bit my mare loves. Yaaay! She's been going great in it. This one:

http://www.kotrading.com/ProductImages/reinsman/thumbs/424.jpg

Unfortunately, since she is going so nicely in it, I've experienced a new problem. Unlike other bits where she would basically lock her jaw the entire ride, this bit she's soft in the mouth, and gives it a couple chews here and there when she's thinking. You guessed it. Chewing + copper = chewed up, rough copper. :sigh:

So now I am on the quest for basically that same bit, only not in copper. I don't think it's the copper she loves about it anyways, as she's gone in copper/semi-copper bits before and didn't like them. I found this bit:

http://assets.farmandfleet.com/uploads/blaincat/product/58/full/586574.jpg

And it looks promising. I kind find it locally (I won't buy bits online anymore, I want to see and feel it in my hands!), and the design is VERY similar to her current beloved bit. However, it states it's made from "black steel". What the heck is that? Is it a synonym for sweet iron? If not, is it an acceptable metal for the mouthpiece of a bit? :confused:

pintopiaffe
May. 21, 2010, 03:16 AM
no...

Sweet Iron is made to rust, and is iron, fairly soft metal (as metals go)

Black steel is just that--black. Think a black coloured gun. Generally it's the shanks that are black steel, that's simply a fashion thing.

I am *pretty sure* the black steel is still a 'softer' metal than stainless. With guns you have to re-'blue' them after time to protect them. So it's not impervious like stainless.

So... She might like it, might not.

The copper bit should NOT have gotten chewed. I've got a 30+yo copper mouth bit. Not a mark on it. It gets dark and I have to clean it up with toothpaste when it's been put away for a while... but if it's 'chewed up' it's inferior. You should be able to get a GOOD copper bit that will last a lifetime.

JellyBeanQueen
May. 21, 2010, 03:59 AM
Some of your cheap coppers will be maleable or soft....I stay away from those. The bit your looking at fits in the pelham family (both styles work the same but some styles will have modified lengths of purchases and shanks. You can use double reins on this just like the pelham.

Blackened steel is what has been stated above and does not have as nice of a taste to it as sweet iron and though it will rust lightly if allowed to oxidize it wont oxidize as much as the iron will. Iron on its own has a sweeter taste to it and with modern metalurgy techniques this has been enhanced by removing alloys that can change the taste of the iron. Maleable iron has alloys in it and will rust but not have that sweeter taste to it and is easily melted down or changed with red heat (red hot iron). The sweeter iron takes a higher heat level to make it workable. Iron will have a rather strong magnetic pull.

Blackened steel also has a magnetic pull to it whereas stainless steel does not. Blackened steel will encourage salivation where stainless steel will not. Some blackened steel might be stainless steel dipped in a liquid "black steel" and cooled thus giving the similar salivation effect but with cheaper bits can eventualy be worn off or scrubbed off. I stay away from bits made in Pakistan or other middle eastern countries and even some Asian countries. Cheap metals and poor design and balance.

If you want to limit rust when the bit is in storage you can put a coat of vegi oil or olive oil on before storing it.

JetsBuddy
May. 21, 2010, 10:25 AM
You can also try to find the same bit with a stainless steel mouthpiece that has copper inlay. It will encourage salivation and will be a durable mouthpiece.

Reinsman makes the same kind of bit in sweet iron:
http://www.statelinetack.com/item/reinsman-argentine-sweet-iron-snaffle/WBR95/

sublimequine
May. 21, 2010, 11:17 AM
no...

Sweet Iron is made to rust, and is iron, fairly soft metal (as metals go)

Black steel is just that--black. Think a black coloured gun. Generally it's the shanks that are black steel, that's simply a fashion thing.

I am *pretty sure* the black steel is still a 'softer' metal than stainless. With guns you have to re-'blue' them after time to protect them. So it's not impervious like stainless.

So... She might like it, might not.

The copper bit should NOT have gotten chewed. I've got a 30+yo copper mouth bit. Not a mark on it. It gets dark and I have to clean it up with toothpaste when it's been put away for a while... but if it's 'chewed up' it's inferior. You should be able to get a GOOD copper bit that will last a lifetime.

I assumed a $60 Reinsman brand bit would not be inferior, that was the whole reason I bought it, to avoid cheap bits. But I guess I failed in finding a superior bit. I'm disappointed. :(

sublimequine
May. 21, 2010, 11:19 AM
Some of your cheap coppers will be maleable or soft....I stay away from those. The bit your looking at fits in the pelham family (both styles work the same but some styles will have modified lengths of purchases and shanks. You can use double reins on this just like the pelham.

Blackened steel is what has been stated above and does not have as nice of a taste to it as sweet iron and though it will rust lightly if allowed to oxidize it wont oxidize as much as the iron will. Iron on its own has a sweeter taste to it and with modern metalurgy techniques this has been enhanced by removing alloys that can change the taste of the iron. Maleable iron has alloys in it and will rust but not have that sweeter taste to it and is easily melted down or changed with red heat (red hot iron). The sweeter iron takes a higher heat level to make it workable. Iron will have a rather strong magnetic pull.

Blackened steel also has a magnetic pull to it whereas stainless steel does not. Blackened steel will encourage salivation where stainless steel will not. Some blackened steel might be stainless steel dipped in a liquid "black steel" and cooled thus giving the similar salivation effect but with cheaper bits can eventualy be worn off or scrubbed off. I stay away from bits made in Pakistan or other middle eastern countries and even some Asian countries. Cheap metals and poor design and balance.

If you want to limit rust when the bit is in storage you can put a coat of vegi oil or olive oil on before storing it.

I'm not sure where it's made, but I have always had good luck with Weaver brand stuff. Thank you for all the great information, wow!

MSP
May. 21, 2010, 11:54 AM
I try to stick with either a Myler comfort bit or a JP Korsteel. The Korsteel are much less money but the quality is still there.

I ride with a snaffle so it gives me a much larger selection than the strictly western bits.

She likes the tom thumb bit?

findeight
May. 21, 2010, 12:47 PM
I grew up out west with what they called "blue steel". It was very hard. Theory is it is sweeter to taste and keeps the mouth softer. They used it worked into the silver on the sidepieces as well. It does rust a little but the theory is it sweetens it up even more.

I paid quite a bit of money for a little loose ring snaffle with a thin copper laced, blue steel mouth. Bought it from the custom bit maker at the Congress a few years ago. Use it on my Hunter sometimes to freshen her up.

You might want to look at Schneiders. I know you want to feel it but they carry alot of the more West coast influenced bits and have a wide selection of sizes since they serve the Arab folks.

Another thought would be to look into a Reining bit from a custom maker or off the rack at a Reining specialty shop. Most have generous return policies and knowledgeable help over the phone.

IME the generic tack store catalogue stuff is wanting, to say the least. Inferior materials (like pot metal), poor sizing and some even hang crooked in the mouth. Unacceptable.

And, ya' know, you can put 2 of exactly the same type and size of bit on a horse and they can love one and hate the other because one of them is not balanced right. Hang it on your index finger with the finger right in the middle of the mouthpeice, amazing how many lean or list to one side.

rugbygirl
May. 21, 2010, 01:11 PM
I am *pretty sure* the black steel is still a 'softer' metal than stainless.

Normally yes, black steel is pretty well just forged (heated up) steel, which can have a variety of hardnesses. The black is actually an oxide coating.

Sometimes bit-makers call "black steel" something that is actually regular steel with a slightly shiny, painted or dipped coating. I am not really sure what that is. It could be polished black steel...not sure why anyone would do that though.

Sweet iron is also very close to what we call "pig iron" which is a sloppy alloy that's got a variety of compositions, but is mostly iron. Compared to finished steel, it is very soft, it is usually just heated up to melting point and cast (poured into a mold). Iron does have a "sweet" taste, but all the steels have a very high percentage of iron in them anyway. Now, if your sweet iron bit were to be forged into shape...it might end up turning into black steel, depending on how much carbon and other elements were in the original!

Most bits are constructed out of the same base material, mild steel. Depending on how the metals are prepared and shaped (cold rolled, hot rolled, cast, forged, drop forged, quenched, tempered, annealed, etc.) you get very different properties. The elements and composition could be identical though! It's the size and shape of the crystal structures in the metal that change the properties.

Stainless steels have a lot of additional metals added, notably nickel and chrome. You also find aluminium bits, they are normally low quality, IME.

It is kind of weird that your horse was able to rough up a copper bit...but it is a very soft metal unless alloyed with something else (bronze is your most common copper alloy.) You'll often see a copper wire wrapped bit, which has more inherent resistance to chomp-damage, or else copper-inlaid/laced. Some of the proprietary coatings (like Aurigan) also contain large amounts of copper. Pretty well anything with a reddish or brassy colour is going to contain a lot of copper, when you're talking bit mouthpieces.

sublimequine
May. 21, 2010, 02:53 PM
Normally yes, black steel is pretty well just forged (heated up) steel, which can have a variety of hardnesses. The black is actually an oxide coating.

Sometimes bit-makers call "black steel" something that is actually regular steel with a slightly shiny, painted or dipped coating. I am not really sure what that is. It could be polished black steel...not sure why anyone would do that though.

Sweet iron is also very close to what we call "pig iron" which is a sloppy alloy that's got a variety of compositions, but is mostly iron. Compared to finished steel, it is very soft, it is usually just heated up to melting point and cast (poured into a mold). Iron does have a "sweet" taste, but all the steels have a very high percentage of iron in them anyway. Now, if your sweet iron bit were to be forged into shape...it might end up turning into black steel, depending on how much carbon and other elements were in the original!

Most bits are constructed out of the same base material, mild steel. Depending on how the metals are prepared and shaped (cold rolled, hot rolled, cast, forged, drop forged, quenched, tempered, annealed, etc.) you get very different properties. The elements and composition could be identical though! It's the size and shape of the crystal structures in the metal that change the properties.

Stainless steels have a lot of additional metals added, notably nickel and chrome. You also find aluminium bits, they are normally low quality, IME.

It is kind of weird that your horse was able to rough up a copper bit...but it is a very soft metal unless alloyed with something else (bronze is your most common copper alloy.) You'll often see a copper wire wrapped bit, which has more inherent resistance to chomp-damage, or else copper-inlaid/laced. Some of the proprietary coatings (like Aurigan) also contain large amounts of copper. Pretty well anything with a reddish or brassy colour is going to contain a lot of copper, when you're talking bit mouthpieces.

It's frustrating too, because she was NOT chomping and gnawing on it. Just a few "I'm thinking" chews, that's it. She's worn the bit maybe a grand total of a dozen times.

I'm so sick of bit shopping! It was fun for the first 0.0005 seconds.

I think I'm going to pass on the black steel bit. It DOES look like it's just painted on, and I'm paranoid the black stuff will flake off over time or something.

It seems like cheap crap bits are a dime a dozen these days. I have a bit that's been in my family for 20 years, has copper rollers on it, and it's still 100% functioning and useable. It's been on probably close to a dozen horses, has traveled all over, been chomped and chewed on, and still looks fine. It wasn't even that expensive, either.

At this point I'm tempted to just throw her into the 20 year old bit because at least I know she won't wreck it with normal use! Argh. :no:

PRS
May. 21, 2010, 03:05 PM
Here is a link to that bit...plus a few similar ones made by Reinsman:
http://store.reinsman.com/products/short_shank_curb

I own this one: http://store.reinsman.com/products/short_shank_curb/1081350216

had to swich my horse out of it because he drove me crazy trying to catch the shank in his mouth.

Reinsman puts out a quality bit that comes with a lifetime warrrenty. It is the only brand of bits I have anymore.

sublimequine
May. 21, 2010, 03:13 PM
Here is a link to that bit...plus a few similar ones made by Reinsman:
http://store.reinsman.com/products/short_shank_curb

I own this one: http://store.reinsman.com/products/short_shank_curb/1081350216

had to swich my horse out of it because he drove me crazy trying to catch the shank in his mouth.

Reinsman puts out a quality bit that comes with a lifetime warrrenty. It is the only brand of bits I have anymore.

Their warranty does not apply to any of their bits that have copper on them. So I'm screwed. :no:

Pat9
May. 21, 2010, 03:15 PM
If you aren't shopping for a top quality vaquero-type bit, here's two names to eBay:

Sliester: still being made, readily available used, haven't seen anything newer than 20 years old, but I'm sure they're still pretty good. Various mouthpieces and metals. http://www.sliester.com/

Quick : I didn't look to see if they were still being made. If they are, they might not be as good as they used to be. The only Quick bit I've ever owned was a spoon spade, and it was a wonderful bit. The spoon was low, easily accepted by a number of different horses, and a good all-arounder. The only minor drawback is that the cheeks were very plain.

Loose cheek bits work better and make a lighter, softer horse than a fixed-cheek bit. A Sliester sweetwater in a copper alloy is a bit that a lot of horses like - it's just a big gentle curved mouthpiece that drapes over the tongue.

mypaintwattie
May. 21, 2010, 04:03 PM
Quick : I didn't look to see if they were still being made. If they are, they might not be as good as they used to be. The only Quick bit I've ever owned was a spoon spade, and it was a wonderful bit. The spoon was low, easily accepted by a number of different horses, and a good all-arounder. The only minor drawback is that the cheeks were very plain.


Yes, Mike Quick still makes his bits. I have one that is probably older than I am and it still looks and works great- I even show in it sometimes! It seems like the quality is still there- the newer ones look and feel just the same. Here is the website: http://www.quickbits.net/

JellyBeanQueen
May. 22, 2010, 03:17 AM
I like Korsteel bits myself. Even Coronet bits (which is some of what Weaver purchases) are decent bits with good materials and balance. I have a couple of Coronet brand bits and am pleased with them. No magnetic pull, smooth metal, and pretty well balanced and I havent found one yet that was not a decent bit. I have a Copper mouth low port curb bit with 7 inch shanks made by Coronet that has worn quite well. I have had it for about 6 years now and looks just as good as the day I bought it. I use it on Danner when we do any western style showing. I also have a copper mouthpeice standard snaffle bit from Coronet brand and it has held up quite well also. I bought a cheap snaffle bit MANY years ago that looked great in the catalog but when I received it it was chrome plated crappy steel. The balance was horrible and the mouth peice was of two difference sized peices. It also rusted esp in the joints. No wonder it was only 4 dollars. I have since painted it and have it hangiing in my kitchen as a towel hanger decoration.
With some things you live and learn.

I find Reinsman to be a bit over priced. But thats just my opinion.