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I Forge Iron

Preparing To Make First Damascus


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Well i've finaly gaind the confidence to try and forge a peice of damascus. My combination is (starting from the top) Mild, 1095, Mild, 1095, Mild. The very middle peice of Mild is long and will be used to hold instead of tongs. The peices of 1095 are old files. i have uneald and ground the teeth of them with an angle grinder and i also cleaned up the Mild with it as well.

My first question is: Do i have to sand the peices right down to get a good weld? The angle grinder left some scratches to the steel post-14980-030969300 1286446949_thumb.jp
I'am hoping that these scratches won't matter. Iam going to use plain Borax, not the anhydros or what ever it is called. I'am using a coal forge with a railroad track anvil. I have had some experiance at forge welding but not heaps. Also, if all goes well, how many folds should i do for my first peice?

When and IF I get to the end of my folding and are ready to flatten out for final time, wouldn't I need to flatten it out by hammaring the sides of the billet? Other wise, if I flatten it out by hitting the top and bottom peice, when I come to etch it, I would see no pattern. It would only be visible on the bevels because it would cut through the layers. It is hard to explain but I hope you understand.

Another thing, is it good to give the fire as little air as possible to avoid huge oxidisation? And iam tying my stack together with steel wire. Is it ok if I accidently weld the wire to the billet? This could happen. Also, in what way should i hammar the billet as to push out all the flux? I will post pics of the progress but would really like some replys for this one as it is important to me, thanks guys :)

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Do you want to use that billet for knifemaking? If so: if all the pieces are the same thickness the result will have 50 points carbon---without any decarb taken into account! So it's a bit low on C---for knifemaking.

I generally use wire to hold a billet together and generally it scales off the outsides of the billet. If you worry about it on the indise of a fold you can grind it off before folding.

How many folds? I'd suggest folding till your handle is about to fall off---won't be too many for your first go around!

A good welded billet can be worked on any edge---I've compressed one down the Long way down into a disk for one project. HOWEVER for your first one I would not advise trying to work it down edgewise. If your hammering were perfect you would have perfectly parallel layers and so have the problems you mentioned. However most of us will end up with "random pattern" pattern welded steel as each hammer blow will not be quite even. If you want a more active pattern I suggest you read "The Pattern Welded Blade" by Hrisoulas---if you are in America you can probably ILL it at your local public library. (And I assure you it has a whole lot more info in it on the subject than a few posts on a web forum!)

For your starting piece having a very slight bow across the billet pieces can help extrude the flux and crap when welding. Once you get good you can weld up random scrap from off the side of the road with no problem; however when you do have a problem it's back to first principles and do clean metal and slight camber.

You want a deep clean un-oxidizing fire; but it has to get hot enough to weld Not knowing anything about your set up it's hard to give details---can you tell me how much I need to press the accelerator down to get to 60 mph in my vehicle?

One trick I use is to get the fire really hot and then turn off the air and stick the billet in to heat for fluxing and then go get a drink of water or use the facilities to give it enough time to heat thoroughly with no excess air before wirebrushing and fluxing for the first weld.

Also for un-experienced weldors I would suggest double welding before folding.

As for hammer blows: firm not sharp, you want to push the stuff together not blast it apart. Billy Merritt demos welding by using a hammer handle to weld---no hammer head on it! So raw power is not needed *or* wanted!

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Thanks TomasPowers, i got a friend to tack weld the stack together instead of just wiring them. By the way, the 1095 is 2 times the thickness of the mild so it would most likely be 60% 1095 and 40% Mild, and yes, i am using it for knife making. My set up is a typical coal forge. Here are some pics -

My air sorce is a vacuume cleaner, not ideal but still air. I can roughly controle the air flow but not fully. Usually when i weld, i just give it air for about 10 seconds at a time with a 50 second gap inbetween each blow. this is slow but it gives it time to soak and not oxidize to much. Will this work with damascus? i cant see why not. Also, since it is now tack welded, where abouts on the billet do i set the first weld? of do i just weld the whole thing at once?. thanks for the help so far.

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If you can get your work up to temp without oxidizing too much it will work. Doesn't matter too much *how*. Coal, coke, propane natural gas, induction, friction...all work.

I generally start at one end and work my way to the other---especially If I will have to weld a larger billet in stages because of the size of the forge's hot spot.

To start off with I would have advised a small billet that you can easily weld in one go; make and weld several of them, then clean and stack them and weld up the billet of billets to get the mass you need for the blade.

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Today i welded the billet XD. It was ten billion times easier than i thought. The only 2 problems that occured was that the handle i used to hold the stack broke off during the drawing process because it was bent around to much. I got a thicker more sturdy one welded back on. The second problem is that there are 2 small cracks on the edge of the billet. the protrude about half a millimetre into the billet so i dont think it should be a problem. Tommoro i will attempt my first fold and decide whether i want to twist the billet to make a twist pattern. i figured i will just do 1 fold which will give me 24 layers. Good enough for my first bit of damascus i think.

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Sounds like you're on your way for sure.

The only thing I have to add is too late for this billet but I wouldn't grind the teeth off the files. The smaller contact area and size of the teeth will make it weld a bit easier in the layers won't be able to shear. It can also make cool patterns in the finished blade, rasps make points of bright, clamshell body rasp makes curved lines of bright, single cut makes fine straight lines and a double cut bastard makes a cross hatch pattern. You can lose the file patterns easily enough so that shouldn't be a real factor.

Frosty the Lucky.

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