Anvil_Fire777

Who actually forges their damascus by hand?

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Hi,
Who here forges their damascus billets under air hammar? I see some posts of you blokes saying "just made these up on the week end" or something like that and there is like 2 or 3 really nice looking, 600'ish layer damascus knifves fully done. I (as usuall) look at them in awe and try to imagine how much work has been put in. A freind of mine makes damascus by hand and it takes him a week or so to do a 2000 layer knife or 2 by hand on the anvil. Ive made a 10 layer (so far) billet and it has probaly taken me 5 houres so far, let alone trying to pattern it. I still enjoy it but i would like to know wether what i see on this forum is done under air hammer or not. Just to get a better picture. Thanks

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almost everybody who makes damascus will do it with the aid of a power hammer or press or rolling mill of some kind. Unless you are just making it to enjoy the work them there is no way damascus by hand can be economically viable in this day and age .
The increased forces involved also make damascus making a lot more reliable when using a power hammer or press or rolling mill .
All the best Owen

3 knives in a weekend is very good going .
it takes me 2 to 3 days to make up a complex patternwelded sword billet and I work fast and with powerhammers.

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ive made a billet or 2 by hand but figured it is kinda a waste of time...power hammers have been around a long time (at least midevil and some use in roman times) and you could always get a friend to swing a sledge! presses are the latest and have some advantages .just remember power just speeds up the prosess if ya cant forge well without it you usually cant forge well with it...

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I have done some billets by hand and that of course led me on a long search for a nice power hammer, which I use now. A couple of thoughts: An awful lot of folks using a hammer and anvil have never learned the basics of drawing out a steel baer. If you wish to make layered billets that is a step you want to learn really well. It is also critical to drawing reins out on tongs and alot of other things needing done in the shop. I say this and believe it as over alot of years I have watched a lot of smiths, both live and in videos and through speaking with lots on here about how they work steel. I have alwayas pushed as hard as I can on here about the importance of learning basic forging skills and I think this one area alone is a solid reason for that push. If you have the ability to move steel anyway it can be done with hammer and anvil then it really applies well to everything you do at the forge. With that skill if you decide to move up to a power hammer it is the same thing without you applying the force. You have to tell the ph wot to do and allow it to help. If you are weak on basics it will likely do a poor job or be of little value. Simply put power hammers have no built in knowledge of forgeing skills. Now for the moment I will yeild this soap box to the next person in line.....

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A sign in a shop i was in had a sign on the power hammer that said "THIS MACHINE HAS NO BRAIN - USE YOUR OWN!" You expressed this very well.

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We can't make it by hand, or are you asking if it is too hard to make profit with all the labor? I do enjoy making my damascus. I admit that I got around to making a rolling mill for drawing out, but a 6# or 7.5# cross and an anvil horn did me well for a while, and still does for many things. I averaged 35 hours for 350 layers for 2 or 3 blades, now with my rolling mill I can do the same work in about 15 hours of work, I still have no power hammer and I mainly use a 4.5# cross. Ask Unkle Spike, FatPete, Trying-it, or any of the other members of IFI that have been in my shop while I was working.

But I do admit a power hammer of some type would be much nicer, but noise and vibration not allowable in my neighborhood.

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This post and a couple of the notes in it caused me to think a bit more about this: I have to make a sign for shop about the lack of brains..in the machines..I like that. Also made my business side jump up for a few minutes. At about five hours to forge weld a billet into a count you want for a blade. and not even counting the time it took to order the steel, prepare the lengths you prefer to weld and preparing all surfaces for each weld. You will have the equivalent of about $450 in a billet for one blade. And if you have done your work needed to make sure it comes out right and does not have fatal flaws. You will then be able to make one knife. So with my way of thinking..I figure out wot that knife might sell for made from a mono steel forging or stock removal blank and then add the $450 to that. I hope I can pull off a really nice sellable knife or can stand to have the materials and shop time invested as a loss for the year. I have a few of those knives like that around and call them tuition...I look at them now and then and try to keep from doing thingsl ike that again...but I likely will anyway,,,,,

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I have a power hammer, well until I broke it today. I also have a press. There are advantages to both and will not give up either. When I began my mentor made me forge all my damascus by hand. He loved watching me beat myself up. Every once in a while he would have pity on me and draw out a billet on his 250# Murray. I finally got a 100# Beaudry and used it a little before I got a 50ton press. I can move material really fast with the press and smooth things out with the hammer. Noe I just need to get the hammer fixed. Luckily I know someone who can forge. :rolleyes:

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I currently am waiting to get power to my shop so the powerhammer is sitting in a corner laughing at me!

However when I weld up a billet by hand it starts as 21 layers of bandsaw blade and pallet strapping---saves a couple of fold/weld/draw out cycles.

I also size the billet for the forge and the task so I don't waste energy working stuff that's not going to be part of the finished project.

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If im in a good working mood I can make a reasonable size 150+ layer straight laminate billet in a couple or 3 hours, using a hammer like an Anyang 55lb or 88lb. To be honest it takes me longer to prep all the starting stock for the first weld than it does to weld it, and draw it out to a very neat, almost scale free bar thats say, 24" long x 1.25" wide x .25" thick.

I usually draw out as neat as I can ( which is within 2 mm or so on width, and dead right on thickness if I use a stop block (kiss block) on the bottom die ) , then waft an angle grinder over it when its one long bar (I do this when its cooling from drawing out, its much quicker than cleaning up lots of small pieces!)

I then chop into say 10 pieces with a cutting disc in an angle grinder, restack it and weld. If ive started with 20 layers I would be a 200 after one 'restack'

I used to weld and draw out under a hydraulic press, but find the hammer at least 3x quicker, neater and it blasts away all the glassy flux which is a real pain to grind off if you draw out under a press.

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