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I Forge Iron

I'm Back! With a bit of a mystery


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I’ve been away a bit due to a reoccurring hand problem so I am basically on light duty until that is resolved, so in the meantime I am doing a lot of little stuff here and there and one of the activities is getting myself caught up on my polishing.

I am currently busy polishing a Kogarsu Maru Tachi made from steel that I smelted myself using the locally available ore from my area, via direct reduction for the smelt. For the ore itself I used Nevada Desert magnetite, which I obtained from the sands that's all around here.

During the smelt I added a small amount of graphite to the mix in order to raise the carbon content. The bloom came out really clean, not many voids and felt very "heavy" mass wise for its size... It was flattened then it was triple cut and re-welded using triple cuts each time for 5 times in order to refine the grain structure. Worked smoothly and was very "solid" under the hammer. No problems with crumbling or anything. Welded great..one of the smoothest refinings I have done so far.

It sparked like a 60 t0 70 pt C steel but the sparks were very "white"..not the golden/reddish yellow like most carbon steels...

The sword blade was then forged out of this material, rough shaped under hand hammering, rough ground and then shaped, the two Bo-Hi started and then heat treated. ( I’m not going to tell you, yet,, how I got that little arrowhead shaped termination at the Kissaki, as that will in book No. IV. I got that idea for that type of termination from several pieces I have seen what I was doing research for a book IV).

The blade was clayed using A P Green High Al furnace repair/cement with concrete tie wire used to hold the clay in place during yaki ire. The quenching medium was warm brine ( my own mix of sodium hydroxide and ammonium nitrate, which is basically caustic blue salts) at a temperature of 265°F. Horizontal quench.

The blade came out of yaki ire with no cracks, warps or bends, and with a graceful amount of sori. I then started the polish after I scraped clean and base polished the Bo Hi…

While I was polishing I noticed that the Hamon was taking a much "smoother finish" than the unhardened areas of the blade. Now this is not all that unusual, as it is harder but for some reason the colors were little “ off” than what I usually see, more "darker grey", almost a bit "greasy" in colour in the softer areas.

This was becoming more noticeable as I progressed up in the polish into the finer grits. Once I got to 2500 grit, I did a very short etch in ferric chloride for approximately 30 to 45 seconds. Upon the removal of the blade the entire surface was black, which for me is more or less normal for the way I work.

As I was wet rubbing out the blade with 2500 grit wet/dry paper to get off that black crud I noticed that the Hamon was very smooth and silvery white with a cloudy transition line between the hard and soft areas of the blade (Shibuchi line) The softer area displayed a surface that had an "open" grain that looked like either some flavour of wrought iron or Wootz. Now I have never seen this happen before and I am stumped, maybe alloy banding but I doubt that....

Now let me backtrack a bit, the area where I obtained the magnetite is downwind a little ways from Ti-Met, which is a titanium foundry located here in the Henderson area. Now since titanium is paramagnetic, I feel that some of that material may have piggybacked onto the magnetite‘s surface, being picked up along with it as that is the only way it could have been “picked up“, or maybe my adding the graphite to the smelt may have caused the effect illustrated in the below photographs. Maybe it’s a little both, I do not know.

The finish was totally smooth and hand rubbed out to 2500 grit before the etch.NO scratches visible, almost to a full mirror polish.

The resulting finish after the etch, on the non-hardened areas of the blade is very similar to, at least to my eyes,as I said before, WI or Wootz. Now I was wondering if any of you fine folks have any idea as to what happened and why I’m getting this effect and result. I’m also wondering if I could of accidentally violated Mr. Daniel Watson’s so-called “Techno-Wootz” patent. Either way I am at a loss as to what happened either during the smelt or the hardening process. So does anyone have any ideas at all?

I was thinking as I am continuing to study that the grain looks alot like a wrought iron type of structure, but then,thinking a bit more why wouldn't the grain then be visible in the hardened areas of the blade as well, instead it being only seen in the un-hardened areas?

(If any of you are interested I am more than happy to post photographs of the completed piece but right now I’m wondering what in the heck I did to this steel to get this effect). This sure has me stumped. The surface was totally "mirror smooth" before the etch, with a nice Hamon showing and when I saw what happened when it came out of the etch I was totally taken back...

Any and all ideas are welcome so enjoy the photos.

Thank you








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It does appear to be carbide banding, so Ti contamination is a good guess but as you already observed, there is no such pattern apparent in the hardened areas. that could be a chapter for Book IV in itself.

On another note, its nice seeing someone doing the more esoteric forms of Japanese blades, rather than just the standard Gunto/Tashi styles most do. I have only seen one example of this type, it was a temple presentation blade.

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The 'areas' in the steel look quite regular, like scratches or file marks..... Could some banding (alloy, or carbide) have occured under the surface of the rough worked blade, mirroring the tooling marks, when you did the heat treatement?

Ive had blades ive morror polished, then etched that have shown 'phantom' scratches when lightly etched (even though I know catagorically that the surface of the blade is flat.)

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As promised here are some pics of the sword in question:


OK I got some pics taken of the mystery beast sword...

Nagasa: 32"...(measured dfrom habaki to kissaki)
Ha-Mune (Back edge) length is 14"

Bo-Hi..One4 is full length (down the shinogi-gi) and the other Naginata-Hi..running along the Mune "back edge"..."Diamond Point" terminus of the full length Bo-Hi..which as I said I WILL explain in book IV...wha-whah -wha ha....heh heh heh....the hard part was getting it down to clean metal and polished....

Blade type: Kograsu-Maru AKA "Little Crow"....

Tsuka length 14", black samegawa under black and gold chevron silk tsuka-ito. Kashirae theme- Temple Lions/Chi-Chi Lions/Fu Dogs.....they are called by all three names..same critter...

Siya: Ho-wood (magnolia) wrapped with split rattan for the first 1/3 of the siya length...Amber Horn siya fitings and the whole finished in red gold leaf under black cracked lac.

OAL: 47 3/8"...The Tsuka-Ito is black base with gold chevron woven in silk...I love that ito....makes even my work look good....

Even though the Hada is "funky" for whatever reason(s) it may be at this time...this sword cuts like a dream..and thanks to that "back edge" of this particular design...it allows of a whole "new" avenue of attacks and parries...In fact I am working on a "new" Batto style using this sword in my Dojo....still under develoupment as they say...

Hope the pics turn out..






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Steve S....:

I am working as much as I can on book IV..there is going to be a whole lotta fun in this one..all sorts of neat and spiffy stuff..But i will say this now..I am going to be grilled because it isn't being written with a "Beginner's" mind set..if you do NOT already know how to make what I call an "honest knife"..Ie, one that cuts, cuts. cuts and then cuts some more..regardless as to "how it looks"..(looks to me are not even secondary cause the "prettiest knife in the world" that isn't capable of taki9ng and holding a decent edge is TOTALLY WORTHLESS as a knife....and this opinion that I hold has gotten me into all sorts of trouble...But be that as it may...

Book IV will be a continuation in the series and will, more likely than not, be the LAST book I write (at least as far as I can see it at this point in time...). My only wish is that I could find some youngster in his 20's or so..in more or less my "general area" that I can take "under my wing" and show all the things that were shown to me and all the other stuff I have learned over the last 40 plus odd years.

It's sad when you look at the cold, hard facts that there are very, very few "out there" that are interested in preserving the "old ways" of doing things..All the vast majority want to learn is the "Newest and the best"...and that is sad cause unless you KNOW the "old way" to do things, to learn a certain steel (or three)...."Inside and out"..and obtain a very "intimate knowledge" on how those steels will react..well then those youngun's will be totally lost.

When was the last time anyone heard of "aging" a forging?? I was taught that it can take between 6 weeks and up to 6 months for a forging to "settle in" as far as annealing/normalization goes for a "top quality" end piece...and another 4 to 6 weeks AFTER heat treating for it to be at its best...

There is so much that I can "pass on" to someone younger ( and I mean at least 40 some odd years younger than I am..) so they can "preserve the Old Ways" and incorporate them into the "new ways" as I have in my time.... So alas and forlorn..I am reduced to writing it down into texts and tomes... Surely that will preserve the majority of what I have learned but not all...Not all the "fun and interesting stuff" that I could show, in a "controlled environment" that would be otherwise hazardous and possibly fatal if not "walked through it step by step"... Yet NOT A SINGLE ONE has the desire..the "fire in their belly" or the gumption to work through the burns, the grinder bumps, the failures and challenges that doing this in the "old ways" demands...Sigh...

Maybe, hopefully I will find that "kid" someday..Yeah I "work simple"..not much in the ways of "Machinery"..95% is hand work, practice and skill...but I was taught...some 40 years+ ago, by my mentor/teacher..Herr Hauffmann that it is the CRAFTSMAN that controls the tools and it is the craftsman's skills that does the work...the tooling is just the means for the craftsman to do the work at hand....

A much sadder and humble man is...


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Gee where were you 10 years ago i would have dropped everything and flown from Australia for that type of training but alas i now have a wife and a beautiful little baby girl that i have to think about. i wish you all the best in finding an apprentice Jim.

(light bulb lights up over head) mate have you thought about doing some DVDs about blacksmith/bladesmithing exercises. i know it isn't as good as an apprentice but i know that there are alot of people out there (like me) who dont have anyone near them that they can learn off. all the blacksmiths around here wont allow you into the smith for fear of being sued. i tried them all 10 years ago, even told them i'd work for free on weekends to learn but all said the same thing about insurance so gave up and started on my own with my only resources being this forum and books that i've found over time (and yes i have the first 2 of yours :rolleyes: ) and have found that i learn more in watching youtube (for good or bad) than hours of reading.

if you have already can you tell me where i could get my hands on them or any others that you know of
thanks Ben

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This is one of those rare occasions that I wouldn't mind viewing some extremely large pictures! Fantastic craftsmanship. Do you use wet stones to polish the blade, or belt grinder? Thanks for posting the amazing blades that you create! Every one of them I find inspiring. -Robert

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