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Damascus Advice


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I'm looking to have a go at pattern welding for the first time and I was looking for some advice on steel. As a starter, I would like to make some simple bracelets as they should be easier to practice on than blades. So the carbon content is not important in any way, just as long as they etch to form a nice pattern. Most of the sources I have read are referring to knife blades, so they recommend something along the lines of 1095 and 15N20. I realise that I can change the 1095 to virtually any steel, but I'm not sure about the 15N20. Where I am (Kent, England), the stuff is like gold dust! You can't buy it new near me, and I'm having trouble sourcing old bandsaw blades. So is there anything other than 15N20 I can use when carbon content is important, or other sources of it?

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15N20 is used in pattern welded billets for a couple of reasons: one is that by itself it is a good blade steel, And another is that is has a little nckel in it and shows up pretty light in a billet. Steel without the nickle shows up darker. Mixed with 1095 you get a great contrast. and the two steels make a remarkable blade when done right. Steel that has little carbon does not etch as dark. As you have trouble lfinding these steels. i can make a couple of suggestions to help you along. The Complete Bladesmith book is the first. spend a little on it and learn a ton. Make sure youi can forge weld each and everytime without fail. Make sure you can fashion a blade that is the size shape and fitted the way you envision your work to end up. Why would i say all of this? if yiou do find some matgerials and have your welds fail you search was in vain. If you make a nice billet and cannot make a good knife from it, same thing, If you do the first two items and cannot assemble a real nice knfe you have spent a lot of time and effort to make a poor knife. Some times the fastest way to learn how to learn a new skill is to break it down into steps and learn each one of them so they do not get in your way later on.Now my last suggestion: do it al however you wish, have fun and take pics.

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Thanks for the advice! I've read 'The Complete Bladesmith' through about 5 times! It has a lot of good information and allowed me to forge my first knife pretty easily. I'll have a go at forge welding tomorrow, I've got quite a few strips I could weld into something a lot more useful. So, with a product that doesn't need a high carbon content, I could mix some low carbon steel (light) in with some high carbon steel to get a sufficient contrast? Ill read up on what nickel does to steel and perhaps it will help me spot where it would be used so I can find some scrap. Bandsaw blades are the only common application of it that I've found, I'll have to ask around some woodworking places, I'm sure they'd be happy for me to take an old blade from them for a rounded up scrap value and a trinket of some sort!

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What about using a cheapie B&Q type handsaw for a material? Relatively springy and shiny, its only the teeth that are hardened,

I have cut sections out of used ones with a slitting wheel and/or tin snips/shears to succesfully use for items in the past

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high carbon steel will give you a dark line in the final product of pattern welded metal, 15n20 (something with nickel) gives you the bright lines in the pattern. Lower the carbon in steel the grayer the lines. Less nickel in the steel the duller those lines.

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I have used the steel banding material with A6 and mild steel. Got good contrast and welds easily. Banding material (Iam told) is 1095. Easy to get and is in the right widths. I have also used nickel welding rod as a pattern addition. I knock off the flux, twist 2 or 3 rods together weld and forge flat. Add to the mix. This was junk rod that had gotten wet and the flux was falling off. Needed to use it for something.

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Banding material VARIES, the stuff for light duty cheap items is not the same for a critical duty multimillion dollar item. if you don't know what you have I would suggest spark testing and the quench and break test.

Saying that "banding is alloy XYZ" is misleading at best...

As to not finding any bandsaw blades: what did all the machine shops tell you when you called and offered to buy their trashed blades for a pound for a couple of them?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ive welded a decent ammount of damascus..If I had my 'druthers' it would be O1/L6..True L6..Almost no bandsaw or saw blades are L6, they are either 15n20 or something akin to 1070+2% nickle..Some can be 8670M..The only place to reliably get L6 from is a supplier, like Aldo..
Aldo also sells bundles..Stackes of 15n20 and 1095(or 1084) already cut to length and width ready to weld..Ive tried a lot of variations..You honestly have to be careful with what you weld together..Ive seen oil/air hardening steels welded together with simple carbon steels tear itself apart while normalizing..
1084 or 1095 mixed with 15n20 makes nice damascus and is so easy to weld together..Just make sure you havea good clean non oxidizing fire and good clean mating surfaces on the metal..

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