Steve Sells

Knife Making Log Class 109: materials and forge welding

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Rich Hale

Lets start with materials and quality of work. Keeping in mind that it is your shop, and you make the rules and can change them whenever you wish. If you make cheap knives, you will sell cheap knives,,, That simple; Excellence is a decision. Talent is not necessary for excellence; Persistence is necessary for excellence. If you wish to make real nice knives, decide at some point wot is the worst thing you will allow to leave your shop, and if you do that, look at each piece before it leaves and see if it meets your expectations.

A knife is an assembly of pieces.Hopefully each part will complement the others. I like to have a plan in my head or on paper before I make a blade... We covered forging to a pattern in 101 I believe. If you grind,,same thing,,,make a blade that will be nice to use and look at. Lots of questions on here lately about using this steel or that steel and how would they work in a knife... We will cover that, but I know the questions will keep coming. Mystery steel is just that. You can do many things to it,,like the hardening testing methods we covered in 101,,,,That will not tell you the steel type,,but as we did then, we knew it was a piece of a coil spring, and we could harden it... Those told us we could make a blade from it. I see a lot on here about spark testing. I never tell new folks to try that as it is not a method you learn fast....by the time you learn to do it well, you likely already have found out wot we will cover next.

Now let us think about mystery steel some more.. What does it cost you to go find steel that may in fact not work for a blade? How far will you drive and wot does that cost, for that two way trip? I gave that up years back. I can dial a number, and in less than a couple of days, have steel sent to my house and I will know exactly wot it is and exactly wot it takes to heat treat it. I can also select the right steel for wot I intend to make with it. I recently bought a 6 ft bar of the finest SS I can find; wonderful stuff...5/32" x 1 ½". I paid over eighty bucks for it. Not only that, I have to send it to a heat treater for that part. For all of this money, I make blades that sell for a lot of money and I get notes each spring on how a lot of them did in the fall hunts. They are marvelous blades. And so are blades made from high carbon steel, and so we do not forget it, the last two or three numbers of the four or five numbers in a steel is the carbon content. Like 1084 is .84 carbon. 5160 is .60 52100 is 1.0. Anything less than .55 or up is needed for a knife blade And rr spikes are not high carbon. They are at most .30 for the HC labels. Guard and handle materials; you can use mild steel for a guard,,,cheap and easy to work. You can use ss; little harder and and may cost more. Copper and brass look good at first. Then they oxidize and look bad,,,,if the new owner knows this, they may maintain them and look great. Nickel is nice, and I feel it has a warmer color than SS,,,I cannot explain that..

Handle materials:

I do not put a piece together with anything I do not think will last along time....no matter wot it does in its new life. Sheep horn looks great,,,,,makes a great handle. It is made from the same thing as hair. If you set sheep horns outside for a time, they go bad fast. If that horn is stabilized, it lasts forever. Same thing with ivory.. Most woods need to be stabilized. The process they use it is to put material in a chamber and vacuum all the air out. Then they add a product, and then after a time, compressed air. When you cut a piece in half, the product is all the way through.... When it is finished on a knife, it does not need a coating,,,Sand and buff.

oldtimer

Can you stabilize Deere antler?

steve sells

yup all horn is the same stuff really hair

Rich Hale

nope, too sense .. stay with a couple of the woods like desert ironwood

steve sells

OK. Lets clarify; I do stabilize white tail deer antler. Not all is as porous, but its all made from the same material in nature.

OK. People have been talking about RR spike knives and other non blade material to fashion blade like objects.. So rich and I have decided that if you insist on using RR spikes to make a blade, we will show you how to make one that WILL hold an edge. First off HC marking does NOT mean High Carbon steel. At best its .30 carbon; not enough to get hard. Sorry. Even your super duper quench cant change physics. So ya cant get a good edge from rr spike alone. BUT we can cheat. We are smiths, so we forge weld a real high carbon steel bit to where we want our cutting edge to be; simple as that. IF you insist on using them, at least make them a Real quality blade. They will look the same, but having the 1080 or higher section for the cutting part, it will hold that edge.

Next is a BP of sorts explaining how I go about forge welding. Don't worry about patterns yet; Just get the part of joining 2 metals together at first. http://fenrisforge.c...ke Damascus.htm It's already on my web site, so I see no reason to re type it all here. Plus http://www.iforgeiro...-forge-weld-r35

The main thing to remember is clean the steel. I use 40 grit, leaving the scratches across the bar; not along with it, to allow crud to exit when welding. I wire them into one unit and heat to red, then flux at dull red, Return to fire and get it HOTTER. How hot; that all depends on the steels used, and YOUR shop. I call it orange for welding. Others say cherry red. A few call it yellow. We all see color a bit differently than others do. If you never forge welded before, start using scrap mild steel to itself. After you get good at that, then higher carbon is easier and lower temps. In the past, the apprentice started by cleaning the masters shop, AND forge welding the scraps from other jobs into ONE bar for use in future jobs

Welding is NOT advanced skill, but a basic smithing skill. Pattern welding, where I manipulate the layers into controlled patterns is advanced, but there is no reason a person cant learn to forge weld metal into one bar. I covered cleaning, so now... flux.

I don’t care how many don’t use flux. As a beginner, USE it til ya get good. Then mess around with dif things. Why make your life harder than it is already?

DRoberts

rebar too poor quality to practice with?

steve sells

20 mule team borax from the store in laundry Isle. Not the soap, but the borax laundry booster is great and cheap. Rebar isnt good to learn. Its junk to start with, and not consistent. You will never know what  your mistake and what its caused by the junk in the rebar.

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My cut and paste function is on vacation today,,,But you can google  Devin Thomas damascus steel and he has wonderful pattterns made with stainleess steel.

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Steve would it be better to make a billet in a tube when using stainless steel. then you are controlling the welding environment?

good way to start  and will work for many things, I am just getting into adding a thin shim stock layer of SS between the 1084 and the L6 in the stack to brighten things up, in my coal forge.

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If you have SS in the billet, would you rix lines of rust and lines of stainless? I know if you take care of a carbon steel knife it never need rust but just a thought. 

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not sure of your question, why would the addition of stainless cause rust?

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Gearhartiron's beautiful feather pattern chefs knifes he posted recently got me interested in how you make the feather pattern.  I found a tutorial and after Seeing how you cut up the billet and cut it again to pull the feather then weld it all back up it has me wondering if it's as strong as a solid billet.  I'm guessing if the welds are good it is a the same as a thicker billet.  I think of a knife as a cutter not a crow bar so practically it makes no difference, just curious about performance under extreme tests like the abs smith tests.  

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Forge welding Damascus as complicated as a feather pattern or even simple folding can cause inclusions which can make weak points and risers for stress fractures.  Usually a smith who can pull off complex patters is knowledgeable enough to do it without incurring those defects.  As far as cutting goes, there is some debate about the edge holding of a Damascus blade over a homogeneous steel.  The theory states that a fine pattern with many layers crossing the edge will make a microscopic saw blade effect with the softer of the two alloys wearing faster causing the blade to self sharpen.  I've personally never seen this in practice though.  In my humble opinion, if one took my two favorite steels (L-6 & 1095) and tested identical knives you might get 45 cuts with L-6 and 60 from 1095.  The DCE theory would hold that you'd see more cuts from a Damascus made from those two steels than either could do by themselves.  In my experience the truth performance usually falls in between and can't exceed the parent materials performance.  I'm curious if anyone else has the same experience.

With strength there is something to consider.  When welding a billet carbon migration can effect how a billet acts.  On a true high/low carbon Damascus like Cable, they will not break clean.  I broke a cable Damascus Bowie strait out of a water quench.  It took a large wrench to pry it over.  The blade flexed 30deg before breaking like green lumber.  With a Damascus like a Feather Pattern you probably have complete carbon migration with the patterning being caused by alloying.  A blade like that will snap clean like a homogeneous blade.  And like a homogeneous blade one can manipulate the hardness in the same manner depending on alloys used.  The only true henderance to strength in Damascus is weld defects and carbon migration.  A smith who knows his materials and welding techniques can work with those issues to make a blade that could pass the ABS test.

 

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The terminology used by blade smiths, the various words, phrases, etc., may not have the same definitions by everyone using them.  For example, when the word 'normalization' is used, it may have different meanings or evoke different processes in the minds of various people.  In the end, the specific steps used in knife making procedures must be expressed very carefully, so that there is no misunderstanding between us.

Having come from engineering/chemistry/physics and computer programming lines of work, all of which have differing definitions for 'normalization', I hesitate to use the term, ever.

Now heat-treating, hardening, quenching and tempering all have good contextual meanings for knife makers.  Yet I've seen the term 'normalization' used very differently in discussions about damascus steel making, including wootz masters.  In particular, Al Pendrey used the term when air cooling freshly made crucible ingots.  In fact he cycled the ingots through several-to-five heat soaks in his forge to very specific temps, before letting them air cool to ambient temps, before ever beginning to 'work' the ingots into billets.  And he called that process 'normalization'.  I'm convinced he was referring to reduction in carbide crystalline sizes.  Only after doing this procedure did he take small cuttings off the ingots to send out for metalurgical and chemical analysis.  Of course Al was 10 years older than me at the time, so I listened very carefully to every word that man said, inferring as much meaning as possible.  The ore he used to make those ingots had vanadium in it.  Very rare.  The ingots contained .05 to .15 per cent vanadium.  The old swords and knives made from the original Indian wootz, were never cut or folded.  The damascus patterns were naturally derived out of the original crucible steel making process, just as Al Pendrey's were.

STOP using  weird colors and backgrounds to highlight your posts, its hard to read, annoying to remove and messes with the translators

 

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Should of been at Quad-State the year Al Pendray was welding up a blade from chevrons of wootz and pattern welded material.  If you research wootz more you will find they did manipulate patterns by cutting---look into original wootz ladder patterned steels.  Also how pucks were worked into blades, there was more possibilities than just watching Pendray's video went into.  (If he had gone into all the possible variations that video would have taken days to watch; he was presenting a subset of what he knew to get people started.)

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