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1080 question


HEAP of JEEP

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This might seem like an odd question, but maybe not...  Since I'm still so new to this, I'm dealing with a couple of things that I'm just curious about and was hoping someone with more knowledge and experience might be able to answer.

First, since my start in knife making a few months ago, I have only been doing damascus blades.  Its really the only thing that ever interested me about knives, so its the only thing I've been focused on.  When I started, I was using a lot of scrap jeep parts... mainly leaf springs, but then I've used some old files, mower blades, and few other things from the scrap pile while I was teaching myself how to forge weld.  I finally progressed to the point where I think I'm turning out some decent "looking" blades, so time to move on to quality steel.  Over the holidays, I ordered some 1080 and 15n20 from Kelly Cupples, and last night I decided to break it open and start on my next project, a small bowie knife for my wife's camping bag.  I'm also doing a small billet to make some small coupons and a tiny blade or two to test my HT process since I've never tried heat treating 1080 and 15n20... but all this was happening while I was working on the billet for my wife's knife.

Once the billet was ready, I started like I always do, heating it, fluxing it, getting it up to welding temp, etc...   The welds on this billet went super smooth... much easier than the scrap I had been playing around with... but then when I started drawing it out to get to the first fold, it was like nothing I have encountered yet in my limited forging experience.  The overall size of the billet was actually a little smaller than I usually start with, so I thought it might even be a little easier to start than normal, but moving that metal seemed to take a lot more effort than I was expecting. 

So my question is, is this a common experience?  Does the higher carbon content really make it that much more difficult, or is this all in my imagination?

The only reason I could come up with... I also just got in some IR3 welding goggles, since all of my forge time is after work, in the dark, and running my forge at welding temps was really causing my eyes to go a little haywire.  I don't stare in to the thing, but even just glancing in there to peek at the billets would give me the lingering spots and totally destroy any hope of adjusting my eyes to the darker corner where my anvil is.  The goggles sure helped with that, but it took some time to figure out the best way to use them for myself.  I started with just putting them on, and leaving them on.  They darkened everything, but I wasn't tripping over anything, and could still see the anvil reasonably well.  The problem was, I was having a very hard time judging the temperature of the billet.  At one point, after the first hammer hit, I was convinced it wasn't hot enough, so I just took off the goggles, but everything hot... the billet, the forge, the flames, all looked a strange orange color.  My eyes had adjusted to the green lenses, so it was going to take a few minutes for them readjust to seeing things normally... but right then, I still couldn't judge how hot the billet was, because everything hot had the same color.

Eventually, I went back to my regular safety glasses, and then just kind of held the goggle between my eyes and the forge, whenever I had to look, and then would pull the billet out real quick to get a look at it without the goggles.  Once I started doing it that way, it got easier to judge temps, and drawing out seemed to go a little quicker, but I was still having to hit that billet with everything I could to make it move like I had gotten to used to with the billets made from scrap.  I did manage to get it to 48 layers before calling it a night, but as I sit here at work, contemplating everything, I can't decide if it was all in my imagination, if I was trying to work it to cold because of the goggles, or if 1080 is really that  much tougher to forge than the 5160 or whatever alloy my usual leaf springs are made of.

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  Can't say for sure since there is no way of knowing what the previous steel you were using was. Yes higher alloyed steel is going to be harder to move, but I wouldn't think that the 1080 is higher than a leaf spring. It's been my experience that leaf springs are pretty hard to forge, but again there's no way of knowing what steel it was.

  Hat's off to you for doing damascus by hand,  it's definately a chore.  If this is something you are serious about, you are going to want to start saving for a press or hammer.   In the meantime,  a spring fuller will help a lot with drawing out the billets, and as long as they aren't too big they should be managable. 

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8 minutes ago, Justin Carnecchia said:

  Can't say for sure since there is no way of knowing what the previous steel you were using was. Yes higher alloyed steel is going to be harder to move, but I wouldn't think that the 1080 is higher than a leaf spring. It's been my experience that leaf springs are pretty hard to forge, but again there's no way of knowing what steel it was.

  Hat's off to you for doing damascus by hand,  it's definately a chore.  If this is something you are serious about, you are going to want to start saving for a press or hammer.   In the meantime,  a spring fuller will help a lot with drawing out the billets, and as long as they aren't too big they should be managable. 

Thanks Justin.  I'm sort of taking it one day at a time as far as where I'm going with this, but if I ever get to the point where I am making knives worth selling, then I agree a press becomes a necessity... I've already started softening up my wife for the inevitable day where I tell her, "Oh, by the way,  I spent $3500 for a press... should be here next week"

In reality, I'll probably build one for less than half the cost, but so far, what I'm turning out make great gifts, letter openers, and wall hangers, so I haven't really spent much time thinking that far ahead.  We'll see where this adventure takes me.

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Well, it's a combination of both.  Carbon mostly.  You'll find after the third fold it will get easier to draw out.  I haven't figured out the physics as to why, it may just be loss of mass from scaling (I hand forge my Damascus too).  Generally though, the more alloy the tougher it is to work.  Wait until you get a hold of some 52100, or it gets you.  :blink:

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I've forged a lot of 1084 and 15&20, and a few billets of 1080 and 15&20, compared to 52100 or other higher chrome steels it moves like butter.  Are you sure you were hot enough?  I normally forge weld then draw out at welding heat.  What steels are you comparing it to?  By far the hardest steel to move for me is 52100, even the power hammer doesn't move it very fast at 1550-1600 deg. F.  By comparison 1080 and 15&20 feels like mild steel.  Are you sure you have 1080?  Before I got a hammer and press I was using an eight pound sledge with a short handle for drawing out.

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If you stick with the goggles, I'll bet that you will eventually get used to seeing temperature differences better. Your brain is expecting a particular range of colors, but the goggles change that. Just invest the time to cover the new learning curve, and you'll be fine. Switching back and forth will slow that learning down.

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Ditto stick with one or the other eye protection, it takes your brain time to learn to correlate color and temperature. Changing around is like hitting reboot.

When necessary I have grade 5 face shield and it's easy to look around if set right.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Or, you could do what I do: use the shades when you are looking into the forge to see if the billet is completely soaked through, then when actually forging the billet, I take the shades off and just use my normal forging goggles.  You shouldn't need to look into the forge to take the billet out and start forging.

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There are different ways to improve your view, while protecting your eyes from glare. number #3 half lenses with clear tops is a common method for blacksmiths. Hot glass artists (who are exposed to a lot more furnace glare, and also need to accurately judge heat by color) Mostly depend on neodymium glasses, which aren't cheap, but are quite effective.

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