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Help getting started with damascus


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Hi all,

I want to make a damascus billet, for a knife and various fittings. It would be my first time, so I would appreciate some answers, and any advice.

From reading, seems 15N20 is popular for damascus, but I cant get Nickel steels, only carbon. Will a combination of O1 and 1070 do? Mainly from the visual aspect.

All hammering will be manual. How large a billet is it reasonable to make?

Should I use flux? or just nicely clean the surfaces? During the initial layers bonding? and what about the folding?


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I recently found success welding high carbon to a chrome bearing steel with decent contrast after an acid etch.

The thickest billet I have made by hand was 1.25 inches wide, 4 inches long, and about 2 inches thick. That particular billet was 15n20 and 1095, 12 layers to start with. It was a BEAR to draw out by hand for me at least, but it is doable.


Edited by Jclonts82
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Try a san mai billet first... three layers.  Use the one that will be your cutting edge in the middle.  In fact, why not try mild steel around a core of 1070 to start.  Grind them clean, stick them together with small MIG or tacks or wrap the billet tight with iron wire.  Heat to dull red, sprinkle with borax on all sides until it looks wet, and heat to welding heat and quickly/gently/firmly hammer the layers together from the middle outward.  Because it's so thin, it will cool quickly.  Do a few hits, then back in the fire.  Repeat.  You'll have an idea when it's welded because it will cool evenly (can't tell the layers apart by colour) and will sound firm under the hammer.  The sides may look ratty.  Either forge them back in at a welding heat or cut them off (better for the first try).  

An alternative would be say 5 layers... a bit thinner than a square bar.  Don't make a 2" thick bar at the beginning unless you want to risk that much material... it's up to you.  I've made a couple of usable san mai knives with O1 and mild steel, and hoping to get better with billets of 15N20 and 1084 or W2.  And ferric chloride isn't the only etchant... it's the one with the strongest contrast, but that's not always the best.

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