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New to this forum and new to blacksmithing,

Nice site appreciate the work you did and do. 

If I may ask a question - Is there something like borax that can wash out the gunk from say cable rope in the same way like borax. Did use sand, clay and also WD40 but my understanding so far is that they exclude air only not clean out the impurities. On my third forge weld attempt had great success with WD40 as a flux. Here is a pic. BTW are those decarb lines or delamination cracks. Would help me a lot to know. 

Thanks again,



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HI WWN, welcome, please add a location to your profile it sometimes helps folks not only understand why you are asking a question but if they should suspect you are not coversing in your native language and can also effect the information you recieve. If you are asking about alternatives to borax I am assuming you cannot obtain borax. Or am I incorrect?

Although we always like pictures as they tend to offer much more iformation than is easily typed, unfortunately I canot make out what the picture is in this case,

There are different types of fluxes, some have a cleansing effect like borax but most are termed covering fluxes which serve only to provide a barrier against the atmosphere, WD40 would be the latter as would coal dust, sand or wood ash. I can only suggest if WD40 works, use it!

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Sure will add a location am living at the moment in India Kerala. I moved there to do a seed saving project for an NGO. I needed a hobby other than well the farming I do. So have been always interested in blacksmithing and finally got into it here. Never imagined it would be possible. Will try and figure out how to add my location to my profile. German is my first language. The picture is my attempt at forge welding damascus (pattern welded steel). Third go got me there. It worked really well in the end (I think) by using the WD40 and having the surfaces very clean and very close together. There was no gunk as you probably would get with old steel rope. All the steel I can get here is from the local scrap yard. Further away I could get mild steel new if I tried hard enough. But as for high carbon am finding older stuff. 

I have tried to get borax, you are correct there is no way I could get it were I live, asked in a lot of places. For sure am gona keep using WD40 :) and am happy to say that I learned the trick here. But as for the gunk?

Ok thanks again for getting back to me,

Cheers David. 

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Here we can fairly easily get 20 Mule Team Borax, which is sold as a laundry detergent booster.  Strangely enough it's manufactured by Dial, which is a subsidiary of the German company Henkel.  Since I have no working knowledge of India whatsoever I don't know if there is a comparable product sold through outlets that provide laundry soaps.  If you have welding supply stores you can usually obtain fluxes there which contain borax, but even if not, most fluxes sold at welding supply stores should work fine for forge welding.

As for the gunk I have to defer to some other members with experience doing cable welding since I have none.  It's something I plan to try so I'm interested in the responses as well.

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WD-40 is more of a solvent and water displacer than a lubricant but if it works it works. 3 in 1 oil works well too.

I don't know what kind of gunk you're dealing with in wire rope. Here it's usually cable grease, often a heavy duty spray that penetrates like spray gear shield. The really bad gunk is stress warning strands, the old school cable used manila yarns, modern cables tend to use a synthetic yarn. If the cable is over loaded it stretches beyond the safety mark and the stress warning yarns unravel or start to break. The frayed strands pop out of the cable and warn you the cable has been stressed beyond safe limits.

The manila is no big deal it just burns out and the void left is closed when you twist it. The synthetics might be a problem burning out clean but patience will probably be rewarded. If you untwist some cable and get a sample of the stress yarn you can experiment with solvents and maybe find one that will dissolve it. You'll have a hazmat to deal with though so . . .

Grease and oil is actually a good thing it will flux the weld just fine. If it's too heavy soak it in gasoline for a while and maybe toss it on a fire. Repeat when cool. Heck that might get rid of stress yarns but . . . 

Check in the pharmacy if available for Boric acid. It's a common non toxic bug poison here, "Roach Pruf" is one brand name. Boric acid is commonly added to borax welding fluxes, it melts at a much lower temperature and doesn't foam and forms a prophylactic layer keeping air off the steel. I have NO idea what if any chemical action it performs.

If it's just rusty either use powdered charcoal and allow it to soak, the carbon will scavenge the oxy significantly but give it time. you could soak it in soda pop, seltzer water won't leave residue but a little sugar from a Coke will just up the carbon content a LITTLE bit. Soda derusts iron and steel because of the phosphoric acid content. It'll take time though experimenting is in order. Here we can buy derusting products, "Naval Jelly" being the most commonly available or best known but there are others.  If available dilute it in clean fresh water or it's too thick to penetrate the twisted yarns of cable. Warm the cable to a couple hundred degrees before putting it in the bath. It doesn't need to be boiling hot just really warm. As it cools it will draw the solution into the center of the cable.

If you use a phosphoric acid deruster you need to neutralize it immediately after taking it out of the bath or the phosphate will oxidize and turn the steel flat black. It might make for cool patterns but I don't believe a person wants to ADD PHOSPHOROUS to their knife steel. Rinse aggressively, neutralize with baking soda and rinse again.

Nothing's perfect though and I have no idea what you have available.

Frosty The Lucky.


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I took a looksee on Google Earth, Kerala is a bit out in the sticks. I also stumbled accross your video David, I recon you did well all things considered and can now see what's in the picture.

You may want to stand one of your hammer head anvils face up, I think you'll find it better to use.

Oh and your English is very good, not even an German accent!

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Wow, great very helpful. 

What I really meant was rust and maybe even scale when I said gunk. I was having a hard enough time forge welding when I cleaned everything and leveled it all out :) Would like to be able to forge weld old cable and old bolts and nuts. Tried making a pair of box tongs using an old bolt and nut. But when I quenched it to cool it, it came loose on the thread. There was a lot of rust and I do not think I managed a weld. Will use a bolt with an already attached head next time for the box tongs ( OK a wee bit of cheating maybe) but could be handy to weld it into one piece using a loose bolt too. 

If you don't mind, could you explain the charcoal recipe a bit more and the how it works. Would be very interested to find out more. Have a lot of charcoal. Do you mean a type of case hardening? Soak it in fire water? Sorry new to this :) 

Good tip, never occurred to me that soaking it in a bath of derust solution as it cools would help it penetrate deeper into the core. If I were to put it into hot vinegar over night and then neutralize it the next day with the backing soda, would I need to be quick about the forge weld as soon as it is out of the vinegar? What about scale formation does borax stop that or must I hit it all into one mass in the first go. 

Thanks am happy to do experiments, in fact do tons of those already, but usually need more info before I try.

All the best David. 



Very easy to get here, will give it a go. Cheers :) 

Once saw a video of someone etching a blade using vinegar, if I remember rightly they boiled it for an hour to get the pattern out. 

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Ha true Smoggy,

We have coconuts here as far as you can see :) and then some.

Thanks for your feedback about the video. You know it is much harder to find things here, especially if you you don't know your way around. 

You are right was only thinking the other day that using one hammer would have worked way better too and the face of the sledge would have given more energy back out than the flat side.

But just got a 2 foot long JCB (excavator) axle I think and am standing that on end. Just today build a stand for it. Started a thread here on this forum about it and got some great advice prior to the build. 

Thanks Smoggy appreciate it.



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David, unless you're replying to something specific, there's usually no need to quote an entire comment. It clogs up the forum and slows things down for those of us with slow internet connections. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was having some more thoughts / questions about fluxes or even no flux and to the terminology used to describe them. But also I am still in need of a cleaning type of flux other than the fore mentioned. No borax here and I have tried hard to get it, in fact I really wish I could get some. Looks to be great stuff.

This is what my understanding is so far, cheers!

Realized that for me it was really handy to recognize that there is a distinction between the three (well that I know of) methods to do the forge welding and that they are linked to "fluxing" in a way. Two Smoggy kindly mentioned above. There are dry, cleaning and covering. Dry kind of applies to surface areas being very clean as in shiny and also very level, so extremely close together - so no flux is actually needed. Cleaning is where the flux washes out rust and I read that it can also dissolve small amounts of scale if the weld does happen to oxidize. Covering is as Smoggy mentioned to exclude air from getting at the weld in the first place. Borax because of it's god like nature (joke) has the ability to do both the covering and cleaning. Wow! Where as sand and probably every other flux I have read about so far can only do covering. It goes without saying right, that I will make darn sure that those layers are as level and clean as I can get them :) So in a way I am always doing a dry (no flux) in the setup, prep phase. But what I am really after is this. I watch people on YouTube with relative ease forge welding stuff that looks pretty rusty and even may give off a certain amount of scale before the second or subsequent weld, but yet with borax in their tool box they can get around scale / rust. Vinegar as mentioned will deal with the rust but what about the scale? Keep the piece yellow hot the hole time? If anyone knows of a good substitute for borax in relation to the way it can do both the cleaning and covering I will be seriously indebted to you. Hope you do not mind my round about question. 

Thanks David. 

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Hi ThomasPowers,

Ah have come across the canister welding. But unfortunately there is no way that I will buy a welder. Ok maybe I could find someone up the road who may do it for me. But you see I really want to try the cable. Plus running up to him every time prob not to practical. But for interest sake can you further explain the oil in the can?

Am making a small axe head right now with the small Damascus as a bit, up in the picture. I was thinking what tool do I need right now. An axe was one. Plus the billet was to small for a knife. Really hope I can pull of the weld now with the WD40.

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