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Road to Damascus


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"but learn to forge weld high carbon first if damascus is your target."  

Of course Will52100 is assuming that pattern welded damascus is only used for blades and so completely ignores that fact that when used just for ornamental use it may not have a single high carbon layer in it! See the photo of a pattern welded and ivory pastry tool shown in "Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork: Tools, Techniques, Inspiration" ,  Donna Z. Meilach for an example.

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Saying nickel doesn't draw as much is like describing smearing clay over a piece of ply wood, where the wood stays still and only the clay moves and will overlay on the end.

 

The non-nickel steel doesn't fold over the end of the nickel layers on the end of a billet, all of it moves together. Steve is correct in that the nickel can diffuse very slightly, appearing that the nickel stays thicker, but if properly welded, the steel is one piece, with gradients of nickel running throughout. Think of a bell curve, it goes from like 1% to 20% to 50% to 75% to 50% to 20% back to 1% as you move through each layer. Highest concentration in the middle with simple diffusion of nickel atoms from high to low concentrations towards the outside.

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You have a point, I am assuming that blade steel is the target, but that is not always the case.  Reason I am assuming this is because of previous post talking about high carbon steels.  It is a good thing to know how to weld wrought iron and mild steel, just saying to learn high carbon first, provided that's what you plan on doing.

So, in other words, if you want even layers, start with thicker 1084 and thinner 15&20?  Kinda what I was getting at.  I might be wrong about the mechanics, stretching vs. carbon diffusion, vs. simple scaling, but if you start with the same thickness material and get to a decent layer count the 15&20 will appear to be larger.  Not an issue with random and twist patterns, but can look off with others.  

What I was talking about stretching is kinda like using two layers of clay, one is every so slightly softer than the other, not clay and wood that stays still.

 

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will52100,

What you were trying to say was very clear from the beginning to be honest. Easy to grasp and thanks for making your point. If you have noticed a difference in size once you get up to those numbers then it is reasonable to assume that one can take your word for it. Especially if you have done many such billets. In the back of my mind I will file that info away and at least take it into consideration once I get to that stage. Nothing is written in stone. Depends is usually the word!

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I will take all the advice given and as much research as I can find ( the internet is a wonderful thing for a person addicted to learning) before attempting any "pattern welded" projects. The post was originally about materials that will provide a solid visual contrast, and the use of "Damascus" in the title was more a pun than a comment on technique. So far my only forge welds have been accidental, and awful at that, so I am a long way from executing the technique well enough to create weapons OR armor (I love both equally, depending on the project at hand and how many times it has bitten me). Simply wondering if automotive scrapyards supplied a good jumping off point, material wise. As I see here and in other threads, it seems the prevailing wisdom is to just buy steel for pattern projects. I have to admit some level of disappointment, I was rather hoping to stock up while I can. We are getting less and less work and the boss is talking about closing the shop. What about scavenged steels to practice on? Say, make a billet of x and y as opposed to only x, so one could practice patterns and techniques. Materials of lesser contrast maybe, but still showing the demarcation when etched. 

Truth is, I will most definitely experiment in the future, and expect to fail miserably many times, with both scrap items and quality material. Just attempting to stock up while I have the chance. An enormous amount of projects exist in my head and on paper, long before I would get to a pattern project, unless I was just really jonesing for something new. I have read a significant amount of information here and on the internet at large about scrap materials and their general qualities and chemical involvements, but the same threads say precious little about how they look. I do not wish to jump to the conclusion that x and y, when welded together, will form a billet of homogenous color. So far I have not been dissuaded from that end, unless the steel (scrap or not) contains some level of Nickel or other specifically introduced element designed to change its color. I personally assumed that the different grades and compositions would lead to differing textures or colors in a welded billet. Was this assumption incorrect? Does it, in fact, either work into a single slab of uniform color or fail to weld at all? Is the difference only noticed in the hardness (like a welded-in cutting edge)?

 

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No reason not to stock up now and save for later.  The trouble with chains for damascus is it is another level up over basic layering.  Same with quality wire rope damascus.  But no reason not to rat hole what you can when you can as you will eventually use it, possibly sooner than you think.  Probably the best thing is to visit a maker who is making damascus and see how they do it, or even better a couple of different makers.  Hard to describe on line or in a video what 5 minutes in person can teach.

One of ways I was taught to make damascus was the individual stacking of single pieces, or "frontier damascus" or "scrapmascus"  Makes some interesting patterns and no two are alike, and is fun, but the main thing is it's a good way to learn that you don't need a lot of force to forge weld and what the colors and flux looks like and how the steel responds at temp.  And it's fun.  

This is a pic of one I did a while back, it's got pieces of files, saw blades, ball and roller bearings, a chunk of a wrench, some leaf spring, some pieces of O1 from a knife I screwed the grinding up on, 1084 and 15&20, L6, pieces of chain saw chain and roller chain, predominately all high carbon and care was taken to try and put contrasting materials together and not say two pieces from the same file.  Each piece welded up one at a time and then draw out length wise and sideways and folded and stacked until the pattern evened out.  I don't do a lot like this, but it's a good learning exercise.  

Would mention that while I use both gas forges and a coal forge, for damascus I vastly prefer a vertical gas forge as you are not as likely to burn your steel.  Coal is great for some things and I love mine, but all it takes is a few seconds in attention and you've turned several hours work into a roman candle.

Anyway, the best thing is if you can visit a maker that is into damascus and see how they do it and then go from there.  If you were closer I'd invite you down for some hammering, but I'm sure if you look around you will find local blacksmiths and blade smiths.

IMG_0884.JPG

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That's a very pretty knife. I'm still working on locating the nearest smith to me, and I'll be joining ABANA as soon as I can (paycheck stuff). I know they teach classes in Santa Fe (2-ish hours) and Moriarty (1.5-ish) but both are above my pay grade. I live in a pretty remote area of the state. Until then I'm surviving on books, BPs, YouTube and hours of forum reading. And practice at random things when I can...

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Try the New Mexico artist blacksmith association, don't know how far away they are from you, but you'll likely meat a few knife makers along with some blacksmith during one of their meetings.  Also Google makers near you, and don't be afraid to give them a call and ask to visit.  Worst they can do is say "no", and most of us enjoy the company.  Also check out the different Facebook groups and see who's near you and ask to visit.  Don't be a pest, but most makers enjoy teaching and visiting newbies.  If you get an xxxx just write it off and go to the next maker.  Just some ideas.

Anyway, I fully understand about money issues, so do what you can as you can.

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Despite being on facebook daily, I had not considered looking there... yes, I get a bit tunnel visioned.

NMABA is part of ABANA, isn't it? I looked at their website, and it may be because I'm not a member and I don't have permissions, but I do not see any activity. I figured it was dead. No meeting reports since 15, no future events on the calendar. I'll try calling Monday and see if someone is there. I'll find someone, eventually. I am not afraid to work for it. Just takes a little time :)

 

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Not every blacksmithing group or organization is part of The Artist-Blacksmith's Association of North America.

The New Mexico Artist Blacksmith Association (NMABA) is the home of many talented blacksmiths in New Mexico and the surrounding states. Meetings are held regularly on the first Saturday of every other month.  Most meetings begin at 9am and feature a fantastic pot-luck lunch, demonstrations given by either members or special guests, and a chance to connect with the local blacksmithing community.

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Randell: Just because you live too far away to make meetings, classes, etc. very often is no reason not to get together with other blacksmiths. Throw a BBQ and let the guys know. Driving a couple hours with your anvil, forge, tools, stock to meet up with other blacksmiths, eat BBQ and swap lies if a fine old blacksmith tradition. 

It doesn't have to be fancy, burgers and dogs or maybe chicken or a neighbor's steer they're not watching and you're golden. ;)

Nobody freak out I'm NOT seriously suggesting anybody rustle cattle!

Frosty The Lucky.

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I am fairly sure they can still legally hang you in Lincoln county (where I live) for rustling cattle.  I was advised by the NMABA guy not to join till december, because of how their memberships work, but that I am allowed to attend meetings until then! October meeting is supposed to be in Albuquerque, 2 hours from here, so I can make it!

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When I lived in Central Ohio we used to carpool the 2 hours to get to the SOFA meetings.  Saves money and makes the drive go faster! (we would also stop by a fleamarket along the way that often had smithing stuff...and pie at the FFA booth!)

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I highly recommend the airport coffee shop in Sitka, best pie in the state. You just don't want a window seat coming in, it's like landing on a postage stamp and the air is always rough between about 4,000'-10,000' for the mountains, ice fields and proximity of the Japanese current. But the pie is GOOOOD! :wub: Mmmmmmm, pie.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Sir. You can't take a hammer on the plane. "But I'm going to visit another smith, I need it!" No. I don't care you're a blacksmith. "But" Sir, please step to the side. "It's just a hammer, man"  Stop! Put it down! -taser noises- ... And that's how you wind up in jail for having a hammer at the airport. Haha

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Well... don't leave us waiting in suspense! We want to hear this story. 

Basically, it was @Randell Warren's story, except that it ended with a bag getting checked rather than anyone getting tased.

I do have a rather large collection of little "We examined your checked luggage" notes from the TSA, mostly because of my habit of picking up bits of blacksmith's roadkill while I'm out on business trips. It would be a larger collection, but they're pretty good for starting forge fires.

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