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MrDarkNebulah

Next step in damscus

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I've been starting the long process of trying to make some Damascus. I have so 1095 and 15n20 that I have ground to 80 grit with the grind lines running widthwise. They are currently sitting in Ziploc bags covered in some wd40 to prevent rusting. I have about a week and a half before I'm out of college for a bit and can get back to the forge. So, I've been trying to make sure I have the process down (at least what I should do theoretically) and am doing the correct prep work. My set up is a coal forge, some mule team borax for flux, and some hand hammer and maybe a striker if I can convince my twin brother to strike for me. I've been reading The Pattern Welded Blade to help, and it has alot of good information. (You guys actually do know what you're talking about when you say to get started by reading the books. Who'd've though?)

Like I said I have the steel cut into 1.25" x 6" x 1/8" sections and ground to 80 grit. To my understanding, the next step is to weld/wire up the billet. Now in PWB (Pattern Welded Blade) the author recommends to use wire to wrap the billet together, but nowadays I see a lot more people just welding them together. I know Frosty (i think its frosty correct me if I'm wrong) recommends welding the near side of the billet and wrapping the far side. I was wondering what you all thought of this issue.

PWB also recommends soaking the billet in a mix of boric acid and borax before starting to weld. Has anyone tried that? Does it work? 

I've forge welded mild quite a bit before, but I haven't forge welded much high carbon to high carbon before. In general, do I have the process correct? what tips do you have for me moving forward.

Also, whats the best way to take the oil off of the steel before welding? I've seen people use acetone or a special degreaser, but I've never used any of that before.

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Why take the oil off?  Some folks add oil for welding especially for canister welds. That's a bit wide for getting started as width is generally more an issue than thickness; but you have it go with it, my tip would be: Don't use a striker to set the welds as you need a firm strike and not a sharp one.  Strikers come in when you need to draw out the billet after welding.

I suggest arc welding one end and welding it to a handle. (which will fall off at sometime as the attachment point keeps getting reduced in size along with the layers in a billet. Weld it back on or go on without it once the billet has been welded a few times...) The other end can be wired;  if you weld it too, then when you first heat the billet the outer layers will heat faster and bow out letting crud in---if you are using a solid fuel forge.

 

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I think he might be asking about arc welding with the wd-40 on it. It wont be too much of a problem, if you dont mind a little bit-o-fire after starting the weld. 6" in a little long for my personal tastes, but if you work quickly, you can cover the entire length in overlapping hammer blows. As TP said, firm, solid blows. we are not hammering in a grounding stake here.

I recently learned from a Master Smith that once he gets the billet to flux melting temperature, and has it fluxed really well (good liquid layer all on the sides of the billet), he likes to take it to a vice and squeeze it very gently. This will draw some heat from the outside layers as they tend to get hotter than the middle does at first, it will also straighten any bowing from heat expansion during the heating. When it goes back in the fire its more close together, and when the whole thing gets up to welding temperature, it  tends to do it more evenly.

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So welding one end got it. I have very little experience in arc welding. Would tig or mig work just as well?  Also, is there any preheat/postheat I would need to worry about for 15n20 and 1095 in this case or does it not matter since I'll just be putting it into the forge?

 

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MIG is fine to attach your handle, some of us use the terms "MIG/Stick/Weld/ interchangeably"  if the method is inconsequential. The part that matters is getting a handle on the billet. No pre heating required for that welding operation. As to the forge welding, the first heat is just hot enough to get the flux to flow and coat the seams. I have never used the vise as described by Jclonst82 but I understand the benefit as he describes it and I will be trying it when I hand hammer my next billet. A-36/mild has been harder for me to get to stick to itself than HC steels. I'm not saying unequivocally that it is harder to weld, just that I have had issues with it, 1095 and 15n20 are two of the easiest steels to weld so if you have been welding mild to mild you shouldn't have any worries.

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yeah, I use arc welding to denote en electrical arc is providing the heat, whatever the source (mig/tig/gmaw/smaw)

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You could also gas weld the billet, if thats what you have on hand. Electricity is overrated :P.

I would prefer to TIG weld the billets myself. Lack of a TIG welder in my shop tends to make that prohibitive, but you can just fuse the corners together with 0 filler metal with a TIG. Then your billet doesn't have any mild steel weld beads that your carbon is going to inevitably seek out. But thats how i use to weld a lot of sheet metal jobs. Works great with stainless and carbon steel, not so much with aluminum. 

Anyway, the method of welding wont make much of a difference really, im just thinking in text here. 

Your method is sound. Dont worry about the WD-40, that stuff will burn off and suck oxygen away from your steel in the process. 

I would also recommend welding all four corners of the billet, but whatever works, works.

 

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Weld AND wire wasn't me I don't think,  I'm an either or on that one, though welding a handle on is a good idea. I've known of a few guys who set weld, billets with the vise rather than a hammer. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Wiring a billet together to hold the stack is used when one does not want to introduce a miss matched metal into the stack by welding. One puts the wire a couple inches back from one end, so that the stack can be welded on the end without touching the wire or forge welding it into the billet. After the first weld at the end of the billet the wire is removed so more welding can be done. Depending on the length of the starting billet one may use 2-3 wires spaced out to hold pieces in place. On 6" billets I've only used 1 wire on tong end and the other a couple inches back from the other end then remove as you set your welds, just the way I was shown and it has worked for me.

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I wouldn't use a vise to set the weld if using flux. You need to drive thw flux out when setting the weld.

I would also run a bead with the arc welder up the middle of the billet to keep it from bowing. Truthfully you can weld all the seams shut then weld dry with no scale forming at all.. Like when welding with stainless,  But at very least keep it all together. You don't want any gaps for junk to get trapped.

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I agree with Frosty. One or the other. If you have the capability to weld one end... why not just weld both ends? Like i said in my earlier post, it doesnt really matter if you arc weld mild onto blade steels, the carbon in the billet will homogenize regardless. 

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If you don't want the weld metal in the billet, grind it off after the billet weld is set.

Frosty The Lucky.

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4 hours ago, Will W. said:

it doesnt really matter if you arc weld mild onto blade steels, the carbon in the billet will homogenize regardless. 

Have you ever done it? even with carbon migration, the weldment still shows and that looks like crap

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I have done it many times, yes. Repeated folding, welding, and forging usually takes care of it pretty well. I have never had it affect a pattern, though i have heard of times when it has. 

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I would rather take the time to not let it happen (a weld or wire getting into a pattern) in the first place, Vs. all the time and effort to making a patterned billet and getting it all done and ground and then to see a flaw that could have been easily prevented first off. Just my preference.

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13 hours ago, jeremy k said:

I would rather take the time to not let it happen (a weld or wire getting into a pattern) in the first place, Vs. all the time and effort to making a patterned billet and getting it all done and ground and then to see a flaw that could have been easily prevented first off. Just my preference.

Thats the plan, but things often dont go according to plan.  I've never tried tig welding without a filler metal, is it much different from normal tig welding?  I'm leaning towards using wire mainly because I don't trust my normal welding abilities. 

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Hello:

Why didn't ya just ask me direct???

I do NOT recommend using arc weld as it can really mess you up and as Brother Steve says..it looks like crap...

Look at it this way... How did the smiths "of Olde" secure material together BEFORE an electric weld was even thought of?? They used either wire or bands.... You work your way back and remove the wire/bands as you work down the bar..and  there is NO problem with much of anything getting "in there" and buggering up the weld/pattern...  Geeze..YOu could of just asked me...

The photos below are of the raw materials I use...  1095 sheet... L-6  sheet.. and 200 series Stainless Steel HT foil... (Yeah..I weld this stuff WITHOUT it being in a can...why?? Because I can..it's all a matter of knowing what to do with what ya have to work with..) and the first weld  completed..as well as what it looks like after I am done with it...

This isn't anything new or anything we are talking "Dark Age Tech" here.. Remember Occam's Razor...

But then again..what the blazers do I know anyways??? I am just and olde xxxx ..

FAB

JPH

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Everyone skins the cat differently i suppose. 

17 hours ago, MrDarkNebulah said:

I've never tried tig welding without a filler metal, is it much different from normal tig welding? 

Not really. You just up your amps a little, make a puddle, and walk that puddle across each piece (or layer, in this case.)  Bring your arc gap out a little bit more than usual too.

Some guys use a circular motion, i always do more of a back and forth zigzag.

Youre basically just melting a small section of the pieces together in a controlled way. With regular steel and stainless, its easy peesy, but aluminum tends not to like to cooperate with this technique. Usually each piece will create its own puddle and you have to "bridge" it with filler with aluminum.  

Is super easy with lap joints and butt joints, a little trickier with T joints. I would imagine fusing the corners on billets would work well too. 

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18 hours ago, JPH said:

But then again..what the blazers do I know anyways??? I am just and olde fart ..

FAB

JPH

Don't you watch Forged in Fire Jim? Boy, talk about behind the times. <SHEESH!> 

I've made so few billets I don't have a legitimate opinion, wired a couple billets GMAW welded the corners on one. Wire held better and that led me to want to use nickle tig wire next time I welded one up and just leave it on when I folded it. For maybe pretty. I think the last one I tried was before the accident so maybe 10 years and that was cable but it didn't set. Maybe I sprinkled too much stellite powder in the strands for contrast. I keep thinking about pattern development for some reason.

Does that answer any questions about why I rarely if ever critique blades or offer how to advice? :) I AM however fully qualified to offer olde fart advice. Stand upwind.

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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