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Damascus Etching Not Looking Good

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So I did my first piece of pattern welded steel using 1095 and 15n20 and I am using ferric Chloride to etch.

I did a quick 30 or so layers and cut a sliver off my billet to etch to see how it was looking and I couldnt really see any patterns.

So, i started searching and reading the forums and tried tons of different tricks, eventually settling on heat treating the test piece and taking it through the grits and polishing it before etching in FC for 2 hours with the FC at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit and then putting the piece in a 250 oven for 20 mins.

Started to finally see a pattern but did not see the juxtaposition of the shiny nickel and dark steel so I tried hitting it on the polish wheel again, aggressively on one side and lightly kissing it on the wheel on the other side. Aggressive side made all one shiny tone/color but could see pattern from physical "waves".

This gave the best look but as I will post the lightly touch side still seems kinda bland.

The crazy thing is that i am also working on a hatchet with a file (hardened steel) forge welded in the center of mild steel san mai kinda style. Just to see how even my forging was going I stuck in the FC for 30 secs and it etched beautifully. No sanding, no polishing, no heat treating, and as I posted the pic can clearing see that color difference I was looking for in my "damascus"

any tips for my 1096-15n20? or is it possible I got sub par material? (I ordered everything from Blacksmith Depot)

Thanks in advance!

(also I know I got some delamination on the hatchet it was my first ever forge weld and im still working on drawing it out and what not)




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Dilute it, 50% at least. Guys are getting good pattern definition with cold coffee and acidic as coffee is it's nothing compared to 100% FC.

FC is Hydrochloric acid that's loaded with dissolved iron and oxygenated. Think dissolved rust. There are various methods of oxygenating it. It's still corrosive as all get out. I'm thinking 30% is better but I rarely etch anything. Just let it etch longer.


Frosty The Lucky.

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Like Thomas said, you’ve got the topography so it’s etched plenty deep. Get a piece of very fine sandpaper and wrap it around something stiff like one of those pink rectangular pencil erasers then lightly sand the high spots. For more contrast, darker valleys, soak in coffee then sand the ridges. 

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Also, if the piece you are etching is not hardened, it will likely come out grey instead of black on the 1095. I don't know enough crystal metallurgy to say why, but it might be the structure of martensite and the amount of carbon available in the steel matrix.



heat it up, quench it, and no buffing wheel,  it can smear the nickel across and take away the good clean boundaries of the steels. I sand up to 600 grit then etch. Also probably dilute the FC to at least 1 part FC, 2 parts DISTILLED water. Buy it at the grocery store in a gallon jug.

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