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I Forge Iron

Wrought Iron and Laminate/San Mai

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I've got some wrought iron wagon rim that I'd like to incorporate into a knife blade.  I have done "regular" damascus and san mai, but have not worked much with wrought. 

The rim is in the .3" range thick at the moment.  I plan to forge it down a little, but how far can I go?  I'm assuming I can run it through the power hammer at yellow heat?

Next I'll grind off the scale and laminate it to a piece of blade steel.  I've got 1084 and W2 both on hand in 1/4" and 3/16 thick.  This would leave my final billet as thick as perhaps .6 or so after welding.  

Again using the hammer, I assume this three layer stack of wrought/blade/wrought can be drawn out lengthwise?  Will the different rates of movement of the wrought vs. the core cause me problems here?

After forging to profile, I figured to quench at near full thickness and grind in the bevels.  Any considerations for quenching?  Do I need a faster or slower oil to deal with the cladding?

The rim I have came from my great great grandfather, and is fairly irreplaceable.  I'd like to get this one right. 

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I tried this once, and failed. The problem being carbon migration from the core to the clad. Main reasons being:

1. The high heat needed to work the WI

2. The long forging time, due to the need to work the piece very hot.

3. The core being very thin at the final forging - I made a kitchen knife.

Take this into consideration. And as Thomas suggested - experiment first.

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  • 10 months later...

Been a while since I conceived this project.  Here's the final outcome.


The blade is wrought iron wagon wheel and 1084 san mai.  The wrought is from my grandmother's grandfather's wagon out of Spicewood, Tx.  The guard is wagon wheel from Vega, TX.  The spacer is an 1836 half dollar, to commemorate Texas Independence and the pioneer spirit of the western travelers.  The handle is ash wood from a Springfield Wagon Company wagon tongue.  Springfield made wagons from 1873 to 1951.  The blade is 9.75", and the overall length is 15.75".  Flat ground, with the spine at a bit over 1/4" inch thick.

This knife is not just art, it's a piece of high performance cutlery.  I used it in a cutting contest to commemorate the opening of the James Black School of Bladesmithing at historic Old Washington, AR.  Here's a link to a video of the knife at work cutting a 2x4. After this test, the knife maintained its sharpness through four other cutting tests.

For more information and a few more pictures, click HERE

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  • 5 weeks later...

Having a bad time attempting to combine three types of steel together. They fail to weld together and I am not sure what the issue is. I watched many videos and cannot seem to get the weld to stick.  Attached is a video of the metal I am using. All have some content of carbon with one I believe has a high carbon content based on the spark test.

I first forged the steel flat, grinded the steel clean,  make all same length & width, put thinnest as middle piece, arc welded ends and middle, heated to yellow hot, added borax as flux, reheated to yellow and used manual moderate hammer impacts, added more borax, reheated, hammer & repeat. After all that the pieces failed to weld together?

Using flux or no flux same resulting failure. Anyone have any thoughts on what I am NOT doing correctly? I have made several knifes from 1/2" truck spring steel, 3/4" rebar and lawn mover blade but keep failing at combining steel together.

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RToons - This is a bit of a thread hijack, but I'll give you a quick response.  Some steels have alloying ingredients that make them very difficult to forge weld.  Your prep and approach sound pretty good.  Since you don't really know what those steels are, I suspect the alloys are your problem.

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And I'll take it from the other direction.  I assume your regular forge welding is pretty good and so you know if the heat is enough to weld with?

Or are you guessing at the temperature? If I have welding issues my first thing to change is to go hotter. If I still have issues then it's back to basics: cleanliness, scarfing, fluxing, clean fire, watching that it's not oxidizing in the fire, gentle firm strokes to weld.

Some steels require more aggressive fluxes than others; most of my ornamental work is still done with 20 MT Borax, billets usually are a mix of Borax and Boric acid and rather than go to the fluorine containing fluxes I'd rather do canister welds with high chrome or other difficult alloys.

And remember: trying to get a weld multiple times on the same piece(s) seldom works without a full take down and reclean all surfaces.

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I am guessing at the temp. The metal is yellow hot and single metal forge works great. I have taken a 3/4" rebar down to 2.5" wide blade in about 7 reheats.  All done by hand:I do not have press or power hammer.

I purchased pure borax powder in 5.8lb canaster or it indicates pure? Oxidizing in the fire is an interesting angle. My new forge has a very nice blue 4" flame and it seems to be like other forges I have reviewed in videos.

I will look closer at different fluxes. Did you see the video of sparks from metal. Do you think they all have carbon with one a good carbon content?

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What the flame on top is like does not indicate what the fire is like where your piece is in the fire.  Guess which one is important?

Was that "a single metal forge weld works great?"  Just the fact that it forges well does not necessarily mean you can forge weld in it.  It's a common issue in propane forges; they can be great for forging and not do a good forge weld for instance.

As for your metal: try spark testing it against known samples: like file, leaf spring, 4340, etc  and see what matches best.

Borax is quite safe; borax with boric acid is pretty safe; fluorine containing fluxes ARE EXTREMELY HAZARDOUS!

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Mr Powers made me think more.  "Yellow" is subjective, but it is where I weld high carbon steel at. (about 2200F)   However, I can't weld mild steel at temps that low, and I wouldn't have said any of the samples in your video indicated high carbon content.


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  • 2 weeks later...

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