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I Forge Iron

Ladder pattern, clip point hunter


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My latest work. 300-ish layer ground then flattened ladder pattern. Was a real joy making this one. 1084 and 15n20  

Ive been drying this oak burl for 18 months now, and it is finally dry enough to start stabilizing and using for handles. I LOVE the contrasts I get on it. 


Etched in FeCl for topography, then took it to a buffing wheel and got it SUPER SHINY, cleaned off the waxes from the wheel then etched for contrast in instant coffee. Makes the nickel layers really shine. 







Pushing the pin through while gluing the handle popped a little chunk out right here :/  filled it with epoxy and just carried on. Smooth to the touch.








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  • 2 weeks later...

Can you go into detail about your etching and finishing procedures. 

I have made a Damascus Twisted pattern Viking Seax broken Back style knife. My pattern is very bold but there is little color contrast between the 15N20 and 1084 steel. There is a thin dark border at the junction of the two metals.

                                                                                                                                .Twisted Damascus, first blade

Seax Knife Handle being fit.

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Sure thing. 


My ferric chloride was originally a 1 part concentrate (exact concentration can vary depending on the source) to 3 parts distilled water. 


My ‘concentrate’ is this [commercial link removed per TOS]


over time and etching many blades it has undoubtedly diluted some, and I have topped it off with a guestimate of additional FeCl and H2O. Temperature counts, its a chemical reaction and as such is rate dependent on temperature. Warmer means faster etch, not always a good thing, sometimes slower is better.


I etch in this for multiple 10-ish minute sessions, usually 40-60 mins total. At the end of each time period I sand, without a ‘hard backing’ just a rubber gloved hand, until most of the black is gone, then back in the acid. I usually use 1500-2000 grit for this light sanding, very little pressure. I do this until I can run my fingernail over it and feel topography changes. Once ‘deep’ enough I rinse and dry it off. Bolder layers I go with a deeper etch, smaller/finer layers not as deep.


Then I EXTREMELY CAREFULLY (I cannot emphasize this enough) run it under a buffing wheel with green compound. I get it ALL mirror finished and shiny. There is NO black at this point.  


[Buffing wheels are NO JOKE, they will rip it out of your hand and fling it 100 feet, or worse-into you, before you know you’re not holding it anymore! NEVER feed it a leading edge, always a trailing edge, and always feed the part rotating away from you, never toward you!]


IMPORTANT: the buffing compound is wax based and will inhibit any etching after using it, clean it well. 


Last for contrast I use instant coffee... the cheapest gut-rot crap Walmart sells. I don’t measure, just make it strong enough that in a 9X13” baking glassware I cant see the knife through roughly 2” coffee. I soak it in this for usually about an hour until its black enough for me, checking every 15 minutes or so. I Dry off then oil with whatever you prefer, then I like to bake it at like 250 Fahrenheit  for about 10 minutes.  It seems to get the oil to spread, stick, and coat better, i dunno? The coffee doesn’t really discolor the 2% nickel layer like the FeCl does. Or maybe it just takes a lot longer? 


Thats it. I lightly rub with a paper towel after cooling off. 


For bold lines, sanding with a hard backing might keep it only hitting the high spots and leaving the darks, well... darker. 

Here is a closeup the bolster area of a lower layer count with the exact same process


Edited by Mod34
Commercial link removed per TOS
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Thank you for the feedback. I did a lot of things wrong. The FC/water ratio of 50/50 was too strong. The blade was etched at room temperature for 10 min. which resulted in the 15N20 standing quite proud. 

I have the Green Buffing Compound and several different buffing disks, ranging from a hard wheel to a loose very floppy wheel. I buff on a wood lathe.

What buffing wheel do you recommend, hard, medium hard or loose/floppy? I can turn the wheel at any speed from 50 rpm up to 3500 rpm .

I like the coffee stain approach to pop the 15N20 from the 1084 carbon steel..

After completing the remainder of the process, I will show the knife pictures so the improvement can be observed. 

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Right on!


my buffing wheel seems like 50-75 layers of soft linnen, with concentric rings sewn about 1” apart, its a 7-9” wheel. The last sewn ring is about 1.5” from the outer layer. 



Been a while since I posted here, forgot the commercial link rule... lol

But to know which one I use for research purposes, one could search the “South American rainforest’s major river” for “MG Chemicals Ferric Chloride Copper Etchant Solution, 4L Liquid Bottle” and do just fine.


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18 minutes ago, Jclonts82 said:

Been a while since I posted here, forgot the commercial link rule... lol

You can say check Amazon for ferric chloride and you're not violating the TOS. You can't post a link directly to a commercial website. I used to walk on eggshells until I figured that out.


Sweet knife by the way. I haven't tried pattern welding yet. I've tried welding a couple of bits into mild steel with varying degrees of success. One day though I'll jump into the deep end of the pool and give it a go. I want to maximize my chances of success so I won't be trying it for quite some time. I'm a firm believer in matching my skills with the project. I also believe if you never fail you're not pushing yourself far enough. 



Edited by pnut
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Your completed knife is fantastic with the color contrast in the blade and the burl handle. When you mentioned "stabilized" is this when the wood has dried to ambient conditions or it is impregnated with a plastic compound?

Did you heat the FC solution to aid in the etching process?

Have you ever tried Muriatic Acid for the etch solution? If you had used it, how was the color contrast of the steel layers? Did the 15N20 stand proud?

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I stabilize with a vacuum chamber and cactus juice. This burl is VERY old, and has a lot of spongy, almost rotting wood in it. So it it a resin similar to plastic-ish. 


I have used HCl to etch, but it can be more challenging to get the concentration just right... ive gotten ‘pinholes’ in the nickel layers where it seemed to pick a spot and eat through. I don’t get that with FeCl. Plus the HCl makes more noxious fumes. When diluted  correctly it has about the same (to me) topography changes but often leaves the darks a more of a gray color to me.


I do not heat the FeCl, bit if I lived where it was a lot colder I might get it up to 80F if it was just not getting the job done. 



Pnut, As for the amazon reference, i was just being funny... 

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Thank you for this info. I found out exactly what you wrote about in this first etching experience. My mix was FC/Water at a 50/50 concentration. I wrote to Ric Furrer about what I had done. He used a 1:3 concentration. I diluted my solution to about a 1:3 ratio, FC to water. The next knife will tell me if the solution is too weak or still too strong. 

I do a lot of experimenting but also ask others what they do. There isn't any need for me to reinvent the wheel.


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