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Hi guys,

I was attempting to make Damascus yesterday. It is o ly my third time so I still dont quite know what I'm doing. On about the third welding heat it started to crumble and the grain inside looked massive there were all these big cracks running perpendicular to the layers. The welds were all good and there was no problem once I cut the cracked section off but I want to know why this happened. I work outside and it was about -10°C and my anvil was cold could the heat difference in the anvil cause this. Or did I overheat the billet. Although I think that unlikely because it didn't spark. Although I'm working in a coal forge so you never know. The second billet I did that day went wonderfully but by then the anvil was warm... any insight is valued thank you

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WHAT ALLOY(S)?   Some alloys will "cottage cheese" at lower than sparking temps.

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Thomas, is it uncommon to see both the "cottage cheese" crumbling and vertical cracks at the same time?

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Can't say; I try to avoid cottage cheesing and I generally work with alloys that are prone to do it in a standalone fashion, not a billet.

H13 was one I remember with a shudder;  making a slitting chisel and it was recalcitrant under the hand hammer and so I thought I'd heat it a bit hotter to work it. Did that a couple of times until the section I was working turned into crumbles and so became the cut off length for the chisel and I never worked it that hot again!---so far... The crumbles were just that, not cracks; but individual pieces.

As for contact quenching---how long do you work it past glowing?  That's the indication to me to shove it back in the forge!

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Did you mean "refluxed and back into the forge"?

That combination should be fairly forgiving, so my vote goes to overheating, but there is a possibility that a really cold anvil could cause contact quenching to initiate the cracks.   I still think the main problem based on what you've given us is the billet got too hot.  Working in daylight with coal can be an art form in and of itself.

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Even on a cloudy day, the outdoor ambient light will still throw off your color perception compared to indoor medium to low light.  If you will be forging outside one suggestion I've seen that may help is to put a bucket or barrel on its side close to the forge at a good height so you can have a place to check the color that is protected from daylight. 

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