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Hi all I've been trying some Damascus and San Mai recently with mixed results but I was wondering if anyone had any tips on getting a nicer transition than this

image.png.ab633130a8dcadc6efaed4466150eb4a.png

 

I'm finishing with a fine surface conditioning belt and etching in boiling vinegar.  is it my steel choice? on this blade I have a 1075-1080 core from admiral steel and home depot mild steel sides.  I also noticed that when a pulled it out of the etch it would have a nice black edge with a silver or white spine like in the next picture but that would wash off leaving what you see in the top picture.  I see pictures like this online and am wondering what I need to do differently stainless-san-mai-cleaver-217mm.thumb.jpg.37094fd49d37f20826947696ce41984e.jpg

 

I also found some small cracks running parallel to the spine that appeared after temper even though i clayed the spine how could I prevent those and get I nicer etch

 

Thanks all

Nick

 

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Nick,

I've never etched in boiling vinegar, but it sounds like you don't have a deep/aggressive enough etch. I don't really make knives, but in the few times that I've done damascus I have had pretty repeatable results after hand sanding to 1500 grit, etching with ferric chloride, and finishing by sanding lightly with worn out 2500 grit sandpaper. The process for a san mai might be different, but you might notice a difference by trying different etchants. 

Also, what you're referring to as a crack looks like an incomplete forge weld to me. I'm not sure why it would appear after tempering and not after quenching/etching, but from the picture that's what I'm seeing. I could be wrong though.

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It may be mild, it may have carbon, its unknown because A36 is a structural specification, not an alloy, it has what ever was available for the melt that day from the scrap collected that week, all that  really matters is it passes the Charpy test

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Why not 1095 and 15n20? Both are inexpensive, and buying from a good supplier removes those variables. Just a thought. Also, boiling an acid only speeds up the reaction. Ferric chloride is a proven way to get results. Look at the contrast from some of the beautiful blades showcased here and note the alloy choices and etchant used.. there's your road map. 

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That kitchen blade you reference a pic of looks like it has stainless outer layers.  That is one way to get the really "far out" looking migration patterns.  I've done quite a few of these using both 304 and 416 outer layers with 1084 and W2 inner material.  It's not an easy thing to do, but there are a lot of descriptions out there on the interweb if you're up for the challenge.

It's hard to get the broad transition zone with a  without using stainless steel.  15N20 with a 1084 core will give you a lot of contrast, but it will be a sharp transition between the two materials.

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Nick, might I suggest putting you general location in your profile so others can be better equipped to answer your questions.

I am going to make an assumption that you are based in the US. I have had success using ferric chloride. If the vendor recommends it, dilute it with DI water to the specified concentration. Start with clean, oil free material and a light etch (3-5 minutes). Adjust etch time/concentration to your liking.

 

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I generally follow Frazers technique. If that fails to achieve the desired look then I may do one or more etch's. I also do a ferric etch followed by a coffee etch as described by Templehound. An  ultra strong instant coffee bath followed by a cold water rinse to set etch. 

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The coffee does darken the dark areas of the pattern, in my case 1095, but that strong contrast does seem to wear off faster. I still use it though since while it lasts, the pattern does look very nice. 

Since the OP is using mild steel and 1080, both of which will etch dark, I don't know if the coffee will enhance the contrast or if it will just darken everything. That's something he can test if he likes, so good suggestion and option if FC isn't available where he is. Etch times in instant coffee are much longer. I have gone anywhere from an hour to overnight. 

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hey all 

I'm not sure how to list my state on my profile but I'm in Nebraska 

The steel i'm using for my casing does etch lighter than my 1080

and I left it in the boiling vinegar for 5 hours than in cold vinegar for 12 I should have said that earlier sorry

 

and the cracks I was referring to formed along the spine

 

 

Thanks all

Nick

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