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Matt Shade 12-11-2018 11:16 AM

First billet of damascus
5 Attachment(s)
Sorry for not taking progress pics, but this required 100% concentration on what I was doing. I think it went pretty well so hopefully I will do more in the future and document the steps involved.

This is going to be a wood chisel and this is it after a rough polish and initial etch to see what kind of pattern I got. You can see a couple bad spots in it, but it is 90% sound and should be fine for use as a finish wood chisel that won't see any pounding or prying.

It is made with 4 layers of 1084 steel which is straight carbon steel and 3 layers of 15n20 which has a high nickel content. Both are fairly high carbon and harden well.

I stacked them in alternating layers to make a billet 4.5 inches long, 1.5 inches wide, and roughly 1 inch thick. This was all tacked together on the corners with my mig welder and welded onto a piece of round bar for a handle. All pieces had all mill scale ground off prior to stacking them.

I heated the billet to a dull red, and then put on a heavy coat of 20 mule team borax for flux. Using my homemade forge and running about 8psi pressure, it came up to welding heat surprisingly fast. I had only read about this and watched a couple videos but there comes a point when the steel gets a glassy look on the surface and the flux looks like it is boiling.

At that point i let it soak for a minute or two and then took it out and made light and fast blows with my rounding hammer trying to work over the whole surface. This made the initial weld and the pieces should be stuck together by this point. In order to be safe, I brushed it, fluxed it and did this process 2 more times before I made any effort to draw the billet out.

On the 4th heat I started drawing the billet out longer and thinner. My goal was to get it to a square cross section. I used a 4lb engineers hammer that I dressed the faces on for drawing it out. Came to the conclusion that I don't like rubber gripped handles at all, but it did the job.

After 2 heats to draw it out I decided to see if it was really stuck together, so I used a hard wheel in the angle grinder and dressed all 4 sides down flat. This should have removed any of the remaining mig welds, and it also gave me a clean billet to flux again.

I tried to work from welding heat each time and continued drawing the billet down until it was about 3/4 thick, 1 inch wide, and 9 inches long. At this point, I should have ground all the faces clean and then re-fluxed but I neglected to. I heated it to welding temp again, and then put the end in a vise and gave it 2 twists with a large crescent wrench.

That was where I screwed up. When it was time to forge the twist back into a square bar, I ended up with cold shuts as I didn't have a clean surface to flux and weld as the folds closed up. I did my best to draw it out lengthwise and not close the folds, but wasn't 100% successful.

After it was back to a square bar, I then forged it into this chisel.

The holes are for pins, it will have one scale on the top of the handle made out of ebony wood. The bottom of the handle will be the bare metal so that the pattern shows the whole length of the chisel.

I have to say it is very satisfying to "make" your own steel for a project. Especially when you are working in a home made forge, with home made tongs and tooling.

The etch was done with ferric chloride diluted about 50/50 with water. The tail of the handle is lighter because it isn't hardened as much as the rest of the chisel. It is where I was holding the tongs in the quench. Next time I will hang it from a piece of wire.

I will try to post pics as it progresses now, but other than adding the wood handle and sharpening it, I don't think it will change much.

milomilo 12-11-2018 12:12 PM

Pattern looks really cool. Nice work.

greywynd 12-11-2018 01:09 PM

Looks amazing, and nice write up Matt. [emoji4][emoji4]

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Scratch 12-11-2018 01:38 PM

Very nice! I still haven't made my first Damascus project yet. Seeing your pics gives me the itch again.

digr 12-11-2018 08:47 PM

I like it!!!!!!!!

toprecycler 12-11-2018 09:45 PM

Looks great. Thanks for the details.

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allessence 12-12-2018 06:00 PM

Nicely done Matt,

It's a good idea to pull the stacked up metal just as you reach full welding temps give a good wire brushing to remove any of the oxidized borax which will have a crusty appearance and then reflux it as fast as possible..

The reason is to let the outside cool off some to equalize the temperature in the center when it goes back in the forge for the full welding heat.. This will help with keeping all the temperatures the same thoughout the whole billet.. Once welds are set it's not as much of a problem..

You did well with keeping the heats high for drawing out.. L9 or 15N20 and 1084 or carbon steels move at 2 different rates.. and the 15n20 will be harder than the steel at lower temps.. This will create a split at the seams as one layer moves faster than the other..

Looks great..

Matt Shade 12-13-2018 11:12 PM

Thanks everybody :D

That is a good tip on the refluxing right at welding heat. It makes sense to slow the heat down on the outside of the billet while the inside catches up.

I need to buy a good butcher brush, what I have works but it isn't aggressive enough to be very fast.

I could definitely tell that one steel was trying to move slower than the other under the hammer. The billet didn't draw out as predictably as a piece of normal steel. One of those things you think about but it doesn't really click until you try it the first time.

For anybody else interested in trying this I should have also mentioned that I preheated my anvil before starting, and I flipped the billet over on my 2nd heat so that I alternated which side the anvil was pulling heat out of.

allessence 12-14-2018 08:25 PM

3 Attachment(s)
quickness if ones friend here.. Set the welds quick and then get the metal moved quick.. Hydraulic presses and power hammers are the best way to make money doing this kind of thing..

I've got 4 or 5 billets all welded up from hammer time practice but have no idea what do do with them.. At some point I'll do something..

If you enjoyed this. You would have liked the last hammer build.. 4) 8"X 1.125sg wrought iron stacked and welded then steel face and peen welded in/on.. STill haven't finalized the design..

This is where it was left off..

Matt Shade 12-15-2018 10:18 AM

I checked out your hammer build, its impressive. I would like to try more stuff like this. I actually have a 5 horse motor, and enough steel to build a press, but nowhere to put it and no money for the hydraulics at the moment.

I think if I put a better handle on my 4lb hammer or upgrade hammers, and get a little more practice in I will be able to do small billets without much trouble. For basic work like drawing a billet out I am equally comfortable swinging the hammer in either hand so while it does wear me out I can keep up a pretty good pace. Watching videos of presses and power hammers does make them look awful tempting though.

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