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Damascus steel. I get a lot of questions regarding damascus steel and how do the patterns form in it. Although the principle is rather simple, I've noticed that it is extremely hard to try to explain it in plain words. For that reason I've prepared here a short description about it. In addition I want to emphasize that this is not the only way to make damascus steel but a glimpse of how I do it. That being said, this is not to be used as a tutorial and I don't take any responsibility of any possible harm or damage it being used as one.
When making damascus steel, two or more different types of steel are used. With different amounts of carbon and other alloying elements these steels react differently to acids, which allows the layered patterns to emerge. I usually use 15N20-nickel steel combined with either 0,8% or 1,0% plain carbon steels which provide a nice contrast.
I begin by grinding the steel surfaces clean from rust and other foreign matter. After this I cut slabs of equal length which I pile in such a way that every other slab is plain carbon steel and every other is nickel steel. After that I MIG-weld slabs together forming a billet and I weld a handle to it so that it is easier to handle.
Next it's time to light fire to the forge. First I heat the billet to cherry red temperature and take it out of the forge to tighten those slabs more closely together with few hammer blows. After that I sprikle some borax over the billet. Borax is used in forgewelding as a flux. It covers the billet and seals it from oxygen thus preventing scale from forming, which would interfere with the welding.
Next the billet is heated in to yellow/white heat. When this temperature is reached billet is kept in the fire for a while longer, allowing temperature to equalize. Now I bring the billet to the anvil and quickly but lightly hammer the weld shut starting at the center proceeding outwards. When the weld is hammered shut liquified hot borax and scale it has dissolved fly out of the seams. Safety glasses and a leather apron are crucial.
It is necessary to work very quickly because as soon as billet is taken out of forge it's temperature falls rapidly and one has only few seconds to make the weld depending on the size of the billet. If billet cools down too much, slabs wont weld properly and your only option is to cover the billet with borax and heat it again.
Immediately after welding I start forging the billet and stretching it out. When desired length has been reached and billet is of equal thickness and width, I let it cool down to room temperature.
Next I cut the billet into equal lengths. I again grind surfaces clean and pile a new stack same way I did earlier. New billet is heated and forgewelded again. Next it's time to stretch the billet out again. I repeat these steps until desired number of layers is reached.
There are countless ways to manipulate the pattern and once you've figured out the basics the patterning options are only limited by your imagination. Most basic way, the billets are patterned by cutting grooves on both sides of the billets, which are then forged flat. The other option would be stamping or pressing impressions on the billet surfaces which would then be ground flat.
Once the patterning is completed I proceed forging blades to shape. After this its time to do all necessary heat treatments. After heat treating I use a belt sander to roughly form the blades and then proceed to hand sanding.