Great pictures. Thanks for doing this, this will be fun to watch unfold...
I am a relatively new maker (less than two years, very part time) and have gained much of my knife making knowledge from this site and more specifically some of the WIP threads that have been posted. I have decided to do a work in progress on my third Damascus kitchen/chef knife. Hopefully someone can learn something from my pics and I can get some feedback, tips or tricks by showing how I do things to more experienced makers. I work alone in my garage so I don’t have any action shots but I will briefly describe each step as we go.
Here is the starting steel. The long bars are 1084 that is 1.25 inches wide and 1/8 thick. The other steel is 15n20 that is .065 thick and 1.25 wide from a well known Steel Baron.
Here is my KMG with a 4 inch wheel and blaze belt that I am going to remove the mill scall
Steel mostly cleaned up and ready to be cut to length.
Here is the steel cut to length
And alternating sticks of 1084 and 15n20 one of the middle bars is left longer in order to have more space to weld a handle to it. I have not tried this before but we will see how it works.
Shot of my wire feed welder at the ready
Here is the billet tack welded together at the ends and down the middle
A piece of angle iron used for the handle is welded on as well
I wet the billet with kerosene and coat with 20 Mule team borax. I will flux it again when it gets hotter but figure having it completely covered as it warms in the forge cant hurt.
Into the fire…
Great pictures. Thanks for doing this, this will be fun to watch unfold...
Nearing welding temps. The billet turns a bright yellow and when removed from the forge it flux smokes. I have tried welding with a venture forge that does not get hot enough consistently and also with coal with mixed results. I switched to a blown air forge from Uncle Al and everything got a lot easier and faster.
After the billet is nice and yellow I still let it soak for several minutes to ensure the inside is up to temp. It is then brought to the hydraulic press and squeezed with flat dies to make the first weld.
Here is the billet after a few heats and presses. I am forging it out a bit in order to make sure the welds are good.
I am going to be making a W’s pattern with the Damascus. I have flipped it 90 degrees and am pressing on the sides of the billets. This process causes the W’s effect that you will see in an upcoming pic.
To be honest, I got a little carried away with forging it down and ended up with this long bar. This took way too long because only about 10 inches can be in the forge chamber at a time, so I spent more time heating cooled steel than necessary. There was probably an hour or so of forging between this pic and the previous pic. I did see Jason Knight cut a billet in half so that there were two shorter billets in the forge instead of one long one hanging out the side. I will do this on the next stack.
Here is the bar with the scale ground off.
Here is the bar that is cut into 7 equal sections, the eight section had a split, so I figured I would just remove it now instead of trying to reweld the split. I should have plenty of steel for this knife anyway.
This is two of the seven bars with a light etch to show the w’s effect. It does not look like much now but after additional stacking and drawing it will produce a more interesting pattern.
I really love watching WIP threads, seeing all the processes that go into creating a custom knife (especially damascus) is incredibly interesting and exciting as well.
Looking forward to the end result! Thanks for bringing us (me) along
Here the bars are restacked, tack welded together and fluxed.
Next they are forge welded together
The bar is now drawn out until it is too long to all stay in the forge. I cut it in two and weld a handle to the other bar. This step saved a tremendous amount of time and propane.
Here are the two bars forged to the desired size. I did not make the cut right in the middle when splitting them so one was longer than the other. To make them the same width, I used a bar that had cooled to act as a press stop while forging the second bar.
Here is my setup for grinding off the scale. I prefer to do this outside because the angle grinder sends sparks everywhere. I use glasses, gloves, a breathing mask and ear protection during grinding. I used to have the guard of the grinder off but decided I would rather give up some ease of use for the additional safety. Oh and since I like to do this outside I have to drag the leg vice and stand into the driveway. The next step is cutting the billet up and re tack welding it. So, I have to drag it back into the garage to use during welding. Sure would be nice to have two vices.
Here is two pics of the seven stacks forged down
Here there are five bars cut to the same length and ready to be stacked.
Tacked and ready to flux and get hot. This will give 35 layers of w’s. Which will be the layer count of the final billet
The five bars forged together and drawn out.
Looking good John.
Here I have started to draw down the area that will be the handle. The billet is very thick at this point and we will be doing a ladder pattern, so I will be cutting grooves in the side of the billet, and then forging them flat again.
Here the billet is marked with marker and a ruler to give me lines to grind to. The pattern is one off on the other side so that I am not cutting a grove in the same place on both sides. This causes the grooves to be alternating.
Here is the setup that I use to cut in the grooves for the ladder pattern. This was the first time I tried this and was fairly happy with the result. You could also cut different width groves by changing wheels if you wanted.
Here is a shot of the grooves that have been cut into the billet.
A view from the top
At this point I realized that I had burned a small hole in my jeans. I really don’t know if it happened during grinding or during some of the previous forge welding. One thing I have learned making knives is that you will probably burn holes in your clothes and aprons. When this happens it is a good idea to cut out around the hold to remove the charred cloth. Once the cloth is charred it will reignite with the smallest of sparks.
Here the billet has been put back into the forge and pressed flat again. I was not really sure what the final dimensions of the steel would end up, but it worked out. The bar is about ¼ inch thick and around 15 inches.
Here is the template of the chef knife we will be making. The blade with be about ten inches with a 15 inch overall length. The width of the blade is over two inches. Its BIG.
The template is under the billet so that you can see how much I still have to forge the blade wider. I am going to try to forge as evenly as possible to reduce the distortion of the pattern.
Here is the template over the blade so you can see the relative sizes. I am going to forge the handle area up, so that It will elongate the billet so that I will have enough steel left at the end to make a small blade.
This pic shows the point ground in and the handle section forged closer to shape. Now is the time to ensure that everything is straight because I will be using the grinder for the rest of the shaping. Again this is to reduce the distortion in the pattern. Moving the steel when hot will change the look of the finished product.
Profiled blade! This ends the majority of the grunt work involved with the process and now it is time for the more detailed and finesse work to make this into a functioning, appealing piece of cutlery.
I first use the 4 inch contact wheel shown before with an old belt to remove the forge scale and knock down any high spots. Then I move back to the KMG with the flat platen installed using a fresh 60 grit blaze belt. It is time to start the flat grinding.
Here is one side flat ground. It is important to keep everything as flat and straight as possible. It is also important that I make sure that the distal taper in the blade is ground in because I did not do that step while forging to reduce distortion.
Now that the blade is rough ground it is time to normalize with the kiln. (I did some rough normalization heats after finishing forging, but I like the control of the kiln to know I hit the right temps.) I heat the blade to 1550 and allow to cool until black, then 1525- cool to black, and finally 1500 cool to room temp. Then I put it back in to the kiln for two hours at 1200 and let the kiln turn off and slow cool to further stress relieve and do a sub critical anneal.
Now that the steel is soft I make sure that everything is straight again. At this point I can fix any warps, bends or bows with my bare hands. After it is straight, I mark where the pin holes will be and a few extra holes for the epoxy to grip.
Then drill the holes
Next is the heat treat. I heat the blade in the kiln at 1500 degrees and let it soak for 5-10 minutes. I then quench the blade into room temperature parks 50 oil. After the quench I temper it in my kitchen oven at 300 degrees while the kiln cools. When it is cooled enough I do 2 2hour tempers at 425 degrees. The kitchen oven is just a snap temper so that the blade does not have to sit at room temp for several hours while the kiln cools to tempering temps. This pic is the blade after quench sitting on my quench tank.
The scale from the heat treat is ground off and the blade is ready for final grinding.
The edge of the blade is left thick during heat treating so that decarb can be ground away and to assist with keeping the edge straight. Now the blade is sharpened on a slack belt that is tight. This produces a convex edge.
The grind is then blended up the blade as much at 1/3 the blade width. I belive this is called a Moran Edge or Moran Grind. I learned this technique at an ABS hammer in by watching Bill Wiggins do a grinding demonstration. This allows for the blade behind the edge to be quite thin and still have enough strength behind it to not give out. If it was flat ground to this thickness there would not be enough steel behind the edge to provide stability during hard cutting tasks. Since the blade is heat treated, sharp and un polished, this is the time to test the heat treat. First I cut up a few thick cardboard boxes. Then hack through a 2x4 and then ensure that the blade is still shaving sharp and easily able to push cut paper. Then I flex the edge on a brass rod to ensure that it does not chip or bend. I usually cut hanging sisal rope but I am out and need to get more. I did make a bunch of cuts through rope scraps to test for edge retention. The blade passed all tests.
One of the great things about this grind is that after you sand it again lengthwise to the blade it appears again like a flat grind. Like this.
Really enjoying this WIP, John. Thanks for posting. Looking forward to seeing that pattern!
D. Wulf, Bladesmith
Thanks Wulf and Roger, it has been cool to actually document the process but I have a new found respect for makers like Bruce Bump and Kyle Royer that have produced some excellent WIP's, it is a ton of extra work.
John this is a good WIP thanks for putting the time in I am looking forward to seeing the damascus
ABS master smith
Now that the blade is ground to 600 grit, I clamp it to the bar and do any finish hand sanding with 600 grit paper.
Now it is time to start the handle. The tang will be slightly tapered but not as much as in a smaller blade. I want to leave some steel at the end to help counter balance the long blade. Groves are ground in the middle of the tang to reduce the about of steel that will be ground flat for the taper.
I then use the platen and disc grinder to taper and flatten.
Making the bolsters: A strip is cut from a bar of 416 stainless steel using my band saw. Then ground flat and cut in half.
The two halves are super glued together and ground completely flat on the back and shaped on the front. Shaping as one piece allows the bolsters to be identical.
I then superglue the bolsters to one side of the blade and drill through the pin holes already in the blade. This insures that they are lined up. The super glue bonds are broken and cleaned up with acetone. Now I am ready to pin the bolsters and seal the joint with JB weld.
Here the bolsters are pinned, peened and cut about even with the spine and lower portion of the tang.
Now the scales are glued on. For the scaled I am using spalted maple that has been stabilized by WSSI. I got the wood in a block so I cut two scales out and flattened them on the disc grinder. I also made sure the front edge was sanded to match up with the back of the bolster. I am using 15 minute cure epoxy with a touch of black acrylic paint.
After it has cured for several hours, holes are drilled through the tang holes and through the scale. The other scale glued on and the drill is pushed through the previous drilled scale holes and into the newly affixed scales.
416 stainless pins are fitted to each hole and glued. This does not look much like a knife handle but once the glue has dried, I take it to the grinder and grind the scales down to the spine of the blade.
Here is the handle after rough grinding.
My wife came into the garage and I asked her to take a pic of me working. In this step I am sanding the and final shaping the handles with sandpaper. To get to the final polish of 600 grit on the bolsters tang and wood.
I then etched my makers mark. I was disappointed with this step because for the first time ever the etch came out a little blotchy and the of few of the letters are not really legible. I made a deep etch so grinding it out was not really an option without changing the whole blade.
An etch tank filled with ferric chloride and distilled water. The blade ready to take a dip. Prior to putting the whole thing in the etchant, I used nail clear nail polish to cover the bolsters and scales. This acts as a resist and the FeCl will not eat away at these areas. The blade is in the FeCL and checked and scrubbed down with 0000 steel wool every five minutes until I think it is etched deep enough. It is then sprayed with windex with ammonia to neutralize the acid and dipped in water to clean it. While still wet it is saturated with acetone and allowed to air dry. It is given a light polish with 2000 grit paper and very lightly buffed.
I am not going to use clear nail polish anymore because it is too easy to miss a spot. That is what happed on the bolsters and pins, the acid etched them as well.
I had to re sand out the pitted black area’s and re polish everything up to 600 grit again. Here is the finished handle.
Here is a sample of what the Damascus looks like.
I started this project two weeks ago working whenever I have any free time. I finished the blade last night and took the final shots this morning. I am working on editing the finished knife pics and will post them as soon as they are done.
Great WIP thread and thanks a bunch for taking the time to take us along. I really enjoyed it and you have a nice knife to be proud of.
Awesome. Very nice work. Keep on doing this, it's great stuff.
Neat thread John! Very handsome kitchen knife!!!
You mentioned getting feedback in your first post. I HIGHLY recommend you abandon your current method of etching the blade after the handle is glued on!!! That makes me cringe, just for the very idea of what happened with this one. What's worse, is if the Ferric gets inside the wood, the long term effects on the wood and the steel under it are going to be very ugly.
If you fit everything up, including some small hidden indexing pins in the handle material... then you can etch the entire blade... neutralize the etching solution, do your final finish, THEN epoxy the (already shaped/finished) handle together. Trying to do a final finish on a blade that already has bolsters or a guard affixed is very hard to do.
Another thing I'd recommend, is you clamp a piece of bolster material to the blade and drill the holes. Then do the same with the other side. Then work the bolster pieces together, but with the pins through them.
Hope this just comes off as throwing ideas your way, and not anything negative.
[QUOTE=NickWheeler;8796280]Neat thread John! Very handsome kitchen knife!!!
Another thing I'd recommend, is you clamp a piece of bolster material to the blade and drill the holes. Then do the same with the other side. Then work the bolster pieces together, but with the pins through them.QUOTE]
I agree with drilling them separately. I tried this way as a shortcut but it did not really work out that way. It took some extra messing with to get the fit correct. I will be going back to the way you suggest from here on out.
You thought dipping the blade in the acid made you cringe…………think how I felt. I have struggled with full tang Damascus blades due to the etching issue on the tang. I did it the way you suggested with the trial Cera Coat blade from Scot with some difficulties but I think I just need some more practice.
Any and all comments are greatly appreciated.
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