Hamon Etching vs. polishing

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Sep 27, 2004
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I am working on this hamon....its a wild one with a ton of subtle detaisl i am trying to capture. My problem is that the amount of etches required to bring out the fine details in the spine end up over-etching the main transition line, causing the almost crystalline grain structure in that area to acutally develop topograpy. How do I capture fine details without etching too much in other areas. I have no idea how to selectively etch without it looking like crap.

Here I am right now:
hamon2.jpg


I want more of a mirror/2000 grit finish, with frosty lines showing ALL the details. The second i touch this with simichrome, even with a paper towel, it washes out the fine details around the spine, and I end up with a more polished spine where I can only see the details in weird lighting.....

I know there are many threads on this, but the normal etch I am used to is just not cutting it....

Do i need to do a full japanese polish with stones alone?
 
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I was having the same problem a few years ago and asked Howard Clark about it, he said, "polish more and etch less"

I followed his advice somewhat and am somewhere in the middle, I rarely go higher than 1000 grit and still give it a good etch. Some guys like a more polished look where you have to get the light just right to see the hamon but I like it when they jump off the blade.

You just have to keep messing with it until you like what you see, after you etch try baking soda with a damp paper towel but don't rub to hard. I also use a 3M ultra fine sanding pad that is just about worn out with warm water after etching, works good sometimes, Mag polish works good too and isn't abrasive. I can waste a whole day etching a blade sometimes and usually have has much or more time in a blade with a hamon than one in damascus, including making the damascus. It's all good though :p That is a good lookin hamon by the way.
 
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Thats a pickle your in friend!! If Don cant pull it off.....we'll I am still in your corner :) ;)

Just kidding.....dont get too frustrated. Let us know what you live with :)
 
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Thanks!

That is my Dilemna. I could easilly take it to 2000+ and do a single etch, then get both spine and cutting ede back almost to mirror and you cold still see it all, but you'd need to really be looking for it if you know what I mean....

I think with a hamon like this, I am perfectly happy with a polished hardened area and almost silvery grey spine, especilly if the hamon is visible as clear as day...if it had tuned out only a single transition zone, I'd be doing it diferently....

I still have on my wishlist dedicating two weeks to stone polishing a blade, but I am going to get some more clay work under my belt before trying...

I hear you don, i spent most of sunday etching and fiddling with this....so long that i lost track of how much actual progress i was making....

Theres something wholly different about the work, though....it feels like I am giving ths blade a whole lot of foreplay...the more i rub her and make her feel pretty, the more she puts out for me......
 
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When you heat treat like that you create different crystal structures. Each one polishes and etchs differently.If you want to bring out the subtle differences be careful polishing .Bearing down hard can smear the metal .Don't be afraid to change the abrasive paper frequently since fresh paper cuts the metal, used paper tends to smear.When you etch don't use too concentrated a solution . Did I mention patience ?
 

Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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A true hamon is subtle.In a traditional japanese polish by a real expert there is no "jump out at you" hamon line.The details are as you described,subtle and have to be carefully looked at,often at an angle.That is the best way to differentiate between a true hamon and a temper line.They use all kinds of things to bring out the detail.Etchants are often rubbed on with the thumb.Lemon juice,aspirin,urine,vitamin C,and a dozen others are used.Polishes that work are rouge (red iron oxide),green chrome (chromium oxide),and ocher (yellow oxide).These are applied with the thumb and finger tips.This is a very delicate task when working on a three foot razor blade.A very clean,soft cloth will work,but there is nothing like having a red or green thumb for a week or two.
mete is correct (as always) about keeping the paper fresh.Some polishers cut the paper into 1" squares.They wet the paper and rub it in one direction only,ricasso to tip,using the fingertips.Three of four strokes,and the paper is discarded. After the blade is wiped off,a new piece is used.
 

Daniel Koster

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what are you etching with?

you can't get detail with FeCl.


I took Nick Wheeler's advice and spent time learning how to etch with hot vinegar. Nicer etch overall. I still use the FeCl for damascus and if I want a hamon to really "pop" hard...otherwise, the vinegar makes for a more feathery line.
 
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Daniel Koster said:
what are you etching with?

you can't get detail with FeCl.


I took Nick Wheeler's advice and spent time learning how to etch with hot vinegar. Nicer etch overall. I still use the FeCl for damascus and if I want a hamon to really "pop" hard...otherwise, the vinegar makes for a more feathery line.

Daniel,

When you say hot vinegar ...how hot we talkin?

I think I may have succeeded in a clay treated O-1 blade. Just a small trial piece but when the clay came off after quench I could clearly see it followed the clay. I will have to wait until I polish it up to see though and wanted to try something other than lime juice.



TIKTOK,

..AWESOME hamon.
 

Daniel Koster

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100-120 degrees perhaps?

About as hot as water coming hot out of the tap. They say put a drop of dishsoap in it...but I'm not sure I understand why ("cuts surface tension...but why does it matter?) I just blindly obey...:D....and it works.

Distilled white vinegar is pretty inexpensive.
 

howiesatwork

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David, here's a site that has a few links to Japanese polishing techniques.
There's a lot to read, and a lot of what was mentioned above is helpful, but I like to have pictures, too...
I'm sure your knife will turn out real nice.
 
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Just wanted to second/third the advise here.

I love a traditional polish... it's a beauty and art that has stood for centuries, and will continue on.

But not because of me doing them :)

Don Fogg had said several times, something along these lines: "I use what I have currently available to make the hamon look the way I want it to."

Personally, I do not have the time nor the patience to go for a traditional polish. You would easily be looking at several days for a knife.

I question everything, and still have not come up with an exact reason (at least one I can understand) as to why you need to put some dish soap in the vinegar to cut surface tension. And that sort'a bothers me. BUT! I know it works when I DO add the soap, and DOES NOT work when I don't. I put the vinegar in heavy glassware, heat it up in the microwave (2-3 minutes), then transfer it to a hot-plate while working with it.

Mr. Chemist Fitzo could explain the surface tension thing I'm sure, but I'd bet a wooden nickel I'm not smart enough to follow his answer. :eek:

Like Don Hanson mentioned, you just have to play around with it. There is no set rules... what works like magic on one blade, may give you a dull-lifeless bunch of blah on the next.

I have just started playing with polishing powders (silicon carbide powder) on the recommendation of Don Fogg, and while I'm at the very start of the learning curve, I think they are pretty damn neat.

Just keep at it :D

Oh- btw- People often get tweaked when I put a price on a clay-hardened bowie that's as much as a damascus blade, but like Don H said, I have as much, often MORE time in bringing out a hamon as I do in making a damascus blade.
 

howiesatwork

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I've been working on a tanto for a while...about 12 years off and on. I'll get it done yet...
Much easier doing it with machines...
 

Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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This is right up my alley.When I was a chemist I did research on defoamers,which are basically soaps that kill the foam in industrial mixing tanks.
Soap is called a surfactant.By that name you can guess what it does - it reduces the surface tension between a liquid and a solid. (or two liquids)There is an attraction between the atoms in some substances that can make them cling to each other stronger than they do to other compounds.This cohesion causes water to bead up on a surface.A surfactant makes the surface tension between the solid and the liquid lower,and thus causes the liquid to coat the surface better and get a tighter contact with the surface.It also allows the liquid to carry away more matter from the surface.When you wash your hands the soap does very little to clean them.What it does is allow the skin to let go of the dirt,and allows to water to carry it away.When your Mom told you that it was the washing for 30 seconds that got your hands clean,not the pile of soap suds,she was right.When you add soap to an etchant,you make the etchant have a closer bond with the metal.This gives a more complete etch.It also allows any residual dirt,oil,polish,etc. to lift off the surface and expose the metal .This make for a much evener,and deeper etch.Rubbing the surface creates the agitation that allows these contaminants,as well as the etching detritus,to lift away.Alcohol is added to many cleaning solutions because of its ability to lower surface tension ,and its ability to evaporate afterwords - think windex.
Nick,I hope this helps you sleep at night,now.
 
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Thanks, everyone!

Though it kills me to do it, I am going to sand this back down and re-finish. The Matte look just wasnt doing it for me, and would contrast nickel silver bolsters too much for what I am looking for. I am going to sand down everything, perhaps leaving the deep etched main transition line, then finish the rest to 2000 and work up through polishing compounds and very light etchants like lemon juice to try to see what happens. If the top is invisible, so bet it...theres more clay in my bag and more barstock in my shop....
 
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bladsmth said:
A true hamon is subtle.In a traditional japanese polish by a real expert there is no "jump out at you" hamon line.The details are as you described,subtle and have to be carefully looked at,often at an angle.That is the best way to differentiate between a true hamon and a temper line..
Have a Big John Fitch Bowie,1084,tilt it,there it is kind of an explosion,but subtle,subtle.
Hope it's appropriate,me postin' in here,I just learn so much from all of you,just from this thread alone.When I first joined,I was afraid to post either hamon or temperline so I posted hamon/temperline.Still do.Well.Not all the time. :D Little question? :eek:
Is there a point where the hamon,would affect the performance of the blade,say,going for the art,rather than the strength,toughness. :confused: Thanks!
 
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I think this blade borders on that....if the hamon dips so low to the cutting edge that some if its softer structures enter the cutting surface, i am sure the edge would not hold up as well. If this one was 1/8" lower, I probably would have re-heat treated it.... Otherwise, I can't imagine varying softnesses in the spine doing anything other than increasing a possible blade deforming under heavy, heavy impact rather than being stiffer with a fully hardened blade..
 
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Fantastic LINK above on polishing, with an amazing section on hamons....

I will try first with papers.....all grits.....before i invest in some nice stones....i have a 100$ amazon GC and see they have some stones, so maybe ill invest....
 
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I have a blade forged from 1084 that I'm trying to finish. No etching the blade at all, just hand sanding to 1500 grit, you can see a double temper line plan as day on it. I can't explain why this happened, I'm just glad it did. Try working it down to a finer grit to see if this brings out the hamon. Hope this helps.;)
 

Daniel Koster

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that's just 1084....you put any kind of effort into polishing it and you'll see the quench line every time...sometimes even at 200 grit.
 
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