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different steel colors


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I'm just getting started in damascu steel and had a ? about what color you get after etching from the different steels due just to carbon?

I know you get light and darker but don't know which is which. I'm assuming that you can expect darker to lighter (or lighter to darker) say going from 1018 to 1050 to 1065 to 1080 to 1095, but which is the light end and which is the dark?



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The different colors, more like contrast between light and dark, are caused mainly by the alloy content not difference in carbon content in the steels used. Research has shown that with the high temperatures needed in forge welding, the total time the steel must be held at those temperatures, and the thin sections of each layer, carbon migration will equalize the carbon content in each layer. I know that that doesn't explain the pattern one gets from forging cable or thin rods of the same steel, but what I understand from the metalurgists who hang out on these boards, the verdict is still out on that but may be due to decarberation at the enterface of the strands of steel. My understanding is alloying ellements like chromium and nickel give a lighter contrast against steels that don't have it.


Doug Lester

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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yup yup ..

carbon content doesnt have as much of an impact on the final shades within the damascus.


there are other elements within the steel that effect the patterning much more.


Mr Fogg has a page about this on his site you might want to check out:

Here it be.


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The lower the carbon, the lighter the etch.

“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”

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The higher the manganese, the darker the etch.



Unless there's more than around 15% nickel.


I'm with Alan on this one. Mn dioxide (which can be found as a naturally occurring substance) is black as night. This is one of the reasons I love Aldo's 1084 so much for damascus since it has a higher Mn content than regular 1075/1080. Since etching is really just oxidization, the Mn in the steel with oxidize and form a Mn oxide (I'm not certain of the specific chemistry of the etch with FeCl, but I THINK it's MnO2 (manganese dioxide). Of of the smart guys around here who can balance a chemical equation could probably tell you for sure. :D



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