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Problem Etching Cable Damascus.

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So I created my first knife with cable damascus. I am pretty good with the forge so that wasnt that hard. The knife making was.


Once I polished it to 800 grit, changing sanding directions with each step up in grit, I put it in an etchant of 1 part distilled white vinegar, 1 part ferric chloride and 3 parts water. I left to slow etch for 30 minutes. When I come out to check the knife and pull it out, it looks beautiful (for a beginner that is). The contrast is dramatic with the veining of the damascus. However, as soon as I wipe the blade with a towel, or touch it up with steel wool to get the carbon off, the pattern vanishes to barely visible subtlety. Re-etching gives me the same result. Even if I took great care to not touch the blade, its clear that even minimal usage would strip the pattern right off the blade.


So what am I doing wrong here?


Thanks a bunch.

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Try etching the blade for a much much shorter time.

What I'll do is etch until it turns black, takes maybe 30 seconds or so, then I'll take it out and spray it down with windex and go to rubbing with a polish to remove the oxides. Then I'll clean it with acetone again, and once again etch till it turns black.


I'll do that about 3 times or until I'm happy with patterning.


Now another thing can be whatever type cable it is.

I think it was Mike Blue who once posted about it saying there's all sorts of cable and all sorts of results when you make a knife and go to etch.

some etches great when heat treated, some etches better when not, and there's just all sorts of variables.


The last few knives I'd made from cable I'd actually clay coated. I then gave them a light etch as I was wanting to mainly show the hamon, which also gave a real subtle patterning in the softer part of the blade.


Should you etch it more times, the results I was getting was the hardened part, while still having a pattern was very subtle. Where it was softer the pattern was much more bold.


I really need to make some more cable blades. I've got a bar welded up in the shop, but need to weld up some more. Was thinking about folding the bar a few time and seeing what the results look like.


I've a small blade in my bedroom that was clay coated and the softer parts the pattern is much more noticeable.

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One quick question, you never mentioned heat treating? If you did not do that then it will not etch.


I heat treated it. Heated the blade edge to non-magnetic and then cut it into a vegetable oil quench. Then I roasted the knife on 400 degrees in my oven for an hour. Basically following instructions I have read about or seen in how-to videos.


The blade etches, its just that the contrast isnt there.

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I use straight white vinegar,usually takes multiple soaks of a couple hours with a good wipe down in between for the pattern to really pop.

I wipe with a soft cotton cloth or a new sponge to remove the oxides,then polish with toothpaste.

I just keep repeating until the patterns showing like I want it too.

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