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beginning pweld san mai dao

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Hello Everyone,

I made a pretty nice 26.5" dao blade, heat treated it, and then sent a pic to an expert on historical daos to ask advice. He told me I had goofed, because I ground the fuller all the way into the tang, and the fuller did not do this on Chinese swords.


So, back to the drawing board (and anvil.)


I have started again. The goal is essentially the same blade as before only with the correct fullering.


To start, I welded up a billet of w2, low manganese 1075, and 1020. The ratios were 2:2:1. This give me essentially a low manganese 1070, but with 320 layers.


I then drew this out, flattened and carefully shaped it so the san mai construction will come out with the edge right in the middle (I hope).






Edited to add: If you see the little indentions from grinding on the side of the pweld bar, those aren't mistakes. Every time there is some sort of low place in the middle of the bar, I grind a shallow channel from the edge of the bar to that low spot (usually both edges). That way, when the dies squeeze it all together, there is a place for material to exit rather than be trapped in the depression. This keeps out inclusions and keeps your bars from blistering due to trapped gasses and internal cold shuts. Just make the channel the same depth as the depression and make sure it goes all the way to the edge or both edges. This is a good thing to do when there is scale compressed into the billet, so you leave a divot if you grind it all out. You don't always want to grind the whole billet down to that level and waste time and material, so you can put a wide and shallow channel to the divot to clear it when pressed.


Then, I cut and put the two edge billets around the bar of w2. This gives pweld side plates of medium carbon with a w2 edge. Almost all historical Chinese swords were either san mai or quiangiang (probably not spelled correctly - it means "inserted edge," all of you know what that means. Its like an axe construction with the edge bit of tool steel). I like san mai better right now.




Next, put in forge (no pics) and weld under press (see pics).


Middle, then each end, get the big squish. I made the overall length of the pieces 7" because my dies are 6", this gives a little sticking out to let anything squish out that we don't want in the weld.




Edited to add: if you see all of the flux coming out, that is because of the channels I mentioned above, the fact that the plates have the slightest crown, and there are 24 grit scratches running across the plates being welded. When you get things clean, hot, use plenty of flux, give exit for stuff to prevent trapping, and squeeze everything with a press - forge welding is so easy as to be almost unfair. But, if I don't do any one of the things I mentioned, for me, things fail. Maybe not every time, but enough so almost every billet will become garbage or recycle before it reaches completion.




one end




and the other.


Now, the bar is drawn out and flattened. I like to stop here because I have done a LOT of welding to get the billet up to layer count that I did not show. It has been a day-and-a-half of cutting, stacking, welding, drawing... .


Besides, I have a liner I put in my forge for welding, and I like to take it out for final forging so that the forge floor is nice and clean. Just solid refractory with no junk.


Here is the san mai billet with my anvil and 4lb hammer from Dancin' Frog for perspective.






Next session will involve forging.


I will post the blade I did the fuller mistake later.

The goal is another pretty much like this (it will have a secondary bevel at the point when done. I may just give this first blade to someone who wants to finish it and either keep it or sell it) Maybe there is someone who wants to take an almost finished blade and turn it into their own personal sword? It is heat treated and has a beautiful shaungxue (hamon).


thanks for looking. Advice is welcomed.



Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Here is the sword I have already made with the long fuller that goes into the tang. I still have to put a secondary bevel past the fuller to give it the proper shape and balance. Otherwise, it is profiled. I have to finish grinding the bevels, clean the fuller, and polish. It is really a good blade.


HELP - I AM OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS ABOUT HOW TO FINISH THIS BLADE. Are there any cultures other than Japanese that had the fuller go into the tang and would use a blade sort of like this????


The blade I am making now should be basically like this one, I hope. I like this one. Too bad about the fuller.





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nice work... a shame about the first sword, actually i think its being overly picky about the fuller.. but i'm not a Chinese sword person, so wouldn't know what is really proper


good pick with the san mai... i'd rather that than the edge welded in... some barongs are done that way aswell



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Thanks Greg. I may just keep this sword. I like it a lot.

San Mai is easier that welding the edge in, for me!


That is a large part of my reason. Although, if I made a slitting chisel and practiced (and had a person to help with holding and striking...).


edited to add: I guess san mai should lead to a springy rather than "bendy" sword since you have more of the harder material in the core.


Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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I really shouldnt worry too much about the fuller faux pas.


it is a beautiful piece of work. use it no as a platform to be creative, dont be constricted by whats "authentic" because youve liberated yourself from that with the misplaced fuller.


make something "inspired by" or hilt it totally differently to "authentc" styles


i think its a good piece of metal work and is not diminised by the extended grove. if you like it. cary on! and make something you like!


thats what i think.


Good luck with Mk2

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thanks Josh and Michael.


You know, if I had not specifically agreed to enter into a collaboration with someone in the traditional Chinese style, I wouldn't worry about it at all. I will finish the first one later. But, it is too cool to not finish, I think. I just want to get the one made for my collaborator. I have to make it, then get fittings designed in general form for historical accuracy (Phillip Tom), and then get Charles Wu to actually make the fittings. He will put his own amazing artistic touches to the general shapes described by Phillip. Phillip is the historian and woodworker. He designs fittings within historical precedent, and also makes handle and sheath. Charles is the artist for the non-ferrous work (and honestly, may be the only serious artist of the bunch). I am the bladesmith.


thanks. More to come when I can get to the forge again. Stupid job.



Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Ok, another day at forging.




This is the san mai bar just getting set for another round of drawing and tapering.




Here is a shot of the dies used for this. They can be used to lengthen or widen. Also, I use these to set the distal taper in a lot of my blades. Careful, with lots of little bites taken close together at tip and distance between squishes slowly increasing as I work up the blade, and depth of squish also decreasing.




Drawn and tapered some (it is about 18" of blade portion here).



Now, this is about 24" of blade, and the drawing and tapering with dies is done, and I have flattened with flat dies (of course). Now, it is time to forge a true pre-form on the anvil.




Here is the pre-form for the blade. Notice the taper is profile width and thickness. It is 1.4" wide and .4" thick at forte and tapers to 1.0" wide and .2" thick near point. The final product will have a slow taper in both width and thickness until about half or two thirds up the blade, and then both tapers will get much steeper. There will also be a fuller from 3" past the forte until about 8" from the tip, and a secondary bevel for the last 6 or so inches to aid in balancing the blade.



beginning forging, just the first section. See how there is a line where the bevel begins, and how the blade drops down due to the thinning and moving of metal. I will grind a secondary bevel on this portion, but I wait until after heat treatment. This helps to keep the blade from being too bendy in the heating prior to hardening. If I thinned both sides near the point, the sword would not be able to stay straight under its own weight when at critical temp. So, I grind that in and do some tapering to the back. The final dimension of the blade is a bit of a clamshell, meaning there is a little bit of a taper from above the fuller to the spine, just as there is a convex taper from below the fuller to the cutting edge.



This is the point where I change ends and forge by holding the point. I can avoid tongs totally on a blade this long. Now, in fact, the blade portion (or what will be) is 27" long.



forged, hanging from post vise after the last (4th) normalization.



forged and normalized. The blade is 28" now, but I will move shoulders forward to get 26". That is as long as I can heat treat well with my forge.


Next step, a whole lot of grinding. Then, a significant amount of filing. Then, angle grinder to cut the fuller. Then, bend to desired shape prior to heat treatment. You get the idea. A LOT more to do.

thanks for looking.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Ok, this one is clayed up and dry:




and here it is next to the original one. They are pretty close to the same size. I did not measure or compare, just made what, "looked right." The first one, with too long of a fuller, is a tad wider. Also curved more in quench. This one, I left extra thick.




Now, I have to do a LOT of drawfiling on the spine. The current shape is a wedge above the fuller, with the spine being wider than the fuller. I have to file it so that it is a rounded top, with a taper from the fuller at the widest towards the spine. When I am done, the area just below the fuller should be the widest part of the entire blade. At the tip, there will be a false edge. Not fully sharp, but, "shaving sharp." This will leave an acute and light point.


The blade tapers from 1.17" at the forte to 1.08 about where the fuller ends, and then more radically from there. I still have to remove about a third of the overall weight (between a quarter and a third).


I will grind flat with 40 grit until close, letting the belt wear so the scratches aren't as deep. Then, I will switch to 80 grit and make the flat grind convex on the slack belt. This will be slow and careful to avoid gouges. I won't even grind the spine, just use scraper, bastard file, then smooth file, then stones and papers. I will grind in the false edge and then touch up the ridge where the bevels join with files then stones. Papers only past 400 grit, to keep the ridge sharp.


paper wrapped around wood for the fuller.


then, way too much polishing.


thanks for looking.


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