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Engraving Hardened steel

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Dear All,


I am currently planning forging a composite wedding sword for a mate, as I am his best man. The plan is a damascus twisted bar spine with 'flaming edge damascus' cutting edge. I am hoping to engrave a message or the initials of the betrothed on the blade or handle/pommel. I was just wondering if anyone here dabbled in engraving on hardened steel and would be able to advise me on the ins and outs of engraving and what to buy for the job? I have never attempted anything like this before and so any tips/descriptions of previous failures would be amazing if at all possible!


The hand engravers I have been looking at can be found here http://www.suttontools.co.uk/hand-tools/engraving-tools.html . Are hand gravers or dremels the best for the job/a complete beginner?


Thank you as always for your time,


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Hand gravers do not approve of hardened steel, generally speaking. The tips break too often. If you can find them, there are graver blanks made from a cobalt HSS called " MoMax" that last a little longer. I personally have had no luck with using a dremel to do engraving, but it might work for you. Practice on scrap!


The best option for good-looking work in hardened steel is laser engraving , but that isn't a do it yourself job nor does it have that handwork look. I have been known to engrave prior to hardening, though...also your pommel shouldn't be hardened anyway if you go that route.


If you have zero experience hand engraving I can't recommend learning on the fly with a project like this one.

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Haha, well this sounds optimistic! I'll definitely practice on some scrap. Would you recommend sending it in to a professional engraver just for this project? Do you have problems with scale removal after hardening in the engraved areas if engraved beforehand?


Thank you again,


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etching would be the way to go. Barring that engrave before heat treat and cover in clay or some other thing to stop scaling. If you still want to do the engraving post hardening I recommend a good set of diamond bits from a jewelry supply house. Use them underwater and be patent or you'll brake or rub off all the diamonds in a second.

"Remember to live life to the fullest and without regret for the joy of life is that it ends." Me http://ipneto.deviantart.com/

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  • 8 years later...

Hey all.


    So I've recently began incorporating engraving into my knifework. The first few knives I've engraved are all skeletal. No scales or hardware, but fully engraved and inlayed with 24k gold. Heat treating without scale is of course my main concern. 


    Well now that I'm about ready to heat treat my first one (80crv2) I am pretty stressed about oxidation ruining the fine detail. I've put about 60 hours and a couple hundred bucks into it so it's imperative I get it right the first time. 



      Well I decided to try a test piece. My plan was to coat the blade in a thin slurry of satanite, dry it, and put it in a sealed stainless steel foil pouch with a small piece of charcoal to consume any oxygen. 


    I messed up twice. The first time I didn't remove it from the pouch and it didn't harden, but it also didn't scale up AT ALL. The second time I COULDNT remove it from the pouch haha!. So once again I didn't get a good ht. But once again no scale. The third time I got it out of the pouch and into the oil quick. SUCCESS! 


    A couple of interesting observations I made as a result of my mistakes. The first is that the satanite turns black when in the pouch with charcoal. I've made crucibles from it and heated them well over 2300°f but the color has never changed to black. The second thing I noticed is how well the satanite adhered to the fully polished steel. In comparison I've used satanite to clay blades for hamons. But in quench it pops off fairly easily. In this process it took a little bit of elbow grease with a brillow pad to get it cleaned off. Sure enough it was damn near perfectly clean fresh steel underneath. After a couple very light swipes with an 800gr wet dry paper it was like new. 


    To be honest this process is a great idea if you want to anneal a piece. It will really save on steel especially if you're into pattern welding. Cheers everyone. Let me know if you try this and how it turns out!. 


(The knife below is the one I'm almost done with. The opal is not set yet.) 


-Stephen Dowden

IG @dowden_fine_arts





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Nice work! 


Have you tried ATP 641 anti-scale?  It goes on like thin satanite, needs no foil, and pops right off in the quench.  You do have to degrease thoroughly or it won't stick, but otherwise it's a miracle goo.  

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I was taught to wrap the blade in 2 layers of news paper and then in the foil, no need for anything else.

My mentor mostly uses Elmax these days, he was advised at the factory to go 50C hotter on the final heat to makes up for the faffing around getting the blade out of the foil.  In his case its a 2-man job with the second person using wet leather gloves to peel the foil before he plate quenches.

From advice I got here I'm now plate quenching the 14C28N I use (when I use stainless) in the foil, and the blades do come out immaculate.

Don't think that would work for 80crv2 (?), and another practical issue with that blade is the lack of any holes, a wire loop through a tang hole makes life a lot easier.

Great work, I love that crow!

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