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I hope this is the right forum for this question, if not please feel free to move it.

 

My captain installs garage doors for a living, and usually has cable left over from various installs. Does anyone have any idea if it is any good for forging? I asked him if they were stainless and he seemed very sure that they weren't. Has anyone ever tried using garage door cables before?

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It has been a while since I've looked at one, but I seem to recall that they are galvanized. If that is the case then no-go, if not then I'd say give it a go. Get several pieces, and since they are small diameter, weave/twist them together to make one larger chunk. Let us know how it turns out. I've got some good 3/4" (ish) cable and it just isn't quite big enough. By the time you factor in all your losses when welding you have to cut and stack to get enough metal, but that really compresses the structure. So get enough to make a strand in the 1-1.25" range. I took two of my cable chunks apart and braided it all together as one and it seems to be going much better; though I've only just welded it, haven't cleaned it up and examined it since it has cooled.

 

Of course, if someone HAS tried this already, please do chime in too.

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Bummer, but at least you didn't throw them in the forge first! I really dig the look of cable damascus, so keep looking and find some that will work for you. It is so satisfying when a cable turns into a bar. The feeling under the hammer is awesome.

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Yea I was pretty bummed, but it's not even remotely worth the risk and there is plenty of cable for scrap in oil country if you look in the right places. I thought it would be a decent way to try some forge welding since I don't have a welder readily available right now.

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I guess most of the videos I've ever seen show the billets being tack welded. I know there are other ways but I guess I haven't been exposed them as of yet. I would most certainly appreciate direction in this area of forging! Most of the information I have ever come across has more to do with technique and theory, but with little mention of how the billets are held together prior to the first weld. I know after the first weld there are numerous ways to go about folding and stacking without making complete cuts. I'll be honest though the first step is the one that is giving me pause. I haven't posed the question yet, though, only because I haven't felt ready to take that first step yet. I'm still trying to get my hammer control in check as well as improve my rough forging skills. I work without power tools so that is super important so I don't spend a ridiculous about of time filing. Any direction with the first weld would be greatly appreciated though!

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Clamp the stack in a vise and wire it up TIGHT. Set the weld on one end and work back until the whole thing is solid, peel off the wire (if it's still there) and continue. For cable, forge weld one end in a half round bottom swedge, rotating in the direction of the twist. Forge square, then on the next heat bring the whole thing to welding and clamp the square end in the vise and twist it up tight. If you're hot enough and clean enough it'll go solid.

 

I rarely tack weld billets, as I suck at stick welding. I am fairly old school, of course! Wire and tongs for me. Harder to do in gas, though.

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Plain old soft iron tie wire is fine, 304 stainless safety lock wire is a little stronger and lasts longer in the fire. Juat sokething flexinle enough to snug up tight.

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For what it's worth, I've had HORRIBLE luck with plain iron tie wire. It has always broken on me without getting the billet very tight. I'm sure that is just me though, as many smiths much better than I (and I'm sure some worse, though you may be hard pressed to find someone worse) have had great success with it. I guess my point is to not give up if it doesn't work out for you. I do have a welder so I just switched to that. And I do feel like I'm cheating. Someday I'll figure the right way to use the wire.

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Yeah, there's a fine line between tight enough and SNAP! It helps to do one loose wrap and form the wire to the square corners before twisting it up tight. The stainless won't snap on you, but it doesn't mold as well either. It also won't weld to the billet unless you're (un)lucky. And as I mentioned, it works better in solid fuel since you can keep one end cool enough not to melt the wire before you hit welding heat.

 

Final trick: a pair of 1" square box jaw tongs to keep the stack aligned. This is also solid-fuel only, since the jaws will get hot and bend in gas unless your billet is long enough to hang out the door.

 

This is mostly for lower layer twist patterns, san mai, and sword cores. Viking-style stuff. Doing a high-layer ladder or raindrop, etc. without a power hammer or press is an excercise in patience and self-punishment. If you stick with historic examples you're working in a style that predates electric welders anyway.

 

With cable, if you don't have a half-round bottom swedge it helps to have an anvil with a step to do the end-welds and squaring-up of the ends before twisting. It also helps to cheat a little and torch cut the cable, since then you have the ends stuck together with slag. ;)

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Odd, but true, I found an old box spring mattress in a junk yard and "harvested" the springs.

Turns out they were a very nice plain high carbon steel.

I use them for 2 things: twist a bundle together and forge weld like a cable, which gives a very subtle pattern since the billet is primarily a single steel. I haven't tried it yet, but JPH suggested wrapping every 3rd wire with pure nickle foil to give the pattern more "pop".

 

I also use them to wire together my stacks/bundles for Damascus. I put the billet in my vice, heat a section of wire to bright red and then twist in place. They hold together very nicely in the forge, and if you happen to smack one into the billet, it won't compromise the quality of the steel.

James

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