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Jan Ysselstein

In Search of Hamon, Experiments at the Forge #1

96 posts in this topic

The MIG welded holding sticks do not work and have created me extreme frustration...I forged out some anchor chain and forge welded it to one of the billets..I will post a pic later . I modifies some tongs hoping they ( I ) would be able handle the iron without a holding stick...not easy if the billet is not very symmetrical. The bloomery iron will be put aside until all the crucible bits are done. As time goes by I am adopting more and more traditional methods because I am learning why they were chosen.

 

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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The forge welded bar lasted a while and I ended up manipulating billets without a bar at times. It was a day I should have spent staying in the house or just cleaning the shop. I have two bars ready to be combined into a bar for a tanto...I am looking roughly for a final bar about 12" X1/4" by 1 1/2" to make the blade with. I am beginning to meditate on how I deal with the quench and unwanted distortion.

 

I am trying to minimize carbon loss by the geometry of the billet and fluxing with rice straw ash ...so if a billet is 1/2 X 2 x 6 or 6" cubed and 32 inches squared of surface area or

if a billet is 1 X 2 X 3 or 6" cubed and 22 inches squared of surface area ...that lower total surface area should help reduce the los of carbon.

I am not sure what is up with my camera but the pics are lousy here are some pics taken to day,

 

DSCN5097.jpg after cutting into the metal , the metal is reheated (fluxed ) to make sure the hinge does not break

DSCN5098.jpg learning to manipulate the billet with tongs

DSCN5101.jpg an indispensable tool for setting the beginning of the folds ( I have several pretty much like this , to finish the fold to 90 Deg. )

DSCN5102.jpg the rod is still there , a compact billet having a low total surface area

DSCN5110.jpg I add so much flux to my forge I have to scrape it out at the end of a run..sometimes I am scraping the bottom material as well and then I have to add some new bottom material

 

Jan

 

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I have cut my 3 samples of forge welded crucible bits ( Nanban tetsu ) in half to see what the steel looks like at this point. The spark test shows a loss of carbon but sparks are still bursting. One of the samples has some thin weld lines showing..I have nothing to compare to so I will just assume that it is normal at this stage ( 3 welds away from forging to shape ). Another sample indicates the last weld was missed , I am hoping I can recover by doing this weld over by simply welding and adding some borax in the flux.

 

There are several minor improvements I can make to make this a more relaxing process for me. Here are some pics, the heavily fluxed samples in the last photo are of high carbon bloomery iron which I will take up at a later date.

We will try to finish a few more welds and forge to shape next week.

 

The hope is for me to end up with enough new knowledge and skills to move on and not feel like my time was wasted.

DSCN5132.jpg Two cut samples , the lower samples has a bad final weld ( to be repaired?)

DSCN5140.jpg Sculptural look of a wire brushed billet , hinges to the right and facing you

DSCN5143.jpg Missed weld

DSCN5147.jpg Weld lines showing, I am hoping to reduce this by reworking the billet

DSCN5151.jpg Now we have 6 samples of welded crucible bits and some high carbon bloomery iron on the left. The cut samples will all be combined with one other sample (1,2), (1,3) and (2,3).

 

Jan

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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Feeling little insecure and uncertain about how to proceed

...I may have to start at a higher carbon level of my bits or modify my welding/heating methods to reduce carbon loss more effectively. Some of the cut billet samples are showing the banding with is associated with welding ..in particular the contact surfaces of the welds. There are a few things I can do to change the forge atmosphere chemistry , the flux chemistry and the handling process of the hot metal ( more frequent fluxing, tighter closure of the folded billet before setting the weld and so on). In any case it seems I will have to rely more on the method and less on just being able to achieve high temperature in the gas furnace.

Here are a couple of pics. One of the billets was banded but diffused to a more uniform color when I was forging it to a thinner billet ( I hope).

light area.jpg Looking at a 2mm screen , a lighter etched area, surface not polished ( 280 grit paper ) nital.

DSCN5152.jpg Banding of the ingots due to decarburization in and out of the forge at high temperatures. I think .the center ingot was banded prior to forging flat at welding temps.

 

Jan

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Good stuff! You are really putting a lot of effort into this, thank you for sharing your progress!

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Thank you Steve.

 

The idea here is not to show how it should be done but to show that by looking at what is going on , one can progress.

.

The list of problem areas and possible solutions is growing ( maybe infinite ). There are fixes in the hat , I want to make sure the fixes stay within the set of fixes a Japanese smith might have used historically. The variable I am mostly concerned with is, the heat source. I make a lot of charcoal but it just would not be practical for me to use it for this project. Charcoal is a drier heat source than Propane, unless you are working in a high humidity environment where moisture is going through the fire ( some as hydrogen ).

I am making a new forge today, I have changed the bottom die of the power hammer to a flat one. The power hammer would have to align the hot metal as part of the hit ..creating a sharp jerk to the billet ( unless I had it aligned perfectly or very very hot)..I believe this is the cause for the welded stick failures ...we will see. Allowing the hot billet to bathe in the liquid flux/slag mixture on the bottom of the furnace will also be eliminated by placing a broken kiln shelf inside and replacing it frequently. More frequent cleaning of a crusty silica scale and replacing it with fresh flux............... and so on......lots of little details ( minutia ) .

 

It may have been a little optimistic to assume I would be hitting the target on the first try...let's see.

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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It will take a day or two before I fire up my next gas furnace. I wanted to practice making a San Mai blade..I would like to incorporate some of my scrap metal...various wrought irons and some home made steels....for the exterior layers. This sample is 2 1/4 " diameter pipe and 1095-E . The symmetry seems fine..I would hate to have to grind the inside of the pipe ( the inside of the corroded pipe is very rough , just wire brushed ) for an effective weld. Here is a picture showing the resulting symmetry at about 2/3 of the way to final forging.

 

DSCN5155.jpg WIP of a San Mai style blade....we want the exterior layers to show some "interesting features" so first we will get the welding in place , then the other steels. The core is 1095-E water hardening alloy.

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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I am going to need a finished forged to shape billet of about 525 grams per blade..my now 6 pieces come up just short ( in combinations of two) of that. There may be a need for me to weld in a sliver of steel in the center ( hidden completely or exposed at the back of the blade ) too get the final dimensions up to what will be needed. How fortunate the practice for that was done in the previous post. I have checked the weld between the pipe and the high carbon steel ( old file bit ) and it looks pretty good.

 

The old furnace has a temporary patch and I will try to weld up one of the tanto blanks ( pattern shown in the book above ) . The scheduled changes are, to weld at a lower temperature but get the furnace very hot between welds...at the weld heat time, run the furnace a little richer and make sure the soak time is held at a minimum. I think there is enough carbon left in the samples..I am not sure why one is not banded or may I am just not seeing it ( maybe too few folds ). I will be reverting back to my standard borax based welding flux diluted with straw ash at temperature ( I am desperately going to try to flux that crack with borax).

 

In a day or two I will be walking away from this project to do a job that will give me no time to play in the shop ....I will tidy it up at a later date.

 

The first pair of billets to be welded are the two having a gap where the last weld should have been. That are both from a single cut billet.

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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It was a disastrous afternoon....I think I did get the open weld fixed but replaced it with exfoliation and so on. Here is a blank representing the first crucible bloomery steel forge welded bits. I am a little thinner than I had planned but let's have a look at what comes out of this. Here are some pics of what I have so far just about an eighth of an inch thick ( spark indicates lots of carbon) . I had a bit of better luck making a couple of San Mai blade blanks.

DSCN5160.jpg Bloomery crucible steel welded blank

DSCN5161.jpg Tanto pattern and blank

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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The blank has a line where a weld should be..so I will cut it into 2" pieces , wrap the stack with a wire and try one more weld ...then either good or in the trash. Ouch!

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Try to enjoy the journey.

This has been an awesome thread.

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Joshua,

 

Thank you for your interest in the topic. I do enjoy the journey, but like most people, I would not mind it if the material would cooperate here and there. There are a few topics I need to encounter here and I might as well take my time to deal with them. Welding is one of them, welding and not getting a large loss of carbon ( gas forge ) is a tricky combination and requires a bit of consideration . The other is quenching and all the possible combinations of methods and materials. I have removed the flat die on the hammer and replaced it with an old die I had which must have come from an LG 25, mine is a 50., The new setup is much quieter and I think that flat surface was pulling too much heat out of the billets. The forge is ideal, I just need the controls a little closer to where I am located. The cutting of billets is working very well ( using a treadle hammer ). In the above video there are several points at which the smith resolves a problem..one is the removal of a bubble of slag or air using a hatchet.....the other is a moment at which he notices his cut billet is upside down , very hot and opening ( as he pulls it out of the rice straw ash) . The film shows him just closing it and moving on..I think that could be risky. I am finding that hinge has to hold the pieces in place firmly. So, we go on and try to solve the real and imaginary problems one by one and enjoy the experiences on the journey.

Jan

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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The blank in the above post was soaked in the furnace, quenched and turned into a material much like Filo Dough... ( I will post a picture when I start working with the material again ) That time consuming experiment did give me some valuable information about what is happening in the forge at high temperatures.

 

To confirm I would not be repeating the Filo dough project, I grabbed a piece of the WIP material still available and started forging and folding it. Carbon is still being lost but I think I am closer to getting reliably good welds. My guess is, we have at least 6 folds, the material is getting lighter in color, the spark is losing some of its bursts, it forges with quite a bit of resistance and it has the ring of a hard piece of steel ( though just cooled at room temperature).

 

I think the best thing I can do right now is to shape it into a blade shape and see how hard the edge gets and see if a quench line develops...so that is what I will do. Here are some pics of two pieces of the same bar ,one of which was folded a few more times ( 3, I believe). Now, one more fold lengthwise and quench.

 

DSCN5164.jpg Two halves of the same ingot

DSCN5166.jpg One of the halves folded an additional 3 times

DSCN5167.jpg Same

DSCN5168.jpg Same, opposite side

 

Jan

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The time of reckoning. Cool.

 

FWIT- When I did my pattern welding on my LG25, I used the drawing dies to make the welds. I would hold the billet parallel to the dies and hammer the center of the billet first and then move toward the edges. This concentrated the force in a smaller area and set the welds while forcing all flux out the billet sides. Two good welding heats to set the welds before turning the billet perpendicular to the dies to thin it out for folding or stacking.

 

I think I missed the video you refer to.

Edited by Joshua States

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Joshua,

Thank you for the tip..I am almost doing that..set the weld by hand and then into the hammer at welding heat next. The problem with these welds ( I think ) is the migration of a viscous material ( rice straw ash or silica, slightly fluxed ) migrating into the closed fold when the fold has a gap which gets (is) too large...the only material which should be going there is the rice straw ash/iron oxide , via Capillary Action. We also want that flux to gas off once it is in the joining surface area to push a lot of stuff out. So we have to find a way to do that. I am optimistic about being able to do that, but it all takes a lot of time.

If I can keep my tanto under 10" total say 6.5/3.5/1" inches for blade/ handle/blade width I may have enough material here. I had considered bending the sample and adding a lower carbon center kobuse style, I am not that confident in these particular welds and cannot afford the possibility of Filo dough.

Jan

 

By the way the video is in post #35 ..it is the Japanese smith making a sword.

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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I had a chance to weld grind the sample to a blade shape, there are numerous small short weld defects and I do not think it is worth continuing with this set of samples. What surprised me during heavy grinding is the amount of high carbon sparks....maybe I had more room than I thought.

 

Right now I am forced to push away for a month or so.. we will complete this topic when time allows.

 

Jan

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So, I heated and quenched the blade and tempered it over the forge charcoal fire. It is ugly but it has taught me a lot. The blade shape is still very thick at the edge and when I have time again I will grind into it to check the variation if any.

 

Here are some pics of what I got...a file runs off the edge and the spine without any grabbing, very hard. A major question became ? Can I do x number of folds in a gas forge and still have enough carbon left to get a good blade? I would say yes at least 8 and when skills improve probable many more. Now we will stay focused on the welding and move on to clays for quenching ( the clay was gone here when I took the iron out of the tub, but there was very little unwanted cooling going on).

I will repeat this test in a month or two and will target a slightly higher carbon level...

frame5.jpg
DSCN5175.jpg
DSCN5178.jpg
DSCN5181.jpg

 

Jan

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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I will attempt some more welds this week..I am just about out of bits and will first weld up whatever I can find, then switch to some high carbon bloom. The welding process on the previous blank was not consistent...I hope it was only one factor I was not doing properly...I suspect it was the treatment of the welding joint itself that was not consistent. I will be adding some borax to the flux mix on the next run ( at the risk of losing carbon more quickly ).

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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I am gaining a bit of confidence welding on the fly ( no grinding between welds, no significant cooling between welds, just a little forging ) below are some pics of wrought iron ( homemade ) and old wootz ( homemade ) welded together. This bar was full of terrible welds before I started on it again today (trash). This bar has been under my forge for about a year(s), I only grabbed it because it already had a rod welded to it...I will weld it a few more times to see where it gets us...I had not thought of wootz/wrought as a combination for Hamon but I'll take it. ( this wootz was 1.32 % carbon ).

 

The use of just clay was also tried today and needs more experimentation. The clay ( once dried over the furnace exhaust ) stayed in place and stayed rigid...we will get back to this even if only as a protection against carbon loss.

Clay will require me to cool the material quite a bit ( for it to stick and then get dried ) and will slow the welding process.

 

My furnace needs a replacement.

 

Now I will weld up some high carbon bloom using the same methods and see where that takes us.

 

frame1.jpg some slag(flux) not extruded out of the welded surfaces

frame2.jpg looking pretty good

frame3.jpg same

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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Thanks Jesus..it is a slow grind...I ran out of rice straw ash and may have given myself some decarb .

I have folded the wootz/wrought bar a few more times...the welds seem to be ok ( one area has a few open weld sections ) . There is a white line down the center of the bar indicating decarb or the dragging of some low carbon material into the billet ( the source would be my forge welded  handle ). I am going to ignore that stripe and try to heat treat the bar (and hope for  hamon).  The bar is sparking high carbon and has a nice damascus pattern ( itame?). The total number of folds is less than half of what would be normal refining for Japanese blades. The bar dimensions are roughly 10" x 1/8" x1.5" .

Carbon control remains my main problem.

Edit: I gave it another shot this morning and believe I am past the welding/carbon control problems. I  flattened a few all high carbon bloom fragments

Edit: The patterns on the bar surface below showed up well on these microscope pictures , to the naked eye it is barely visible in good light. I will be quenching two bars,the one shown in this post ( distinct carbon variation in the layers) , and one of the bars made from crucible bits just like the quenched sample shown above ( the bits bar has a very uniform look and I cannot see the layers when etching it). These two should provide an interesting contrast.

 crucible bits welded back together ( looks homogeneous) and

crucible steel/wrought combination (distinct layers of varying carbon concentration

 

and will take it up a bit later this week. I am looking forward to closing this thread after that next run.

jan

 

I am not sure how to add pics but we are looking at the surface of the bar  after a light grind and an etch,, all color contrast is due to carbon content .frame13.jpgLine down the center of the bar( edge )frame2.jpgSurface of the bar, high and lower carbon iron7A.jpgSurface of the bar, showing solid weldsframe6.jpgAnother surface pic frame5 copy.jpgTwo open welds ( may have been part of the original defective bar ). 

Edited by Jan Ysselstein
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Some neat activity in those pics. Good stuff Jan.

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Hello Joshua,   I see that you are getting involved in the charcoal/smelting thing...be careful, it can suck away a lot of time.

    

       Actually  "The time of reckoning. Cool."   is now, as now I am at the stage of having to weld and refine the bloom material. I think I am dome practicing and am ready to go. I will post some pics of the high carbon material and hope for the best. Some of the lesson come from the Japanese guys ( all the books and videos) and some from the old shear steel makers. The plan is to finish the thread with the high carbon bloom material ..have some decent hamon and Exit...I am still working with clay as a flux and hope to will finish that as well.

Jan

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15 hours ago, Jan Ysselstein said:

Hello Joshua,   I see that you are getting involved in the charcoal/smelting thing...be careful, it can suck away a lot of time.

Jan

Yeah, I kinda figured that. Life is too short damn it. But nothing worth having comes without sacrifice and effort. I see the stuff that guys like you are doing and not trying is not an option any more. I'm too dang old to put it off for someday. There are only 7 days in a week and "someday" isn't one of them.

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