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Cable Welding


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I worked in the oil field for a long while and have maybe 20'-30' of drill line. Drill line is extra extra improved wire rope. Now if I understand it correctly that cable is basically a jacket of 1095 with a core of 15N20. It is about 2" in diameter and has been work hardened to the point that only a hot saw will cut it.

 

Has anyone every worked with this cable before?

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It should be straight 1095. I have never heard of a mixed steel cable. Anyway, cut with a torch so the ends are welded, forge weld the ends in a half-round bottom swedge while rotating in the direction of twist, then forge the ends square. Next heat, weld the whole thing by twisting it up tight in the direction of the lay. That's where the square ends come in handy. Weld again in the swedge while rotating in the direction of the lay, and once you're sure it's solid cut off the ends and treat like a monosteel bar. Adding a fold or two once it's flat livens up the pattern.

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I've done a couple from drill line wire rope. First thing to do is cut it in the chop saw and take it apart. The drill line I used had the entire center section coated with some sort of poly/plastic and I had to discard it, don't even think about trying to burn it out. I've had some wire rope I kept getting flaws in and when I took it apart I found a small plastic strip down the center with a number code on it, took it out and stopped getting flaws. Way I did it was to take the outer strands and soak in diesel fuel for a week or two and then stack them into a square, 3 strands wide and 3 strands high, for 9 total strands, then weld in the hydraulic press using the squaring dies. Not a project I'd want to do without the press, or at least with a hearty striker.

 

From what I've seen it's all the same alloy, somewhere around 1095 and it acts and heat treats like 1095. The different "layers" are actually decarb and are nearly pure iron. The trick to working cable is to work it enough to get it welded without working it so much you loose the pattern. Also, the smaller the wires the more iron to ratio you have, the larger the wires the more steel to iron you have, in other words some of the prettiest patters won't hold an edge worth much, and some of the best edge holding doesn't have that good a looking pattern. Some of the most interesting wire rope I've done is a mix of different size wires. You can also take small wired "interesting" pattern and laminate it so you have a high carbon center and the pretty steel on the out side.

 

A couple of pics, the first one I did pretty much straight off the press with no twisting, just welded and drawn out. The second I did by twisting after welding up then forging flat. Due to the wire size you get a subtle pattern, but both pieces were for a tool pusher and they did perform very well.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have had trouble with flux inclusions with wire rope when using the press right off the bat. Make sure to do the twisting/rotating/hand hammering thing until it feels like a solid bar of steel. This forces flux out, the press is so fast it just traps a lot of it. Bad juju.

 

Otherwise, I really like swords and big blades made from this stuff. Give it a fold or two and it is nice. It is like 1075 with a pattern and less manganese.

 

Also, you can melt cable in an Evenstad-style refining hearth and get some gnarly-looking, authentic-looking, steel that takes a hell of a hamon.

 

That's my secret weapon to imitate traditional Chinese stuff from the Ming and before (it was decarbed cast iron bloom or ingot that was then clay heat-treated). They called it Stir Frying the steel (in industrial centers, it was essentially a puddle furnace, at a small smithy it was a refining hearth).

 

Anyway, you can do a lot with wire rope. I wouldn't make a razor out of it, but a camp knife or dao... .

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I have less inclusions using my press than I did doing it by hand. Might be cause my press is slower, not sure. I also think it's got something to do with diesel soak, I don't add a ton of flux when welding, I think maybe the diesel is acting as an oxygen barrier down inside the cable. I sometimes use diesel as a "flux" when doing normal pattern welding. I also have pretty much stopped using rusty, dirty cable. The other thing is 60% or better reduction has cut down on inclusions and flaws, along with forging close to shape at a welding heat. I've tried stacking a couple times, but I always get flaws, seems if there are any flaws there always in the center. I have been wanting to try a fairly high layer count stack of cable, say 3-400 layers and see what happens, but haven't had time to explore it yet. I'm thinking it'd be some what like tamahagane, and should show a nice hamon. I have a love/hate relationship with wire rope damascus.

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Yeah, Jesus Hernandez has made a few katana out of really folded cable and it does have a very tamahagane look to it. BTW, that's a pretty Richards conversion colt! What caliber?

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