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Another Serpent


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After finishing that last seax, I think I'm falling down the rabbit hole :unsure:. A while ago I welded together 9 layers of 1095 and 15N20, drew it out and folded it once and I decided this would be a good way to use it.

 

first bar.JPG

 

I drew it the billet out to a bit over 3/8" square and it ended up 23" long, which took about three and a half hours with a hand hammer.

 

bars cut.JPG

 

I cut the long bar into two 8.5" pieces I plan to twist in opposite directions and one 6" piece to make the core of the serpent. By my math, forging the serpent straight will make it about 7.5" long, but my guess it that it will stretch considerably as well and if not I can always draw it out to match the twists.

 

serpent cut.JPG

 

The serpent consists of the 6" bar forge welded between two pieces of mild steel and cut like this. When I forge it straight, the layered bar in the middle will undulate back and forth every inch. Last time I filed round slots out and left the rest flat, but that put a lot of stress on the mild steel, so this time I cut out triangles. I couldn't quite get the cuts with the angle grinder, so I made all 24 with a hack saw.

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I'm glad you like it. The main reason I made this WIP (other than the great suggestions and guidance I've gotten) is because most of my knowledge of knife making has come from other people sharing the

The first good look at the pattern after heat treatment.

WooHoo! What say the brethren?

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I'm excited to see the progress! what type of seax do you have planned? By the way, have you considered counter twisting the bar instead of laddering in the future?

Holy crap. That's a lot of work with a hack saw. May I recommend a thin disc on a 4" grinder? Or are you working on bicep/tricep tone?

 

Grins,

 

Dave

Don't forget the pecs and lats ;) every day is upper body day! Or, at least for your dominant side. <_<

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Holy crap. That's a lot of work with a hack saw. May I recommend a thin disc on a 4" grinder? Or are you working on bicep/tricep tone?

 

Grins,

 

Dave

Unfortunately, I chewed through my last thin disc(s) cutting titanium for a folder and my local hardware store only had thicker disks. I tried using one, but using a round disk to cut a triangular slot in a square bar put geometry against me. The one cut I made that way required a deal of cleanup on the sander and nicked the core bar a little bit. I decided to do all the vertical cuts in the middle of the "V"s with the angle grinder and do the diagonals with a hack saw. I did the math, and it as the equivalent of a 15" cut through 3/8" plate. Some muscle toning is nice too :D

 

 

I'm excited to see the progress! what type of seax do you have planned? By the way, have you considered counter twisting the bar instead of laddering in the future?

 

I really like broken back's, so I'm planning on Anglo Saxon type IV. There's enough steel for one rather long seax (which would waste some of the bar cutting the clip), or I could do a diagonal cut in the middle and make two shorter blades, which is the option I'm leaning towards.

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This morning I forged out the kinks in the serpent bar, then twisted and flattened the two other bars. As you can see, I had one de-lamination while twisting, but luckily it was towards the end of the bar and I could forge the rest out to be long enough.

 

messed up bar.jpg

 

To answer your question about laddering, Collin, the bars on the edges are mild steel and I laddered it so that the middle bar undulates when forged flat. You can see a few undulations in the image below. I don't know if it is a pattern found historically in this type of seax, but there is evidence of its use in swords.

 

serpent reveal.jpg

 

I'm going to take some time to consider my options before I continue with this project. I ordered some W1 bar stock and finally decided to spring for a small welder (the last seax only needed salvaging because the wire holding the bars together slipped significantly), so I will likely continue once I have those two things.

 

The top knife is what I believe I could make two of if I weld together the bars I have now. The bottom design is what I could make if I welded on an additional W1 bar for the edge (which would be slightly more traditional) and just made one blade. I think the larger drawing might be a bit smaller than what I could make with that much steel.

 

sketches.JPG

 

I'm pretty torn between the two choices and still don't know much about these knives, so advice about what to do now and critiques of my designs are more than welcome.

 

Aiden CC

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If you make the clip longer it will give a bit more belly to the blade and will make the pattern curve up to meet the clipped part, both of which are more historically accurate for these things. Plus it'll look cooler, and that's part of the game, no?

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To answer your question about laddering, Collin, the bars on the edges are mild steel and I laddered it so that the middle bar undulates when forged flat. You can see a few undulations in the image below. I don't know if it is a pattern found historically in this type of seax, but there is evidence of its use in swords.

Oh I know how the laddering works, maybe I didn't word my post very well.

 

But basically what I'm saying is: instead of doing all the extra work of making a three bar billet, cutting a ton of triangular notches out, and forging it flat again, you can simply make a series of ninety degree twists in the bar, each apposing the last, and when ground it will create the serpent pattern without all of the sawing and wasted iron. It's almost definitely how the pattern was created in historical swords.

 

Here is a thread that talked about this subject not too long ago. http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=12492&page=6

Edited by Collin Miller
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Thanks for the suggestion Alan, I think longer clips definitely improve the look. The bowie I got from Nate Runals in this year's KITH has a very seaxish shape (with a relatively long clip), so it was nice to use as a "preview" of what a blade with this design would end up looking like. Pictures are helpful, but to really get an idea of knife geometry it's very nice to be able to actually hold it.

 

revised sketches.JPG

 

Sorry I misread your first post Collin, I interpreted "counter twisting" to mean twisting the middle bar in the opposite direction as the edge bars to make a herringbone pattern, as opposed to doing alternating twists in one bar. Thank you very much for that link! That is a much more elegant way to do it, which I will definitely try out the next time I do this.

Edited by Aiden CC
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No problem, man! I like the longer clip as well. I've also found that a thinner point is better for basically everything but turning screws... ;)

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great thread.

I suggest Mcmaster-carr. They sell EVERYTHING and ship almost immediately. I live in CT, they are in NJ, and I get everything within 2 days of shipping, and it you order in the AM, they ship that same day.

 

They also have the better grade of everything (like files) so it beats shopping at a hardward or home improvement store.

 

I am enjoying this process you are posting. I am excited about how it could turn out. I have a long bar with two core bars counter-twisted to form a heffingboan, and i whant t do osmething with part of it. I may weld some wrought iron to one side, (it has edge bars of piled 1075 and W2, and the twisted cores of 15n20 and 1075) and go with a design a lot like this. It looks great. Not good for turning screws, but good for stabbing those who would invade the British Isles back when...

 

thanks for sharing.

kc

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If the three bar billet pictured in the last photo of reply #6 hasn't been welded yet, can I suggest doing a bit more twisting on the ends of the bottom bar? It looks as if you've got a tight twist slightly less than 2/3 of the way to the right of the bar (as pictured). I'd get the twists on the ends to mirror the density of the middle bit as closely as I could.

 

I notice in your sketch note about maybe getting two blades out of the billet. If you're planning on drawing the billet out, remember that twists stretch a lot in drawing. If you plan on drawing a thick bit to a longer blade, twist as tightly as you can.

 

Apologies if you already knew all this.

 

Dave

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Kevin: Thanks for the recommendation. I heard about them a while ago (from someone in Canada complaining that they were only delivering to businesses where he lived), but never thought to look into it as a place to get supplies for knife making. I checked, and they even have tool steel (though a bit more expensive than from some other places)

 

Dave: Thanks for the suggestion, I'm still not sure what I'm going to do about that. My last seax had a shorter edge bar twisted more evenly, but since the bevel got more drawn out at the tip, the twist "opened up" more there. What I may do is cut off the rightmost end of the bar, so that the tightest part of the twist is at the tip of the knife and "hide" the other loosed end in the tang.

 

Twists have aways given me a bit of trouble (I popped open a weld in my very first billet by twisting it too cold/fast), and I'm hesitant to risk twisting off part of this bar like I did to the other, especially now that it's thinner because of forging/grinding. If anyone has a way of doing it other than putting one end in a vice and the other in a wrench, I would be glad to hear about it.

 

At this point I've pretty much decided I'm going to just make one blade instead of trying to squeeze two out of that bar. I'm starting up school part time tomorrow, so the progress will likely get a bit slower on this project, but I should still be able to work some this coming week.

Edited by Aiden CC
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The start date for the classes I was planning to take got pushed back three weeks because of low enrollment, so I had a little time to work today (and make some fruitless phone calls/emails). The W1 bars I ordered are on back order, so I hammered out a bar of W2 from some larger stock I had lying around. Then I cut everything to length, cleaned up the mating surfaces, and "scarfed" the ends where the lengths aren't even so there isn't a 90˚ corner to dig in to the bar below.

 

all bars copy.jpg

 

The welder should theoretically arrive today and I'll be able to tack the bars together and add a handle for forge welding.

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bar tacked.jpg

 

I got the four bars tack welded together. Since there are little gaps between the bars, some little drops of metal/general crud from the weld get in between the bars. Is there a good solution? The gaps are too narrow to fit much of anything in to scrape the surfaces clean.

 

Has this happened to anyone before? Do I need to try and clean the gaps, or will the heat and flux from forge welding be enough? I've put a lot of work into the metal so far, and don't want something silly like this to send it to the scrap bin.

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You can grind the welds off, put in a big vise on one end, and a big C clamp on the other and squeeze everything so that they bend together, and then weld them. OR, you can just use flux and soak at high heat in a reducing forge/flame for about 5 minutes and then move quickly to do the weld when it comes out. Time in open air with a gap like that can be a problem, hence the need for flux.

 

I use welding flux from the anti borax company, that I buy through the blacksmith supply places. Be sure to NOT get the flux formulated for stainless, as this stuff doesn't wet and flow well. The flux made for forge welding carbon steels is just anhydrous borax plus a small amount of boric acid and some cast iron filings. It works really well, and doesn't fall off as much as regular borax does. You probably already know all of this, but just fyi. You can get by with 1/3 as much of this stuff as regular borax since it doesn't have the chemical water to break and boil away. Easier on the forge, too.

 

If the steel isn't normalized, be very careful how hard you bend it! Even then, use some caution, snapping a bar is a sad event.

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Thanks for the advice Kevin. I think using a C clamp to pinch them together is worth a shot. The worst gap is between the end of the edge bar and the end of the bar behind it, so I'm not sure I'll be able to completely close it, but hopefully I can get a bit closer. Should heat and flux be enough to loosten the little beads of MIG weld material if any do remain in a gap somewhere?

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Should heat and flux be enough to loosten the little beads of MIG weld material if any do remain in a gap somewhere?

 

I sincerely doubt it. I'd grind off the weld beads, take the stack apart, grind clean the mating surfaces, and redo it entirely. Clamp one end in a vise and use the biggest C-clamp you have on the other. If you're normalized it may even be worthwhile to try and adjust the bars cold until they actually fit.

 

When I do a long multibar I usually wire it up since I'm a very bad welder with my ancient stick machine. This will inevitably leave a loose joint on the tang end, which in turn causes the last few cm to not weld up. I account for that in the stack, knowing I'm going to have to cut off some of the bars at the tang end. Then again, I use coal and that can cause problems as well. Charcoal and gas are much cleaner when it comes to welding up big billets.

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in welding 4 bars like this would it be better/easier to do 3 welds first welding 2 bars each then welding the resulting 2 bars together or do you add more risk lose more material ect doing it this way ?

Chris

Edited by Chris Roberts
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You do risk material loss from both scale and the resulting need to grind clean between welding sessions. For some things that can't be helped, but for a straightforward multibar like this I think the all-in-one-shot method gives the best results. It is of course up to you how you prefer to go about it.

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I had considered doing something like that, Chris. I don't know about whether it would increase or decrease risk, but my main factor in deciding was the amount of time it would take to do in stages (extra cooling, heating, and grinding) as well as the material lost from extra time in the forge at welding heat and re-grinding surfaces.

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I took the advice to separate all the bars, grind them clean, and then weld them back together while in a vice/clamp. It made for much cleaner surfaces between the bars and for fewer gaps.

 

clamped for welding.JPG

 

I put the billet (not calling it a blade yet) in the forge and gently welded all the bars together over several heats. Then I started forming the tang (the handle I welded on promptly fell off, so I wanted to be able to get a secure grip) and started narrowing and lengthening the billet slightly while blending the welds with hammer blows.

 

welded hot.JPG

 

The steel is currently cooling in a bucket of sand to anneal it at least somewhat. I'm going to cut in the clip cold with an angle grinder to avoid complications of hot-cutting it. I'm also going to do some "exploratory grinding" to check the welds. If there are major flaws, it is still at a stage where I could split the bars apart/cut it short and make a smaller piece. I don't want to wait until bevel forging for a seam to pop open on me. I did a fair amount of drawing out on the tang with no de-lamination, so I'm hopeful, but I've found cautious optimism is best in these matters.

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Sweet!

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