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So as of late while gallivanting around the site, I stumbled upon the concept of "Aristotle's Furnace", so I got to thinking; I'm an amateur with some free time coming up due to fall break, I have an excess of clay that I processed, and I have a passion to make some good steel. So the thought occurred to me that rebar could perhaps be a cheap alternative that is readily available and can be cut into bits and melted down in the furnace. I am even thinking of making my own charcoal for this project. Does anyone have any other suggestions for cheap, readily available iron or steel sources? Also your thoughts on the process of purifying rebar into good steel would be greatly appreciated. I've read that the steel content varies greatly in rebar, so perhaps after a go or two through the furnace I could sort out the soft steel from the brittle steel much like Japanese smiths do. If there are any experienced folks that would be willing to weigh in on multi use clay bloomery/furnace designs that may prove to be more fruitful, then I'd highly appreciate it. Side note: it is preferable to keep the furnace reasonably sized and transportable.

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Sounds like you have a bit more reading/research to do before you start making things, so please do take it slow. We don't want you burning out after investing a ton of time on something for it to not work. I get the impression you know this, and that is very good.

 

The big things that jump out to me are these:

1) Start small. A sword should not be your first blade.

2) Know the limitations of Aristotle/hearth refining. Generally you get to refine things that readily oxidize in steel (C, Mn, and Si being the major ones). The stuff in rebar that makes it a terrible material are things like copper, tin, and lead. These are not readily removed from steel. Rebar is also generally low carbon, so it doesn't really harden. That part can indeed be fixed with such a setup (add carbon).

3) Start with something that should have good properties, but maybe isn't the appropriate size/shape, or is broken. Other (good) blades, springs, good bolts (e.g. grade 8), and the like is pretty good material. If you go to a commercial shop you might be able to dig through their scrap bin. Tell them you're looking for 1020-ish, or really anything better than A36.

 

Good luck!

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Admittedly the title is kind of "click baity", but the real end goal in this for me is overcoming the challenge of using a bad source material and turning it into something great whether that be a knife, dagger, sword, or billet. It's sort of an adventure for me, so even if I fail, it will still be worth while (I'm no stranger to failure, I assure you. haha). Although hypothetically and unrealistically if I did turn out to be some bladesmithing prodigy, I wonder if there would be master bladesmiths that would "scout" me (sorry just fantasizing out loud xD). Anyway, I digress... I wonder about the copper content, because in "Damascus" steel it is an amalgamation of high carbon steel and low carbon nickel/misc. So in essence wouldn't possibly melting copper into the steel basically just be skipping the whole "stack", "cut", "fold", "forge weld" process? Now understandably it could make the material too soft, but if that is the case then I suppose I could just use a harder steel for the edge and go with the sanmei method/technique. Anyway, thank for the feedback. Best regards.

 

 

"Failure is the mother of success"

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The only master bladesmiths around are certified by the American Bladesmith Society, or ABS. They are associated with La forge d'Ostiches in Belgium. You can go to the American Bladesmith Society web site and click on the listing for schools to get more information. Outside of that you are looking to travel to the States or South Africa to find schools that will lead to Journeyman and Master certification. I don't know if they do testing at these locations or if you would have to travel to the US to be examined.

 

There are other smiths in England, I take it that that's what you mean by being from Doggerland, and some of them may give classes though they will not lead to formal Journeyman and Master certification. Search for Owen Bush. He's a noted bladesmith and I think that he does occasional workshops. He's in the greater London area.

 

Doug

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Ummmmm....

"because in "Damascus" steel it is an amalgamation of high carbon steel and low carbon nickel/misc"

Not really. Most custom knife makers' Damascus is made from multiple layers of high carbon steels, one of which has a highish nickel content (typically 15N20 here in the States the European makers use a different alloy the name of which escapes me). Some custom makers (like many on this site) use a combination of high carbon steel and wrought iron to achieve pattern variation in color.

Next up:

"So in essence wouldn't possibly melting copper into the steel basically just be skipping the whole "stack", "cut", "fold", "forge weld" process?"

Nope. If it were that simple, none of us would be doing that "cut, stack, weld" method.

The copper (and other metals) in the rebar got there in basically a liquid form (hence the name "alloy") and the difference is no longer discernable to the naked eye. Now, I know precious little about smelting iron into steel, but basically you are going for a similar, if not the same, result. Getting the material hot enough to enter a semi-liquidous state and alloy. Bonding the carbon molecules to the iron molecules and making steel.

 

Don't get me wrong, I applaud your enthusiasm, but Jerrod makes a good point (several actually). Start small, finish big. If you are hell-bent on trying a smelt, JJ Simon posted pics of a rather samll, but successful one he did for this year's KITH. You can see it here: http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=32806

 

Speaking of which, I still need to try this........

Edited by Joshua States
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A little more to think on (with some general oversimplification):

Damascus is no longer really made for improved performance, just improved aesthetics. Modern mono-steel is far superior to historic steels and properly heat treated will outperform them. Damascus was originally done to mix "good" and "bad" steel to get a functioning part. In some cases this was just to stretch out the difficult to obtain high carbon steel. In other cases it was to balance out the brittleness of some steel (that which would take and hold an edge) with the ductility of other steel/iron (that which would bend without breaking, but wouldn't take and hold an edge). This works as a composite material. By melting things together you get a homogeneous material that may or may not work out. The bad elements may ruin (prevent it from hardening) the entire thing, rather than give just some sections of ductility. Using it for non-edge sections as you mention is a good though, but the copper generally makes welding difficult (but not impossible).

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Looking forward to seeing this thread continue. Matthew, this has been my obsession for a while now as well. I finally have an evanstad hearth constructed that I'll try to fire up and feed tomorrow depending on weather and my supervisor. My advice for what its worth as a fellow newb is do plenty of research and like others have said start small. Also read this forum at least 7 pages deep, so much info to be gained from just that.

 

On another note, can you guys that have done it please post up more examples of the works you've made from hearth steel/home bloomeries and tataras?? It makes for great motivation.

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Looking forward to seeing this thread continue. Matthew, this has been my obsession for a while now as well. I finally have an evanstad hearth constructed that I'll try to fire up and feed tomorrow depending on weather and my supervisor. My advice for what its worth as a fellow newb is do plenty of research and like others have said start small. Also read this forum at least 7 pages deep, so much info to be gained from just that.

 

On another note, can you guys that have done it please post up more examples of the works you've made from hearth steel/home bloomeries and tataras?? It makes for great motivation.

I second Floyd's request on seeing WIPs/finished projects to learn more about this topic!
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