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John Page

Serpent-Spear

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Hello! It's been quite a while since I have posted any content here. It's been an insane handful of months, moving 3200 miles and working an average of 100 hours a week, but I have finally come to a place where I have the opportunity to get back to the forge. Seeing all the wonderful things you all have been making inspired me to try out something I've been thinking about for a while, and although the end product is not quite where I intended, I have a much better understanding of the process and what to change next time around. To satisfy the smouldering whiskers, I tried to make a spear with an opposing twist, serpentine core and wrought/15n20/1075/15n20/wrought edge. 

01 shop.jpg

A little background on this. Last year I began working as a volunteer for the California State Park in a historic shop doing demonstration/education/making stuff for the museums. All the tools are roughly period 1850s-1860s (or so we tell people) and we have the second largest pair of bellows west of the Mississippi for the main forge. The things are insane and make it a dream to heat large things quickly or incinerate small things even more quickly. Because of the shop limitations however, this was all a bit more tricky. No presses or power hammers or grinders, so everything needed to be forged and finished with a hammer. 

core steel.jpg

I didn't take any pictures making the twists, so here's what it looks like in a bit of extra steel I had leftover. Nothing new here. I think it was 15 layers of 1095/15n20 but I made the initial billet untwisted billet a few years ago so that could be wrong. 

02 fire.jpg

Because the shop shares a wall with a restaurant, I have to burn coke instead of coal. Not that there's functionally much of a difference, but growing up on propane the last several months have been a learning process. Now, however, I'd take solid fuel over gas any day.

03 billet.jpg

Now then, onto the actual forging. Unfortunately, the only wrought I have is 1,25" square, so I first had to forge it down to size. Even with a 12# sledge it took a few hours. Once it was dimensioned and cut to length, I prepped the billet for welding. Without modern equipment, I had to hold it together with some wire, but realistically it was the tongs which kept it in place long enough to set the weld. If nothing else, doing all my finishing by hand has taught me a lot finer hammer and heat control...

More in the next post

Edited by John Page

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05.jpg

So here we go! Into the forge, welding small bits at a time until the entire thing is solid. I left the wrought a bit on the thick side because it moves so much faster than the other steel in the billet, and even so I think I lost most of it once the final shape was forged. Oh well, lesson learned for next time.

07 section welding.jpg

Because the billet will be undertaking a decent amount of stress almost immediately, I wanted to be sure the welds were solid. A few things I have come to look for in the weld lines is, with thinner layers, the more obvious cooling of one spot more quickly than the rest of the billet. With this thicker stock however that doesn't work as well. Another thing is the formation of the scale. However tight the layers against one another, unless it is actually welded, the scale will not form across that line. That makes it really clear that the weld did not take. With steel that is not perfectly the same thickness or exactly aligned, that might be deceiving in that the unevenness is the cause rather than the lack of weld. So, when I felt it was solid, I forged a small bit on edge to bring it down flat and watched for delamination. Eventually, it will all need to be flat anyway, because I cannot go back and grind it before welding the edges to the core.

08 weld lines.jpg

Getting there...

09 edge billet.jpg

And here we go. 5 layer edge billet welded and ready for some manipulation. This next part gave me a bit of pause. Without being able to grind the steel exactly where I needed it, I had to come up with another way of getting the serpentine out of the core. If I had a press, I would have made a set of dies to get the undulations exactly even and repeatable, but since I do not, I had to wing it.

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10 edge manipulation.jpg

And this is what I came up with. I measured as best I could for the spacing, but until I set a few of the sinusoides, I wasn't entirely sure how far it would distort in length. At this point, I intentionally left the 'spine' thicker where I hammered down on it so that when I came through later and forged the edge flat, the upsetting in the lumps would more or less match. 

11.jpg

In case that last picture was confusing, this is the rough layout. The phase of the waves are offset so that when I forge it back into a rectangle, the core will distort into the snake pattern. Above, the opposing twists are already welded together and the sides slightly flattened by forging and hot rasping.

12 layout.jpg

With a bit of trimming and more wire, the billet is ready to weld. I should say that this was almost a disaster. Trying to hold onto this thing long enough to set the weld, and actually setting the weld with the weird geometry was exponentially more difficult than I expected. In the end, I took off one edge and set the weld with the core, then came back for a second pass. But, due to the shape, I could not put the welded side down and use the same fullering hardie to set the top weld. In the end, I went to the post vice and clamped the pants off it. Although it did introduce a bit of buckling, it was nothing that could not be fixed later.

13 welded.jpg

Once it was welded firmly, I began forging it back into a rectangle. To do this, I used that huge swage block in the top picture of the first post, setting the peaks of the wave on either side of a matching U of the swage. That seemed to give me the best return of straightening v. upsetting of the various surfaces I tried forging on.Once squared up, I hot cut the ends to make it less weird looking and more manageable for the next part.

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14 fishmouthing.jpg

Which is fishmouthing the end! This was another thing which gave me a lot of thought. Initially, I was going to leave the edge bars long and sort of wrap them around over the end of the core, because I was not sure if the end would be in the centre of the bar after welding. As it worked out, I could hot cut a V into the end to where the core met the centre of the billet and just do the ole' fish mouth weld. Also, as you can see above, the core is far less wavy than the frequency of the wave in the initial edge billet. Approaching this with a press, I think I could manage it a fair amount tighter, but the concept still worked I suppose.

15 profile forging.jpg

Here we are, welded closed and ready for profiling. I was a little nervous that the fish mouth would split open because of the immediate hammering across the weld, but it stuck like a champion. 

16.jpg

And finally, here is the (very) roughly forged spear head. A few years ago at Dave DelaGardelle's shop we went on a bit of a spear forging rampage and I learned a lot about sockets. Because material was already scarce, I did not want to make it integral and forge the socket out of the 'tang' material. Instead, I opted for the pipe-socket-and-weld method. Only problem is, the closest thing I could find was 2,5" square...

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17 socket.jpg

Cutting an arbitrary length of pipe off of the bar with a hack saw took way too long, but when that was over with, it was on to making it round. Necking down pipe without it collapsing is tedious to say the least, especially when the final diameter is about a third of the starting. To do this, I worked it one end backwards to form the taper of the socket, keeping it nice and hot and rotating it constantly to prevent the formation of corners or buckles. 

18 socket forged.jpg

Once the spear end was close to the size needed to fit the stub tang, I squared (rectangled) the joint. I found that having a square/rectangle when welding is much easier than trying to get two round things to mate perfectly. With the socket hot and spear cold, I cold fitted the joint before welding. As the spear was, the tang tapered outwards towards the blade, making a wedge for the socket to fit into. On the socket end, it was opposite. the necking goes down to the tightest point just before where the weld will be, then flares slightly back open to accept the wedge. This is important if you want more than the very end of the socket to weld to the blade. 

When actually setting the weld, I used a hefty amount of flux, combined with a pinch of coal dust, and down into the socket a bit of iron powder. The coal dust burns out any extra oxygen, the flux does normal flux things but also draws in the iron powder which acts almost like a metal velcro to set the weld. Because there was no good way to clean the inside of the pipe socket before welding, I wanted all the help I could get. When hot, I stood the socket on the anvil and hammered down on the point of the blade. That set the weld, repeated two or three more times, until I was confident in it. Then, it was over to the horn and forging down on the socket like when I was necking it down. After that, the only thing left to do was straighten the blade/socket joint and make sure everything was gravy. 

19 welded.jpg

Sorry for the out of focus picture, those 1850s cameras are a bear to operate.

20 Spear on Anvil.jpg

Here is the spear just after the weld. Note the blunted tip from hammering down. Fixed that later, as well as a little more profiling on the bevels and cleaning up the edge. I'm not entirely sure when I will be able to do the grinding and heat treatment, so I will have to leave this on an unfortunate cliffhanger without revealing the pattern ;)

All in all, it took about 22 hours to get to this point, although probably half of that was working down stock that was way too large for what I needed. In any event, it feels good to be back in the mix! 

 

John

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That's cool. I was wondering how much serpent you would get after welding but the undulations are quite clear. Looking forward to more.

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Thanks Niels! Your sword was certainly part of the inspiration :)

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really creative forging. nice to see that it all worked out, too!

 

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Wonderful post John! I was wondering when I'd get my John fix in :)

Your photography and writing style are as wonderful as always, a pleasure to read and see! I'm excited to see how the spear comes along! Maybe you can forge a scraper to refine the geometry ;) 

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John, this is awesome. I love the engineering problems and solutions you came up with using period tools. I wonder if you're on to something with that serpent weld. Seems like a good way to avoid stock removal.

Can't wait for you to be set free in a shop of your own with modern tools so you can work faster!

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John, I'm really happy to see you back in the forge and doing great stuff too!

What a great environment to work in. That shop photo made my jaw drop. 

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I don't want to take anything away from the making of the spear point, but I think I've ruined my laptop with dribble. What a fantastic workshop and environment to create things in, keep up the great work.

 

Steve

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Well, well done!  Welcome to the solid fuel dark side, my son...B) 

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Love the technique, looks like everyone has found their own way to make the serpent pattern! Yours looks like it would certainly add extra callouses to the hands :D Looking forward to seeing the finished spear.

James

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This is so cool! I love how you've adapted to the lack of stock removal equipment, it really goes to show the potential of good forging.

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Thanks all! It has certainly been a challenging but extraordinarily fun process so far. I love your idea Emiliano of forging a scraper, I think I may just have to do that!! Sure beats the monotony of draw filing the entire thing... Anyone know how the edge geometry should look for something like that? I've never used one larger than 5/8" square, and that was too long ago to remember anyway. I'm envisioning a draw knife with a steeper, thicker edge and much shorter in length. 

And Luke, you and me both! I have a handful of ideas that have been stewing for too long, and without being able to devote months to doing it all by hand, I have to be lame and wait to pillage Nate's or Dave's shop haha

With regard to the serpent, I think I have it worked out to make it almost like a ribbon pattern without modern tools or any stock removal, but with how long it takes and the unfortunately small amount of time I can get in this wonderful shop, that one will have to be shelved for another time. 

Thanks again folks, it's a great feeling to be back in the shop :)

John

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Nice job John, nice to see you back at it ..........B)

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Great work! Wonderful photostory :) What I admire you've done it all without any power tools! And The idea of forging the serpent is interesting too.

I like the shop as well. Keeps climate :)

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I like the way you welded the socket onto the body of the spear. That was definitely a new one for me. Creative and technically-sophisticated. yeah!

 

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Thanks folks!! Hopefully this weekend I'll be able to jimmy a scraper and get the pattern showing on this thing ;)

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Today I was able to get the scraper forged and heat treated, although I have not been able to actually use it yet. It is more or less like a draw knife with twisted handles that help facilitate the proper cutting angle of the edge, which is about 2/3 the width of one bevel of the spear's face. There is a very slight convex curve to it, and the angle is as close to 45 degrees as I could forge by hand. It is currently as forged, no grinding at all, which is why the edge is really rough. Not having ever used a scraper like this before, I don't entirely know if it is going to work, but there's only one way to find out...

21 scraper sizing.jpg

I started by forging out a handle, then setting down a corner for the cutting edge. Using a pair of double calipers I made a few weeks back, I transferred the length of the first handle piece to get a fairly even match on the other side.

22 twisting.jpg

Getting the twists was the only difficult part of the process, as I was not quite sure how far to take it. At first, I did a straight 90 degree twist on each handle, but that was way too much. So, I untwisted it, flattened, and went back for another round. In the end, it is around 50 degrees, which seemed a good angle for holding the scraper in line with your hands with arms parallel to the ground, allowing the cutting edge to meet the steel at the proper angle (whatever that is...)

23 heat treated.jpg

And then I heat treated it. Quenched into the house blend of oil, it hardened nicely. Later on, I used a torch to relieve the hardness in the handles, which that overlap was unavoidable in the shop setup. I assume that the edge needs to be as hard as possible, so I left it fairly hard. Using a torch, it reached somewhere in the high 200s, maybe low 300s, but it's hard to tell. Worst case, if the edge chips (differentially tempered so the spine is soft), I can grind it back a little and adjust the temper as needed. We'll see how this works out!

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And for what it's worth, this thing is super rough, but I had about 15 min to design, forge, and heat treat it before closing down the shop :unsure:

Not an excuse, but if I were to do it again, I would take a bit more time to do a cleaner job of it.

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