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Shades of common steels in damascus?


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Hey all. I was wondering if anyone had a chart or info on how different steels etch, compared to each other.

For instance, I know that high-alloy, high-carbon steels, like 52100 and 5160, etch pretty dark, and high chrome steels, lik L6, etch bright. Does anyone have a list, or just a condensed chart on how a lot of steels etch? 

Thanks.

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It will depend upon the alloying elements in specific batches...to some extent . I see diferences in the british and european steel I use.

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There is no chart, since it is higly variable and depends on many factors besides the steel itself.  In general, nickel alloys stay bright (it's the nickel in L6 and 15N20, chrome doesn't make a lot of difference unless there is enough nickel to stand out on its own.  52100 is high chromium and etches dark.).  Manganese seems to be the primary darkening element besides carbon, but again nickel can overcome that tendency.  

Some mild steel etches dark, some etches light, and the only way to find out what yours will do ie to test it.

Hardened steel etches darker than unhardened.

There is no telling what wrought iron will do when etched.  It's usually light, but sometimes it isn't.

Finally, the way you finish the surface can greatly affect things.  Hot bluing, cold bluing, or parkerizing can give a uniform dark to the non-nickel steels.  

In other words, it depends...

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I think knowing the carbon content will help you determine the darkness of the etch. Higher carbon contents will etch darker than lower ones. Hence the 52100 or 1095 produces a very dark etch as opposed to a 1075, 1080 or 5160. As Alan said, the nickel content will help you determine the brightness. In the end though, even the darker etches can be lessened by removing the oxides left on the surface. Darkness of the etch and retained oxides are directly proportional. The more oxide you can create from a higher carbon steel produces the initial darkness, how you "fix" those oxides for retention determines the end result. This is why so many makers use a bluing method to raise the contrast in pattern welded steels.

For instance, look at these two photos of the same 1095/15N20 blade. The first is after etch, the second after bluing.

1 check size.JPG

Guard fit.JPG

Edited by Joshua States
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Thanks for all the info! I've been itching to try my hand at damascus, but I don't have much knife steel ATM. Working on fixing that. I have some wrenches, some ball bearings (my favorite) and some springs (coil and leaf). I guess I'll just buck up and order some good steels to make some damascus. 

 

I'm thinking 1070, 1095 and 15N20, or maybe just the last two. I like more organic, multi-shade damascus patterns.

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This is 1075 with M and 15n20.
The its a pretty dark etch.
I etched it in Muriatic acid and then neutralized it.
I baked it to lock the oxides in by driving the water out.
Then I boiled it in tea to pick up more tannins and then baked it again.
This knife has been test driven in a professional kitchen and the finish has held up pretty well to the work.

damascusknife.jpeg

Edited by JJ Simon
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  • 1 month later...

I have worked on making som 3 color damascus ....this is 15n20, uddeholm 20c and 1040 ....the latter from a lawnmover blade ....will try to add some pure nickel in the next batch ...

IMG_3109.JPGIMG_3110.JPG

 

 

Edited by larsjacobsen
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