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Are these metals compatable for forge welding together


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I was thinking about making some 5 metal, pattern welded billets and was wondering what the more experienced peoples thoughts were on the forge welding of these steels together. Is heat treating going to be difficult, or a problem? Thanks for any help or advice you can offer.

52100, 80CRV2, 15N20, 1095, 1075

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The 52100 is not going to want to stick to itself or the 80CrV2 and vice-versa. Chrome oxides are notorious for causing welding problems. What are you tryingto accomplish here?  What is your level of welding experience?  The easiest set of steels for damascus is 1084 and 15n20, then 1075 and 15n20, followed by 1095 and 15n20. If you start throwing in the high chrome steels you add serious issues with the welds taking. 

If you did manage to do a billet out of all those, carbon migration would help with some of the potential heat treating issues, but not all.  The 52100 and 80CrV2 are still going to through-harden because the chromium and vanadium won't migrate. The 1075 and 1095 may not harden at all in the slow oil you need for the high chrome steels. I don't know if the difference would be enough to make the billet spontaneously delaminate by tearing apart the boundary between the high chrome and no chrome, but it's possible. Chromium steels should come with a label that states "does not play well with others."

 If you are after multiple shades of black and gray in the etch you might get that. All the steels you mention except 15n20 and 1075 will etch almost pure black. The 1095 will be a little less black than the others, the 1075 a little less than the 1095, but only the 15n20 will be bright.

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For the life of me I can't see what that combination would produce, at least of any good purpose. One "shiny"  steel is enough and a second would be "coal to Newcastle". 

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Thanks for the responses. I made a knife out of 15N20, and 1095, but when etched, it is just different shades of gray. The 1095 isn't black, and the 15N20 isn't shiny. Then I made some knives out of 1084, 1095, and 15N20,  and they etched a little better, but still just different shades of gray, not that black/white contrast you see in commercially produced Damascus knives. I bought a commercial knife blade made from 5160, 203E, 15N20, and 52100, and it has a very black/white contrast. I tried polishing my 1095/15N20 knife and it just doesn't polish shiny. Neither does my 1095/1084/15N20 knives. Maybe I'm doing something wrong in my etching?  I leave them in for 10-15 minutes, then rinse, and boil in baking soda and water for 15 minutes, but that seems to make them even more gray. Here is a pic of what they look like. The pick with the handle is after trying to polish it. This is the first pattern welded steel knife I made, and the 3'rd knife I've made.

damascusknife002.jpg

damascusknife001.jpg

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What grit are you sanding these to before buffing? I use L6/1084 or 15N20/1080 and have had no problem with getting a well-defined pattern. Sand to a 400 or 600 grit and then buff to a high finish, before or after heat treat, then after the heat treat, clean things up before etching. I recommend ferric chloride diluted about 2-1 with distilled water. Make sure the blade is degreased before etching. That being said, 5-10 minutes should be plenty of time to bring things up.

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I sanded it to 2500 grit, in 200 grit increments to 1000 grit, then increments of 500 to 2500 grit, then had it REM finished by a friend. It was a mirror finish when I heat treated it. Then I re-sanded it to 2500 grit and washed thoroughly with hot water and dish soap. Then I dipped it in ferric chloride for 10-15 minutes, and rinsed, and boiled in water with baking soda. This is how it came out after trying to re-buff it. Maybe I'm getting it too smooth?

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Too smooth, not etched long enough, and not repolished after etching is my diagnosis.  All respect to Al, but I never go higher than 400 on Damascus.  I etch in ferric diluted 4 to 1 with distilled water for four or five ten minute cycles, wiping the oxides off in between.  Neutralize with Windex, then (this is how the shiny part gets there) carefully hit it with a single sheet of 600 grit on a hard backing.  The etching removes the non-nickel steel more than the nickel steel, so that last sanding only hits the 15n20, brightening it up nicely.  I don't boil my blades because I'm not usually after high contrast.

Have you seen the instant coffee etch?  Apparently if you make a really strong pot of instant coffee and simmer the blade in it it adds more contrast than a ferric chloride etch.  I haven't tried it, though.  And then there's parkerizing.  Salem Straub on this forum does that after etching for a seriously high contrast black and white finish.

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Forgot to add, I don't wash it first, I just give it a stiff rubdown with a paper towel dripping with acetone.  Also, if you're going to boil it, don't rinse it first.  Out of the ferric, straight into the boil.  That's how you keep that strong black.

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Alan, thank you for those tips! This, and what Al said, is the kind of advice I want to get. These things really help as I was thinking the smoother it was, the better it would etch and shine. I was washing the ferric chloride off before boiling, so I won't do that anymore. That is when it seemed to loose it's blackness, and turn gray on me.

When you wipe the oxides off in between etchings, do you do it under running water? Or just wipe it off with a paper towel? Also, when you neutralize with with Windex, do you rinse it in water first, or just cover it with Windex? I assume it's the ammonia in the Windex that does the neutralizing, so any window cleaner with ammonia should work? It's not something else in Windex that makes it work better, right?

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I just squirt a bunch of windex on it and wipe it off with a paper towel.  And yes, it's the ammonia that neutralizes the ferric chloride.  Any ammonia based thing should work fine.  Even straight ammonia, if you can stand the smell!

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On 1/21/2018 at 6:12 PM, jake cleland said:

I'd say your issue could be surface de-carb; if you're taking the blade to a mirror finish before h-t, it seems likely that you aren't removing enough surface after hardening to get down to clean hardened steel...

So, if I understand you correctly, you're saying that by sanding it so smooth before HT, the surface is so smooth that when I try to re-sand after HT to remove the black stuff, I'm not removing any steel, just the blackness, but leaving a layer of de-carb on it that just isn't obvious to the eyes. So, by only sanding to 400 grit or so, the surface is still rough enough that when I re-sand after HT I have the high spots to sand off to get into the good stuff. That actually makes sense now that I think about it like that. I'll have to try that on my next one I finish. I have 2 more 120 layer knives to put an edge on and HT, then etch. These are all good suggestions that I will certainly make the most of.

If anyone else has anything else to add, I'm all ears.

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1084 and 15n20 will give you the best contrast, due to the high carbon and manganese in the 1084. 1075 and 1095 will not be as dark as the 1084, because those steels have about half of the manganese. Mixing in chromium steels is just asking for trouble unless you know what you're doing, and will not give you any more contrast.

During your heat treat, you want to make sure that you, first, do a good job on it because it is important to the performance of the knife, but you also want to do a good job because it will actually make your Damascus look nicer since more carbon is "frozen" in the solution with a fine and even carbide distribution, less perlite, and less retained austenite. for the 1084/15n20 mix, normalize at 1600-1650F, then air cool and thermal cycle it at 1500F and then 1350F to shrink the grain and relieve stress. Austenize at 1500F and quench it in, ideally, Parks 50. If you don't have parks, do and interrupted quench in warm water (130-150F) for a count of two, and then quickly pull the blade out while hot before the vapor jacket collapses, and finish it in some cheap oil (like peanut or canola) so you don't crack the blade or get too much auto temper. Note: if you quench in water, leave the edge a bit thicker (At least 60-70 thousandths, but the thicker the safer it is) and make sure it is of an even thickness, rounded, and polish it parallel with the edge to reduce stress risers, 

You need to leave a bit of meat on the blade before heat treat. When you heat the blade up, carbon from the steel just flat leaves the surface of the blade, so this decarburized surface layer needs to be ground off instead of just polishing it up. I'd advise you to leave the blade a bit oversized before heat treat, and then after heat treat, go back to a 60 grit belt and thin the whole thing out to your final geometry.

The etch is also important. My process is basically the same as Alan's, I finish 320 or 500 grit, and etch in 3:1 ferric chloride for 2-5 ten minute cycles, but I use worn 2000 grit sandpaper on a soft backing to brighten up my highs, leaving them mirror finished and super shiny. Also note: acids are kinda fickle depending on the temperature. If it's cold outside and that is where you do your etching, the acid will be much slower. when you heat the acid up, it works faster and is more aggressive. The etch routine I just gave you is under the assumption that the etch is happening at room temperature.

Hope this helps.

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