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David Pearson

how to pattern weld?

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Okay, so I am a rookie bladesmith, made a few knives and 1 sword, and for my next magic trick, I want to make my personal sword. It will be a traditional Viking sword, 30" blade, bronze pommel and guard. I have an unknown type steel bar (supposedly some kind of tool steel, which would not surprise me, considering how hard it was to cut) for basic blade blank, and would like to forge weld a 1" wide pattern welded strip down each fuller, just for looks, but I have never done pattern weld before. So,

1) Am I better off finding a more experienced smith, and have him help me with it?(not such a great option, because I really don't have money to spend, hence the reason I forge) or,

2) How do I do this if I don't get help?!?!?!?!?!

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Ok, here we go...

First off, if youve never made any pattern welded steel, pattern welded sword should absolutely not be in your lexicon. Learn to forge weld first.

Make some chain links, bracelets, things like that. Then try mild steel barstock. Stack up a few layers and give it a whirl. Once you can get very good welds on those time after time, move onto simple blade steels, 1095 and 15N20 for example. If you weld those together successfully, make a knife from it. Starr small, and work your way up. 

 If you start trying to learn with nice blade steels (like i did) all youre going to end up with your first few (dozen) times is a mess of mangled blade steel and a hole in your wallet. 

Making pattern welded steel is not easy, a lot of the guys here just make it look easy. It is certainly not something youre going to learn to do in a day, or even a week by yourself. Ive been doing it for about 3 years, and im JUST starting to get to where i can successfully do it most every time.

That being said, if you want to learn to forge weld, theres three variables that you must line up to get successful welds: how clean the steel is, how hot the steel is, and how much pressure is applied.

Keep in mind a lot of what im going to say is variable, and not true in SOME circumstances, but generally will help you when you start out. Stack everything in your favor if you can, eh? Also, most of my info is biased towards using a solid fuel forge, as thats what ive always used. 

For clean; Always grind a fresh surface onto anywhere steel is touching steel, dont leave any fire scale, mill scale, etc. Try to fit the pieces together as tightly as possible, with no gaps if you can. Stack and clamp them, and hold the billet up to a light, you dont want to be able to see any light through the layers. Electric weld the corners of the billet or tie them together with wire, again, make sure theyre tight. Put a handle on now if you have a welder, rebar works just fine, it makes it easier to handle the billet. 

USE FLUX! 20 mule team borax is all i use, its cheap and it works. Note, you do not need flux, but you must control your fire's atmosphere extremely well if you dont. It makes your life so much easier, trust me. Apply it every time before you put the billet back in the fire, on every seam, until you are certain the welds are solid, then its not necessary, but it will keep you from losing a lot of material to scale. If a weld pops open on you while drawing out, apply flux to the spot and re weld it. 

For heat; the heat you need to forge weld depends on the alloy. The higher the carbon content, the lower the temperature required. That means pure iron needs more heat than mild steel, which needs more heat than, say, 1080.

Everybody sees color differently, to my eyes, the color of high carbon steel at welding temp is a bright yellow. Youll learn what it looks like to ypur eyes with experience. At this temperature, the steel is very susceptible to oxidation, hence why we have the flux. Make sure you have a neutral fire, do not give it too much air, or that oxygen will snag onto that steel and wreck your efforts. 

Anyways, theres a few ways you can tell its at forge welding temp other than color. The steel will appear to give off a "smoke" or "vapor", its hard to describe, but youll know it when you see it. If you see little sparks coming off the steel, similar to grinding sparks, ITS TOO HOT AND YOURE BURNING IT, thats not good, youre a little too hot then. Very bad for steel. Get it out of there, or turn down the air. Its hard to see if you use charcoal, because it looks similar to the fireflies charcoal naturally gives off. 

For pressure: hit the steel firmly but not hard for the first weld, the first time you hit it at temp. Every progressive weld after that, increase the pressure of your strikes. After about 3 or 4 welds, its usually all set if cleanliness and heat were correct, and you can proceed to draw out. Keep your temperature up there when drawing out, not necessarily welding heat every time, but well above orange heat. 

Overlap your strikes and start at the side closest to you, working your way out away from you, this will usually make the molten flux spray away from you (no guarantees.) I always stop striking when it reaches red heat, unless the welds are not set yet, then i stop striking much earlier. No need to stress imperfect welds. 

Once you have it drawn out to the size you want, cut it up, re grind, re stack, and do it again!

Whew! That was a lot of typing. Theres definitely a lot that i missed, but that will get you started. 

See now why i advise taking baby steps? Theres a lot to this. Good luck! 

 

 

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Fortunately for you, Viking stuff is in vogue right now. Information on the subject is everywhere in text form, and if you're a visual-learning type, YouTube is your friend! Will has done a great job of highlighting the complexity of the pattern welding side of the equation--the "fullered sword" side of the equation is another, different monster (or maybe another head of the same hydra). Generally, on a "Viking" sword (and I'm sure that someone who specializes in swords of this period will be able to cite exceptions and variations) you wouldn't be forge-welding a pattern-welded strip down the fuller. You'd be forging a core of pattern-welded material, then forge-welding an edge bar around that core in kind of a U shape. Fullers are also their own special nightmare, and if you've never done them before, practicing on a not-pattern-welded blade would probably be a good call.

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Maybe consider using wrought iron for you center bar and high carbon steel for edge bars. Wrough can give the appearance of pattern welded steel. And then you could have a soft core also. Something that might look bad a$$ and save you a lot of hammering. 

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As something to start with, you might consider working with wire rope. It welds to itself easily and gives a pretty, if rather simple, pattern.

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Posted (edited)

This would be a good spot to start some research.

Even though it does not directly explain pattern welding butbit does give you an idea of how to forge the fuller.

Edited by Jeremy Blohm

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Thanks everyone. What kind of wire rope should I use if I decide to go that route? And  can mild steel be used in place of wrought iron for a soft core? Bear with me here, I'm probably going to have nothing but questions for quite a while.

- Dave

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Questions are good! You can use mild steel in place of wrought iron, yes. Lots of folks do (matter of fact, i think most probably do.)

Im not sure about the standards for cable/wire rope, but i would imagine any used for heavy lifting will make a decent blade. Elevator cable, crane cable, etc. Hit some scrapyards, i bet you could find some decent diameter cable. There are some websites that sell pieces of cable for knife making if you dont wish to scrounge. Or you could buy wire and make your own cable, i know of a few websites that sell music wire listed as 1080 steel. 

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I had a hard time finding any that wast stainless or galvanized....make certain you know what you are tossing in there.

i am sure the cable in that link is just fine. I beat on a piece until I got a blister a few weeks ago...its on the back burner until I at least get an anvil.

Not sure if its just they way I have treated it.....but it started out as 1 1/8. I have smashed it to about 3/8 of an inch and its sill about an 1 1/8. lol

If I had it to do over would have gone bigger.....lots bigger.

 

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Update: I'm working on forging the blade blank, and it's definitely tool steel. At orange heat a 4 pound hammer barely makes an impression, been using a 12 pound long handle for drawing out. Might have to put it on hold to build a hydraulic press. I got 13 inches (of 36) drawn out.

-Dave

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That's why when drawing out we usually go for a light yellow rather than orange. ;) Steel moves much better when hotter.  With the usual warnings about overheating, of course, but yellow is the preferred forging range for most steels.  Some tool steels like 0-1 will crack if forged down into the red range.  And they will turn into cottage cheese if forged in the white range, too.  

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