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I’m new to bladesmithing and decided I’d try and do a super simple 3 layer “Damascus” out of different tools, and made 3 somewhat even billets. I then forge welded what was once a nail spike to a modified file and it worked! Tried to weld an old piece of a saw blade (a mild, soft core!) to the other side of the spike and I couldn’t get it to stick for the life of me...

Obviously some steels forge weld better than others, but can someone explain why exactly that is the case? Also if anyone has any techniques to forge welding WITHOUT power tools, as I don’t have any, please share them! I spent two days making the billets now I feel like I wasted them...

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You learned something so you didn't waste time.

Do a Google search of the forum and read up on forge welding. The information is out there. 

Since you are new to bladesmithing I will take the liberty to point out that starting out trying to forge damascus is not a good use of your time in general. There is a lot to designing and making a knife from a single piece. Without those things "under your belt" it is asking for problems to add forging damascus on top of it. As you have discovered "it ain't that simple" there are material compatability issues, flux issues, heat treating disparate steel issues, and on it goes. There are very few "simple" answers to it. Using "repurposed" metals compounds them almost by a magnitude. It takes a lot of experience, a lot of luck or a lot of failed attempts to pull it off .

Most starting successes begin with new 1080 and 15N20.

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Just now, Vern Wimmer said:

You learned something so you didn't waste time.

Do a Google search of the forum and read up on forge welding. The information is out there. 

Since you are new to bladesmithing I will take the liberty to point out that starting out trying to forge damascus is not a good use of your time in general. There is a lot to designing and making a knife from a single piece. Without those things "under your belt" it is asking for problems to add forging damascus on top of it. As you have discovered "it ain't that simple" there are material compatability issues, flux issues, heat treating disparate steel issues, and on it goes. There are very few "simple" answers to it. Using "repurposed" metals compounds them almost by a magnitude. It takes a lot of experience, a lot of luck or a lot of failed attempts to pull it off .

Most starting successes begin with new 1080 and 15N20.

Thanks for the feedback! I understand your point completely, looking back it was dumb to even try and attempt Damascus at the level I am at (honestly it just looks so cool I had to try!), and what’s most important is knife design and function above all, Damascus can come back in a few years...maybe I’ll even get some pattern out of two layers

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12 hours ago, JamesK said:

Thanks for the feedback! I understand your point completely, looking back it was dumb to even try and attempt Damascus at the level I am at (honestly it just looks so cool I had to try!), and what’s most important is knife design and function above all, Damascus can come back in a few years...maybe I’ll even get some pattern out of two layers

I only got into knife making because I wanted to try pattern welding.  (Thanks to seeing the cover of a book by our favorite resident author)  My second knife was a small random pattern kitchen knife with only about 40 layers IIRC.  I probably jumped in before I should have, but you don't have to spend years making mono-steel knives before you try pattern welding.

It helped that I had a local artisan blacksmith showed me how to forge weld.  Once you can scarf weld a couple pieces of mild steel end to end, forge welding a knife billet seems easy.

You can do it all by hand as well.  I did for quite a while.  It just takes hours of hammering to make a billet of a few hundred layers.

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The big thing to remember is that steels with chromium in them (5160, etc.) do not like to stick to other steels with chromium in them.  The oxides are very hard to dissolve because they have a higher melting point than the steel itself.  It can be done, of course, but it gets pretty technical.  Like Vern said, if you want good results use known materials.  I did it by hand for years, and sometimes still do when it's the best way for the task at hand.  Now, if I had a press I'd think differently...;)

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