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Doug Webster

First Reproduction Katana

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Last night after weeks of work I water quenched my first Katana.  This morning I was convinced I would find a cracked piece of 1075. 

To my surprise we have a solid, hardened blade. I can't stop smiling.

I stand on the shoulder of giants who shared their wisdom and knowledge.  I want to say thank you! 

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WooHoo!  Aldo's low-Mn 1075 is the only steel I feel moderately safe water quenching.

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That's awesome man! I hope you share the next steps, or at least the final result!

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Thanks for the feedback.   Here's a quick pic after removing the clay.  I used Waltre's method; quenched 4 seconds in 125 F water then into 300 F canola for 10 minutes then tempered on a BBQ at 400F.  Still have some warping and wished I had drilled the mekugi peg hole before hardening.

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Finished making the Habaki.  I left the shoulder with a hammer finish and quenched the copper in oil to give a nice leather colored tarnish 

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Looking good man, keep at it. 

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@Doug: That has a beautiful curve.  Did you forge the curve in?  OR - is the curve a result of quenching with clay?

Beautiful work.

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Thanks Ken.  The blade was dead straight until I water quenched in my clawfoot soaking tub.   I ended up with 0.75" of sori.   I just forged out a Tsuba from a piece of wagon wheel. 

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Doug, this is a beautiful piece of work. I am following and hoping you’ll update as it finishes. I am tempted to try a peace of Aldo’s W2 I have which is long enough but I might better go with 1075. It would also be a first katana for me as well.

Gary LT

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Thanks for the compliment Gary.   I originally wanted to use W2, but Aldo's shipping cost convinced me to purchase w2 and 1075.  This is my test blade to teach me the skills I lack before moving on to the piece of W2 I ordered.  If you have W2, I say go for it.  It's probably a better water quenching  steel choice for those of us who can't make Tamahagane

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Well Doug.....my first use of W2 was Bowie, clayed for and I chose the water quench only thinking with clay, I might be safe.

The crack went all the way down the length 1/2” from the edge sheared and separated and that’s the last water quench this old boy did :huh:!

But 4 secs in water then into oil may prevent it? Think?

Gary LT

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I'll just say every W-series blade I've water quenched cracked spectacularly, and every 1075 blade did just fine.  I know it can be done, but I'm just not good enough to do it. ;)

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I have found this body of knowledge from Randal Graham very helpful.   If you know Randal, tell him I said thank you. 

 

Water Hardening 
Randal.JPG

From a post by Randal Graham on the Swordforum's Bladesmith's Cafe

Just some opinion and observation, based on what I've done myself, seen done by others, and problem solving sessions with some of my friends. I use satanite as the base for all my clay-coat heat-treating, specifically to differentially harden blades. Sometimes I'll add small amounts of crushed and powdered soft firebrick to adjust the insulation ability... from about 1/4 to 1/3 rd volume. The powdered brick will hold heat longer and insulate more. 

I forge to as close to a finished shape as possible and generally remove very little material to get it set-up for the clay and hardening cycle. I do the hardening with the edges no more than 1/16th thick. 

I personally feel the most important thing in this shop, to make it go smoothly, is that normalizing has been done carefully and complete before going to hardening. I have found sloppy normalizing is one of the major causes of edge cracking and warping in the quench.

Second to normalizing is hardening temperatures... most every time I hear someone talk about difficulties with edges cracking in the quench, it's simply because the person is not taking their time and getting the blades WAY to hot at the hardening stage. Most who have troubles with water the most usually harden in oil and expect those temps to work arbitrarily for water quenching as well. It won't.

For example, when hardening 5160 in oil in my shop I look for a temp of around 1525-1550f... quench in water from this temp and the edges crack just about every time. Drop the temp to 1440-1460F with a decent soak time, like 2-5 minutes for example, and the same 5160 blade will get screaming full hard without cracking. I have found that this lower-temp/longer soak rule has worked for every steel I've used, and also in every case solved most all of my cracking/excessive warpage problems. 

A big problem I had was sloppy post-quench practices... I tended to wait and fiddle and look at the blades too long after they came out of the water...and some will crack some time after the quench has been done, as stresses load up in the blade. To resolve this, I now go directly from the quench to the tempering tank...no fooling around, just put it there and leave it alone.

I use temps between 350F and 450F for most things. The first dunk in the tempering bath I consider a simple stress-relief bath, and nothing more. 1/2 hour min for small blades, anything over 12 inches I like an hour stress-relief soak. After that I'll do straightening if needed, and follow that with at least one more tempering soak, and most times I do three separate tempering cycles to make myself feel confident about the blade, more than anything else.

Sloppy grinds, lines, shapes, and burred edges will cause at least warpage and at most cracking. You cannot quench something in a fast quench like water with grinder burrs and really sharp corners all over the place and expect it to survive the shock. Knock off the edges, make sure everything is even and smooth, make sure ridgelines are straight and consistent. What comes out of the quench is directly connected to what went in.

I think water is a very good quench medium for some things, but not all. I try to harden most everything in water, because in my opinion it hardens more thoroughly and finer, and more consistently, but some blades are not conducive to water-hardening. Double-edged symmetrical blades are very difficult to harden in water straight enough to make it worthwhile...most times I'll go to oil when it's a longer dagger or double-edged sword. Rapiers and fencing blades are almost always a disaster in water.

In my opinion, if there are cracking problems or severe warpage in your blades when trying water quench, I personally think the problems are going to lie with the maker and techniques, not the steel. Is water really better than anything else? I think probably not. It most certainly is different however. To say " steel x cannot be hardened in water" is untrue and unproven. To use temps and techniques based on oil hardening in a water quench is also doomed to fail. I don't profess to be an expert in anything, or particularly great at anything either. I know little about metallurgy and as I get older I don't WANT to know any more. I simply try and try again, and test in practical ways.

The list of steels I have successfully and repeatedly hardened in water, and in blade form are:

most all 10XX
W1 and W2
1086M
52100
L-6 / 15N20
S-5
H13
M-2
D-2 / D-3
4140
5160
440C / 440V
ATS-34
12C27

All my full-size differentially-hardened katana have been in 10XX, W-1 and a couple in 1086M,and pattern-welded with various steels, some lately with 15N20 and 1095, with rare problems always tracked down to mistakes in temp or technique on my part. Consistency and technique are the two most important things to me, since I've gone to water almost exclusiv

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I do indeed know Randal, but he has fallen off the face of the Earth in the last few years.  I think he's somewhere in either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.  He is one of those guys who makes it look easy.   I also know when he moved from a location with soft water to a place in Wisconsin that had hard water he went through a string of catastrophic failures for months before he got the technique dialed in for the water he had.  I sometimes think about that theory of soaking just below critical to austenitize.  It worked well for him, and he got spectacular hamon.  I'm just not sure what's going on there, metallurgically speaking.  He mentioned 5160 in the text you quoted, but if you look around here way back in the beginning of the forum he was talking about doing W1 at 1380 degrees f.  He was also judging by eye, and heating katana for hardening in a 6" inside diameter vertical forge by stroking the blade in and out of the hot spot, and quenching in an 8" pipe at a 45 degree angle, none of which is generally recommended practice.  It certainly worked great for him, though.

I think I could probably do a tanto of W2 in water, since the geometry was developed for that.  My issue is that I was trying to do kitchen knives with hamon, and in that geometry I just couldn't make it work.  

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Thank you Doug and Alan, I really do appreciate sharing such information in depth. I have no problem to try and duplicate as the outline suggested. My W2 bowie was clean, no burrs, actually sanded down to 220 grit then clayed. The completed separation crack happening a few seconds after I removed it from the warm water quench. This wasn’t a custom knife and I simply excited to try W2 and water quenching. I’ll order some 1075 as test as you did Doug while I save the W2. I’ll improvise my setup to include an angle quench perhaps. Lord I spend so much time and money anyway in making these items as is! 

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