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AubreyHummer

Forge Welding Iron to Stainless

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I have a project in mind and looking for considerations on how to choose an appropriate steel. I recently obtained some whiskey barrels and want to make themed steak knife sets. I'd like to use the barrel hoops to jacket some stainless steel for the blades and use the wood for scales and presentation box. What I've found so far is that the hoops are typically galvanized iron. The barrels have lightly rusted rings so I believe the galvanization has mostly gassed-off, and I will be cleaning the surfaces thoroughly before attempting to forge weld.

When choosing a stainless steel for the core, what characteristics/composition should I be looking for to set up a potentially good forge weld?

Would I have more success forge welding the hoop material to a carbon steel medium and then to stainless core? So the composition would be something like this: (Hoop)-(1084)-(Stainless)-(1084)-(Hoop)


Or is there a stainless steel that could be forge weld friendly with the iron?     

       
Any direction would be appreciated!

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why do you want a stainless core when the iron cladding will be the opposite of stainless?

 

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12 minutes ago, jake cleland said:

why do you want a stainless core when the iron cladding will be the opposite of stainless?

 

Hi Jake- thematically I want the set to support that the contents of the barrel outshine the rustic exterior. I plan to do an FeCl etch and coffee darkening to make the core steel stand out against the dark contrast of the iron. Using the wood is somewhat straightforward and expected, but incorporating the barrel hoops would put this on another level.

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1 hour ago, AubreyHummer said:

thematically I want the set to support that the contents of the barrel outshine the rustic exterior

Interesting idea, certainly unusual. 

When you say the hoop is iron, do you mean it is wrought iron? Or is it simply mild steel? I have never heard of anybody galvanizing wrought iron, so it seems likely that it is mild steel, though I could be wrong. 

Youre going to need to use a blade steel level stainless if you want it to hold a solid edge, something like AEB-L would do the trick, but that is going to make it more difficult to weld to low carbon mild or wrought, as well as heat treating it, stainless blade steels require precise temperature control for extended periods of time to properly heat treat. The good ol' magnet trick does not apply here.

Just going to throw it out there, using a high carbon, non stainless steel like 1080 for the core would make this so much easier in probably almost every way. As a matter of fact, you could use a high nickel steel like 15N20 so that when you etch, you still get the bright edge you are looking for with darker cladding. 

If you are dead set on using stainless, TIG welding the joints completely shut so no oxygen can get in seems to be a go-to when it comes to stainless san mai.

 

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Barrel hoops are mild steel, some are galvanized and some are not.  If yours has ANY trace of silvery flaky stuff on it it's best not to use it for a great many reasons.  If you must, then soak it in vinegar for a couple of days before you grind it absolutely clean.

For the core, I wouldn't use AEB-L.  It is a great steel, but it's too low in carbon for a san-mai with mild steel for my tastes, you'll lose too much carbon via carbon migration.  440-C, 154CM, S30V or any other 1% or higher carbon stainless would be better.  But, as Will mentioned, all the layers must be chemically clean, in tight contact, and sealed from oxygen for the weld to take.  There is really no such thing as a forge-weld friendly stainless, they will all use any excuse not to stick.  You can TIG the edges, or do as a friend of mine does and seal the billet in a short length of aluminized exhaust pipe and weld that shut.  And you will have better success using a hydraulic press to set the first weld.  

For what you want to do, I'd take Will's suggestion of using some 15N20 as the core, welding on the hoop steel, and then finish by stock removal with a saber grind (grind goes halfway up the blade) to show the core versus outer layer.    It's not stainless, but as Jake pointed out the barrel hoops are not either, and as such will require the same maintenance as if you'd used a carbon steel core to begin with.  I like the concept, by the way.

 

Barrel hoops are mild steel, some are galvanized and some are not.  If yours has ANY trace of silvery flaky stuff on it it's best not to use it for a great many reasons.  If you must, then soak it in vinegar for a couple of days before you grind it absolutely clean.

For the core, I wouldn't use AEB-L.  It is a great steel, but it's too low in carbon for a san-mai with mild steel for my tastes, you'll lose too much carbon via carbon migration.  440-C, 154CM, S30V or any other 1% or higher carbon stainless would be better.  But, as Will mentioned, all the layers must be chemically clean, in tight contact, and sealed from oxygen for the weld to take.  There is really no such thing as a forge-weld friendly stainless, they will all use any excuse not to stick.  You can TIG the edges, or do as a friend of mine does and seal the billet in a short length of aluminized exhaust pipe and weld that shut.  And you will have better success using a hydraulic press to set the first weld.  

For what you want to do, I'd take Will's suggestion of using some 15N20 as the core, welding on the hoop steel, and then finish by stock removal with a saber grind (grind goes halfway up the blade) to show the core versus outer layer.    It's not stainless, but as Jake pointed out the barrel hoops are not either, and as such will require the same maintenance as if you'd used a carbon steel core to begin with.  I like the concept, by the way.

Oh, and you might want to test etch a bit of hoop before you do anything.  Being mild it may not etch dark at all, even in coffee.

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Will and Alan- thank you very much for the guidance. I had not considered 15n20 and that is the route I will pursue. There is no silver flaky stuff on the hoops i think they were just painted. So that should make things easier. I will be breaking down the barrel this weekend to start drying out the wood and will do some testing with the hoops as well.

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I like the concept as well, re-using material does give it a certain spirit. 

Any idea what kind of wood it is? Im just curious. 

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6 hours ago, Will W. said:

I like the concept as well, re-using material does give it a certain spirit. 

Any idea what kind of wood it is? Im just curious. 

The wood is American oak. They are bourbon barrels from four roses distillery. 

Im not sure how long these will take, we have a baby on the way at the end of July and we will be staying at my wife’s parents house for most of next month. But I will keep everyone posted! 

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