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Alex Middleton

Issue etching unhardened Damascus

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I've been working on a pair of damascus earring as a christmas present for my wife.  I have one of them complete and have been trying to etch it to bring out the pattern and it's not cooperating.   The material is 1095 and pallet banding.  I've successfully etched other things out of this same billet but for some reason this thing will not show any topography at all.  The only difference is that I did not harden the earring.  I even mixed some fresh FeCl thinking that they may be the issue. I know unhardened steel etches differently than unhardened, but I still expected to get some kind of topography out of it.  Am I missing something, or do i need to harden it to get it to etch?

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Definitely don't need to harden it to etch, it should etch fine, just a little less dark in the pallet banding. All I can think of is give it more time in the acid and double check it definitely was the same steel you were using and you didnt accidentally stack up a solid billet of 15N20! (I've definitely made that sorrowful mistake before!)

Also, are you thoroughly degreasing it pre-etch?

Edited by James Higson

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In my experience, you won't get topography if you don't harden.  You generally get low contrast, but no topography. Oddly enough, once hardened you can temper it back soft and it will still etch fine. 

 

This is with 1084/15n20. 1095 and pallet strapping are close to the same thing, being low-Mn straight carbon steels, and as such a subtle pattern is the best you can hope for.  

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That's exactly what I'm seeing.  I made sure to follow my normal cleaning routine so I don't think that's the problem.  For the heck of it I let the thing sit overnight in vinegar just to see what would happen.  I can see the different layers, but there is just a color change, no actual noticeable etching to be seen.  My hope is to be able to etch them fairly deep and then darken it with gun bluing and brighten the high spots.  I've had pretty good luck doing that with this combination in the past.  I think I'll make another one tonight and harden it to see if it makes a difference.  Thanks for the help!

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Hardening definitely did the trick.20191217_210120.jpg

 

It's looking much better after just a couple cycles in ferric.  A couple more should get me where I want to be.  It looks like I twisted the billet a bit more than I wanted to, but it's going to have to be good enough.

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