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Forge welding wrought and high carbon


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For my kith this year I would like the blade to be made of wrought/high carbon  San mai. The transition between the wrought and the high carbon has always reminded me of melting snow dripping off of a roof for some reason (So a winter/early spring theme) I have about half a link of wrought iron chain to use. 

How should I go about doing the actual forge welding? I’m not sure what temp wrought can weld. But I do know that it does so at a higher temp than high carbon. Also, I’ve heard that Using nickel as a layer between the high carbon and wrought is a good idea.

Tips or suggestions?

Edited by Conner Michaux
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Welding temp is dictated by the material with the highest carbon content. Wrought to wrought needs to be really hot, but high carbon to wrought does not (I made a ryme :o) . 

 

For this I just let the flux tell me if it has reached temp. It [20 mule team borax] starts bubbling around welding temp for high carbon, and it really dances around when it's hot enough to weld mild steel or wrought. It should produce vapor, and appear about a shade away from white. Butter yellow is what I see. I get wrought to wrought pretty much white. 

 

Dont stare into the forge. Bad for the eyes. When your forge is bright enough to leave vision spots, its plenty hot.

 

I use a heavy hammer with a broad face. I take the piece from the forge; anvil close by with the hammer In hand, and as soon steel hits anvil; I'm giving pushing taps starting from the end of the billet nearest to me , and overlapping blows until ive reached the farthest. This helps push the flux and everything out the other end. 

 

Wire brush, flux, and repeat at least twice more with progressively harder blows. The billet should feel solid. 

 

Forge at a higher temp to accommodate for the wrought, but not so hot as to burn your HC. It might help to pre grind a bit of an edge on your blade before forging bevels. This helps keep the edge steel on the edge. 

 

Good luck!

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Good explanation!  Don't bother with the nickel, that's been shown to be untrue.  You will get some carbon migration, that's part of the fun and what gives it that look.

Oh, and anchor chain tends to be really clean wrought without a lot of pattern.  Wagon tire is the gnarliest.  Other stuff is in between.

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I’m really new to forge welding, but I’ve just recently completed 3 “sanmai“ bars That were combinations of wagon tire Wrought and high carbon!

If it helps give any confidence , I have an extremely basic coal set-up and have never actually been trained by anyone other than the interwebs, so I’m clearly qualified:blink::lol:

My process is Pretty much exactly like Zeb said. :) 
So far it goes like this: bundle my stack with wire, in coal forge it goes, heat to red, flux, back in the fire, heat to welding temp( I watch for my flux to start moving as if it was alive, lol), pull out with 10lb sledge in hand and gentle firm overlapping hits from one side to the next. I did 2 welding heats, one on each side of the billet, before I flip it up on its “edge”.
my biggest hurdles were getting a firm wire wrap to start with, and getting over the mental hurdle of thinking “how hard” forge welding is.

One thing I remember Owen Bush teaching in the 2016 arctic fire Video he did was keep in mind to have slightly thinner pieces of wrought than your high carbon since it moves much quicker than most steels. This got me on 2 of my 3 billets, lol

Good Luck, I can’t wait to see the end result!

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Thanks for the help folks, I’ll probably start drawing out the wrought this week. Chances are I will mess up on a few billets so if I run out of the chain I’ll buy some other stuff. But let’s hope not! :D

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I have pretty gnarly wagon tyre I can send ya if you need it. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Yeah I might need that wagon tire..

 

For some reason, no matter how hot I forged this wrought it would not stop splitting down the middle, I was working it at a bright yellow heat and I wasn’t working it lower than bright orange. Dunno what’s up with it. 

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Gotta be pretty close to welding for that stuff. On my big broadsax I actually had to flux and weld the wrought spine back together while forging it to shape. It can be tricky stuff especially if its high P like what I got. 

 

You can always fold it over itself and draw it out a few times to refine it. Just weld it back together the best you can, forge it into flatbar, put a little water on the anvil, get your hammer wet, put the bar right in the puddle and hammer the scale off, wire brush and flux. Fold and weld. Repeat as needed. 

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Thanks for the info. I will definitely try and figure out this wrought iron.  Ive been looking at other sanmai recipes, How difficult is it to forge weld 420 or 410 stainless to w2? I have seen some pictures of stainless/high-carbon sanmai and I must say it is very cool.

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Posted (edited)

If you can get the entire parameter of the billet welded stainless should forge weld just fine to W2. Then grind off all the edges where the weld is. I can work some of this wagon tire down a bit to refine it so it's a little easier to work. I would though suggest working it in your coal forge. I personally like working wrought iron with charcoal.

Edited by Jeremy Blohm
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It's ok if you have a few sparklers with wrought iron. It likes the really high heat. Watch some of Joey Vandersteeg's videos on YouTube refining some iron bloom and he works a lot with wrought iron. He also has excellent cameras and you can really see what's going on.

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There are two ways to do san mai with stainless outer layers, both of which start with grinding all surfaces super clean and then not touching them again, much as you'd prepare a mokume billet.  Then you have the choice of doing as Jeremy said and MIG or TIG welding the entire perimeter shut (stick might work, but not if I do it...) or packing it in a canister and welding that shut.  A guy I know uses aluminized exhaust header tubing scraps because they won't stick to the billet.  Then whichever method you choose, you bring the whole thing to welding heat and set the whole thing on the first squish.  Yes, squish.  It's pretty much a press weld, hand hammering will not have a high success rate.  Hopefully one of the guys with more experience will chime in (cough Joshua cough)

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Thanks everyone. If hand hammering doesn’t work very well for the stainless San mai, would squishing it in the vice work? 

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No a vice wont give enough pressure and will actually rob the heat from the billet being welded. A hand hammer would be better than an vice. 

 

This is how hot wrought iron needs to be worked. This is a bar that I will either make an axe with or refine some more for you if you want it Conner!

 

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Posted (edited)

If its no trouble for you, a little bit of that billet would really help me out a ton, thanks again. :D 

Edited by Conner Michaux
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1 hour ago, Conner Michaux said:

If its no trouble for you, a little bit of that billet would really help me out a ton, thanks again. :D 

 

What width, thickness and lengths would you like?

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2" wide, 1/4" thick, 6" long. Is that alright? That way if I make a mistake I have enough to try again. 

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That is absolutely alright!!! Tonight after dinner with the in-laws I will fire up the forge and cut and stack this piece one more time to refine it a little more and I will forge it out into a bar but I will send you more like 12-16 inches worth of material so you have plenty to play with.

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I cut and stacked the billet and forge welded it one more time to refine it a bit.  Ended with a delam on one end but there is 14 inches of useable material.Resized_20200518_074106.jpeg

I didnt have any flux so I sprayed a little PB Blaster on it and kept it high in the fire.Resized_20200518_074525.jpegResized_20200518_090224.jpeg

 

I'm etching one end to see what the pattern looks like. I had a little acid accident so I'm low on my etchant.

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43 minutes ago, Jeremy Blohm said:

... I had a little acid accident so I'm low on my etchant.

 

Uh-oh, you didn't spill it in the kitchen again did you?

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Let's just say that Smurfette rattles the whole shop when she's pounding away.  And if that was a "little" acid accident, I'd hate to see what you call a big one. :D

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