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Newbie tries to hamon


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Hey everyone.  I tried my first hamon 2 days ago.  I used Rutland refractory cement and .041 wire.  It looked like the hamon half took after many hours of sanding.  Like a dummy I decided I wanted to try to quench again to get a full hamon.  What I didnt pay attention to was how lean the edge was after all that sanding.  Again, like a dummy I decided to water quench it.  Im sure you're cringing already.  Yes it blew up lol.  Ive been working on another blade already and the last picture is how it sits right now.  It is currently sanded to 1200 and just got a wiped with lemon juice for about 10 minutes.  It still has imperfections and I plan on repeating the process over and over until I get it mirrored.  Im very happy that my 2nd blade attempt was successful!  If you have a weak stomach dont scroll down haha!

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What steel are you using?  Some steels will not take hamon.  

On the plus side, you now know the sound and feel of the dreaded "tink!" Sometimess it's a little click, sometimes it feels like something in the tank grabbed the blade, but somehow it's all the same feeling. 

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Both blades are 1095.  What sucked the worst from the first blade was when I slammed it into the water, it just seemed like everything was OK for about 3 seconds, thats when I moved.  As soon as I moved the tongs, I felt the tink...  tink, tink, tink lol.  I felt pretty bad with all the work lost but in hindsight, I wonder if I had just slammed it and pulled it out after 1 second.  I dont know if it would have still blown up but I'd bet that it would have hardened.  On a positive note, it is still very straight.  I did warm the water up but either way, lesson learned about water here lol.  Hopefully I can get handles on this thing today after more sanding.  I'll post more pics as I go.

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You should mix your cement with a little more water and lay on a thinner coat of clay. Surprisingly a thinner layer does more work for a more active hamon. you can then add ashi which will do what the wire failed to, which is coax the hamon into more interesting shapes. These ashi can be very thin and still be effective. 
 

Quenching in water is scary but your prep is everything. Your edges should be rounded including at the spine and there shouldn't be any errant 36 grit scratches anywhere, I usually bring the blade to 120 or 220 on the belt grinder before hardening in water. Temp is also important, if you're doing it by eye you just need some good luck and a trained eye, but in an oven shoot for 1485 and a short soak, maybe 5 minutes.

 

That is all for the next time though! I get better results in water for my hamon, but I rarely use clay, and clay into oil can get you very beautiful results. Nice work in that second blade! 

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Thanks!  I'm excited to finish it.  Also, thanks for the tips with the clay and water quenching.  This refractory cement I have swells during the heat up.  I was trying to get a more interesting line but as soon as the fire hit the cement it swelled up and filled the gaps I made.  The second blade was quenched in oil.  I didnt want to risk blowing up another blade and I'm more comfortable with oil.  I will try water again but I needed a win before I risk breaking another blade lol!  Thanks again for the tips.  I appreciate it!

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I was holding off on clay comments until I found out the steel type, but Emiliano beat me to it! :lol:  Always do what he says, BTW, just remember he's a wizard and don't expect your results to be as good. ;)

 

But yes, thinner clay, by all means.  With the Rutlands, just a skin is enough.  As you noticed, it puffs up enough to really insulate. Speaking of which, insulation is not the goal here.  The sole purpose of the clay is to interrupt the quench just enough to delay hardening by about 1/16 second or so.  With shallow-hardening steels like 1095, that's all it takes to get the wide band of transitional crystal structures that is hamon.  With very very shallow-hardening steels like the ones Emiliano makes, as he noted you don't even need clay, it produces hamon automatically just by the thicker parts holding enough heat to delay and prevent hardening.

 

Most people new to hamon use WAY too much clay.  I did, and I'm supposed to know what I'm doing (emphasis on supposed to...:rolleyes:).  Never more than 1/16" thick, often just a layer like paint.  Done right, it all blows off in the quench anyway.  

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Thank you Alan! :) I don't know about wizard, but I may know just about enough to get myself into trouble! 

 

Larry, if you want to try something interesting, get a blade ready for hardening, and heat just the edge in the forge. When you have a fairly even heat zone around where you want your hamon to be, quench in oil! (or water if you're feeling dangerous) Like Alan said, cross section and the speed and depth of hardening make a big difference! The heat zone you create can influence quite a nice hamon in steels that are ready to accept this, like W2 or 1095 for instance. This is a W2 blade that was hardened into water with no clay, just careful control over the heat zone. The hamon forms at the point where the martensitic transformation is happening. This one was fairly simple save for the alloy banding that came out in a ladder pattern. You can make much more intricate hamon without clay, but it requires an absolute lack of Manganese in your steel, and as few additional alloying elements as possible.

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Water is a faster quenchant than oil, so you end up with a faster and more intense hardening, but a tooooon of added stress too. It can add some benefits, you can get a more intricate hamon, or even some large martensite crystals to show up in the hardened boundary. Oil is perfectly good though! This blade was made from self made tamahagane from black iron sand at a nearby beach. It was folded 12 times and hardened in water with no clay. The process was as exactly close to uniform as I can make it by eye between the two blades, but this steel has virtually no alloying elements besides traces of titanium and other impurities found in the sand, and carbon added during the smelt. 

 

Both of these blades were hardened out of a propane forge into water heating the edge in the same exact way. I don't move the blades when they are in the water, so the vapor jacket doesn't play a part in how the hamon develops in this case. It is just a byproduct of the materials properties!

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A thin layer of clay is perfect for hamon creation. What I would recommend is to mix the rutlands with a very small amount of water until it has the consistency of yoghurt. You can then draw on your hamon fairly closely to how you want it to turn out! You can use a fine paint brush or a thin piece of metal to add ashi. Let it dry for a little while, although I tend to hold it in front of the forge fire to dry it out quicker because I'm impatient. I tend to heat the edge in the forge until it is around the right temperature and at the clay boundary you have drawn, then right into the oil. 

 

I've been thinking about doing a picture essay on claying and hardening blades for Japanese style hamon, if I do I'll try to explain this stuff better and with some photos!

 

 

 

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Wow!  I 100% agree with Alan, you sir, are a wizard!  Thanks for the insight and I completely understand what you're saying.  Your work is amazing!

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Just finished the handles.  Just some epoxy ones my wife bought online.  I sanded the blade again and used more lemon just to bring out the hamon.  Hopefully I can get the sheath done this weekend. 

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