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Noobie tries to forge weld


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Hey everyone!  I decided to make my first attempt at a forge weld today.  I don't have a welder to tack it all together so I used some wire.  Someone on here was talking about wire, but I can't remember who to thank for the tip.  I used a 1095 core with Home Depot mystery steel around it.  I fluxed it twice before the first hits.  I did 2 passes with light hits then 2 with medium/heavy hits before I had the nerve to hit the spine.  I fluxed between each heat.  I think it worked but I'm not 100% sure so I was hoping for some feedback.  I want to grind the billet a little more if it looks good to you guys before I make it into something.

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Don't see any cracks, no dark lines, no delaminations in any of those pics...

 

Time to start forging to a blade shape. 

You'll know when you start moving it, if anything comes loose.

 

But, id say it's looking good.

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Looks good to me too.  Well done!  Forge it into a blade.

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  • 1 month later...

Guys I need some tips.  The billet I posted above blew up at the quench.  So I tried again.  I took extra time to make sure everything was ground perfectly and cleaned very well.  I felt really good about my second billet and started forging the blade shape.  I saw a small separation so I stopped and tried to grind it out but it was very deep.  I decided to heat it up and slam it into water to blow it up so I could see the inside and try to see what I'm doing wrong.  This billet was wired together, heated to dull red, fluxed with borax, brought to what I thought was welding temp, light taps.  I did this again then went to medium strikes then hard.  I think that maybe trying this with the starting materials wired and not welded may be one of the factors for the failures but I don't know.  I know that having this much time wasted feels real bad.  Especially twice in a row.  And help, tips, critiques are welcomed.  These are the pics after I chiseled it apart.

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Ouch. I can feel your pain.  Did you wait until the flux was at a pretty energetic boil on top of the steel?  I'm guessing that you were right on the edge of being hot enough, but the center of your billet was a touch too cool.

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Posted (edited)

You've got to keep trying, your first billet did look really good. It's a real bummer it didn't work out. Besides more heat, two things come to mind:

 

- When you set the weld, begin tapping in the center of your billet, and then work your way to the outside perimeter. Keep doing welding heats until you've gone through the entire surface. The idea is to avoid trapping a bubble of air or flux inside the weld. Imagine that there is all sorts of crud between the layers, and your goal is to slowly push them out.

 

- Even though you don't have a welder, you can probably get your layers tighter together, judging from the original photos. Here's a trick: heat the wire with a torch, and hammer on it to square it up while you tighten it with pliers. Yes I realize this sounds like it requires 3 hands, you just have to juggle those and alternate between hammer/pliers/torch until it's all really tight. Careful though, if you go too tight, the wire will snap. This was the way I used to do my pattern welds. Although I like my mig welder for expediency, I kinda miss the cleanliness of this method (no need to grind the tack welds off once you're done). I've also seen people use stainless steel clamps with good success, but it seems a lot easier to me to cut wires once you're done while remaining at heat than it would be to unscrew those clamps. YMMV :)

 

Here's a photo of one of my early billets, you can see the wires are hugging the metal fairly tightly: 

 

Sj7XIM9.jpg

 

 

Good luck, you're nearly there, seriously.

Edited by Francis Gastellu
added photo
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Posted (edited)

The only other tips I can give are:

 

- Have a second look at your forge setup. How many burners do you have? You probably need two to forge weld comfortably.

 

- How oxidizing is your flame? Assuming a gas forge, you want more (potentially much more) propane psi than for general forging. This can be too much for a single tank. If it is, you'll start losing pressure as your tank gets very cold, seizes, and starts dropping pressure. If this starts happening in the middle of your forge welding, it's game over. I use two 20lbs propane tanks with a manifold to avoid this issue. You might also want to close your forge doors a bit more than is usually recommended (not too much! you do need exhaust It's a balancing act).

 

- The obvious, how hot are you actually getting. This is where an objective measurement could really help you, might I suggest a pyrometer? For 50 bucks (potentially less than that if you build your own with parts from ebay), you can get a really accurate sense of where your forge is at. Here's one that I used for a couple years, from my first forge weld to a mid-sized sword: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01DMQOWD4/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_image?ie=UTF8&psc=1 Granted, you do not *need* one. With experience you can readily tell if you're at welding heat or not based on the behavior of the flux, the color of the billet, and how it sounds when you give it the welding taps. However, when you start, you have none of that experience. I feel like a pyrometer helped me a lot when I started. In time you won't need it anymore (in fact you'll be able to tell when it seems off), but IMO it's a really good way to get some objective data when you're starting out.

 

And finally, my last tip is don't give up. Once you dial it in, you'll be amazed at how "easy" it is (that is, until you get a little too complacent and mess up a billet again! :D)

Edited by Francis Gastellu
meh
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Thank you for the great tips!  As grumpy as I am about it today, I know I will keep trying until I get it.  The second try looked much better than the first and maybe my next will work!  Thanks again! 

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I don't think you're getting hot enough, but there might also be an issue with the control of your burn.  You want a reducing flame, which gives you less scale.  You want a bit of fairly snappy flame out the door of the forge.  This means that all of the O2 is being used up in the fire box, and the remnant gas ignites as it hits the air.  If you have a hard, crispy flame, that is too much air, and big billowy flames means not enough air.  You want to be between those extremes.

 

geoff 

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Thanks Geoff!  I definitely had big billowy flames.  I'll open up and see if I can get that snappy flame before I try again.  Seems like I should get the fire right before I try this again.

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When setting a weld with a hand hammer you can have what appear to be a perfect weld by grinding the edge but the layers have not fully fused because insufficient force has been used to join the layers fully.

 

Good welds = Clean + Heat + Pressure.

 

The reason those of us with hydraulic presses, etc. have an easier time in setting welds is the large amount of pressure we can apply.

 

So, my guess is you had a good initial weld, but full layer fusion required more force for a full setting.

 

Try this: Do exactly what you did before, but then take it back to the forge and bring it to welding heat again and reinforce the set with heavier blows. Do this 2-3 more times with increasing hammer weight and force.

 

Of course, there's an art to this too. You don't want to just wail on it, because that will cause an indentation that will potentially delaminate around the blow. Keep it flat. Try to make the steel think it's in a hydraulic press with setting plates LOL. 

 

You're doing this right, though, in blowing up the steel and investigating what happened. Keep going. You'll figure it out.

 

Dave

 

PS: Did you grind the steel to clean it before assembling the billet? If not, do that too. Clean+Heat+Pressure.

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15 hours ago, Larry Pyne said:

I know that having this much time wasted feels real bad.  Especially twice in a row.  And help, tips, critiques are welcomed. 

Take up meditating or perfect whatever other mind calming techniques you have.  This is common in knifemaking, especially if you play with damascus.   Hopefully you'll never look back on the time spent on this learning experience with longing....like if you discover a small delamination when doing the final hand sanding after the handle is finished.  That's a tough time to start over.

 

But seriously, keep doing what you are doing, which is pay attention and learn form every forging session.

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16 hours ago, Larry Pyne said:

  I know that having this much time wasted feels real bad. 

This time is not "wasted". It may seem like a glib comment, but I am fond of the saying "The real difference between a master and an apprentice is the master has failed more times than the apprentice has ever tried." Some of the most difficult things I had to learn came with multiple failures. These were all part of the learning process and now I know more things "not to do" than I know  things "to do". 

Just wait until you finally reach the point where you are using a new blade steel and are curious as to whether you are getting the heat treat right. You will take a forged blade, grind it, heat treat it and then break it to see the grain. That one took me a long time to get over the "wasted time and materials" and just do.

 

Keep going. You are doing everything you need to do to get this technique down. Before you know it, you will be experimenting with new patterns and multiple bars. The process of welding them together will be second nature to you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello:

 

Hope no one minds.. not heated through..IE not hot enough where it counts...that is what it looks like to me anyways...heat soak it for what you THINK is long enough and then wait an additional 30 seconds or so at temp.. That should help a bit..

JPH

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Posted (edited)

I think they've all hit the nail on the head- not hot enough.

 

It's notoriously hard to get a photo to show your heat colors... but in your 4th pic, your forge doesn't look anywhere near hot enough.

 

You wanna wait til she's good and heated before starting. Just an example of color differences for forge welding heat. You want the forge looking yellow, almost white in color.

 

And any time you do something... and you learn from it, what not to- and what to do.... its never wasted.

 

Because it will be useful knowledge for years to come... versus those few hours spent learning.

 

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Edited by Welsh joel
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I may be off track but putting mystery metal from the hardware store could be a problem.  It's made to achieve certain physical characteristics and my not to uniform bar to bar or even within the same bar and have an expansion/contraction rate that doesn't match the 1095 which causes it to self destruct.

 

To hold your bars together more tightly you could try a method that I got from Path of Fire on You Tube.  The lady who forge welds damascus billets there clamps the bars together with stainless steel hose clamps.  After she's satisfied with the weld she nocks them off with her hammer.

 

Doug

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DL: I tried SS hose clamps like 25+ years ago..the idea does work but I wind up welding the clamps to the bar...which can be a nasty problem with some projects.. I have been wiring stacks together from my start 50+ years ago..never had any problems at all..but I really get the wires tighter than a Scotman's purse string..that is the key there..get it TIGHT..especially when you are welding shim stock and sheet like I do..

 

JPH

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Thanks for all the advise everyone.  I REALLY appreciate it!  I went for round 3 with a stack of 1095/HD special/80CRV2/HD Special/1095 and got it to weld.  I forged out a blade expecting it to blow up in the quench but it didn't.  I had to heat it so many times to forge out the blade that I basically lost all of the 1095 outer layers.  The 80CRV2 core didn't stay perfectly straight but the weld did hold up.  Even though the blade isn't really usable, I am very happy that I finally got it!  I'll try again with some longer bars so I don't have to hammer so much next time and hopefully keep the core true.  I'm also not going to use HD special steel for the next try.

 

Thank you again everyone!  The advise has helped me tremendously!  I'll post some pics once I get another blade forged out!

Edited by Larry Pyne
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You don't have to heat to welding temps every time to forge- after you have a good forge weld.

 

Three or four good welding heats- and you feel like the bar is solid... you can forge at a lower heat then.

(In general, some steels you want to keep hotter)

 

A good orange/ high red should suffice for forging, will keep you from more loss from scale, and maybe burning your steel when thinner.

 

Its a balancing game.

 

It's easier to forge weld smaller pieces by hand with a hammer- than longer pieces. My last couple were no more than 1.5" x 2" stacks. But the last was 36 layers at that size.

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Holy crap!  My 5 layer was around 2" x 4ish" stacks.  I didnt heat it to welding temps after I thought it was welded, it just took me many heats to get the bar drawn out and shaped to the blade.  Also, some days I was working it past my exhaustion point so I had several heats that I could have avoided if I had just taken a break.  Eventually my light bulb went off and I saw my fuller tool on the floor and started using that to draw out the bar.  Definitely should have been using that way earlier on.  Another lesson learned there.

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3 hours ago, Larry Pyne said:

I saw my fuller tool on the floor and started using that to draw out the bar. 

Does your anvil have a horn?

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3 hours ago, Joshua States said:

Does your anvil have a horn?

It does but the problem is holding with the tongs that I have.  I dont have a welder so I cant weld a piece of rebar onto the billet.  On one of the HD special pieces of steel I cut an extra piece to hold onto but I still had problems keeping the billet under control on the horn.  Just holding it flat while using the fuller tool was much easier to manage with the tools/tongs that I have.  During the last welding attempt I think I did figure out a way to cut one of the pieces to make the billet manageable on the horn with a pair of tongs that I have now and I think I can avoid throwing the billet and catching something on fire haha!

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Posted (edited)
On 6/9/2021 at 12:00 AM, Larry Pyne said:

Just holding it flat while using the fuller tool was much easier to manage with the tools/tongs that I have

One of the reasons to have a decent radius on the edges of your anvil is to use those in combination with the a corner of your hammer to mimic fullers on both sides of the bar.  Something like this:

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Not sure what your forging experience is, but here's a picture I got from another old thread that does a good job explaining how metal will move under the hammer:

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Edited by billyO
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