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To weld or not to weld !

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hi guys !

i made my first try yesterday on forge-welding a billet made out of scrap pieces of steel (don't know what is except that

it's low carb...). I made a small billet size: 1" X 3" X 3/16" made of 3 layers... I mig-welded the billet to a re-bar for easier

manipulation. I got it up to a cherry-red and put some borax on the layers, sideways, so that the flux would melt and flow between those layers... I got it up to a bright yellow and watched the flux bubbling on it !

I have no pyrometer or anyway of knowing for sure that i am at welding temp... I got it hot as i could and gently made

my first tap to get the flux out from between the layers (and it did)... I practice on the last inch of the billet just to test !


I've let it cool down and grinded the end of the billet (to check it out) where i made my weld and all i could see was 2 lines

from where the layers melted ! I tried using a chisel in between the layers and whacked the hell out of it to see if it would split !

i did not split ! the lines i see are a fraction of the size of an hair ! The pieces felt and acted like it was one steel block and not layers...


My question is simple : did it weld ? Does anyone have a sure way of knowing if the weld is good ?



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Thanks Adlai !

I can't wait to try it again and this time use the bar to make a knife !


What would be a good contrasting steel to use and which is still not too difficult to weld !

Would 1010/1095 or 1010/1075 be a good combination to get a nice pattern after etching and multiple folds ?


I know the low and high carbon steels have different welding temp and might get trickier to weld though...



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Hrm with 1010 in the combo you'll end up with a medium carbon steel, well depending on the number of layers as well.

Do you have any other high carbon steels?

You can get different contrasts from high carbon steels that have differences in alloying elements.

One that I've got that I'm making some billets from is 1084 and 15N20, from what I've read and been told, then 15N20 is almost the same as the 1084, but it has nickel added, which will make it etch out brighter than the 1084.


I know I've read where someone did 1095 and 5160, just can't remember what kind of contrast it had. *searches* Hrm,

1095 & L-6 looks to be used a bit Lin Rhea uses it as well as this guy here.


Has some very cool stuff too.


J. Neilson has some he's made here using


5160, 15n20, 1095, L6 steels & 2100 nickle


So anyone of those should be able to be combined then.


You would be better off using some higher carbon steels so you'll end up with a higher carbon damascus steel. But you can mix high and lower.

I know Kelly Cupples sells 1084 and 15N20 in thickness that are good for damascus, I'd gotten some from Darren Ellis.

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Your 1084 and the 15n20 have a better mix to weld together. They are basically the same steel except the 15n20 has the nickel in it sothat your expansion is the same during the heat treating. Both being hihg carbon would allow a lower weling temptoget them tostick together.

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I mostly use 1095 and 15n20 also and it etches out fantastic with great contrast. If you just want to practice and have fun put some 1095 in the middle and some mild on the outsides and make a 3 level sandwich to make a blade. Hard to say how it will etch out but I bet theres alittle contrast there.


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I bet it would etch out differently, or you could even use wrought if you can get some, it's fun too.

Seems like I remember seeing a japanese guys site where he was making santoku from mild and wrought sides and high carbon centers.

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Thanks guys for the tips !


What i actually have in stock is 1075 and 1095 in 1 1/4" X 1/4 " and also some 5160 leafsprings ...

I will probably try something between those three. I got to get some 15n20 !!!


Beau you read my mind, i was actually planning on using 1095 and mild steel or wrought iron (hard to find here!) to make a santoku knife in a 2 layer fashion. High carbon serving as the cutting edge with a chisel grind ... Can't wait to give it a try !


I'll try and take pics this weekend !...

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Your best contrast comes from having differing alloys. 1095 and mild will show contrast in a san-mai, but with a few folds the carbon evens out and you get alot less contrast, because the carbon is the only real difference between the two. For better contrast, a 10 series steel can be mixed with another steel with nickel in it, L6 an 15N20 are both good steels for this. Some guys use pure nickel, but this can cause problems if it ends up at the edge, and it does not like to weld to itself. The nickel or steel with nickel in it will show up as very bright layers. Other alloys such as chrome and manganese influence the contrast, but not as much.


Back in the 70's most if not all of the damascus being made was O1 and mild steel. This was when it was thought damascus had alternating layers of hard and soft steel. Now we know about carbon migration. Somewhere along the line someone had the bright idea to use 2 cutlery-grade steels, and now it is the common way to do it. O1 and L6, going heavy on the O1, will produce one heck of a blade, but has some annealing/air-hardening issues that make it a bit difficult to work. 1095 and L6 (or 15N20 for that matter) makes a very good knife. The most common mix these days is 1080ish (1080, 1084, 1085, 1086, etc...) and 15N20. This mix has the advantage of being easy to heat-treat, very good contrast, good edge-holding, good toughness, and very good stability.



I discovered the hard way that it's a good idea not to mix 5160 with 1095. It will weld together nicely, show good contrast, and all the welds just open right up when it's quenched. Some steels are more compatable than others. The closer the heat-treatments of the steels used, the less likely this is to happen. This is one of the good things about 1085 and 15N20 mixes, they are virtually the same steel except for the nickel, which is all you need for good contrast.


San-mai type blades, with a harder core and softer sides, are a great way to learn fire-welding without all the risks of multiple folds/higher layer stuff. Most of the carbon stays put as long as the steel is not over-worked.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi guys ! here are some pics finally !


This is the small billet that was cut in 3 parts with a cut off saw...

I grinded and sanded one of the pieces to get a better look at the welding....

In one the pieces (the actual end of the billet) i can see the 3 welding lines, which probably means it's not completely welded ?





This is the third part of the billet still attached to the re-bar, in this one i can't see nothing except a solid piece...




What do you guys think, is this welded ?



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