The forms I focus on are the
modern styles of what we call pattern welded or Damascene steel.
I will first show how I do a basic pattern welded billet, then later
I will add a section for my version of the wootz making process.
The finishing of the pattern welded blades are done the same way, it
is in the making of the damascus billets, and the resulting patterns
that it differs.
People often ask where the patterns and colors come from.
Understand that it is the steel itself that gives these
wonderful patterns and colors. For a pattern welded blade
we can use many metal combinations. Various added elements in the
steels will cause the steels to etch differently. Manganese=black,
Nickel=silver, Chromium=light gray, High carbon =dark gray and
|Doug made this San-mai with
an L-6 core, and sides of 120 layers of 15N20,1018, and
For planning the patterns
of the billets, I generally place metals in groups of light and
dark, though I have made blades of all light colored steels
and it was a different look having the chrome and nickel
alloys. With no dark banding it was more of a subtle
sheen change: shiny vs. satin.
layers ready for
For most blades I use 1095 as a dark layer. For the brighter
layers L-6 is wonderful, as well as 15N20, which is close in
make-up to L-6 but it has no chrome in its matrix. I have
just begun to use meteorite iron. The small supply I have
came from the 'Campo de Ciello' fall, containing about 6.3% nickel
and like the A203E, will not harden on its own. But due to
carbon migration in forging it collects enough that it is no problem
with hardening a blade.
|Heating in the
Building a billet
Usually I start with bars 12 to 18 inches long and 1
inch wide and thicknesses range from 1/32 to 1/4 inches thick
depending on various factors. I grind the edges clean and
free from mill scale, to improve the bond when welding, and then
stack the steels alternating color type to about 1 1/4 inches tall.
Much taller is too hard to hold an even heat when forging.
As some layers will be cooler than others until welded.
Non-nickel containing steels are placed to the outside of the
stack to reduce scale formation. When making up a stack, I place
them in the vice and squeeze the stack tight, and wrap it with
wire in sections that I can remove as I weld.
|Welding it up, notice the first set of banding
wire has been
I mainly use a Coal forge and simple Borax (20 mule team, from
the laundry dept.) as a flux when I do my pattern welding. Flux
helps to keep out the air, which in turn helps to reduce scale.
Since scale melts at much higher temperatures
than the steel, it can interfere with the welds and it looks terrible.
After fire welding and drawing out to length, I cut and re-stack
and re-weld, repeating until the desired number of layers are
welded| After I get the desired
number of layers I could leave it as is: this is the standard
random pattern that many produce. Or I can grind
and/or twist the billet to produce various complex patterns, even
adding this to other billets to make more complex patterns, like
Lace, Chevrons, Serpent, Zebra and so on.
|rough hammered sword|
After I hammer the blade to
shape, I use a lighter hammer for the cutting edge, while this
moves very little metal at a time, this cycling of the heating,
cooling, and repeated hammering helps to refine the grain.
This process is sometimes erroneously referred to as edge packing.
|rough ground sword|
After this I normalize to
relax any stress introduced into the blade, then grind to the
final dimensions. I make the handle and other hardware,
and then heat treat the blade after everything is made to fit
|Clay on blade|
Sometimes we use clay to mask off parts
of the blade as part of a process called differential hardening. This is
mainly seen on folded steel Japanese style blades. But it can be done on
other blades. Where the steel is exposed, it will harden upon quenching.
The coated places will end up softer. Also these areas will be
visible with a high polish.
Brass & Jasper guard mounted to 3 core
Viking serpentine blade|
I clean and polish to 600 grit and etch
in a 1.5 % solution of ferric chloride, and then a second tempering
cycle. Final polishing can be to 3000 grit or finer, but 1000 is average.
For some patterns I will first etch in a solution of muratic acid to create
a depth difference before I etch in the ferric, then its final assembly, polish
Most of the fittings I make for the blades are made of nickel
silver or brass; but some may be iron, mokume gane or even more
Damascus. I offer the option of having the fittings plated
in various metals such as sterling silver or gold, which I subcontract
to a local plating Company.
Whenever possible our leather, wood, bone, antler and gems for
grips and inlays are purchased locally, and added as requested.