I get started
story began in 1988. By chance, I had the opportunity to read
the first issue of a new French magazine " La Passion des
couteaux " (The Passion for Knives). Some knife pictures
caught my curiosity with mysterious blades displaying very strange
patterns. As the blades was looking very actual, the mysteries
should have an explanation
spite of my searches I was not able to find French books explaining
how to make Damascus steel and I was close to abandon. During
a job trip in the States I bought "Blades" and "Knives"
magazines and found a good ad for the books of Jim Hrisoulas.
I read "The Complete Bladesmith" more than one time
and the Damascus virus fully contaminated me. I started to look
for some equipment to complete the book knowledge by practical
experiments. I have been able to install in my backyard a small
forge with a manual blower, an anvil and a workbench with a leg
vise. I also bought all the small manual tools such as hammers,
tongues, files etc
to start with the Damascus steels I had to study all the basic
forging techniques. In French we are used to say something like
" By forging you will become a blacksmith". It's only
partially true. In addition to the basic craft experience, to
make progress you have to analyse continuously your results, try
to understand the strengths involved, answer five "why this?"
or "why that?" and make corrective actions. Forging
is a long humility process but also a nice source of pleasure.
with cable damascus
I though I was managing the forging and the forge welding techniques,
I decided to start with the Cable Damascus. My readings led me
to this direction. Cable Damascus is looking simpler than other
Damascus types. I found some pieces of wire ropes used for elevators
and I started applying word after word all the work procedures
proposed by Jim Hrisoulas. That's worked great; I had the pleasure
to listen to the steel music when the cable wires welded together
and it was so nice to see the water pattern blossoming after the
acid etch. The first experience had been very rewarding.
next steps were more difficult. As all the impatient people I
tried to save time "improving" the methods recommended
by Jim Hrisoulas. The results were less than poor and I quickly
come back to a very strict application of his recipes. During
this period the reading of an article from Henri Viallon has also
influenced me. In this article, the author, after developing all
the advantages of the forged blades was writing: "the beginner
who places a piece of steel in the fire and tortures it with hammer
blows, is not properly forging it, he (the beginner) is only taking
the risk of creating damages instead of enhancing noble qualities".
This writing was for me
now, I pursue my learning with Cable Damascus, I made some experiments
with chain material (interesting) and I am trying to produce more
traditional Damascus. Here after are my working methods. Most
of the time I am burning charcoals in my forge. I calibrate the
charcoal pieces to a small size in order to get an even and regular
the pile : I start with 5 pieces of steel. Two with high
carbon level (XC90 equivalent to 1095) and three with medium carbon
content (C30 equivalent to 1030). One of the medium carbon content
pieces is about 20 inches long to avoid the need of tongues; I
used it as the handle to manipulate the pile. I remove all rust
and dirt from the surface of the pieces with a rough file. The
stack is made with the high carbon pieces placed inside and the
low carbon outside. I tie the pieces together with 3 iron wires
fasten around. I remove the iron wires when the weld is OK.
and drawing : I place the pile in the fire and when the
steel is chery red I remove it and cover it with anhydrous borax.
Then I check more the appearance of the borax than the color of
the steel. When the borax is almost white and most importantly
starting to move on the surface of the steel, the stack is ready
for welding. I make the welding with hand hammer then I hammer
it out to about twice the starting length. This hammering session
is also a critical phase; I have to work very deeply and quickly
to reduce the number of heat.
and welding : When it's done I cut the pile in the middle
leaving enough material to be able to keep the two parts together
after folding. Then I hammer slightly the small edges of the billet
to enlarge its center and avoid during the following steps to
trap slag and borax between two layers. With a wire brush I clean
the surface of the billet, put it back to the fire, fold the billet,
add borax, heat it to the welding temperature, hammer it to obtain
a good weld, draw it out to double its lenght and cut it in the
middle, halfway. I do all this 6 or 7 times to obtain 300 or 600
alternate layers. For a knife it's a good number of layers. Just
now I don't try to create complicated patterns, my objective is
to master all the basic techniques with the creation of parallel
about forging Cable Damascus :
It's very important to tighten the twist of the cable before and
during the welding process.
To obtain the best patterns, after welding, draw the bar lengthwise
about forging straight laminated billets :
Adding in the billet 2 or 3 thin pieces of 12NC16 increases the
contrast of the pattern
100 to 300 welded layers are more "rewarding" than 300
first results are promising
the follow up will come with
the next update of this page.
for reading this long French-English text. If you have questions,comments,
or advices, I will be please to receive and answer them.