Forge plans are listed near the middle of this page
This page is dedicated to information on Steel, Damascus Steel, Forging, Heat Treating, and general Knifemaking/Bladesmithing. Check back, as I will update this page often.
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Automatic high temp salt tanks
A few years ago I had a high temp salt tank set up in my shop. At that time it was manually operated, which was really a pain. After having a tank rupture, and molten salt all over the shop, I tore the tanks down, and decided to wait until I could make them automatic before reinstalling them. Recently I found a source for an affordable digital controller, and decided to put the high temp salt tank back to work. Following is some information on where I found the controller, and some photos of how the tank is set up.
This is the
digital controller I purchased from LightObject.com
This is the back wiring terminals of the controller
This the new type of controller that I have installed. It reads out in Fahrenheit. It is 110v, with the wiring diagram on the side. I have created a sketch of the necessary wiring so that it will be easy for you to do it. There is also a support web page for this controller, which you can print out and use as a manual for setting the various functions of the controller. Follow this link to the support page.
Here is an image of the wiring diagram that I came up with to make the controller work with a 110v solenoid gas valve, and a type K thermocouple:
Below is a photo of
the back of the controller, with all the wiring
Below is a photo of
the thermocouple I purchased from Omega.com
This is the 110v,
normally close, solenoid gas valve I purchased locally.
And this is the High
Temp salt tank ready for use.
I have included some very basic components necessary to run the high temp salt tank automatically. Although some may want to, I have not found the need to build in an ignition system....there is enough heat within the forge to re-ignite the flame when the controller calls for heat. Since these photos I have added a digital pyrometer, with a second thermocouple to the salt pot, just to ensure that I am getting a true temp reading. This setup seems to operate within about 12 degrees F of the set point...which with I am very pleased.
I have been experimenting with some new ways of coloring damascus steel. Heat coloring or hot/cold bluing is the usual method employed by most knifemakers, however this method allows the knifemaker to produce only a limited number of colors. I have been using baking lacquers, heat coloring, and a combination of both to produce colors that are not often seen in damascus steel. More will be coming in the future as I experiment more, but for now..............
These are just some of the colors that are possible using baking lacquers and heat coloring. The process holds much promise for a whole new world of colored mosaic damascus works!
Benefits of the Forged Blade
Custom Cutlery today generally comes in two forms. Forged, or Stock Removal. Each has its proponents and opponents. I personally have chosen to Forge because of the almost limitless possibilities it presents. I am not restricted to produce a knife based on the size and shape of bar stock that is available. Forging also opens the realm of Damascus Steel with its unlimited patterns and beauty. Through the forging process I have also learned the art of heat treating. This gives an added advantage in that I have the capability to selectively harden blades not only to match the chosen steel, but the intended application of the finished blade. More often than not, commercial heat treaters will harden a customer's blades to a specified Rockwell hardness, not taking into consideration what I choose to call the "Overall Package." (I'll define this a little later)
Of Forges and Fire
I began over 20 years ago with a coal forge that was made from an old brake drum. Since then I have progressed to utilize propane forges exclusively for my cutlery. Why? All I can say is that is makes life so much easier! Don't get me wrong, many fine blades have been, and are still being produced in coal forges. I even keep a bucket of coal in the shop, and occasionally set a few small pieces on the front of my propane forge just to smell the coal burn.
This brings us to forges. I have tried most every make and model available commercially, and many others that where formulated within my, as well as other Blacksmith's and Bladesmith's shops'. Through experience, I have formed some very pointed opinions of what a good Bladesmith's forge should, and should not be.
*A Good Bladesmith's Forge SHOULD*
-Produce a very even heat. This becomes very important when producing Damascus (Pattern Welded) materials.
-Be easily adjustable over a wide range of temperatures.
-Be economical to operate (This includes fuel consumption and replacement cost of refractory).
-Be durable (I hate wasting time repairing a forge lining when I could be forging blades).
-Be designed with the K.I.S.S. principle in mind.
Good Bladesmith's Forge SHOULD NOT*
-Be of a design that uses 90 degree angles (square shape) in the forge chamber. It seems that no matter how well designed, or how many burners there are, this type of forge produces "hot spots". (That can spell trouble when forging damascus).
-Fiber Board type insulators: This stuff is VERY expensive, does not react well to coatings, and melts like cotton candy when hot flux hits it. Ceramic blanket has it's draw backs too. If not coated it will also "melt" from flux contact, fibers will become airborne when "snagged" by a work piece, and can be very irritating to the nose and throat (not to mention what a lot of the stuff could do to your lungs).
In my humble opinion, a knife
is more than a certain type of steel, or a specific
Rockwell hardness. In order for a knife to be all
that it can be, the maker must take the "Overall Package"
into consideration. This includes not only what type
of steel to use, but how that steel will perform at a
given hardness, plus, how all the other aspects of the
knife blend to produce the finished product. Things
such as, blade geometry, distal taper, weight, and
balance. Toughness, flexibility, edge retention, and
ease of sharpening. All of these play a factor in
the Overall Package. Each is equally important in a
using knife, and worthy of the Bladesmith's attention.
For example, to demand a high rockwell hardness in a blade, without taking into consideration the type of grind that will be used, and ignore the impact that the combination or hardness and grind style will have on the toughness and/or ease of sharpening is to settle for less than you have to. Wayne Goddard once told me that a knife must 1. Look good, 2. Feel good, and 3. Work good. Each of these three areas have many details. Through attention to all of them, the Bladesmith insures that the "Overall Package" is achieved with each and every knife that leaves his or her shop.
comes in many varieties. From Wire (made from steel
cable), to exotic Mosaics with a thousand different
faces. After much experimenting, I have settled on
15N20 & 1084 for most of my pattern welded
blades. These two steels are possibly the most
compatible steels I have ever encountered for
Damascus. Due to this compatibility, patterns can be
produced with this mix that would literally tear other
combinations apart. It produces a good
contrast, as well as having the added benefit of being
completely hardenable; Producing a blade that is
also very functional. Below is a typical modified
ladder pattern produced from these materials.
These same materials are used in the below pictured blade, a modified "W" pattern. This blade was produced by "accordion" folding the billet prior to forging the blade shape.
True Mosaic is an arrangement of "tiles" placed in a specific sequence to achieve a desired result. This photo (below) clearly shows the boundaries of the "tiles" within the blade.
Endless variations can be achieved by adding fewer or more layers of material to the damascus. And also by many other actions the Bladesmith takes during the forging process. The following photo shows a Mosaic blade with fewer layers of material, and larger "tiles".
For more patterns, visit the Damascus Steel page
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