The damascus billet
I was cleaning up some corners of my shop the other day and came upon a lump of metal. I had started making a damascus (pattern-welded) billet a few years ago and must have become distracted. I had two reasons to re-visit the project; one was to make a gift for someone and the other was to work on my resolution to finish more projects that I have started. It only took a few more heats to double the billet back onto itself a few times and achieve my goal of about forty layers.
A few more heats and some grinding left me with something that is starting to look like a knife.
First stage of grinding
Notice the two lines marked on the ricasso area. This will be the transition area into the sharpened edge. It is marked the same way on the other side.
After some filing to establish a soft transition, I am able to grind back to the line I have filed.
knife in progress
This is about the extent of the aggressive grinding.
Notice that the choil is taped. The real pros probably don’t do this step, but I have found that it really helps to prevent any mistakes. Also notice that the edge is still pretty thick. This will help prevent warping during the heat treatment. It also allows me to remove the decarburized material and still have something left.
The black mark on the tang tells me where I want to cut this off. After holding this in my hand, I realized that the tang I forged was too long for my desired proportions.
After a few hours of grinding, filing and more refined sanding, the knife is now ready for hardening. Everything looks good. No deep scratches, no sign of inclusions trapped between any of the layers. It is sanded to about 220 grit. I wanted some “tooth” on the surface for the clay resist I intend to put along the back of the knife.
Ready to be hardened
Next post: Heat-treating and finishing
This is something that I made many years ago, yet I still smile every time I see it. It was an interesting project. The springs were all hand-forged and heat-treated, no stock components were used. The mechanism, hidden inside the case, was a delightful challenge.
The above picture is of the viewpoint at Grand Avenue Park in Everett, Washington. I was chosen some time ago to build some railings for the scenic overlook. It is a breathtaking view of the Olympic mountains across Puget Sound (when the mountains are not shrouded in clouds).
The design requirements of the project were pretty straightforward; there were to be six sections, eight feet long and 42 inches tall. The outside frame was to be 2 inch solid square for the upright ends and 1 1/2 inch solid square for the top and bottom. The thinnest any part of the infill could be was 3/4″ X 3/4″. Of course, the usual railing standard that dictated any open area must be less than a four-inch circle also applied.
During several visits to the site, before I began the project, I became fascinated with the ever-changing cloud formations and how the waters of the Sound reflected the mood of the sky. It was a dramatic vista and nothing I could possibly do would be able to compete with the surroundings. My best hope was to complement the site.I had a couple other challenges that I gave myself. One challenge was that the railings use some type of mechanical (traditional blacksmithing) joinery. As a blacksmith, creating work for a visible public setting, it seemed like a great opportunity to give an example of work that utilized the process of forging. Another challenge I faced was that the railings, once installed, would be visible from a considerable distance below the hill. If the railings were merely 3/4″ rods, they would disappear into a blur when viewed from such a distance. I thought that they might also serve as a landmark from the bottom of the hill, in addition to being a feature at the top (where their function as railings was served).
A visit to various historical archives provided some additional inspiration. I’ll let you investigate on your own to discover some of Everett’s colorful past. What I did glean from my investigation was that Everettt began as a city of optimistic promise and has a backbone founded on industry. Both of these continue to the present. It is also a relatively new city (by most of this country’s standards) and the tales of the Native Americans who lived there did not happen all that long ago.
Now I was prepared to begin. Filled with the same optimistic promise as the city that commissioned these, I wanted to pay homage to the natural surroundings, the Native Americans who took care of the land before the captains of industry arrived and to capture some of the essence of all the good things that industry (and human ingenuity) can provide. I felt that keeping some evidence of hammer blows (and there are thousands in this project) would give a sense of the industrial aspect. The central component of the railings gets its inspiration from a Native American oar design and provides a central focus, a beginning to the design. My biggest concern at this point was to capture some of the delicate, ephemeral nature of the clouds and the sea below. This I hoped to accomplish through the use of broad, sweeping curves, punctuated by precise alignment of vertical elements. Doing this with 1 1/4″ forged steel would be challenging. If I were to give a title to this project, I would call it “Where Sea and Sky Meet”, for that was a theme that kept recurring throughout the process.
Soon the railings will be installed.
You may check out the rest of my blog for more delicious metalsmithing topics by clicking the link.
Soapstone is a predominant feature of any blacksmith’s design process. A naturally occuring mineral, it is highly effective at creating white lines that will withstand the heat of the forge. Likewise, it is very handy at making notations on the floor during the design process.
It started out as a drawing on the floor. . .
The finished product. Photo by Rebbecca Tomas.