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Thread: Confessions of a bladesmith; secrets revealed! (Finished Pictures added)

  1. #1
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    Exclamation Confessions of a bladesmith! Secrets revealed!

    It has been pointed out to me that I am kind of harsh towards the so-called “secrets” that so many bladesmiths claim to have. I must plead guilty. I just think the whole notion is plain silly. But if I am going to be this way I think I should be able to put my money where my mouth is. So while talking to some other folks I decided a thread that may be of interest here on the forum would be to cover the process of a pattern welded sword from start to finish. I asked Dennis Boas if it would be all right to document and share the birth of his long awaited pattern welded leaf. So here we go, now if any body ahs any questions please feel free to jump in, one of the purposes of SFI is to educate and one of the purposes of this thread is to prove that I have no secrets.



    The raw materials pictured are a ¾”x 1” bar of Crucible Service Centers O1 (Ketos) and a length of 1” round Crucible L6. On the anvil there are 6” sections precut and ready for assembly into a billet. The L6 must first be forged into a ¾” x 1” square and then cut and ground clean. The 3 pieces of O1 are then assembled with the 2 sections of L6 into a 5-layer stack, tack welded together and a handle welded on.




    Now we are ready to fuse it all together, so I will introduce the players.

    The gas forge:



    The Bradley upright strap hammer:



    I was fortunate that the first power hammer I ever had the opportunity to buy was a Bradley for now I am completely spoiled. No other hammer that I have worked on can hit with the equivalent force pound for pound as the Bradley. They are marvels of simplicity, with absolutely nothing to go wrong. If you break a Bradley, you used a crane or a tank!


    Here are the mechanisms on the back. No nasty clutches to catch, or not catch, just simple mechanical motions and rubber cushions.


    There is the typical hammer maintenance, however. This can be a bit of a pain. When the real cold weather comes in MI my dies have a tendency to loosen up a bit more and need to be re-wedged occasionally. Better now than during welding. You can see my Little Giant in the background here. I kind of feel sorry for it because setting next to the Bradley it is a pathetic little joke. What can I say, I got the Little Giant for $250 and it is good for drawing out tangs.

    Now the stack is placed in the gas forge and heated until it is time to flux (when it begins to glow). It is then heated to welding temperature and quickly placed under the Bradley dies and fused solid.

    Here is the solid billet.


    I will get some more photos up of the next steps soon.
    Last edited by Kevin R. Cashen; 01-11-2003 at 10:59 AM.

  2. #2
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    Question

    Hi Kevin, never heard of a Bradley. But I like the sound of one. Where might I inquire about one? Thanks.
    "Do not suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberty by any pretences of politeness, delicacy or decency.
    These, as they are often used, are but three names for hypocrisy, chicanery, and cowardice.” John Adams, 1789

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    Frederick the Great 1747

  3. #3
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    Thank you for this thread, Kevin. I think all us non-smiths are going to learn a lot reading it.
    "Courage is fear holding on a minute longer."--Gen. George S. Patton

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    Originally posted by Arik Estus
    Hi Kevin, never heard of a Bradley. But I like the sound of one. Where might I inquire about one? Thanks.
    You just need to keep your eyes and ears open. The Bradley company quit making power hammer MANY decades ago. They made industrial strength lawn mowers for a time but now the company is gone entirely. Don't look around the hobbiest blacksmtih sources. Bradleys were made for heavy industrial applications. The good news is that if you find one it will pobably be cheaper than a little giant, because they are not as popular. Why? Not as well known and they do take up a little more space in your shop. As well as the strap hammer (my favorite) they also made a helve hammer and a compact model that was similar to the little giant design.

  5. #5
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    Cool Kevin ! I must disagree though, a Nazel is superior to any mechanical hammer ever made, it's a given fact, that is.

    Bradleys are cool though, for mechanicals, they and the Beaudry are the best, I think, and of the two I would take the Bradley strap hammer of equivalent weight over the Beaudry anytime.

    Good luck in your quest to continue the debunking of mystery and secrets. Any way I can help ?
    It is not the destination, it is the journey.

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    Originally posted by Howard Clark

    Good luck in your quest to continue the debunking of mystery and secrets. Any way I can help ?
    Yes you can quite teasing us unfortunate enough not to have gotten our hands on a good Nasel. I meant to refine my comparisons to mechanicals except most of the new Turkish air hammers that are gaining popularity are still a little weak in comparison to my Bradley. Now if we were to move into the realm of good old fashoined air hammers, Tim Zowada's "thumper" makes my Bradley look like a toy. Over 600lbs of steam hammer converted to air, moving steel like it were a liquid, is an impressive sight to watch, damn him!

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    The Core bars

    Now that the billet is fused solid the next step is to draw it out to twice as long:


    and then cut it most of the way through and fold:


    Then it is welded solid again. Now we have 10 layers. This makes very good and bold pattern for the center of a blade with Migration era type welding. A more accurate pattern for this period can be gained by using 7 layers but I am putting my own modern slant on things so I will be going with 10.

    Now the billet is drawn out into a square rod that is twice the pre-forged length of the sword. Then it is cut into two equal lengths and the twisting begins. For this style I twist 2” of the rod clockwise and then leave 2” straight and then twist 2” counterclockwise, and so on.


    You will notice that my bars are quite thick for a sword blade, and indeed my finished blank before forging to shape will be huge. But I am making a leaf blade. With a mono steel blade this is no big deal but with pattern welding in it I will need to have a whole lot of cheating room to keep the pattern coherent from the narrower wasted section to the wide flared section nearer the tip. Into all of this I will also have to factor the distortion that each section will produce in the pattern, and compensate accordingly. Compensation comes in the form of thicker mass and tighter twisting than what the patter will have when the drawing out process is done. The sections will also have to be shorter in some areas that will see more drawing than in others. While doing all of this it is also very important that all of the sections match those of the opposite bar but in the mirror image.
    The twisting can be one of the most time consuming parts of the entire process.

    For efficiencies sake I will also be making a pre-forged blank that is much longer that what I will need for this one sword. This will allow me to cut off the excess and re-weld the tip to make another blade later. It is just much easier for me to make lots of big steel at once instead of smaller sections for each individual job.

    The twisted bars are pictured below.


    Next they are re-forged square and then ground clean and true. Having good straight 90-degree surfaces is very important for the success of the fusion of the blade. Below are the bars, that will become the core, cleaned up and ready to have the edge fitted to them.

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    power hammers

    I saw a really "cute" little power hammer a local smith built. It's almost entirely made of wood. Motor is a 1 or 1.5 hp. Frame, clutch, flywheel, all are wood. Running belt is leather. The hammer and tup are a piece of RR track and an old worn anvil, no horn, about 100 lbs.
    Works rather well, amazingly enough.

  9. #9
    Hi Kevin

    Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us! ( thanks to Dennis also )

    I just luv seeing how the process is done , and all the behind the scenes issues that arise, or avoided .... It's gonna be so cool to see the finshed project , after watching the step by step !

    Do you already have a vision of the hilt, in your head , or do you normally just concentrate on the blade first ?

    This is gonna be awesome to watch !

    Thanks again , Mac
    'Gott Bewahr Die Oprechte Schotten'
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  10. #10
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    Originally posted by Thomas McDonald
    Hi Kevin

    Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us! ( thanks to Dennis also )...

    Do you already have a vision of the hilt, in your head , or do you normally just concentrate on the blade first ?

    Hehe it is kind of like one of those documentaries of an operation they have on TV you got to get the parents to sign the release .

    Actually I would normally have an overall feel for the sword if it had as many delicate curves as a leaf, but on this one I am just concentrating on the blade first. How the blade turns out will determine how to best execute the hilt. Dennis will be sending me some gemstones to incorporate into the hilt so it will be a project all on its own. Preplanning can be great if you have very rigid preset parameters, giving the smith latitude to be creative is more exciting, but there is the next level and that is letting the materials and the work itself guide you to some extent also. Some of the most wonderful feeling pieces I have ever made came from just letting them happen with just a little gentle guidence.

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    Re: Confessions of a bladesmith! Secrets revealed!

    Hi Kevin,

    I appreciate your taking the time to demistify the process. I am no smith but find this thread extremely interesting.

    I just have one question so far.

    Originally posted by Kevin R. Cashen


    Now the stack is placed in the gas forge and heated until it is time to flux (when it begins to glow). It is then heated to welding temperature and quickly placed under the Bradley dies and fused solid.
    If the stack is tack welded, as you showed in your earlier diagram, how is the flux applied between the layers to make the "solid" billet? Or does the flux only need to be applied to the exterior of the stack? I am not familiar with forge welding so please excuse a newbie question.

    efb

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    Re: Re: Confessions of a bladesmith! Secrets revealed!

    Originally posted by Erin Burke
    Hi Kevin,

    If the stack is tack welded, as you showed in your earlier diagram, how is the flux applied between the layers to make the "solid" billet? Or does the flux only need to be applied to the exterior of the stack? I am not familiar with forge welding so please excuse a newbie question.

    efb
    The stack is tack welded at both ends with very small "spot" welds just to hold things in position. All of the seams are open. When the flux begins to flow freely (approx. 1500F.+) it will be pulled into all of the surfaces to be joined by capillary action. Hopefully it will be expelled just as completely when the fussion takes place.

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    Re: Re: Re: Confessions of a bladesmith! Secrets revealed!

    Originally posted by Kevin R. Cashen


    The stack is tack welded at both ends with very small "spot" welds just to hold things in position. All of the seams are open. When the flux begins to flow freely (approx. 1500F.+) it will be pulled into all of the surfaces to be joined by capillary action. Hopefully it will be expelled just as completely when the fussion takes place.
    what does the flux do? i know it helps them join, but what does it do to make them join?
    I like swords.

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    Fascinating . . .

    Great post Kevin. Could you elaborate on how you do the twisting?

    Thanks,

    Mike
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    Thumbs up Good reading

    Hi Kevin, this is what this forum is all about. (amongst others)
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge, and making this forum and interesting place to be.

    If this is a work in progress, I hope you will continue this thread.

    RogerA

  16. #16
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    thanks for sharing that, if i may ask i've been getting given different recipes you might say for the etching solution best to use...one was 1 part ferric chloride and 3 parts water, what solution to you find most effective for your awesome blades?

    Thanks Robert.B

  17. #17
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    The purpose of the flux isn't so much to hold things together as it is to displace oxygen so scale doesn't form preventing the layers from welding together.


    I hope this is correct...
    Alan K
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  18. #18
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    It's not so much do "displace" O2 as to "exclude" it from being in contact with bare steel at forge welding temperatures. Steel scales very rapidly at these temps if there is O2 exposed to the surfaces. The borax wets the surfaces of the steel at temps below where scale formation gets really rapid. There may also be some acidic scouring effect as well, there is still some disagreement over that idea, maybe, depending on who you talk to. There are guys who add flourspar (sodium flouride), and others who add boric acid, and some, like me, who add a small amount of carbon (graphite, or powdered charcoal, or a bit of each). The carbon probably does not do anything except make me feel better, and I use staright borax almost as often anymore.

    Some materials react slightly differently to the process and the flux, and require higher temperatures to weld. Kevin is using a couple of very well matched materials in terms of all their behavioural characteristics (heat treating, forging resistance, etc. ) and welds cooler than many other people I know. There is no one "right" way to do any of this. Kevin's way is a damned good one, and works really well.

    And BTW, I was only teasing about the Nazel I like Bradley strap hammers too, though I have never owned one (only because it never came possible at a price and time I could afford it before I got the Nazel, or I would have). 600# steam hammer has a lot of appeal for me too, but the setup costs add up in a hurry when you get machines that size, even if the hammer it's self was a reasonable deal. I'd still like to have one though, maybe someday....
    It is not the destination, it is the journey.

  19. #19
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    I currently dont own a power hammer yet attempt to forge pattern welded blades but dont turn out as good as i'd like, would the ultimate fact be i'll need a power hammer...also what do power hammers go for, or what would you recommend as a starter hammer or is it possible to make one???

    if you can help a hobby smithy thanks.
    Robert.B

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    pw forging

    You may find that, for your needs, a hydraulic press may suit your budget and shop better. Mine is set up entirely portable, so I can move it where I want, and unlike power hammers, there's no need to anchor them on one spot.

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    thanks i'll look into that.

    Robert.B

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    Hammers

    Hi Kevin,
    Bradleys are out and so are nazels from what I can see. Are there any recomendations you would make of the newer products on the mkt?

    Big Blu,Striker, The Bull hammer are the ones available. Would you recomend a higher weight? What is best/easiest to start with?

    I have never used a power hammer. Never realy felt the need until recently. (But thats a long boreing story that gets nasty in a hurry.) So I thought (after reading your post) this guy knows his stuff about hammers. Ask him and learn something useful.
    Cant wait to see this latest project of yours. Thanks.
    "Do not suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberty by any pretences of politeness, delicacy or decency.
    These, as they are often used, are but three names for hypocrisy, chicanery, and cowardice.” John Adams, 1789

    "Everything the enemy least expects will succeed the best."

    Frederick the Great 1747

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    Re: Re: Re: Re: Confessions of a bladesmith! Secrets revealed!

    Originally posted by Jeff Ellis


    what does the flux do? i know it helps them join, but what does it do to make them join?
    Its primary job is to keep Oxygen off the steel. It does this by coating the areas to be joined. But it also helps carry away any oxides or contaminants that are already there by helping to disiolve some and carrying them away when all of that liquid borax squirts out as the weld is made.

    I was having some "bad vibes" about the welding on a couple of the sessions so I played bit with the flux. Normally I use straight 20 Mule Team Borax. The problem that I have with most flux additives is that they make the flux look and flow differently at welding temp. Since I have trained myself over the years to recognize a good welding temperature from the way borax flows and bubbles, any changes in the texture ten d to throw me off and make me uncomfortable.
    Last edited by Kevin R. Cashen; 10-08-2012 at 09:15 AM.

  24. #24
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    Originally posted by Howard Clark
    ... and I use staright borax almost as often anymore.
    Howard, are you using anhydrous or good old 20 mule team? If anhydrous, what quantities and where are you getting yours? I have been saitisfied for some time with 20 Mule Team but I like to remain open and to try other options.

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    Originally posted by Robert.B
    thanks for sharing that, if i may ask i've been getting given different recipes you might say for the etching solution best to use...one was 1 part ferric chloride and 3 parts water, what solution to you find most effective for your awesome blades?

    Thanks Robert.B
    I also use ferric Chloride, but I must admitt that I never accurately measure out my water to FeCl ratio, I think it usually comes out a little over 50/50. I have found that I can drastically change the results by varying the etchant temperature and the blade finish. I will admit that I really should pay better attenion to my ratios in order to get more consistant results. I have also noticed that I go through about twice as much Ferric Chloride as other folks. I have seen some folks get a beautiful etch from a mix that has been around a year or more. I have to remix with fresh just about every sword I do.

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