Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blacksmithing : Forge Welding Cable Damascus

I' m interested in trying the steel cable damascus knife, any advice?

Cable is actually really nice stuff to weld. There are a couple of tricks that people forget that help a lot.
The alloy in the cable has a good success of welding even at fairly low temperatures. Having said that use a full welding heat until you are comfortable with it.

Crane cable is better than elevator cable. Elevator cable has an inner core twisted one direction and an out sleeve twisted the other direction. This is called counter rotating cable. That is the cable doesn't twist as it spools off the drum.

Regular crane cable has inner and outer strand twisting in the same direction.

What this means and this is the important step, when you first heat the cable up, clamp it in the vise and twist it as tight as you can get without it buckling. This helps close up the air spaces for better weld. The elevator cable won't twist tight as the inside is expanding when the outer sleeve is being twisted tight, causing spaces to open up.

Back into the fire and take up to a nice orange.
Gently wire brush it, and add flux.
Back into the forge to take the welding heat.

The next trick is instead of welding flat on the anvil (although this does work) use a U shaped bottom swage tool or swage block to help support the sides of the cable when you weld.

As you make the actual forge weld rotate the cable with the direction of the strands. That is each hammer stroke is actually tightening the twist.

You will find that once the cable strands are weld the feeling of the metal changes from the floppy cable to a hard bar. Once it is well stuck together as a bar take a series of refining welds on all edges to make sure any loose strands are tacked down.

When you are completely satisfied that it is well welded then stretch out as normal and make your knife etc. as usual. Once completed, ground, hardened, then sanded again then you can etch in acid to reveal the pattern. You can use vinegar warmed up on the stove. Takes along time but will give you a bit of the pattern, and is the safest acid.

I use more aggressive acids such as sulfuric or nitric or some times ferric chloride. Follow all acid precautions with these strong acids.

Neutralize and take a look at your knife.

David Robertson
Artist Blacksmith