Introduction: Damascus Steel Bracelet

This Instructable is all about Damascus steel, and how to make things from it. originally, I was going to go through the whole process of stacking, welding, folding and rewelding and then show how to make things with it, but I ran into some problems with the many forge welds setting. I couldn't really get enough pressure with just my hand hammer to set the many welds at once, so I scrapped that and just used a billet of ladder pattern damascus that I made a few years ago with a power hammer.

Step 1: Tools

As with many blacksmithing related projects, the tools you need are very open to interpretation. You just need tools to do the following:

-cut steel bars

-hold the bars together so you can weld them

-heat the metal to welding heat

-beat the metal together to set the weld

-something to remove material to manipulate layers or to smooth things

As long as you can do all that with your tools, you should be successful. I ended up using the following tools, but you can substitute out most of these, as long as you can do the tasks above.

My tools:

-an NC Tool 3 burner propane forge(able to reach welding heat without any trouble)

-a 100 pound Vulcan anvil

-a 1 kilo Swedish style cross peen hammer

-a 2 kilo Swedish style cross peen hammer

-an angle grinder with cut off and grinding discs

-a hot cut hardie tool

-an Ameribrade 2x72 belt grinder

-and a Lincoln Electric arc welding machine

All that being said, this would be a lot easier with a hydraulic press and a power hammer, but I don't have one, so I had to make do with just my hand hammer. Back in "Ye Olde Days" blacksmiths would have probably used a few big burly guys with sledge hammers to do this.

Step 2: Materials

As for materials, all you need are two types of differently contrasting steels, and some form of flux to help you weld them together. I used bars of 15n20 and 1084 steel, with borax(the same stuff people use as detergent) as a flux. You could also use mild steel and some type of high carbon steel, and you could even use sand as a flux.

Step 3: Cutting and Stacking a Billet

The first step is to cut and stack a billet. the length of each piece of steel and the number are purely up to you. I did 5 7" long pieces, 2 of 1084 and 3 of 15n20. I cut them with my angle grinder, and then went to my belt grinder to grind off the mill scale from the factory. Its important that you grind it so the scratches go across the piece, not lengthwise, so the flux and scale can more easily squirt out the sides when you strike the billet. After that, you need to stack the billet with alternating layers.

Step 4: Securing the Billet

Next, you need to hold the billet together. You could but a few loops of steel wire on it, or you could use a welding machine to tack it together. Since I have a welding machine, I put a few tacks across the layers. I also welded on a handle, just a piece of 1/2" X 1/2" steel bar, so I could hold it with my tongs more easily.

Step 5: First Forge Weld

Next, you have to set the first forge weld. I like to heat the stack of metal to about red hot, and then sprinkle on some borax. doing it that way means that the borax melts on contact and coats the steel easier. however you decide to do it, you just need to glaze the steel with the borax so oxides don't build up between the layers. After you flux it, you need to let the steel get up to welding heat. To gauge the temperature, you just have to observe the metal. I like to turn the lights off in my shop so I can read the colors of the steel better. You are looking for a bright orangy-yellow verging on white, with wisps of smoke coming off it when you pull it from the fire. I might be wrong, but I think the vapor coming off the steel is the borax evaporating from the heat. after that, you've got to work quickly. take the metal out, and give it a few sharp fast hits with the face of your hammer. stop working the metal once it gets to a medium orange color, brush off the steel with a wire brush(or alternatively, the corner of the anvil), reflux with more borax, and return it to the fire.

Step 6: Continue Working

After that first heat, continue fluxing, heating, and hammering. Don't work the steel much lower than a dull orange, so you don't ruin the weld. Do this until you think the steel seems solid. one way to tell if its solid is if the layers all take the same color and start to almost blur together. Once it seems welded, take a few heats to smooth out the sides. if the weld is strong, then the piece will stay solid, if it isnt, then it will break apart at the seems. my billet broke apart, so I couldn't really continue with it, but I'll still explain how to finish the steel.

Step 7: Finishing the Billet

After it is solidly welded, you need to start folding it and rewelding to increase the layer count. the more you fold it, the finer the pattern. once you have enough layers, you need to start manipulating the layers to create a pattern. I like ladder pattern. this pattern is made by cutting groves into the billet and then forging it flat. Later on in the Instructable, you'll see what ladder pattern looks like, as I used some to make my bracelet.

Step 8: Forging the Bracelet

So, now comes the actual project. One of the biggest things to remember when forging damascus is to keep the metal hot. Always stop working when the metal starts to dip below a dark orange. you definitely don't want to shear welds by working it too cold. Anyways, what you're going to want to do is forge a straight flat bar with rounded ends. Make it thinner than you think you'll need, as the metals used to make damascus are incredibly tough and springy, so if you want to make it at all adjustable while it is cold, you will need to make it pretty thin.

Step 9: Grinding

After forging, you will need to grind off all of the scale and any hammer marks you might have in your piece. I started with a 36 grit ceramic belt on my grinder and ground through all the scale. To make this easier, I used a magnetic handle so I could hold the steel better and get full contact on the platten of my grinder(it also keeps you from burning your fingers when the steel gets hot). After I ground it smooth, I worked my way up to an A65 Trizact belt, which is about equivalent to a 320 grit. I personally don't think you need to go higher than a 320 grit for damascus, but you can go higher if you want.

Step 10: Test Etch

After you have ground and polished the steel, it's time to give it a test etch to see the pattern. To do this, you need a solution of Ferric Chloride and water. I usually do either a 1 to 4 or a 1 to 6 ratio of ferric to water. Basically, all you need to do is make sure the acid is strong enough to eat away the 1084, but not strong enough to eat away the 15n20. If you have the right ratio, then after a few seconds of swirling the steel around in the solution, you will start to see the pattern.

Step 11: Finishing the Bracelet

Next, you need to roll the bracelet and then normalize it. to normalize it, you need to heat it up to above critical temperature(about 1500 degrees f), and then let it cool slowly. I like to put things I am normalizing on edge on a piece of wood. The wood will insulate it a little, and will not suck the heat out of it like the anvil will. After its cool, just polish up the outer part of the band and then etch it. De-grease it, and then put it into the ferric chloride solution. When etching, check it often, and pull it out when the etch is as deep as you like it. I personally like it to be deep enough that you can feel the layers, but its all subjective. With my solution, it usually takes between 20 minutes and an hour. After its done etching, just rinse it in a solution of baking soda and water to neutralize the acid(just a disclaimer: watered down ferric chloride is pretty harmless, but don't be stupid. Use gloves and safety glasses please).