Bicycle/Chainsaw Chain Damascus Steel

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Introduction: Bicycle/Chainsaw Chain Damascus Steel

Here is how you can make a different kind of Damascus steel that has a very distinctive look. The main component in this kind of Damascus is either bike or chainsaw chain. For a brief history of Damascus steel please check out my cable Damascus instructable.

Step 1: Materials

For this instructable, I purchased 2 105 link bicycle chains. Be forewarned that even though the chain you have may look like it doesn’t have a coating it may still have one. I purchased the chain above because it looked the least coated but as I discovered later it was in fact coated and yielded an interesting pattern. I used a bar of mild steel as a base to hold the billet together though it is not necessary it just makes it easier to hold. I cut the chains in half with an Emory cutting disk on my angle grinder.

Step 2: Billet Prep

I folded the 4 sections into equal sized rectangles and stacked them on top of each other. To keep everything together, I wrapped the ends in masking tape and then wrapped the whole billet in stainless steel wire. The masking tape will burn off in the forge and the wire will break off by the time the billet is forged out.

Step 3: Pre-forging

Before forging, the billet was thoroughly soaked in wd40 and then coated in borax. This will aid in the forge welding of the billet but will eat away at the interior of your forge so using a protective refractory shelf is preferable.

Step 4: Forging

Heat the billet to a bright orange or yellow and firmly strike it with each strike parallel to the anvil. Work your way down the length of the billet so that it is compressed evenly. Once the billet reaches a dull red color coat it in more borax and heat it up again. Rinse and repeat until you have a solid homogenous billet.

Step 5: Final Forge Related Steps

Some of the chain sections may separate from the billet as it is being forged. To prevent these from causing more problems later you can break them off with a chisel. Also at this point in the forging, the wire should be staring to fall off and should be removed. It’s better to have hot steel fall off your piece on your terms and not randomly.

Step 6: What You Should Have Now

The final billet may not look particularly pretty due to the nature of the chain. Based on the shape you may want to chisel off certain areas so that you won’t have to grind them later. You may also need to go back and re-forge the billet based on how it looks during the grind.

Step 7: Cutting and Grinding

Once the steel is appropriately forged you can grind the steel to shape. I used a grinding wheel on my angle grinder for the majority of the work and a sandpaper wheel on it for the pre acid sanding. The hole in the top was made with a carbide drill bit on a handheld power drill.

Step 8: Acid Etching and Polishing

The pieces were left in a ferric chloride bath for 12 hours and a pattern was revealed. You can either keep the pattern as is or polish it like I did. To prevent the pieces from rusting I used several coats of renaissance wax. The pieces were finished with brass jump rings so that they could be worn.

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    107 Discussions

    Very cool project, thanks for sharing. I had no idea borax could be used as a flux material.

    i havr never forgerd anything before want want to try smithing but i about read alot of people using borax for forge welding. but im wondering, is its a certaun kind that i have to get at a certain place or is it the same stuff that you can buy at the hardware store that is borax for roaches? dont want to try and start this and have the wrong stuff from the begging

    1 reply

    Borax for roaches (I believe) is actually boric acid, and you should not use it. standard laundry borax, such as 20 mule team, is what you should use as it melts and acts like a flux to fuse the layers together.

    i dunno if it's just the lighting and the camera, but that chain doenst look hot enough to properly forge weld.... mayhap that's why peices where breaking free?

    10 replies

    The camera is just the camera built into my phone so it doesn't do that great a job. I also tend to not take pictures until I'm about to put the piece back into the forge as to not waste heat. The pieces falling off is just sort of what happens when you try forging something with 210 movable sections by hand. I would love to have a forge press for stuff like this. Thanks for the comment.

    I'd bet that people have made DIY trip hammers, and that trip hammers are perfect for pattern welding: Anyone want to take that on as an Instructable? I'm restricted to a very small scale when it comes to hot working metals.

    Google the "Clay Spencer tire hammer" or the "Appalachian power hammer". Or a Helve Hammer. Or a Treadle Hammer.

    I'm not trying to be a smart aleck, these are all examples of home built hammering machines. Some are dead simple to build.

    I've looked into some of those but the problem is that my current setup requires everything to be portable. I did find plans for a tiny forge press that looked pretty cheap to build. I was planning on having a family friend weld up the frame for me in the near future. Thanks for the comment.

    I would love to have one, that or a forge press. I'm not confident enough to try and build one myself though.

    I agree,also in step 2,the author talked of coatings,that also should burn off with oils,etc. when hot enough.The fact that the chains are made from different hardness metals,when forged correctly,should make awesome blades or other projects,yielding both hardness,and flexibility.HEAT THAT MOTHER UP!!!!LOL

    The coating I referred to was actually a nickel plating so it was actually able to hold up in the forge. I'm not sure how well other coatings would hold up though such as the fancy colored anodized chains.

    I really like the look of the striations you got using this method.

    However; unless you traveled back in time to the middle-east, it is not Damascus steel. It is just pattern welded steel, which mimics the look and structure of ancient Damascus steel but is not the same.

    Example: If I take a modern bronze alloy and make a sword with it, I did not just make a Bronze Age sword. I made a sword, and it is bronze, but putting the words bronze, age, and sword in that order gives it a totally different meaning.

    2 replies

    Actually I think it is appropriate to call it Damascus, because it is referring to the pattern, not the steel. Like saying French Fries, they're not actually potatoes from France, but the way they're cut and cooked. Am I making sense? Although you are correct if someone says "authentic Damascus steel sword" made today because the original formula is not known today. Peace, and no disrespect intended, just my 2 cents:)

    Thanks. I actually go over all of that in a previous ible. I say Damascus because for a lot of people the modern connotation is that of pattern welded steel.