In this article I describe the process of making a razor that consists of a Damascus body and a wootz edge section. This was not set up as a san mai, but an actual edge section forge welded to the Damascus.
I like making razors in wootz and Damascus because I am a steel guy. And I don't make a WIP thread often any more because after a while, it gets old to take the same pics again. However, Pete contacted me to make a razor for him, and it had to be 'special'. As in: not 'just' some complex Damascus or wootz. So without constraints, I started drawing and this is what we ended up with. I feel that this will be a special project indeed. The general shape is like this:
The body of the blade will be a Damascus that I made myself, using 14 layers of O2 and 15N20 in a spiral pattern. The edge section will be a 1/4" strip of wootz. And in between those 2 will be a thin strip of Damascus with a high layer count with laddered vertical stripes.
This is ambitious. I chose those steels because the heat treatment will be critical. Wootz is very shallow hardening. And I don't want the strip of wootz to tear off during HT. So my Damascus for the body is going to contain O2 to make it through harden. and the layer in between contains 1095 and 15N20. Which theoretically, I hope, means that upon quenching this blade, everything will harden more or less equally so that it will not tear itself apart.
Etching will be another challenge, because wootz needs a completely different etching method than the rest of the blade. So I may need to etch it in several ways, with the other part masked. that is why I added the ladder layer between the wootz and the body. that will be where the 2 etching methods will touch, eventually. Still not quit satisfied, and with the request to use orange and green somehow, I decided to add 2 large spesserite gems (one each side) where I drew the circle, and then use green MOP kirinite scales.
The Damascus body has to be made first, and will be done in a couple of stages. This is the starting stack: 4 layers of O2 and 3 of 15N20. The layers in the middle are a bit longer, simply to make it easy to grab the billet with tongs while forging.
I cleaned the sides after forge welding and gave it a quick etch to see if there would be visible seams between layers.
I had already cleaned up the initial billet, and now cut it in 3 parts which I stacked again. The new stack was forge welded , drawn out, twisted into a torsion bar, and squared up again. I forgot to take pics of the initial stacking today, but it is self explanatory. The resulting bar was cleaned up and lightly etched to see what it looked like.
I've abandoned my original idea of using a simple torsion bar for the main body. Instead, I have cut this bar, and made another stack , with the 2 pieces of torsion bar, and 2 thinner pieces of ladder Damascus. This I will forgeweld yet again, and draw out into the body of a razor. After that I will forge to size a small bar of wootz, which I can then weld to the main body.
I managed to forge weld those 4 pieces together and draw them out into the body of the blade with a tapered tang.
It is still too thick. The reason is I have to grind away some to clean it up and to remove the tag welds. And I need thickness to forgeweld the wootz to. Welding 2 thin pieces together edgewise is not feasible.
Anyway, things are starting to come together. One more round of forgewelding to go and then the rough part is done.
The connection seems solid all along the welding boundary. It is still a bit oversize. That was intentional, because you can never rely completely on the ends of the welding boundary. There are some pits left in the blade, but that's no issue. It is still much too thick so I need to grind it down some before I can even begin to start shaping it.
The blank is now in the oven, annealing.
It is the result of 4 different welding sessions.
- make a 7 layer billet, annealed and cleaned.
- cut, restack and weld to make 21 layers
- clean up, draw out, and twist into a bar
- clean up, cut, restack with some ladder Damascus and weld again. Draw out some more
- clean up the Damascus and clean up a piece of wootz I forged into shape, and forge weld the wootz to the Damascus
- clean up.
This is the initial welding done.
How do you grind a blank that has so much effort sunk into it? Very, very carefully
First I drilled the guide hole for the gems, because I can't do that anymore after tapering the tang.
Then I started grinding the hollows on an 8" wheel, just for the purpose of basic outlining. You'll notice that the connection with the spine is still a bit wavy and wobbly. That is normal at this stage. This part of the grinding is only to establish the basic geometry and to make sure that all things align with each other. Detailed grinding will come tomorrow. This one won't be rushed into an oopsie if I can help it, so I take my time for each step The final step was to taper the tang, and mount it in some mock scales to see if the taper is correct from all angles.
I was really, really content that during grinding, I was able to see that the weld between the wootz and the body of the razor is just perfect. There was not a single spot or mark that could indicate a bad weld.
I also polished the circumference of the razor to 240 grit to make sure that there are no scratches in the wrong place where a thermal shock might start pulling things apart.
The original design featured a cut-out but I had my reservations about how crisp it would look. Because I cannot cut those inside corners as crisp as they are on the drawing. I discussed it with Peter and we came up with an alternate tail.
This is the part I am going to take slowly. Can't undrill a hole. I got the gems out and the calipers. And I have sunk them into a piece of tool steel that is a hair thinner than the actual tang. The fit is close. I mean a tenth of a millimeter or so.
The result is ok so I'm going to give it a rest and sink the holes in the razor tomorrow when I'm fresh.
The gem stones have been sunken into the blade. Not permanently of course. But they fit perfectly.
On schedule for heat treatment.
My hypothesis on the heat treatment for O2 Damascus and wootz composite blades turned out to be correct. This is the blade after the second tempering cycle.
I didn't see anything that might indicate a problem. But just for the sake of sleeping well tonight, I polished the hollows with a 240 grit belt and was happy to discover that the hollows are whole and devoid of the telltale lines and specks that could indicate a bad weld.
The most critical parts of the process are out of the way now. From here on it is a matter of careful grinding to get the blade to the point where it can be etched.
Ready for etching!
I am super happy with how the pattern turned out. I am also happy that the wootz structure got exposed so nicely. And for a while I was afraid that the structure of the strips of 1095 / 15N20 was invisible because it was too fine. But they show up very well in the last pic.
And here it is, in all it's glory. The pics of the full razor show a bit less detail than the closeup pattern of the pic. Still, you've seen the pattern so these next pics are about the razor as a whole. As you can see the gem color matches the spacer.