Sunday, March 27, 2011

First wootz melt!

Yesterday, March 25th 2011, marks the 190 year anniversary for Greek independence day, so I thought it would be an auspicious date to make some true damascus - wootz steel.
And I did!
Into the crucible went 800gr of mostly wrought iron, 570 gr of GG40 cast iron, and 10gr of Vanadis10 steel to add roughly a gram of vanadium. Some organic matter and a broken beer bottle for glass, and fire it up!

Below you see the setup for the melt. I used my huge forced air propane burner, and managed to melt it all in less than an hour. I have to get some protective dark glasses to be able to see what's going on inside the furnace, as at 1500 or 1600 C it's a bit like looking into the sun.

Anyway, here a closeup of the surface. I believe I can see some really fine dendrites! 
I'll cut up a couple of pieces and try to forge them out. Wish me luck.

Again, for those who have no idea of what I'm talking about, let's say that wootz steel in the true damascus steel, a technique that was lost somewhere around the 19th century, and only now being rediscovered around the world. 
Related posts:

and my previous post on the subject with a good Scientific American piece on true damascus steel

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mokume billets for sale

It has been some time since the last post, and it was mostly work-work-work. 

Today I sold my first mokume billets to a local jeweler! 

I 've decided to offer three types of billets, a more expensive 15 layer silver, shibuichi, shakudo combination, a common 15 layer silver-copper combination, and a more economical 19 layer copper, brass, nickel silver, brass combination, shown below. 

Dimensions are 45mm x 45mm, and thickness 7.5mm, 8mm, and 10mm respectively. Prices are per gram, and are as follows: 0.5 Euros/gr for the non-precious metal combinations, 2 Euros/gr for the silver-copper, and 4 Euros/gr for the Japanese alloys. These are about the same prices that the only European commerial mokume producer quotes. Due to the roughly 1.4 exchange rate between Euro and USD, they do seem pricey in USD, so I've decided (in the off chance that I get a client from the US) to keep the same prices in USD, so US customers roughly get a 30% discount.

Anyway enough with money and such. I have also worked both liquid state diffusion where the metals slightly melt before bonding, and solid state diffusion where the metals bond without melting. Of course, the Japanese swordsmiths of yore used only the liquid state diffusion process. For more technical details read the excellent Santa Fe paper below.

It's interesting how the modern approach relies on advanced technology, and really long bonding times but requires very little experience and care, while the old process is really quick but requires intimate contact with the material, a watchful eye and good timing. In the modern process you are guaranteed good results, but you have to wait, while in the old way you can do it in a pinch, but can easily ruin the whole billet if you are careless for a few seconds! Says a lot about the old masters...

Can't really say which technique I prefer, for the time being I do both, and time will tell. I am also twisting and flattening pieces to see how well they hold up, but more on that (with photos, I promise) later on.

UPDATE: I am still offering mokume billets for sale, just not through the Etsy shop. Just contact me below and I will respond directly through email, so we can work out what you need.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Workshop FINALLY finished!

Ok, here is a picture of the completed workshop. I have been working on it for some serious time now.
In order of appearance (well some are covered or can barely be seen), from left to right:
Working table
155 cm Belt grinder
Electric kiln
Buffer, circular grinder
Three propane forges (one for steel making, one upright forging, and one all purpose horizontal, with needed hood)
Japanese style anvil
20ton air over hydraulic press (under cover, see previous post)
Huge, old rolling mill (see previous post)
Jeweler's precision table saw
Smaller belt grinder (behind curtain)

The staircase leads up to a smaller area (this is a loft kinda space), where I will be building a togidai, and moving all work that requires extra clean space (like final polishing and woodwork).

I know this a tool gloat post, but it has taken me plenty of time and effort to set all this up. 
Not to mention some cash, and a lot of friends' assistance (especially an electrician friend from Switzerland who set up the inverter, the temp control panel for the kiln, and a proper switchboard for the rolling mill).

Ok, lastly here is a pic of the finished rolling mill, 
with new paint job, proper switchboard and safety accessories fitted.