My first 4 bar damascus blade

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Martin Pansch
Posts: 312
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:44 am
Location: Young America, MN

My first 4 bar damascus blade

Unread post by Martin Pansch » Tue Nov 29, 2016 10:49 pm

So I don’t claim to be a bladesmith but sometimes the situation calls for making a knife. In this case it was my long time boss retiring. The idea was to make him a knife with a handle made of a piece of antler from one of our training areas. If I had been able to get some decent salvage steel from somewhere within the command I might have made the blade of that. Since that was out I had a free hand. It situations like that I sometimes go a little crazy and try something way outside my wheelhouse… like my first 4 bar Damascus blade.

Lucky for me my good friend Jim Moenck is a bladesmith of both ability and a well-equipped shop. Last winter Jim Ericksen and I had a shop play date with Jim and I took advantage of his knowledge and hydraulic press to make a few billets of Damascus for just such contingencies. From a billet of 180 layers of 1095/15N20 I drew a couple bars out. One drawn to 3/8” that I twisted and one to ½” that I ground grooves in opposite sides of then forged it down to 3/8”. The plan was to do a chevron pattern on the inner two bars and a subtle ladder pattern wrapped around the edge and false edge.
Drawing bars and antler resized.jpg
Drawing bars and antler resized.jpg (189.01 KiB) Viewed 1895 times
I welded up the core, ground the end of it to the shape of my drawing. I cut the ladder pattern bar 5” for the edge and 4” for the false edge. I cut and ground angles on the end of two bars and tacked them together at the pointy end with the MIG welder to hold it for forge welding.
Core welded edges tacked resized.jpg
Core welded edges tacked resized.jpg (224.28 KiB) Viewed 1895 times
After forge welding the tip I bent it around the core. I had a dickens of a time doing that with a hammer and anvil. I ended up getting the edge hot, clamping the tip in the vise, wedging the core into it, and clamping down on it with obscenely large set of tongs. Once it was in place it welded pretty easily, or seemed to, I found a couple cold shuts later in the rough grind.
Edges shaped to fit core resized.jpg
Edges shaped to fit core resized.jpg (194.54 KiB) Viewed 1895 times
After welding the edge on I let it cool and rough cut the profile. If it was a monosteel I would have tried to forge it closer to shape but I was worried about distorting the pattern too much. Another heat or two for some tweaks then a little thermo cycling. Once it was cool enough I rough ground it and found two cold shuts, one in the tip that I more than half expected and one more major one in the edge back by eventual hilt. I toyed with the idea for a moment of going back to the forge and trying to reweld it but knew it was too thin at that point for likely success. Figured it was better at this point to let it ride. The other thing I noticed is I messed up the core! I thought I had the bars set right but turns out both bars were facing the same direction instead of alternate directions needed for chevrons.
blade after straightening resized.jpg
blade after straightening resized.jpg (231.38 KiB) Viewed 1895 times
The belt grinder was acting up at that point but I held it together just long enough to sort of polish up one side enough to test etch. Even if the pattern wasn’t what I had in mind it turned out pretty cool.
test etch resized.jpg
test etch resized.jpg (167.84 KiB) Viewed 1895 times
Overall I am not too disappointed in it yet. Still a lot of work ahead but I am looking forward to trying it again. I am already thinking of ways of trying to close the gap in the tip on the next one and think I might have a trick for it. Of course I won’t know for sure until I try it. If any of you knifey folks have any suggestions either for closing that gap or any other issues I am not hell bent on reinventing the wheel so fire away.

Jim Moenck
Posts: 52
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:23 pm

Re: My first 4 bar damascus blade

Unread post by Jim Moenck » Thu Dec 01, 2016 5:35 pm

Martin, that looks pretty darn good for a first try. If I were to do it, I'd make a down and dirty swage block that mirrored the blade. You could secure it in a vise or maybe adapt it to your anvil. On the first forge weld, I'd get the tip hot for the first 2 or 3 inches and drive the center bar into the outside bar. That may keep everything thing together, tight and in line. Then work your way back on the blade when you weld it up, just a bit at a time.
Oh, and by the way I do like that style of blade. I look forward to seeing it finished. Be sure to post it.

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