Carbon Damascus | Stainless Damascus | Mokume Gane

An Exploration in Niello | Viking Age Iron | Migration Era Pattern Welding

Videos and Demos

-My Studio-

This is the jewelry side of things- there is a jewelry/ burnout kiln, a casting machine (built into the table) a rolling mill just behind the soldering tray and the miscellany of the jeweler's trade.

That rail anvil was one of the first things I made on my first coal rivetting forge. I finished it by hand and heat treated it, quenching in a 30 gallon trash can of heated brine. Then I made damascus blades on it for a couple years before I could afford to work up to the gas forge, the treadle hammer and the Nimba. It was brutal to work billets on, but it makes a perfect jeweler's anvil.

Hot Work and Forging

This is my forging area. There are two forges with an interchangeable burner. One is for large billets and one is for blades. The blade forge is based on Don Fogg's design. It is a pleasure to operate and my thanks go out to Mr. Fogg for making the design available to others. It is easy to construct and will forge a blade up to sword length; the burner is made from simple plumbing parts and the blower allows for complete control of the forge atmosphere for welding. I can drop a foot-long thermocouple down the inside of the forges and get very accurate temperatures for heat-treating or soaking billets.

The treadle hammer is based on the "Modified Treadle Hammer," plans by H. Peot, available from ABANA, and which I further modified with an emphasis on sturdiness. The hammer is 75 lbs. and is a solid piece of 4 1/2" shaft, as is the pedestal. I did all of my damascus on it for nearly ten years- though I have certainly kept myself in good shape by doing so. Fill the back square tubing with sand, and bolt that baby down. You're welcome.

On the right is my 24 ton Uncle Al's Hydraulic Press - a real boon to the billet-maker!

The anvil is a 120 lb. Titan from Nimba Forge. For an anvil of its weight it has a very large face and is perfect for bladesmithing. I love this anvil.

Grinding & Milling

This is where I do my grinding and finishing. I have a 10" wheel, 2" x 72" N.E. Coote Grinder running on a 220 volt, 1 Horsepower motor with pulleys for speed control. There are 8" and 6" contact wheels available as well. The whole machine tilts forward and the wheel assembly on the back can run from 1/4" up to 4" contact wheels. The Coote is a great, upgradeable machine and very affordable compared to the knifemaking standards.

Under the grinder is an 850 CFM dust collector with a 5 micron dust filter by Penn State Industries. I have constructed a spark arrestor out of a 5 gallon bucket with an inlet that drops vertically to within 4" of the bottom and an outlet at the top. The bucket is filled with 2" of water. So far, so good, but be careful! Fine steel dust or wood sandings in a bag collector are explosive aerosols and my first 'spark arrestor,' failed to stop a burning glob of metal filings from going down the hole and blowing the bag... remember to keep your fire extinguishers handy.

Heat Treating Control Panel

These are the controls for my high & low temperature salt tanks. Salt tanks provide accurate, oxygen free heating environments, eliminating variables and iron oxide, meaning that work can be nearly finished before heat treating, and very predictably hardened, quenched & tempered. The digital controllers receive input from thermocouples installed in thermocouple wells into the salt tanks. They turn solenoid valves on and off as necessary, and have an algorithmical approach to figuring out how the temperature responds. They're pretty amazing- I can simply dial in the temperature I wish to heat at and off they go. And they can go off! You can read about the pitfalls of all this convenience below.

I am using the Omron E5CN with the relay option to open and close the 12v solenoid valves. It will cruise the temperatures to within about 10 Degrees F. With the two valves on each line I can run the tanks manually, set a high burn and a low burn or simply fuel on and fuel off.

Heat Treating Salt Tanks

These are my high & low temp salt tanks for hardening, quenching and tempering blades. They are digitally controlled and gas fired. The high temperature tank is comprised of a stainless steel tube in order to resist the accelerated rusting which the salt produces. My salts are a 50 / 50 mix of sodium chloride and calcium chloride- both cheap and effective. There are thermowells protruding into the tanks from the bottom that hold 14" thermocouples. They measure the temperature of the tanks and send that information to the digital temperature controllers which open and close the 12v solenoid valves which in turn regulate the propane. The propane is self-igniting at working temperatures in the high temperature tank. The low temperature salt tank requires an electric ignition- I am using a Carlin 41000, which is a burner transformer for oil-burning heating systems. It turns on and off with the gas solenoid.

Surrounding the stainless steel tube which holds the high temperature salt is a 14" diameter 3/8" thick pipe lined with Inswool and coated with an undercoat of Satanite and an overcoat of ITC-100. Satanite is a mortar refractory which is hard and stable; ITC-100 is a refractory meant for kiln walls which reflects heat very efficiently. The burners are based on Ron Reil's design. I had to use the 2" bell reducer and the Tweco Tip with an orifice of .035, and the Zoeller Flare to really get the burners up to temp. There are two so I can heat the top of the tank first, as the salts expand greatly when they melt and using the bottom burner exclusively would create a monster pipe-bomb. You can, should you so choose, drop a long tapered rod into the tank when you're done using it, and before the salts solidify. It will prevent blowouts on refiring by conducting heat and relieving pressure, so they say. The other exciting salt-tank risk results from introducing a blade with as little as a drop of water or oil on it. At 1500 F. degrees, one drop of water becomes three cubic feet of steam well nigh instantly, and your salt tank becomes a hot, molten-salt cannon. Who doesn't love a hot, molten-salt cannon?

The exhaust port behind the tank is a 3" elbow that rises into the 4" stove pipe. The draft of the heating chamber gasses pulls additional air over the actual molten salts and effectively vents the fumes, which can otherwise rust damn near everything in your shop.

The low temperature tank runs from 400 - 900F and can be used to quench as well as temper. It's so convenient, in fact, that I'm willing to risk the hygroscopic and self-oxidizing qualities the low temperature salts can exhibit...