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Now we've got some steel to work with. - Doug Ayen's Blacksmithing Blog [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Doug Ayen

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Now we've got some steel to work with. [Sep. 10th, 2011|01:03 am]
Doug Ayen
Shear steel, to be exact. Details and pics behind the cut.

I didn't get started until about 8pm, but I did manage to get quite a bit done.

First, I got the rest of the blister steel billeted up -- stacked on a firebrick, loosely welded together with the oxy-acetylene torch, fluxed, and into the forge. I was running it hot today, using more gas but bringing everything to heat quicker. I mixed up a more aggressive flux for this session as well -- a borax base, with a good amount of boric acid and fluorite mixed in. This gives it a better wetting action, a more aggressive bite on any oxides, and a higher working temperature. On the negative side, the fumes can be annoying, but if you're sucking fumes off of a welding-temperature forge, even a gas one, you've got other problems.

Speaking of which, I now know a few things I didn't before: what it feels like to have my nose hairs catch on fire while inhaling; what it feels like to have a white-hot block of steel bounce off your leg (hint: it hurts); and that even steel toe boots don't prevent hot flux from landing on your ankle and melting your sock to your boot liner and skin. No major damage done, but keeping the steel moving under the power hammer while your ankle is on fire is quite invigorating. I suspect adrenaline is involved.

I tried to weigh the billet before welding, but it seems my scale has gone tits up. Changing the battery didn't help, so I'll be picking up a new one tomorrow when I do my weekly farmer's market run. According to my notes, it should have been about 1355g. It did turn out to be a bit larger than the other billet, so that seems about right.

As before, the first pass was with the hand-hammer, a 3kg french pattern, just sort of mushing it all together. It feels, as I know I've written before, sort of squishy, not like you'd expect steel to feel. It did weld up pretty cleanly, so on the 3rd heat I moved to the power hammer, and
consolidated the billet and started to draw it out. Four heats later, it was about 3/8" thick and about 4" on a side, square, so I scored a line and folded it over. Well, almost -- the steel at this point has the consistency of cheese, and it broke on a flaw a half inch from the scored line.

No worries, that's just the first fold. Flux, back in the forge, and finish the weld with the hand hammer. Draw it out again on the power hammer, fold and weld. It folded pretty cleanly this time, but the ends were ragged from the previous fold. Easy enough to fix -- this time I drew it out long and skinny, then folded each end in about a quarter of the way from the end -- ok, about a third on one side and 2/3rds on the other, but close enough. This gave me a good shape for the fourth and final fold for this billet. During this weld, however, a bunch of flux and scale flew off and somehow managed to fall into my right boot, giving me some impressive blisters and, since I was in the middle of a weld, requiring me to work through the shock and discomfort.

While I was preparing for the fourth fold, I took the other billet, fluxed it, and moved it into the forge to start heating up. After the fold, I combined the two billets, and got another couple of heats to draw it out -- but at that point, it was almost midnight, I was exhausted, burned, and muscles and joints were aching. Also, I bounced the final, combined billet off my leg when I bobbled the tongs while using the power hammer. I took that as a sign.

Some numbers:

Starting number of layers: new billet 8, old billet 48
Current number of layers: 112
Starting weight: 2080g
Current weight: ????
Time spent: 4 hours today, 13 hours total

[User Picture]From: perspicuity
2011-09-10 05:56 am (UTC)
i'm sure the color/temperature (literally) of the photos is "wrong"... but it looks like lavender kryptonite ;)

ah, fun. molten metal bits in boot. duct tape boots closed? wear wool socks? mmm, don't do that? :)

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[User Picture]From: blackanvil
2011-09-10 06:36 am (UTC)
I think "make sure cuffs of pants cover tops of shoes" will do it. Also, slag, not metal -- slag is much less dense, so it loses heat faster, and tends to stick to things, so it gets spread out. Liquid iron just takes the least path of resistance down.
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[User Picture]From: blackanvil
2011-09-10 06:41 am (UTC)
Yeah, I'm using my Android to take these pics, somehow they come out a lot clearer at higher temps than my other cameras. Color wise, the brightest one was at a bright red, the others at a darker red, much cooler than welding temp. They're showing much brighter in the pics, so I'm guessing there's a lot of IR in there, probably resulting in that "lavender kryptonite" look.
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[User Picture]From: dcseain
2011-09-10 08:06 am (UTC)
IR would explain the lavender kryptonite look indeed.
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[User Picture]From: scliff
2011-09-10 06:00 pm (UTC)
I really love the big purple one, too. I rather expect it's either from the white-balance code doing funny things with that color temperature, or it's the blue sensor responding to the black-body UV of the hot metal. Digicam sensors respond in red to IR, from what I've seen and played with (my old Canon G1 was pretty good for IR work). If you have a UV filter for a 35mm SLR lying around, you could try holding that in there next time to see if it changes things.

Also: OW!
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[User Picture]From: blackanvil
2011-09-10 09:10 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'd love to get a good UV/IR filter for the cheap point-and-shoots I tend to buy, but haven't found one yet. I've though about getting a decent camera for the forge, but considering I go through about one camera every couple of years due to grit, heat, and the rather harsh conditions in the forge, it doesn't seem practical.

As for the "OW!," honestly you get used to it. I understand it the same with most people who work with hot stuff -- glassblowers, smiths, cooks -- your body adapts, and while you still feel the pain, it doesn't really bother you.
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