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A question about a meteoric knife [May. 24th, 2012|10:42 am]
Doug Ayen
I've been offered via a friend a fair amount of meteorite scrap -- turnings, dust from sawing and grinding, that sort of thing -- at a very good price.

From my point of view, all iron is meteoric in origin, and this stuff is basically high-nickle iron, a fairly poor quality raw material. It won't have a noticeable Widmanstätten pattern, since those take millenia to millions of years to form, not to mention a 0-g vibration-free environment. The nickle would give it a nice high contrast if used in pattern welding, and it can be alloyed with carbon and other elements to give it the ability to hold and edge and even be stainless. But the same can be said for any iron source -- I even have nickle in a few different forms I could use to make my own psuedo-meteorite iron, if I wanted to go that dubious route.

Still, I've seen and heard people's reaction to "it's meteoric iron" and it's clear this material has an added attraction that hasn't got it's hooks into me. Oh, I'd love to make a knife with a clear Widmanstätten pattern, but that kind of fine crystaline structure won't survive carburization or even standard heat-treatment, let alone the remelting and alloying it would require to make it a decent steel. The best thing I can think of would be to carefully weld a modern steel edge to a piece of meteorite cut out in the shape of a blade, as that would preserve the wonderful Widmanstätten patterns and be a spectacular knife.

But that's not what's being offered, just a kilo of dust and shards. I could easily turn it into a solid mass by forge welding it into an ingot, or I could make a nice wootz by remelting with some carbon -- we did this with a meteorite at this year's Fire and Brimstone. I could even melt it and mix it with some of the S30V I have lying around, and you'd have a stainless steel with meteorite in it, all alloyed together into something new and unique.

But even at a discount, the meteorite is still more expensive than all but the most exotic of steels, while remaining technically inferior to almost any modern steel produced. But, obviously, I'm not the market for this.

Do you, or any of my readers, find the prospect of a meteoric iron knife attractive?

I can make it dendritic wootz, which has similar but different patters, or pattern weld it, but those Widmanstätten crystals just can't be created to my knowledge on earth in reasonable time. Would it matter that you won't see any Widmanstätten patterns?

A wootz like steel made with meteorite would be ~97% meteorite. A damascus approach could be any percentage, from just a few percent to entirely meteorite. An alloy with S30V or similar with the goal of making it stainless would be about 20% max, and could be a lot less. At what point does the meteoric content stop counting?

Your thoughts and opinions on the subject are appreciated. Thanks.

[User Picture]From: pierceheart
2012-05-24 02:57 pm (UTC)
I did find the idea of a knife based on meteoritic iron attractive, so i bought one; it also had bog iron in it.
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[User Picture]From: blackanvil
2012-05-24 03:01 pm (UTC)
Oddly enough, I have ~70 lbs of "bog iron" (actually fossilized limonite, which is what bog iron turns into after a few million years in the ground) that was gifted to me recently. Definitely going to smelt that stuff into something useful.
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[User Picture]From: pierceheart
2012-05-24 03:13 pm (UTC)
Now, if only I could figure out if I should bother trying to develop a pattern on the wootz blade which was made for me from that stuff, or just accept that it's matte grey for good.
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[User Picture]From: blackanvil
2012-05-25 02:54 pm (UTC)
Nitric acid seems to be what the pros use on wootz nowadays.
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-05-24 03:26 pm (UTC)

"Meteoric" is a kind of magic word...

...But I wouldn't pay extra to have a meteoric iron knife made just to say, "Look! Meteor-knife!" I've done EQUALLY frivolous things with my money, but this one doesn't make it past the common-sense filter. I guess someone should tell Roy Greenhilt how useless a "Starmetal blade" really is.
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[User Picture]From: blackanvil
2012-05-25 02:56 pm (UTC)

Re: "Meteoric" is a kind of magic word...

In OOTS, though, "starmetal" was stated to be particularly dense and rare, to the point that there wasn't enough starmetal in existence to make a sword entirely out of it, and if you did, nobody would be able to wield it. Also, magic.
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[User Picture]From: deguspice
2012-05-25 02:51 am (UTC)
Are the shards big enough to be interesting? Could you use them for pretty wood handle with the shards as inlay?
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[User Picture]From: blackanvil
2012-05-25 02:53 pm (UTC)
Nope, just slightly larger than dust, think splinter-sized and shaped. Even the turnings are thin wire-like pieces, more like broken up coarse steel wool than something useful for inlay. I think the reason he's selling so cheap is that he can't come up with a use himself -- he sections and polishes meteorite for sale himself.
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