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Thread: Wootz razor in progress

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    Default Wootz razor in progress

    I am making my first wootz razor. At the Gembloux knife show I met a Belgian craftsman name Evrahim Barran who specialized in making wootz bar stock. His wootz is excellent, and has a nice pattern. Like all good wootz, it is very expensive. totally worth it though. It has some very nice properties (more on that later), and I really want to make a kitchen knife in wootz for my own personal use in the near future.

    The main reason for making this razor is to figure out wootz. This stuff is already very expensive, but not even close to the price for the wootz by Alfred Pendray I have waiting for a project for someone here. , which has the double distinction of being both the most expensive steel I've heard of, and being irreplaceable. So before I throw that in the fire and beat it with a hammer, I want to know what to expect.

    This is what I started with. Enough steel to make 2 full size razors in my usual designs. Just because it is expensive is no reason to cut back on my design scale. Actually, it is slightly bigger than what I needed, but I decided to take an inch extra just in case I need to grind away the ends or something. And if I have some left after 2 razors, I can always use it as edge material for a small san mai billet.

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    Forging it was interesting. Evrahim told me that according to the Russians, forging wootz is a woman's job. It should be done gently, almost delicate, and with none of the power and violence that strong smiths often exhibit. I did many heats, kept the blade at an even bright orange, and gently tap-tap-tapped the thing to razor shape.

    I did not take pics at this stage because at this point there is really no difference with normal forging processes. And taking good pics takes time away from actually doing the fun stuff. I ground the razor like I always do (check my razor making how to for details) but I ground it a bit thinner than usual. 1 mm thick, and carefully polished to 240 grit. Particularly interesting was that even while grinding with 40 grit belt, I could see the macroscopic wootz structure with my eyes, clear as day.

    I normalized 6 times, then brought it back to critical temperature and after a very short soak, quenched it in preheated oil. Howard Clark told me that wootz is very shallow hardening, and would leave a hamon. With that in mind I too care to quench the entire blade horizontally, meaning that the entire edge went down in the quench at the same time. The reason for this is that it develops a natural hamon on its own, and I wanted it to be in parallel with the edge, and not slanted due to different quench temperature, oil temperature, and oil flow. It came out looking like this:

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    You can see where the blade is hard and where it isn't. You will also noticed that in the hardened part, the wootz structure literally jumps out of the blade. I ran the edge along my thumbnail, and this is what I got. Remember that at this stage the edge is still 1 mm thick, rounded, and none of the Damascus blades do this:

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    Very cool Bruno. Can't wait to see this once it's finally dipped in acid.
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    Wootz up! Sorry Bruno, I just had to do that! I have no idea what wootz steel is, (gonna have to google that), and I can can't see what you say you see on that blade. Of course, I don't make razors either so I do not have the skilled eyes and expertise that you do. I only can see the finished product of that skill. Can't wait to see the finished product! Nice smile though!

    Mike

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    I wanted to demonstrate just how well this stuff cuts, so I made a video. None of my Damascus or tool steel razors do this, but the woots steel can cut clotch and rope even when completely dull.



    I am really eager to make me a kitchen knife because this is just phenomenal.
    My name is Bruno, and I'm a wootzaholic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mglindo View Post
    Wootz up! Sorry Bruno, I just had to do that! I have no idea what wootz steel is, (gonna have to google that), and I can can't see what you say you see on that blade. Of course, I don't make razors either so I do not have the skilled eyes and expertise that you do. I only can see the finished product of that skill. Can't wait to see the finished product! Nice smile though!

    Mike
    In a nutshell, wootz steel is what used to be called 'Damascus' a long time ago. This is the stuff of legends. It is made in a crucible by melting iron or steel, mixed with the right combination of alloying elements and carbon (charcoal powder). When everything is melted properly, the crucible is taken out of the fire and left to air cool. The alloying elements congeal first and form a dendritic carbide structure, kinda like the roots of grass. The steel solidifies shortly after. You end up with a block of steel that has those dendritic structures running through it, like a piece of top soil with grass roots.

    There is quite literally no modern knife steel that cuts as well as wootz steel. The reason is that you have all those little bits of carbide sticking out of the blade surface, acting like serrations on a steak knife.

    The reason it is so very expensive is that it can only be made in little blocks at once (size of a hockey puck, give or take). It costs a lot of fuel and energy, a lot of time, and even skilled manufacturers mess up a percentage of their ingots. By the time the ingot is hammered into a bar, the material can easily cost 50$ per inch for the raw steel alone.

    Because of the cutting properties, this stuff would make a formidable kitchen knife, both in aesthetics, cutting properties, and price
    So once you go with wootz steel, there is no point in saving money on handle material, which is why wootz is often finished with some pretty expensive handle or scales material such as mammoth tusk ivory.

    The name Alfred Pendray I mentioned, is the name of the person who rediscovered the process for making this steel. He has stopped making it, and stopped selling it a long time ago, and so any wootz steel made by him is like a Ferrari designed by Enzo Ferrari, with the price tag to match.
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    I always assumed wootz was a tight grained Damascus? Maybe explain to us what it really is Bruno.

    Looks like I was a minute slow.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HARRYWALLY View Post
    I always assumed wootz was a tight grained Damascus? Maybe explain to us what it really is Bruno.

    Looks like I was a minute slow.
    What we call Damascus these days is in fact pattern welded steel. Different sorts of steel hammered together, and then folded, twisted, and otherwise manipulated several times to create all sorts of patterns. This can create some stunning visuals, but mechanically, it is just like monosteel in terms of cutting. The name Damascus is technically incorrect, but has become so widespread that we might as well accept it, and call the original kind by its other name 'wootz'.

    Now, wootz can also be manipulated to make the carbides run in patterns. The ladder pattern used to be traditional for example. Since the carbides run a certain direction after drawing out the ingot into a bar, it can be manipulated. That doesn't define wootz however. The difference between anything else and wootz is the internal dendritic structure.

    Btw I should add that any hypereutectoid steel (Steel with a very high carbon content) will grow carbides. However, modern steel mills attempt to make it as fine and invisible as possible. Crucible made wootz however depends on a mix of specific alloying elements and thermal process to make this structure bold and macroscopic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruno View Post
    What we call Damascus these days is in fact pattern welded steel. Different sorts of steel hammered together, and then folded, twisted, and otherwise manipulated several times to create all sorts of patterns. This can create some stunning visuals, but mechanically, it is just like monosteel in terms of cutting. The name Damascus is technically incorrect, but has become so widespread that we might as well accept it, and call the original kind by its other name 'wootz'.

    Now, wootz can also be manipulated to make the carbides run in patterns. The ladder pattern used to be traditional for example. Since the carbides run a certain direction after drawing out the ingot into a bar, it can be manipulated. That doesn't define wootz however. The difference between anything else and wootz is the internal dendritic structure.

    Btw I should add that any hypereutectoid steel (Steel with a very high carbon content) will grow carbides. However, modern steel mills attempt to make it as fine and invisible as possible. Crucible made wootz however depends on a mix of specific alloying elements and thermal process to make this structure bold and macroscopic.
    Wow, that sounds very complicated and amazing. All the more reason the final outcome will be awesome! Hurry and get it done please so we can all see it!! Ha!
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    Quote Originally Posted by HARRYWALLY View Post
    Wow, that sounds very complicated and amazing. All the more reason the final outcome will be awesome! Hurry and get it done please so we can all see it!! Ha!

    Yes, I agree with what he said! Thank you for your explanation of what makes up Wootz steel. It clears up a lot of what I thought Damascus steel was, to what it really is. Pattern welded steel!


    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by mglindo View Post
    Yes, I agree with what he said! Thank you for your explanation of what makes up Wootz steel. It clears up a lot of what I thought Damascus steel was, to what it really is. Pattern welded steel!


    Mike

    I guess I should be clearer. What people today call Damascus steel is really pattern welded steel!


    Mike

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