Pattern welded steel or semi damascus steel.

This tutorial is about preparing material and making the first step to get pattern welded steel. Damascus steel is actually name of different material – steel with high carbon content and pattern on the surface created in the crucible melting process, not by pattern welding. Though a lot of people mix those two things, thats why I’ve use both names.

There are a lot of movies on youtube and lots of different tutorials that show welding a package together and making a blade out of it. the first one i found:

But not so many show how to begin.

First: you need material. High carbon steel and lower carbon steel, so you can see the difference in color after welding. Lots of people know how to weld together steels with high carbon content, but  I’ve used an old file and mild steel flat steel. I think it’s just easier, but it only my opinion.

It doesn’t need to be a rusty file, but must be old – recent products are made of some alloy steels, might be too much science in them for good fire welding. 30-40 years old should be good enough. If you can’t get it – a piece of a leaf spring should be ok. Clean the material, so there is no rust. Doesn’t need to be flat or shiny, just to get rid off those rusty craters, cause they might stay in the steel after welding.



Clean the mild steel as well.

Cut both materials to the same length. Make a sandwich out of them, mixing layers of both materials. Mild steel needs to be on the outer sides. For example: MHMHMHM – where M is mild steel and H high carbon steel. Try to keep proportions of the sandwich – can’t be to high comparing to width, cause it may bent over. I made it more or less square in cross section.

High carbon steel burns faster, so you can protect it from overheating by placing mild steel on the outside.


Grind the edges flush, and get rid of rust.

Arc weld the pieces together. If you don’t know how to weld or don’t have the welding machine – bind it together with a wire, or use hose bands.

When welding remember to keep the welds narrow and weld vertically – leave as much space for the slag to come out from between steel slices as possible.

Weld a piece of a mild steel rod to hold it in the forge and on the anvil. You can also use tongs, but welded handle is more comfortable.


It has to hold together nicely. If you can not arc weld it – the package would have to be longer, so it is easier to keep it together.

Now put it in the forge. Slowly bring to cherry red, coat it in borax (a lot of borax – about a teaspoon per side) and let it melt and soak between the layers. Spread borax while holding the package side up, so the gravity will help it penetrate.

I didn’t make any pics at this stage, cuase i didn’t have time, and it has to be done in twilight so with my camera only a blur would be visible. You need twilight to judge the temperature. Welding heat is just before the sparks start to jump from the material.

You can make a little jig to help you judge the temperature. Take a piece of rod, about 40 -50 cm long and forge the end into a sharp point, almost a needle.  Put it into the forge when your sandwich is close to welding heat. If the temperature is right your needle will stick to the material cause the thin end will heat up to welding heat instantly. If you see a lot of sparks on your sandwich and the surface began to melt you can throw the package out and start all over again – it has burned.

Just after you reach welding heat take it out from the forge and instantly put on the anvil and hammer it together. Every second is important – if it cools down too much, need to heat up again.

Don’t hammer too hard, it won’t help, and can cause the layers to come apart.

You can here a very specific “puff” sound when the welding catches.  Later on you will be able to judge if the package is welded or  not just by hearing the sound of it.

There will be a lot of sparks also. Lots of hot, sticky, nasty sparks. Were eye protection (were it always when forging) and good clothes (no synthetics, they melt and burn).

If you’re successful you should end up with something like this:



Congratulations. First big step done.


Sources of techniques and inspiration.

Where can you learn about forging techniques?

There are many possible places. Best is: professional blacksmiths. You can try to find some blacksmith around your place. Maybe he’s a nice guy/woman and would like to show you something. Maybe he will understand that when you share knowledge you don’t loose it yourself, you can even learn something new.

Maybe there is someone in your neighborhood who makes courses for guys like you.

Or maybe the first blacksmith you meet is not a nice guy and will act like a dumbass who is guarding a 1000 year old precious secrets. Even if that’s the case you don’t need to worry. In my experience i met only one guy who didn’t even reply to my “hi” (and still I’ve seen he’s old welding mask and welding machine and learnt something about he’s methods) and one who didn’t want to tell me much, but still he did tell me something. Most guys are cool, and like to share what they know.

Anyway we’re not in middle ages anymore. 1000 year ago forging was full of magic. The only way to get a good result was experimenting or getting the magic recipe from someone else. But today we know that we don’t need to feed a goat with ferns and use it’s urine to harden a good blade. We know it’s the temperature of the quenching water, not the moonlight that works on the blade during heat treating. We even have special tools to determine the temperature much better than finger or eye can: thermometers. This way magic is gone and science comes to action.

In the trade’s history heat treating was the most mysterious and magic skill. It’s no longer so. If you want to learn it – read metallurgical books, watch videos, and ask on forums. To heat treat special steels read manufacturers instructions and use tools like pyrometer. It’s that easy.

Forging techniques are described in manuals, on internet forums, shown during courses, on videos etc…

Now where can one get a good book, video, forum…? You can find it yourself or in a list like one below. The more places you visit the more you will know about where to look. Also look for people on facebook and such, you can find some interesting stuff in there.


Forums: – in Polish (my huge THANKS! to all it’s members)


Mark Aspery – artist blacksmith, great techniques, shown in his youtube movies and books

Wojciech Sławiński – sword and saber maker, his website is a good source of knowledge (in Polish, some stuff also in English)

Jarosław Fornal – picture on his webpage are a nice sample of modern metal art

Ludosza Kowal – knife and blade maker, great stuff and great pictures


generally on blacksmithing:

The Blacksmith’s Craft – by Rural Development Commission – lot’s of drawings, very good and clear book.

The Art of Blacksmithing Alex W. Bealer – absolutely superb and outstanding book, traditional techniques of making most of traditional smithy products. Not so many drawings, better for advanced reader.

Kunsten å smi – Håvard Bergland – great book, lot’s of drawing and pictures, also about knifemaking. In Norwegian.


Step by step knifemaking – David Boye

The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way to Perfection – Jim Hrisoulas

Master Bladesmith – Jim Hrisoulas

The Wonder of Knifemaking – Wayne Goddard

Knivsmeden – Håvard Bergland – a good book in Norwegian, contains methods of making Scandinavian styled knives and sheaths

Artistic ironwork

Wrought Ironwork Gates catalogue






I’ve found a free book on FAO’s website:

The great bellows, tutorial.

The bellows – how to make one. Or at least, how i made one.

First i took a round tray and drew a pattern on a piece of newspaper. The radius of the tray is about 35 cm, and the length is about 60 cm.

If I had more materials and space I would make the bellows bigger, but:

1. i had no idea how efficient the construction will be,

2. bellows 2 meters long and 1 meter wide, would be to big and to heavy to store and transport.


Then I’ve cut it out from the material with a hacksaw.

I’ve used plywood (rest pieces of packing plywood, 100% recycling, absolutely free of charge).I’ve used plywood (rest pieces of packing plywood, 100% recycling, absolutely free of charge).


On the pic you can see 6 pieces: 3 of thin, and 3 of thick plywood. Thin was about 8 mm, the thick one about 15 mm.

8 mm alone would be to thin (could bend) and would make it difficult to stick the screws in from the side, when putting on the canvas.

15 mm alone would be enough, but would make the next step very difficult.

Next stage was to cut out as much as possible from the thick pieces, to make the bellows lighter.


Here you can see (from the left) the bottom, middle, and top piece.

Then the pieces were ready to cut out valve holes. I don’t have the pic, anyway it’s only bottom and middle witch will have the valves.

I made a biggest square hole in the thin bottom piece, little smaller in the thick one, and then a bit smaller hole in the middle thin one and even a bit smaller in the middle thick. This way I could attach the thin squares to the thick parts, and was able to take them out after the fabric was on. If you don’t get it, just look on the next pics.

Now the pieces are ready to glue them together. By doing it I had the pieces thick, durable and light as possible.

I’ve glued them and temporarily screwed them together with wood screws cause i didn’t have so many clamps.


On the picture above you can see an extra rib I’ve added. It’s described below, with the pictures of the bellows being assembled.


The valves are made of foamed PVC and canvas. I got the foamed PVC for free from a nice guy in a printing and photographic shop. I’ve covered the pvc with rubber glue, and then put canvas on and cover it to. The glue doesn’t join them for eternity, but it’s good enough, in case i can always take it out.

The foamed PVC is light and stiff. The black thing is a thin foamy gasket with one sticky side. I think it’s called armaflex.

PVC was actually to light – it liked to flap open the whole way, i had to take both valves out and glue pieces of string in the front limiting the opening.

Here you can see, that the valve is screwed to the bigger thin piece of plywood, which is screwed to the thicker plywood from below.


The middle piece is longer then the top and bottom piece.

The pieces of top and bottom have been cut off, fitted, drilled with a flat drill and screwed to the middle piece.


Here you can see how the air channel is being made. The pieces were taken on and off, so i could fit and figure out everything.

Note that though the air channel is made in the middle of the front piece it is only joining the top chamber with the nozzle. The only way for the air to get from the bottom chamber to the top is through the valve.




The front part ready for gluing.


Next stage: putting the canvas on.

I’ve cheated a bit, in stead of canvas I’ve put a plastic bag. My canvas is a bit to thin. Finding a fabric 100% natural (synthetics burn or melt easily, any spark could make a hole), and thick enough to be air tight was not easy. I’ve used plastic bag and the canvas on top, to protect it. If you want to be historically correct use leather (expensive, unless you find and cut a leather sofa) or good canvas. You can put some wax or oil on the canvas to make it air tight. The oil won’t catch up fire, it will protect the fabric. If a spark falls on it, the oil will first evaporate cooling it down. To give the canvas more protection you can dissolve borax in hot water and soak the fabric in the solution, or spray it on the canvas before putting the oil on.

Just remember, if you want to be historically ok you can’s use plywood, PVC, nor wood screws. Nor modern wood glue also.


Note that the top chamber is almost 2 times bigger than the bottom. I’ve read that hint on or, I think, it was not my idea, anyway. It is a nice trick, though, makes the pumping rhythm and the action of the bellows smoother. Entire bellows with both chamber fully spread is about 70 cm high.

On that pic you can see extra ribs in both chambers. They are made of 5 mm plywood, i decided to add them to avoid the fabric being blown out when pumping. It is a plywood frame, only 1,5 cm wide, just to have something to stick the staples in and hold the fabric.

You can see the black foamy gasket on the edges underneath the plastic. It’s for sealing the chambers and also not to cut the plastic with staples. Thick soft leather would do in here. I’ve put pieces of fabric underneath the staples to avoid cutting the plastic.


Here you can see the whole set up at work. Steel stripes (used for packing pallets) screwed to the sides hold the fabric and the plastic tight to the sides.

There are no hinges except the fabric.


How it works? When you push down the handle on the bottom chamber, subpreassure is created and the bottom valve opens. When the chamber is full you push the handle up, there is pressure created in the bottom chamber, the bottom valve closes, and the middle valve opens,  the air is pushed into the top chamber and the hose. You push the handle down again, and subpressure in the bottom chamber closes the middle valve and opens the bottom valve.

miech faza 1 miech faza 2


You need to pump few times before the top chamber is full, cause the air is also pumped into the hose. The stones on the top chamber push it down. So the air is pushed into the hose while you fill the bottom chamber or even if you do nothing. Thanks to that there is constant flow of air, the bellows never sucks the air from the hose, so no risk of sucking hot ashes into the hose or burning the bellows.



The hose I’ve used is a plastic hose electricians use to protect wires. I got it for free, it was a waste. The hose is attached to the bellows with a ketchup bottle cup. Piece of the bottle is stuck in into the hose, and a piece of cap is screwed to the bellows front. It is no perfect solution, I’ll need to figure out something else.

The hose is connected to the forge with a piece of a fire blanket, cause the pipe extending from the forge gets hot.

The only costs of the bellows were wood screws, glue and the canvas. The rest were some wastes I’ve collected.

To start.

This blog is created to show people interested with blacksmithing how to start forging iron and making knives.

I am no professional, so nothing published by me has a guarantee of being safe or correct. Whats more it’s probably unsafe and you shouldn’t do that (specially when fire is involved- very unsafe, it’s hot!!). But if you want to – it’s your own risk. If you fail, don’t blame me, I’ve never said it’s sure to work.

I’m gonna put some information or tutorials from time to time, but you won’t find all information about how to forge in here. It’s best if you get some books, or a teacher if possible. But I’ll try to put in here all the info you need to have your “first time”.

You don’t need expensive equipment, you don’t need to compete in Strong Man to be able to forge. If you can wield a hammer it’s good enough.

I have some experience, so I know what I’m doing (I hope) but I moved out from where my smithy is located (my poor anvils miss me), and i had to start from almost nothing. So can you.

What I have is a very simple set of tools.


At the picture you can see:

  • a forge (welded of stainless steel plates),
  • a great bellows,
  • a tree stump – in this case wood piece bound together with steel clamps and threaded rods, pieces are also glued and screwed together,
  • a semi anvil: a hardy tool,
  • a hammer (mine is about 1 kilo/2 pounds), anything between 1 and 1,5 kg should be allright
  • blacksmith’s tongs (not essential, soon I’ll show how to make them),

More details.

The tree stump: can be one big piece of wood, can be smaller pieces joined together. Can be a stand welded of pipes or angle irons. If you use small pieces  of wood and an anvil with a big foot it’s ok if you just squeeze pieces together with clamps, as shown. If you’re going to use something smaller (like me) – you’ll probably need to glue the pieces together and use some wood screws to, so the pieces don’t slide on each other. I had that problem. I’ve been hammering on the hardy tool and the pieces underneath kept sliding in. After a few moments the the hardy tool was pushed in the stump, and the stamp was about to fall on it’s side, cause two pieces of wood were extending 10 cm out of  it’s bottom.


At the picture you can see how the clamps look like. I’ve made them of stainless steel but you can make them of normal steel and without welding. Those pieces of pipe welded along the clamp ensure the clamp is not bending, cause the rod pulls the entire piece, not just one point. But probably with this thickness they would work fine if they were just bent in the ends and drilled.

EDIT: the height is not universal, depends on how tall you are. The anvil’s face should be place at the height of your wrist (or knuckles depending what you like) while standing in an upright and relaxed position. So knuckles or wrist? Depends on how you  like it and what you forge. The thicker the material, the lower you should place the anvils face. Mine is around the wrist height – I’m only gonna forge small and thin elements.


The forge. It’s made of plates welded together. It could be a casting, could be bricks, or just a hole in the ground with a piece of pipe to blow the air.


This construction is quite comfortable. It’s designed for charcoal. Probably would work fine with coke with enough air blast.

Size is about 30 cm wide, 40 cm long, the “valley” in it is about 8 cm wide, 20 cm long and 15 cm deep. There’s a hole and a piece of 1 inch pipe welded to one of the sides.

On the photo above you can see firebricks put around the fuel – with small objects it works good for keeping the charcoal in one place, not spreading all around the forge. It’s for saving fuel.


The hole is placed about 3 cm above the bottom (i wanted the air to blow into the fuel, not into the ashes), and the pipe is welded in a slight angle (so the ashes don’t get into, nor can anything hot fall into the air hose).


My “semi anvil” is a hardy tool (a tool you insert into the anvil’s square hole). It has a tail not visible here, cause it’s hammered into the wood.

It’s good steel, but it’s small (around 3 kg). Possible to work with it, though. Note: the edges are rounded, not to injure the material while forging.

A real anvil would be better, of course, but it’s a luxury to have one. It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s expensive and difficult to find.

A piece of rail is more likely to obtain, it’s good steel and it’s hard. Problem is: it’s noisy.

Some other piece of tool steel (like a big hammer 5-10 kg without the shaft) would be good to.

It can’t be cast iron or some other brittle material. Will crack and explode under hammer blows, may cause injury.

In the next episode I’ll show the details of building a great bellows, so stay tuned!