Cabbing Damascus Steel

After I fell in love with the Damascus Steel cab from my last post. I decided to try making one for myself.

 

First, I had to find some I could afford. These blanks, or billets as they are called, can get quite pricey and I wasn't even sure that I would be able to cab it. I did a lot of research. I found some sites with stellar works of art, yet they weren't something I would want to experiment on. So, I ended up on eBay.

 

There are a few sellers who sell out of Pakistan and India who are quite reasonable. Of course, I knew I was gambling with the quality. But, for a first timer they should suffice. I rolled the dice and crossed my fingers.

damascus steel billet

Damascus billet from Pakistan with the raindrop pattern

I didn't have to wait long. It shipped super fast. It was also thick enough to cab. I had a lot of trouble finding one that was about 1/4" thick. Luckily, this one was and the pattern was really nice too. It is called the raindrop pattern.

 

The next obstacle was to figure out how to cut it into manageable pieces. This was thick stainless steel, afterall. I talked to a lot of different people. Rather than buying new equipment, I settled on using a cut off wheel on the Dremel. So, I marked it out and got to work.

marking out the steel slab

First a very rough shape.

preforms rough cut

Rough shapes finished

ready to cab

You see the colors? That's caused by the heat.

cutting the preform

The metal gets super hot- a vice was needed. Sparks were flying!

making the finer cuts

Now to hone in on the oval

dremel discs

Here are the cut off wheels I used.

I cut out two to start with and worked on the pear shape.

pear preform

The pear cut precab

I took my new wheels off my cabbing machine, who I call Gene, and put on an old set. I didn't want to contaminate or ruin my good wheels. It cabbed about like an agate. The water system kept it cool and kept the sparks down. The diamond wheels worked well.

polished damascus steel cab

Polished and ready for the next step.

It was a little tricky to cab- mostly due to how shiny it is. If you miss any scratches early on they will not show until you are almost finished. Then they stick out like a sore thumb. I went for a high polished look. On YouTube, most people said go to 600, but a few went to 1200. Going higher would make for a gorgeously reflective cab, but it would be a waste of time since the etchant will eat away at it. However, you do want to finish with a nicely polished cab.

You notice you can barely see the pattern anymore? That's because all of the previous etchant was ground off. You won't see the pattern again until the acid bath.

ready to do the patina

The necessities- baking soda/water rinse to nuetralize the ferric chloride.  

ferric chloride bath

A good soak in ferric chloride (pcb etchant)

Ferric chloride is the same thing used to etch copper. With the steel, the higher carbon steel will darken leaving a pattern. I tried many ways of doing this with different time intervals, too. I was never completely happy with the results. Though, I do like the looks. It seems the Pakistani steel was NOT very high carbon- something I suspected for the price. But, it is still a nice cab and I will make more.

out of the bath

Fresh out of the bath- time to clean up

finished cab
messy job

Did I mention this was a dirty job?

polished patina

Cleaned and polished

finished cab 2
light tent photo

You can't see the polish that well in this light tent picture, but I like the pattern.

My grandson just LOVES this stuff! I think my next cab will go to him. I am going to try something different with my next one. This one has a dome. If I do a flatter cab, more of the pattern will show.

 

That's it for now. Thanks for reading!