One of the greatest joys I receive as a blacksmith is recycling old steel that is beyond utility, into something both beautiful and useful. It is precisely this ability that gave the smith his near magician-like status in the ancient world.
I had been accumulating pattern welded scraps of various kinds, be it seax billet cuttoffs, or simply projects that have been abandoned for one reason or another, and decided to mash them all together into a single bar. Every piece in this new billet was to be pattern welded in its own right. Many contained wrought iron, which itself is ancient, and impregnated with slaggy silica, oriented like wood-grain.
The old blades and other scraps were arc welded together, still corroded. In antiquity, these might have been wrapped in paper and clay to hold them together and keep oxygen out until the weld was set.
The billet was then heated to 2100F , sprinkled with borax to eat way any oxidation, and hammered together.
A metallic bond exists when a geometric web of iron atoms has a few free electrons that is shared among the whole. This characteristic that all metals share is what makes them particularly efficient conductors of electricity, and allows me to fire weld them with heat and pressure. At high temperatures, the free electrons become excited, and with a bit of pressure, they will cross over to an adjacent piece of iron, completing the metallic bond. The pieces are one.
Here Ive folded the billet in half to consolidate the welds and homogenize the material. I have also ground one face down to bare steel to be sure everything has taken. Not perfect, but about what I expected. Further refining will erase the slag lines that mark the former borders between the strata.
Once the bar is drawn out, I will be able to polish and etch the surface with a light acid to reveal the underlying pattern….