Finishing Pattern Welded Material

Just some notes about finishing damascus. First: check the knife-making forums on my links page. A lot of opinions out there. Experiment to find what works for you in your studio.

The finer grit finish before etching the better the finished piece will look. 300 will do, 600 is good 1200 isn't too much. The highest contrast between the light and dark will be on heat treated steel. However, I'm finding the finish acceptable on normalized pieces if your project doesn't need to hold an edge.

 I only recommend Ferric chloride diluted with about 4 parts of absolutely distilled water. A slower etch is a better etch. Unless you desire a grippy surface like in the case of a flashlight I don't like to see a real deep etch. If your shop is cold, warm the etchant to about 90*F. Important: Anytime you touch the metal during etching wipe with acetone to remove the oils from your skin or you will have a splotchy finish. It's certainly acceptable when the desired depth is reached to buff the steel to highlight the high areas and then clean and re-etch a little to re-establish the black. 

When the etch is completed I like to put the piece in boiling water, with a few drops of ammonia to neutralize the FECL3,  for several seconds. This seems to lock in the black and the heated piece will cause fast evaporation before rusting can start. Then apply some lanolin product quickly while still warm and let set a while before wiping away excess.

 A tip for things that will be handled or around someones mouth. There is a product available named Lanshinoh,  it is a lanolin product intended for nursing mothers and claims to be safe for both "mom & baby". Available on Amazon, you might find it locally. Luckily my initial tests have also proven it to be a good finish for pattern welded carbon steel.  Another lanolin based product I like is called Fluid Film, don't think it would be good for things where people might get it in their mouth like the Lansinoh, HPA Lanolin. But it is great for lots of things exposed to weather and corrosion. Many knife-makers like Renaissance Wax.

If you have questions send me an e-mail.