Etching wrought

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by 3fifty7, Jan 19, 2019.

  1. 3fifty7

    3fifty7 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 24, 2016
    Im currently using wrought iron for the first time on a guard and pommel. I have some water/Ferric mixed at 4:1 that I use as an etchant. I did a test etch as I was fitting my pieces and there wasn’t much activity in the wrought. I know pattern welded steel will pop more so after heat treating. Does the same apply to wrought, or do I just get what comes out ?
  2. Josh Rider

    Josh Rider Stuff maker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 2, 2014
    Some wrought has more activity than others.
  3. Tenebr0s


    Jun 3, 2012
    Ph Minus (sodium bisulfate), the stuff used for swimming pools, is an incredibly aggressive etchant on wrought—much more so than FC. You might want to give that a shot.

    Edit: wrought iron does not harden. Heat treating will not affect how it etches.
  4. coldsteelburns


    Aug 2, 2010
    Yea, as mentioned it can really depend on how refined the wrought iron is and how much much slag is left in it etc.

    Just test on a scrap piece by leaving it in longer, as it takes longer to etch since usually you want to really begin to eat into the layers in order to reveal and produce a lot of texture, as opposed to a very slight topography as with damascus. Just keep checking every 20-30 minutes if it seems to be etching really slow and take it out when you're satisfied. Experimenting is your friend here :)

    For a different look you can also give it a "fire etch" after exposing the grain with the acid by bringing it up to a dull red (or a bit more) in the forge and letting it air cool, which will give it a nice "blackened" look. You don't need to acid etch to do this but you will get more texture if you do before hand.

    My Youtube Channel
    ... (Just some older videos of some older knives I've made in the past)
  5. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder

    Aug 12, 2005
    You can also kind of forge the figure out of wrought if you hit it too much. I just use my regular ferric mix and then hit is with some Super Blue paste. That is the same treatment that I use on mild steel, but with wrought, I etc it longer. With build, I am just looking for that extra color.
  6. javand


    Oct 17, 2010
    Wrought takes a lot longer to etch than hardened damascus, try 10 minutes sessions, but still do the oxide scrubbing between etches with 1500 or 2000 grit paper under hot water. It may take 6-8 sessions to get good deep figure, and after the final etch, neutralize in boiling distilled water, or boiling tap water with baking soda, carefully, then while still hot, submerge in WD-40 or some thin oil, and leave it overnight. If you want it to stay dark, don't scrub the oxides off the last etch, and don't do anymore abrasive work after neutralizing and setting the oxides.

    After all that, wipe clean well, and liberally rub ren wax into the part, gently clean excess off with a very soft clean cotton hand buff (rag).

    Some wrought has great figure but is initially very resistant to the etch. That's been my experience with the highly refined naval anchor chain, which was purportedly some of the "cleanest" in the large configurations. Doesn't look like much at first, but it looks insanely good once you get it etched past a certain point, and doesn't get as "topographical" in terms of etch depth. Although that's what some are looking for.

    Let me see if I can find a photo...
  7. 3fifty7

    3fifty7 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 24, 2016
    Ok I’ll be doing some experimenting.
    I’ve never heard of anyone heat treating wrought as it won’t harden but it just made me wonder considering how pattern welded steel reacts differently after ht.
  8. mete


    Jun 10, 2003
    Wrought iron is NOT steel ! It's corrosion properties seem to have been lost by many . We have in NYC major water mains that have been working well for 100 + years !
    Show a little respect for it.
    allenkey likes this.
  9. Tenebr0s


    Jun 3, 2012
    Justo to reiterate, if you use sodium bisulfate, it actually etches much faster than damascus. The stuff is cheap, can be bought on amazon, and a tub will last you a long time. Get it hot, and it works even faster.
  10. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder

    Aug 12, 2005
    A lot of what we have seen form the suppliers in recent years has been buoy anchor chain and plating from old grain elevators/mills. To say that this stuff had been exposed to the elements for a long is is putting mildly. It's like it gets a protective coating of hard rust that is quite thin and the rest of the metal is pristine. I was reading a few months back about how most decorative "wrought iron" used today is actually mild steel and how inferior it is.
  11. javand


    Oct 17, 2010
    So does ferric. I have plenty of sodium bisulfate, it's what many of us use for pickling the scale off damascus billets. I'll try it with wrought, but it certainly doesn't give the finish I'm looking for with damascus. I get excellent results with wrought, I'm not concerned about the longer cycles. I set a timer and walk away.

    Repeat-ability is much more important to me, than un-attended time, which is why I don't heat my ferric except to etch stainless either.
  12. Tenebr0s


    Jun 3, 2012
    Yup, I use it primarily for scale removal as well. It's very useful stuff. I would never use it on damascus, but it works very aggressively on wrought; it just depends on what effect you're after.
    javand likes this.
  13. 3fifty7

    3fifty7 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 24, 2016
    Earlier I had only rough ground the guard and had only done a relatively quick etch. After finish sanding and 4-10 minute cycles in ferric that had been warmed I’m very pleased with the results. After I neutralized I ran it through the oven for an hour at 300*, then a overnight soak in light oil.
    I believe the biggest culprit I was facing(along with my complete inexperience dealing wrought) was trying to etch after rough sanding.


    javand, Josh Rider and tmerkl like this.

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