View Full Version : Help toubleshooting hamon attempt

Josh Dabney
01-24-2011, 06:52 AM
Ok fellas here's what I got.

I finally got some Parks 50 quench oil so I forged out this 4" hunter blade over the weekend as a test blade for my HT and developing hamon.

Here are the specifics.
-Steel- 1095 from Aldo
-Rough forged at 2000 degrees
-Refined forging at 1800
-Normalized at 1600, 1500, and twice at 1450
-Rough ground to .050 on the edge
-Sub critical anneal 1 hour at 1300 drop 50 degrees an hour to 900 cool the rest of the way in the oven
-Follow Stephen Fowlers tutorial for clay using a skim coat over the entire blade and making the clay on the ricasso, spine, and lines approx 1/8" thick and matching on both sides
-Into a 1425 degree oven, wait for temp to come back up then soak 20 minutes
-Quench in Parks 50 pre-heated to 100 degrees for approx 10 seconds. Blade still hot enough to throw smoke at this point
-Scrape off clay, file check, then into the oven at 400 for 2 hours.

This isn't a super clean finish but I wanted to get it clean enough to get a clear look at whats going on so It's hand sanded to 1000 on all but the tip and plunge (with the exeption of some verticle scratches)

This pic shows the blade as it's fresh out of the ferric and still wet and untouched. I was trying to catch what I could see with my eye in the pic and any clean-up out of the etch made the detail in the upper portion of the blade invisible.

The white cloudy looking area shows right where the clay was applied. I was worried with the speed of the parks that it would harden underneath the clay but that was definately not a problem.


Any help or suggestions as to which variable to change would be greatly appreciated !

Thanks alot fellas, Josh

01-24-2011, 08:53 AM
If that white, cloudy area is where the clay was placed, it seems like it worked out really well. You maybe running the clay thicker and farther down the blade than you might need to. I'd try less clay, farther up, with a more irregular design. You have nice control over your process. There's been some thought that electric oven heating needs more soak time, but you seem to have that covered.

Thanks for show the blade, Craig

Josh Dabney
01-24-2011, 03:40 PM

After reading your comment a couple times I think an additional pic is in order to show where the clay was put on the blade. After looking at the pic again I figure that the entire area over the hardened portion can be considered a "white cloudy area"

This pic shows where the clay was put on the blade to clarify better. I was anticipating a hamon that had much higher "peaks" between the lines that angle down from the top and at least a full 1/4" of hardened blade along the edge.


01-24-2011, 04:40 PM
It may have been the wash over the entire blade. I had a similar result when I did that. I now only coat the area I want to "attempt" to control. Here is a couple of pics of before and after on one of mine. I'm not sure which one of these the second photo is of. I did three of the same pattern. I used the Rutgers refractory on these as opposed to Satanite.



01-24-2011, 09:00 PM
Hi Josh,

Thanks for the follow up pic. Yup, it appears (?) that only a little of the edge hardened and that the clay didn't seem to influence the area that hardened.

Just a guess, but if I saw that, I'd figure that the blade was not picking up enough heat to harden. I'd try bumping the temp up or deciding if the blade didn't reach temp even though the oven stabilized (check accuracy and possibly more soak). I'd consider heating it up for quenching in the forge after you've done your favorite thermal cycling process.

Just guessing, but it's a fun area to play around with, Craig

Josh Dabney
01-24-2011, 09:17 PM
Murph, previous to this I've attempted to get hamon quite a few times with brine (cracked 3 in a row) and have tried both coating only the pattern without a wash coat and coating the whole blade with Anti-Scale and both times it blew the clay right off. Now I do understand that the Parks is going to react differently to such variables so it may well be worth trying those methods again.

Craig, Not enough heat was my first guess as to the problem but it was honestly a stab in the dark. I think I'll give it another go at 1450 and see how it comes out.

Thanks for your input fellas ! -Josh

01-25-2011, 11:46 AM
I think you've already found the likely problem Josh. I usually try right around 1455 when I'm going for a hamon on W1... Good luck!

Josh Dabney
01-25-2011, 09:43 PM
I thought I'd update just in case anyones interested.

I clayed this blade back up tonight and heat treated it again at 1450 with a 35 minute soak and ended up with a very similar result.

Here she is clayed up

Cleaned up to 600 cork belt and etched

20 minutes after hardening I aggressively file tested the edge and was able to file a little corner into the edge which leaves me to believe that even the hardened portion of the blade is sub-standard.

Now getting worried that quench speed is my issue I decided to throw it back in the oven with no clay at 1475 and see if I could fully harden the blade.

After that the file wouldn't touch it at all (even on the ricasso thats .210 thick) which leads me to believe that my quench speed is not the problem but takes me back to square one.

Now I'm thinking Murph may be right and the wash coat of satanite is giving me a problem or my clay lines are spaced too closely ????

Any other thoughts guys ?


01-26-2011, 12:22 AM
Hi Josh,

I'd consider running the same process as your second try, but I'd try a wash coat that's much thinner, as in you're seeing more steel than coat. I'd also try clay that might appear only a third as thick as it seems to be in the pictures. Just guessing out loud, good luck with it.

It's interesting, Craig

Josh Dabney
01-26-2011, 06:39 AM

Thanks again for the suggestion. I almost snapped a pic of the clay the first time around but didn't. I thought being such an important step it would help others help me if they could see what I had going on.

It'll probably be a few days before I get back to it now. Since this one is hardened and tempered I'll need to forge out another blade and begin from scratch.

Thanks again for your help. I'll update after my next attempt.

Knifemaking sure is fun isn't it !!! :)


Erin Burke
01-26-2011, 08:11 AM

Based on my experience, your thin wash of clay seems a little thick. Further, the clay for your ashi lines also appears to be VERY thick.

If I were you, I'd do the following:

Make sure your Parks 50 temp is within the operating temp specified. If I remember correctly the range for P50 is 70-120F. My shop can be a little on the cooler side, so I will usually pre-heat to 90-100F.
Thin out the clay wash. When I apply the wash, the mix is VERY watery. I will warm the blade with a heat-gun as I apply the wash (or pre-heat the blade slightly in the kiln) so that the wash will stick and not just bead-up like water.
It's OK to use 1/8" thick clay toward the spine of the blade... but your ashi lines should NOT be too thick or they will retain heat down to the edge. I use a putty knife just to "tap" the ashi lightly onto the blade.
Make sure the ashi lines match up (are mirrored) exactly from side to side. If they are not exactly opposite eachother, they will spread the area of retained heat over a broader (less defined) area and distort the symmetry and cleanliness of your hamon.
Use a quench-heat in the 1465-1475F range.

I'm no expert... but that's what I'd do.

Josh Dabney
01-26-2011, 08:27 AM

Thanks for the tips !!

I did pre-heat my oil to 100 degrees and plan to continue to keep that variable the same.

Will follow all advice on the next go round and see how it comes out.

I am thinking that since my issue is not enough hardening I'll be fine to bump my temp up to 1475 for hardening so I'm gonna go that route for sure. I've also been meaning to add a second fire brick (and possibly a 3rd) under my holder to raise my blade up closer to the thermocouple which is up on the roof of the oven. I'm thinking that at temps like 1425 even very minor variation of temp from top to bottom of the oven could have a profound effect on results.

I mixed my satanite for the wash VERY wet, but not watery. I know exactly what you mean though I've watered down anti-scale a bunch of times and it reacts exactly as you describe with beading up on the blade. I started with a heat gun but found it more convenient to grab my MAPP gas torch to warm my blade.

One question for satanite users- When mixing it watery it seems to remain to a certain extent "gritty" so I'm wondering if that grit will eventually disolve and make a true wash or will the grit remain grit ?

Thanks again guys ! Josh

John N
01-30-2011, 11:19 AM
I second that your clay looks way to thick, I water quench (faster) and use much less,

This is a picture of a pretty well known swordmaker claying up a 1086v tanto (or wak?) prior to waterquenching, took a week long course with him last year on making japanese (style) pieces, took about 5 years off my learning curve :)


01-30-2011, 05:34 PM
I believe I am taking a class with the same teacher (Howard Clark??) later this year, can t wait. That long of a blade pointing off the bench with that many people around looks Dangerous.

As for the hamon, I am no expert, but would try to be around 1475. For the outer wash, I make mine thin, like the thickness of those grains you are seeing. On w2 which is similiar to 1095, If I quench in parks at 1470, the hamon looks simiar to yours and close to the edge. If I quench in brine at that temp it is much closer to the shape of the clay.

Keep up the great work, I think you make awesome knives.

Josh Dabney
01-30-2011, 07:53 PM
Thanks for all the great replies fellas.

The hunt does continue. I forged out another blade today and got it normalized and ready for rough grinding and annealing. Hope to be claying it up and hardening tuesday.

Will update once I get #2 through HT.

-Planning to bump my hardening temp to 1475
-Thinner washcoat
-Clay applied at 1/16" MAX thickness.
-A little more space between the ashi lines

We'll see how that works out for me.

Thanks again guys, Josh

Kevin R. Cashen
01-31-2011, 07:14 AM
Josh, don't just thin the wash coat, eliminate it. The wash coat works with water quenching but oils are different. Completely scrub and degrease the surface of the blade and apply the ashi directly with no wash coat. I no longer mess with satanite so I cannot say how thick the ashi can be for you, if you get rid of that wash coat, 1/6" will be a bit thin, but with the furnace cement I use you do not want to exceed 1/8" thickness (height) on the ashi. Keep the ashi farther from the edge than what you want the hardened zone to be as fine pearlite colonies will sneak in there anyhow. Agitate the quench, keep the blade moving either from tip to tang or in a cutting motion in the oil until it is done.

1. Lose the wash coat
2. agitate

Josh Dabney
01-31-2011, 08:07 AM

Thanks for the reply !

I forgot to mention that I'm currently quenching in the metal 5 gallon pail the oil came in so I do have plenty of room for agitaion. I quenched tip down and used the cutting motion.

Thought I'd ask if your using the Rutlands brand cement ? I shopped for it locally a long time ago with no luck but will order some and give it a shot. I did pick up a caulking tube of some other brand of high temp stuff and tried it on a couple knives but abandoned it once I got satanite. The stuff is pink and it puffs up like a balloon when heated then all the puffy stuff burns off and leaves a very thin coating stuck to the blade that stays till ground off. I'm curious if the Rutlands cement reacts the same way to heating as this stuff ?

Thanks again for the reply, Josh

01-31-2011, 08:56 AM
After making japanese blades for 30 years , I have come to the realization that the Hamon can be difficult, and they never turn out the same . I dont pay any attention to temperature , I watch the color , with 1095 0r w series make sure color is bright orange near yellow , then touch with magnet to make sure blade is fully non magnetic. pass through fire 1 0r 2 more times quickley then Quench .make sure clay is applied evenly to both sides of blade. If not blades can warp . The optimum temp is 100 degrees difference between edge and spine , this produces what is commonly referred to a double hamon , . Temp is very critical even application is real important as is even heating , thats why I HT in early morning or at dusk so I can see there are no unevenly heated spots . The japanese call is Ya-kire . Also make sure quench medium is even temp , dont stir quench material with blade , stir before quenching. My sensei cracked me in the head for stirring quench with blade , he says it causes uneven quenching !! There are many ways to harden steel , In fuedal japan there were 5 major schools , they all thought thier way was the best . I am sure there were many disagreements , funny how some things never change .

Kevin R. Cashen
02-01-2011, 08:11 AM

Thanks for the reply !

I forgot to mention that I'm currently quenching in the metal 5 gallon pail the oil came in so I do have plenty of room for agitaion. I quenched tip down and used the cutting motion.

Thought I'd ask if your using the Rutlands brand cement ? I shopped for it locally a long time ago with no luck but will order some and give it a shot. I did pick up a caulking tube of some other brand of high temp stuff and tried it on a couple knives but abandoned it once I got satanite. The stuff is pink and it puffs up like a balloon when heated then all the puffy stuff burns off and leaves a very thin coating stuck to the blade that stays till ground off. I'm curious if the Rutlands cement reacts the same way to heating as this stuff ?

Thanks again for the reply, Josh

I used a great cement from Worcester Brush co. years ago, but it vanished some time ago, now the Rutland black seems to be the best replacement. All these cements will "puff" if you place them in heat while wet. Apply the cement and wait a few hours until the stuff sets a bit, it does not have to be bone dry but it is the moisture boiling out of a goopy skin that then crusts over in the expanded shape that is causing your problems. When applied properly my experience and some testing revealed several reason why I like furnace cement more than satanite, ready availability being just one of them. Tenaciously staying on the blade was always a plus for me, but with careful application I have been able to pop the stuff off in one even sheet with a tap from a wooden block immediately after the quench. Bubba-san is correct to point out that agitation in the wrong direction can be a problem, with clay or without, you should never stir the oil with the blade, agitation from flat to flat will be very uneven and promote warpage, agitation should be in the most even direction, tip to tang, or a cutting motion from spine to edge.

Josh Dabney
02-01-2011, 08:16 AM

Thanks for the micro tutorial on using the cement. I'll surely be trying it again very soon.


02-01-2011, 09:03 AM
I haven't been keeping up with this the last few days so I've missed alot. Thank you for the wealth of information gentlemen.

Another thing I've started doing on my blades is to taper the thickness of my ashi lines when I apply them. When using the Rutland cement, I apply it straight from the tube to the spine and spread it to my desired thickness for the blade. When I prepare to apply the ashi lines, I mix it on a pallet like a painter would with paint. I apply drops of water until I get my desired thickness and then apply from the spine down so that the lines taper in both width and thickness.

busted knuckles
02-01-2011, 09:18 PM
Hey josh, I recommend forgoing the wash coat. I tried it that way and quickly realized it wasn't worth the trouble, especially when using oil instead of brine.

Josh Dabney
02-01-2011, 09:23 PM
Just wanted to say thanks everyone for all the help !

I've got my next blade in the oven for a sub-critical anneal overnight so I'll be having another go at it hopefully tomorrow.

I'll keep you guys posted on my progress.... or lack thereof LOL


Josh Dabney
02-02-2011, 03:07 PM
Thought I'd give you guys a small update.

After hunting all over town today I finally scored on the hunt for a local source for the Rutland Black Cement. $14.95 for a caulking tube, YOWSER !!! LOL. But of course I shelled out for a tube :) Anyway I'm attempting my best to incorperate all the great advice I got here in attemp #2. Rutland cement 1/16" at most as even as I could get it from side to side and ashi lines tapering in thickness towards the edge. It's curing now but I'll be hardening it later on tonight.


Wish me luck, Josh

02-02-2011, 03:31 PM
$14.95?!?!? Wow, I wanting to say I paid less than $10 at Lowes. Your clay up looks good from here. I'll keep my fingers crossed for ya.

Josh Dabney
02-02-2011, 03:37 PM
Thanks Murph ! I was guesstimating maybe $7 plus tax. They got ya comming and going when they're the only game in town but I figured Order... Pay shipping... hurry up and wait... Ahh heck with it I'm ready to go today.


Keith Willis
02-02-2011, 05:17 PM
Looks good Josh,
Interested to see how it turns out.

God bless,Keith

Josh Dabney
02-02-2011, 08:57 PM
I gotta tell everyone I'm pretty STOKED about what I got with this second blade :biggrin: and a BIG thank you all for helping me out. I feel now that I'm in a very good starting position with my HT and cement recipe for creating hamon.

I do believe that advancing from here will be mostly a matter of trial and error in cement application and learning from experience.

It seems a few people may be watching this thread so I'll run through the HT on this blade in it's current form
-Forging to shape at 2000 degrees
-Fine tuning and straightening at 1800
-Normalize in forge at 1600
-Normalize in Oven once each at 1600, 1550, 1500, 1450, and 3 times at 1425
-Rough grind to approx. .040 on the edge
-Sub-critical anneal 1300 for 1 hour then drop 50 per hour to 900 then cool down in oven.
-Clean scale off with a pass or 2 on an 80 grit J-Flex then clean with acetone then dishsoap and water
-apply Rutland Black furnace cement and let cure (4 hours in this case)
-Put in oven at 1475 and soak 20 minutes
-Quench in Parks 50 pre-heated to 100 degrees for approx. 20 seconds
-Pull and scrape off cement (came off pretty easily)
-Snap temper in kitchen oven at 275 degrees
-Temper in Evenheat tomorrow at 350 2 hours 2 times.

Here we are right out of the quench after knocking off the clay

Cleaned up with J-Flex 80, 220, 400, and 600 cork

Here's a few after a quick dip in the Ferric

This is probably also an important piece of the puzzle. Thickness at HT

Let me know what you guys think !


02-02-2011, 10:24 PM
Great looking hamon!!!! Thanks for taking the time to show everything you have done.

02-03-2011, 02:59 AM
That looks great thanks for showing

Keith Willis
02-03-2011, 03:28 AM
Looks good Josh.
I think you got it figured out.

God bless,Keith

Kevin R. Cashen
02-03-2011, 07:43 AM
Now that's what I'm talkin about:thumbup: This is a good thread, it poses a problem, it has discussion to troubleshoot the problem and shows a successful solution and it is all well documented for others to benefit from.

You now got the hamon in a very nice placement on the blade, now all you have to do is adjust the ashi size and thickness and you will be able to shape it almost anyway you like. I would also shop around for cheaper sources of the cement, places like TSC and Menards carries it a bit cheaper.

02-03-2011, 08:05 AM
Looks great Josh. Now, get it finished and let us see it.

Josh Dabney
02-03-2011, 09:32 AM

LOL, I certainly hope that some other budding bladesmith may find this thread useful to their own endeavors. Threads like this are the only reason I had any idea where to begin this quest of figuring out hamon and although I really didn't intend for this to be any kind of WIP it's kinda morphed into that all on it's own.

As for being well documented the things that tend to keep me guessing even with other fantastically detailed WIP threads are things like- Normalize 3 times then proceed with XYZ. I think most of us have a fairly standard idea of what normalizing is and does yet everyone has their own recipe for doing it in accordance with their knowledge, experience, and available tools. So in the interest of full disclosure I tried to the best of my ability to include every detail to help others help me. If another benifits from that all the more better :)

I was shooting for the most basic of patterns with the cement thinking to keep it simple as possible at least until I could end up with a workable result like this. My gears are really turning now focused on how to modify the ashi lines to affect the outcome.

What I've come up with thus far is-

Making the ashi lines the same tapering thickness but making them wider may very well hold the heat a smidge more where the ashi meet the "spine coat" allowing a slighly more active hardening line where the pearlite in the spine dips down just a little into the top of the ashi line.

I'm also speculating that there are two ways to utilize the cement to form pearlite.
1. Thin with a wide area of coverage like the spine coat
2. Thick but in a very small area. Like one tiny dot of cement that stands tall to create a spec of pearlite in an area that is otherwise martinsite.

Some signs I take as VERY postive toward "pattern development" and the possibility of getting a predictable outcome are the fact that the hardening line followed the spine coat with great detail in between the ashi lines and also the fact that the front bottom corner of the ricasso hardened just as planned.

These two facts are leading me to believe this recipe is giving me a combination of quench thats fast enough to "freeze" the detail and cement that will hold heat long enough to reliably form pearlite without holding it so long as to "wash out" the activity.

This is where my head is at right now but of course subject to change with each blade in the future, LOL

Thanks once again to all for shifting my learning curve into high gear !


02-04-2011, 08:13 AM
Hows is it going Josh , havent spoke with you for some time . One thing I always try to remember , the work that goes into making a japanese differentially hardened blade , The knife is like a canvas and you are the artist. No matter how many times you do it they never turn out the same . Sometimes the ones you put a lot of work in dont always turn out like we want , then when you are just fooling around with a blade you get this unbelievable result . If you want something that really sticks to the blade try mixing 1 part of activated charcoal to 3 parts of your refractory cement whatever you use . James Bieler

Josh Dabney
02-04-2011, 09:35 AM

All's well on my homefront. Thanks for asking !

I do understand what you mean about things not always comming out like you had pictured it in your minds eye. I think the beauty of this type of HT is founded in the organic nature of the end results. Even if possible to elevate to the point of getting the blade to become EXACTLY what I "picture" in advance I do believe something would be lost in the process so I do welcome the course of natural occurance that makes it all possible.

I think raising a child may be a good anology. A parent does their best to shape/mold/raise their children to become XYZ. However, the influences of the world along with the childs own make-up will also have a GREAT impact in determining who they ultimately become. This process of nurture and nature is what makes it possible for children to surpass the parents wildest dreams, be a dismal disappointment, and anything between the two.

Being new to creating hamon I'm most concerned about being on solid enough footing to get a functional blade with each HT and not too worried about TOTAL control or getting a WOW result with each blade.

At least on this first try with the Rutland Black cement it stuck like glue just as Kevin said it would do. My application was a bit rough when first put on but I did find that it begins to set within a few minutes developing a "skin" as it started curing that easily allowed me to mold it to a smoother coat and mold the taper right onto the ashi lines.

Again like Kevin said, after the quench I used the scraper on my wire brush to remove the cement and when scraped up the tang that whole side of the blade popped right off.

I worked on this blade for awhile last night and got ground to 220 with the edge at .010 I'm looking forward to doing some cutting with this little guy :) I think I'm even gonna throw some kinda handle on it so I'll get a better idea of it's real world cutting ability.

Take care, Josh

02-04-2011, 10:00 AM
Have you looked at walter Sorrels video on Hamons? It is a very good WIP on creating a half dozen or so hamons . I think walter does some beautiful work . If you havent seen it I would buy it straight from Him. Walter is great sensei ,he speaks with a slow monotone voice that allows you to understand exactly what he is saying and trying to project. You have come a long way since I first met you on Ebay . Keep up the good work . Bubba-san

02-05-2011, 09:06 AM
things look like they came out good the only thing i can add is i draw out a pattern on paper cut it out and trace on both sides of blade it keeps both sides even and no more warps

02-11-2011, 07:04 PM
This has been very helpful to me, as I have an order for a knife with a hamon, my second and I want it better than my first one was, now I know what to focus on. Thanks Dogs.