High contrast damascus

Discussion in 'Ed Caffrey, MS "The Montana Bladesmith"' started by Sean Cochran, Dec 24, 2010.

  1. Sean Cochran

    Sean Cochran Well-Known Member

    I really like the high contrast you get useing baking laquers. My question is exactly what is the laquer you are using and what is your process?

  2. EdCaffreyMS

    EdCaffreyMS Forum Owner - Moderator

    Hi Sean!

    OK, here goes..... The lacquer is Brownell's Baking Lacquer. Most of the time I use the Gloss Black variety. I'll outline what I do, step by step.
    I prep the blade and apply the lacquer PRIOR to installing guards or handles.

    1. Finish the blade to 600 grit hand finish

    2. Etch the blade as normal in Ferric Chloride, WITH THE EXCEPTION that the I etch the blade a little more than I would for a non-lacquer finish. I etch until I can feel the topography with my finger tip.

    3. After etching neutralize, then clean the blade with soapy water and #0000 steel wool, making sure to get it as clean as possible.

    4. Dry the blade, then clean it well with acetone (I use latex gloves to prevent getting any body oils of fingerprints on the blade)

    5. The Baking Lacquer comes in either a "rattle can" or in liquid form. I personally like the liquid best, and I apply it with an elcheapo Harbor Freight air brush.

    6. I apply the baking lacquer, 2-3 passes on each side with the air brush, making sure to get the spine and under the ricasso.

    7. I then hang the blade on a wire and let it dry for at least 30 mins or more.

    8. Pre-heat your oven to 325F.

    9. Once the baking lacquer is COMPLETELY dry, place it in the oven, for a 30 min bake. (If the lacquer is not completely draw when it goes into the oven, you will get spots that "peel".)

    10. After baking, I remove the blade from the oven and hang it on a wire to cool.

    11. Using a hard flat sanding stick, I LIGHTLY hand sand the blade with 600 grit. Remember to hit the spine and the bottom of the ricasso. The paper will load up quickly, so keep switching to fresh paper. The idea is to remove the baking lacquer from the high area of the topography, but leave it in the low areas. Too much pressure, especially on larger open patterns will remove the baking lacquer from the lower areas, and looks terrible. The baking lacquer works best on finer, tighter patterns.

    12. Once I'm happy with the 600 grit, and everything looks smooth and even, I will jump to 2000 grit to "polish" the high topography. Once I'm happy with that, I clean the blade with acetone. (once the baking lacquer is "baked" on, about the only way to remove it is to sand it off).

    13. I finish it off with a good coat of wax, then begin assembling the knife.

    A. The blade being CLEAN is critical. The baking lacquer is no different from paint when it come to adhesion. If a area isn't clean, it will "run off" or look "dimpled" when spraying it on the blade.

    B. It's critical to ensure that the baking lacquer is completely dry prior to baking in the oven. If not completely dry, small areas will "peel" during baking.

    C. Baking temp is critical. Too hot and it really lowers the durability of the lacquer. If you choose to use colors other than black, too hot will also change the appearance of whatever color you use.

    D. To Stress....how the baking lacquer works has much to do with how fine/tight the pattern is. Large open patterns create a lot of difficulty and problems with sanding off the high topography and leaving the low areas. Most problems I've had can be directly related to trying to put baking lacquer on a large/open pattern that I should not have tried to in the first place.

    E. Finally, Most of these coatings are similar. I have also used a product called Gun-Kote with good results. The Gun-Kote is offered in just about any color of the rainbow, where as Brownells only offers a few basic "earth tones". Many colors only come in "satin" finish, and in my opinion they do not look nearly as good as "gloss" finish...so watch that too.

    Can't think of anything else, so if there is a question, just let me know!
  3. Sean Cochran

    Sean Cochran Well-Known Member

    Thanks Ed. I have used Duracoat quite a bit and thought that would be along the lines of what you are useing. They have a high gloss black that looks good.

    I really appreciate you sharing this info with me, Ive always admired the contrast you get on your blades.

  4. cwilliams

    cwilliams Moderator

    Thats a really slick idea Ed, thanks for sharing it.
    Chris W.
  5. EdCaffreyMS

    EdCaffreyMS Forum Owner - Moderator

    Just to let you guys know....whenever I get a question like this, that I think can benefit many folks, I copy/paste the question and answer to the blog section of KnifeDogs. I set up my own blog, with the intent to use it as kind of an information repository......I always make sure I don't put anybody's name specifically when posting the question....just in case someone doesn't want it there. Hopefully it will help a lot of folks!
  6. Sean Cochran

    Sean Cochran Well-Known Member

    Use away Ed, I really appreaciate you taking the time to share what you have learned.
  7. HHH Knives

    HHH Knives Super Moderator

    I check your blog regularly.. Good stuff!

  8. jwstarr

    jwstarr Member

    Ed Do you have to thin the lacquer on just air brush it on? Like Sean I have seen your high contrast blades and they are awsome. I think I will give it a try. Thanks for all your time you spend helping

  9. EdCaffreyMS

    EdCaffreyMS Forum Owner - Moderator

    If you purchase the the "can" of liquid baking lacquer, it's thin enough to be used as is, but I like to thin it about 3 parts baking lacquer to 1 part thinner...it sprays more consistently with an air brush, and "lays" better on the blade(s). The two biggest "tricks" to using baking lacquer on a damascus blade:

    1. It works best on finer/tighter patterns...if you use it on large, open patterns, you will sand out some of the low areas in the topography, and it looks terrible.

    2. When etching a blade you intend to use lacquer on, etch it deeply (the depth is right when you can feel the topography with a bare finger tip.)

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