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Finishing a meteorite blade knife


Hi, Julia-

I believe “damascus” is the term for mokume-like patterns in steel
which has been repeatedly folded and forged with charcoal
incorporated to create a laminated carbon steel. or steel which has
intricate patterns from being twisted, coiled and fused to make gun
barrels (I am probably butchering the description of this process,
my apologies in advance.)

The crystalline patterns found in meteorites are called
Widmanstatten patterns. I have never etched them myself but I
understand a solution of 5% nitric acid in alcohol will do the

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry


Hi Julia,

Yea, steel is a beast compared to what most jewelers are used to
working with, & meteorite is even worse! But, steel is really a
great material, you just can’t exatly apply the same principles as
you would normal jewelry fabrication.

The first thing I need to stress is that meteorite can be unstable.
This is the reason I don’t use it that often. I have spent a lot of
time working meteorite only to have something go wrong; stress cracks
& inclusions can sneak up on you & ruin your project, so be careful &
good luck!

I’m not sure how far along you are, so I’ll just start at the

You may want to surface grind the material, so you have even, flat,
parallel surfaces. You’ll need to rough cut the profile slowly on a
metal cutting bandsaw, you may want to get a bandsaw blade that cuts
Titanium (check supplier JD Lacourse in RI; see this page for

Next, you’ll want to finish your profile, smoothing out bandsaw
chatter with a belt sander. There are several options for the belt
sander, but I recommend something that has a table that you can
square with the sanding belt, the belt should also have a back
platen. You can use a 1"X30" belt sander (most of us have one of
those) or if you have a bigger version, say with a 2" wide belt,
great it will go quicker. You could also use an oscillating spindle
sander or a combo of all the above. Check out the “Studio” section of
my website to see some photos & descriptions of these tools. Start
with 80-120 grit belts. Hog the majority off with that, then switch
through progressively finer belts 220-320-400-600, etc. (wherever you
want to stop). This will take a long time, & you will go through a
number of belts.

From there, after you finish the profile, you should scribe a center
line along what will be your cutting edge. You will be bevelling
down towards this line, but you should leave this bottom center
section about 30 thousandths wide (scribe secondary lines) From there
you can put on your cutting bevel, see photos of my knives; you’ll
see there is one large bevel then a fine cutting edge bevel.

I usually put a hollow grind on my knives which requires special
equipment & a lot of practice. So, I would go for a flat grind if I
where you. This may be hard to describe, as opposed to showing you,
but I’ll do my best. You need to determine where your grind lines are
going to be; both top & rear. The flat area that is left after you
bevel, is called the ricasso, again see photos of my work. You can
especially get this visually in my knives “Virtual Velocity”, “Moon
Storm” & “Leviathan”, as I have treated these areas different in the
blade; the bevel is colored & the ricasso is polished so you can
really see this transition.

In the rear most section of the grind, (the part that is
perpendicular to your edge, this could be ninety degrees or whatever,
I prefer the look of having this rear grind line angled forward
bottom to top), I would recommend scribing lines to match both sides,
you could also put on a “Grinding Clamp” on that will help keep these
lines even on both sides. From there use the 1x30 grinder. Again,
start with course grit belts. Grind on a slight angle (edge in)
moving the steel across the belt to help prevent gouging & chatter.
This will be a slow repetative movement with pressure applied. Have a
bucket of water or oil (preferred for meteorite) handy to dunk the
blade in & cool it off. Wear eye protection. DO NOT wear gloves:
danger!! No gloves also provides a better indicator of if the piece
is getting to hot. When it gets to hot to hold, cool it. You do not
want to overheat Meteorite, you could risk losing the pattern. eep
checking the scribed lines along the cutting edge to see where you
are. Do not grind one whole side at a time, grind back & forth; left,
right left, switch about every 1/4" of grinding; bottom to top.

Make sure to grind flat, or you will have a convex grind which just
looks kinda puffy & not very slick. I would recommend practicing all
of this on a scrap piece of steel. It is a little hard to put into
words, but I’m sure if you see it for yourself, you will get to the
results you desire. The key really is the proper bandsaw, heavy grit
belts etc, to shape remove the material, & patience!!

I am working on some tutorials for knifemaking; I am documenting the
entire creation of one of my pieces. I will eventually (soon I hope)
be putting the first section up on my website. the second section
will be included in Krause publications forthcoming book on
knifemaking, & then eventually I will compile the whole project onto
a DVD. Visuals, along with explanations is really the best way to go.

In the meantime I hope that this limited e-mail is of some help.
Feel free to ask more questions, though in the next few weeks I will
be traveling & will have limited access to e-mail, so be patient if
it takes a while for me to get back to you.

Good luck,
John Lewis Jensen
(626) 449 - 1148