I am currently doing a fair amount of this sort of work, though I am
using pure iron rather than steel. Let me begin by recommending pure
iron over steel for the following reasons.
First, pure iron is far and away easier to forge (assuming you are
forging it) than even 1008 mild steel. That 0.08% carbon makes a big
difference in the ease with which one works this material.
Second, the material is FAR more forgiving than any steel. You can
hammer and bend and file and upset and do all sorts of things to this
material that you would never, ever get away with in steel.
Last, pure iron appears to offer superior resistance to corrosion
over steels. There are metallurgical reasons for this. In a
nutshell, the presence of carbon in iron provides one of the strongest
migration paths for corrosion. Because pure iron contains 0.0002%
carbon, it is effectively carbon free. I have a 1" bit of pure iron
that I cut from a bracelet that was too long. It has been sitting in
the weather for a good month and I just picked it up today and noticed
that there is almost no rust on it at all. It had been pickled in
muriatic acid and was free of scale. I was impressed and happy to see
it. More on corrosion later.
Flux: I use simple borax. Get a box of 20 Mule Team at the store
and you will have flux enough for 500 years. You should need nothing
else. You could put about 20% boric acid into it too. Some smiths
swear by it.
Pickle: #1 Sparex is for steel, though it may be for stainless
only. I have n never used it so I cannot say for sure, nor can I say
how well it works. I use muriatic acid. This works like a charm,
however I warn you to use it outside or in a station made for such
materials. The fumes will rot your tools quickly, so do not use it
inside. Get a snoot full of the fumes and you’ll want to kick your
mother for ever having said yes to your father. It is indeed very
nasty stuff, so be careful, use properly and give it its due respect.
Patinas: there are a million (OK, not really a million) patinas
available for steel and iron. There’s a company whose name present
esscapes me, that makes a good variety of very nice patinas for these
metals. Another avenue is gun bluing salts. You could take your work
to a gunsmith and have them hot blue the work for you, or you could
order cold bluing salts from a company such as Brownell’s (see their
site). They go on cold and produce pretty nice results, though I
find that hot blued iron/steel produces finer, deeper colors and a more
Rust: I am currently experimenting with finishes. I do not under
any circumstance care for clear lacquers and varnishes, especially for
a piece that will be in motion and may undergo wear and tear. I am
playing with recipes using carnauba wax, beeswax, and linseed oil.
Carnauba is hard as a rock and has an almost glass-like quality about
it. This makes it very difficult to use in its pure form. Melting it
and adding some beeswax and/or linseed oil softens it wax considerably
and renders it more easily applied. I appliy it by rubbing a little
onto highly polished surfaces and then buff out by hand with cotton.
It provides a very thin coating that mucst be reapplied regularly, but
in my opinion this beats the daylights out of a lacquer that chips and
gets ratty looking in time. For unpolished, tectured surfaces, I
would melt the wax mixture, dip the work in, and wipe away the excess,
let cool and polish by hand as per above.
If you or anyone else is interested in pure iron, please go to
There you can purchase Pure Iron bar in various shapes and sizes. It
is a very good product that I believe holds the potential to
revolutionize the world of blacksmithing.
I am not affiliated with Art and Metal except that I know one of the
owners, a poor degenerate beer guzzling so and so. Nonetheless, the
product is tops.
I hope this helps.
Question: what sorts of things are you making? Are you forging or