With so many people showing more and more interest in blacksmithing, forge welding is an unavoidable skill to learn. In my opinion, forge welding is not only a recommended skill to learn but fundamental. You can just pick any material to forge weld so this is why you should always take some time to make research about the material you are planning to work with. A lot of people asked me about titanium, which is the main topic of this article.
So, can you forge weld titanium?
Titanium can be forge-welded to its different alloys but it has to be contained within a steel box before forging. However, titanium cannot be forge-welded to steel because the heat treatment of these two materials is very different. Titanium is generally used for making kitchen knives.
As you can see, titanium can be used for this purpose but there are remaining questions. How good is titanium for forge welding? Is it possible to forge weld titanium to steel? What about titanium and steel Damascus? These are some of the questions which will be answered in the rest of the article.
Without any further ado, let’s get right into it.
How good is titanium for forge welding?
When people in the blacksmithing community say titanium, they usually refer to titanium alloys. While titanium is the major component in titanium alloys, they can still contain a large percentage of other elements. These other elements are added to the mix to improve the mechanical properties of the material.
The strength of titanium alloys generally can be comparable to steel. It is important to note that titanium alloys have a much lower density than steel, which makes them ideal for applications where lightweight is advantageous. Titanium alloys are often used for making various kitchen knives since they have to be lower in weight.
When it comes to welding, titanium is known to be unforgiving. For a good weld, the environment would require a precise control that doesn’t compromise the structure of the titanium. The other question you have to ask yourself is- What do I want to accomplish with this?
If you plan to make a knife out of forge-welded titanium, I would not recommend it. Most of the titanium grades are non-heat-treatable. However, you could heat treat some alloys like 6AI4V, but only to the low Rockwell level.
On the other hand, titanium is a pretty weird material compared to steel, but it can still be forge-welded by hammer to its other grades. However, that would mean containing the titanium alloy into the airtight steel box prior to forging. This box should have a small hole drilled in it in order to prevent it from bursting because of the forging pressure. Keep in mind that kerosene also should go in to burn out the oxygen and distribute the carbon soot.
Once you get it up to forging temperature, there is no fear of oxygen entering the encasement. From my understanding, titanium turns into a semi-liquid condition at forge welding temperatures and has an aggressive reaction when exposed to oxygen at that temperature. This is why you should ALWAYS wear safety goggles during the work in the shop.
Note that hammering has to be done extremely carefully to prevent tearing of the box. All in all, with the right flux and atmosphere, you should be able to forge weld titanium to some other TI-alloys.
I know some people who nearly burned their workshops by hammering too hard which opened the encasement. As far as I am concerned, I don’t like this idea at all so I would not suggest you other unless you have a lot of experience with titanium in general. I will rather stick to steel.
Can you forge weld titanium to steel?
This is by far the most common question when it comes to forge welding titanium. Personally, I have never tried it but few of my friends did. Also, I see many people on forums discussing it so yes, we can extract a good answer.
You cant forge weld titanium to steel using the traditional blacksmithing technique. These two materials are not similar and require a completely different approach to forge welding. To forge weld titanium to steel, you would need to use upset welding technique.
If you are a beginner without any experience with titanium, do not try either forging or forge welding it. Titanium burns in the open air when it gets to a certain temperature and it is almost impossible to put out. So, stick to the well-known steel and practice your skills on that. On the other hand, if you are an experienced blacksmith which wants to make an experiment, then, by all means, go for it. I bet you will have a very interesting day. Whether or not will be funny, I don’t know. In both cases, tell us how it went.
As you can see in this video, even the forging wizard Alec Steele could not forge weld titanium to steel. In his first attempt, he tried using the lower forge welding temperature at a light orange color. No success. Look at the sparks coming out of heated titanium. If he didn’t wear proper blacksmithing clothing, he could be seriously injured.
In his second attempt, he tried forge welding at higher temperatures hoping that would give him a better moment for two pieces to have some bond together. Still, no success. Again, notice the sparks coming out of titanium. This is why I don’t like working with it unless I absolutely have to.
Can you forge titanium?
Titanium alloys are typically selected for various applications which require lightweight, high strength or high corrosion resistance. The mechanical properties and the cost of these alloys make the ideal choice in applications such as prosthetic devices, chemical processing and aerospace.
Before forging, you have to know the composition of the material you work with. So, for example, Ti6AI4V contains 6% aluminium and 4% vanadium. Note that mechanical properties of titanium alloys are primarily impacted by thermal and forging processes as well as the alloy content.
Both titanium and titanium alloys can be forged, however, they are much more difficult to forge than most steels. Unlike most types of steel, titanium requires extremely precise heat treatment. It is also very dangerous to forge since it produces a lot of flying sparks which can be hard to put out.
In most cases, titanium should be at a bright yellow to forge. Surprisingly, it holds the heat well, sometimes longer than steel. You will know you have to reheat it when your hammer bounces off of it. Personally, I don’t use flux to forge titanium. However, titanium is not nearly as hard as stainless or tool steel.
With so many incredible steels on the market, I don’t see any reason why would someone use titanium for forging. It is not easy to forge and it is also very expensive. So, if you don’t have some customer who is willing to pay a lot of money for a titanium knife, don’t bother with it. Stick to the high carbon steel instead.