damascus steel?

Discussion in 'Knives & Edged Items' started by sluggermn, Feb 16, 2008.

  1. sluggermn

    sluggermn New Member

    Mar 5, 2004
    nw minnesota
    what is damascus steel? is it more desireable for knives or less so?
    they look interesting but I am wondering about quality.
    do they demand more of a price or less of a price.
    how do they make that zebra effect?

    any one want to ramble and educate me on these?


  2. Dakota Red 1

    Dakota Red 1 New Member

    Nov 26, 2007
    I'm writing you up something on another tab Slugger, have it done in a bit.

  3. Dakota Red 1

    Dakota Red 1 New Member

    Nov 26, 2007
    Damascus...I'll take a shot at this.

    Just deleted a whole bunch of TMI. I am a windbag on this subject.
    Early Damascus steel came about through the process of getting enough carbon mixed with iron to make the alloy called steel. Steel can be hardened into a good blade...iron can't. Certain locations in Europe and Asia had this process down and when the fate of the world hinged on the quality of the steel blades of an army, it became a strategic resource. Damascus, Syria was one of the places that Europeans could get fine steel.

    Damascus is not homogenous, the carbon is not evenly distributed throughout the blade...unlike modern steels.

    Jump to the present and we'll go over how Damascus is made by today's blacksmiths. Like me.

    Take same-sized bars of iron and high-carbon steel. Alternate them and stack them up.(Let's say I have 5 bars total but it can be more or less.) Fasten them together and put them in the fire.

    Get them hot enough so they will weld (fuse) together when hammered on an anvil. Now you have one solid bar made from the 5 bars that has 5 alternating layers of iron and steel.

    Take that bar and hammer it out until it is about twice as long, use a chisel to cut it most of the way through at the middle, then fold it at that cut until the two halves are together and weld them together. Now you have 10 layers. Repeat this process until you have the number of layers desired. Next fold you have 20 layers and so on...The layers get thinner every time you hammer out the bar.

    What you wind up with is a solid bar that is made up of thin layers like the pages of a book. The next step is to manipulate the bar to develop a pattern. There are several ways to do this. Most methods deal with cutting partway through the bar to expose the edges of the layers. The bar is 3 or 4 times thicker than the finished blade so you can chisel in some shallow cuts, hammer it out flat, and the edges of all those cut layers make a pattern. You can also twist the bar up tight, (it has a square cross-section) then hammer the twisted bar into a flat bar and that will give you a distinctive pattern. There are many techniques to make different patterns.

    Hammer your bar into the shape of the knife you desire and you are ready for the final 2 steps. Heat treating and etching.

    Heat treating is two-part, hardening and tempering. Hardening is an all-the-way process. You heat up your knife and put it in a quenching bath to cool it quickly. It is now all-the-way hard...and brittle. Tempering is a process you can control. You reheat the steel to a lesser degree until it is no longer brittle and the right amount of hardness is left.

    Up until now, you can't see the pattern in the metal. Etching is done in an acid bath. The acid works more on the steel layers than on iron and it brings out the pattern.

    Still had to leave a lot out but that's most of it.

    I have heard that Damascus blades develop micro-serrations when you sharpen them with a stone. The stone wears away more of the iron layers and lets the steel stand out. This sounds reasonable and could be a good thing.

    Otherwise I know of nothing that would make them better, but all that work makes them costlier. However there is now production line damascus that has made the price a lot less. And you can't make it stainless. That is another consideration.

    Hope this helps. There are some knife makers here who could add a lot. I make a blade every so often but am not too involved with the trade.---Mike
  4. sluggermn

    sluggermn New Member

    Mar 5, 2004
    nw minnesota
    thanks I am looking for a hunting knife to pass on to my son when he gets old enough to go with me and I think the unique properties of damascus steel is what I am looking for.

  5. patrol

    patrol Member

    May 19, 2007
    I think Damascus keeps a good edge for a longer time than many other types of knife blades but they rust easier. Not sure though.
  6. Texman

    Texman New Member

    Nov 15, 2006
    Didn't some companies make Damascus barrels for early shotguns? and then later on find out they would not stand the pressure of too much modern day black powder? or is my brain fried?:confused:
  7. Bill DeShivs

    Bill DeShivs Well-Known Member

    Apr 7, 2006
    Damascus has no better edge-holding properties than any good steel.
    Damascus shotgun barrels can develop rust inside the welds of the steel, weakening it from the inside out.
    Other than being trendy, pretty and expensive, damascus steel offers no benefit over high carbon steel.
  8. Texman,
    No, your brain is not fried. Damascus barrels for shotguns were made in a similar fashion as Dakota Red 1 describes, but were fashioned in the form of a barrel in lieu of a knife edge. Damascus barrels worked just fine until the advent of smokeless powder which has higher pressures over the entire length of the barrel (unlike smokeless, black powder explodes and then immediately looses pressure).
  9. Tom Militano

    Tom Militano New Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Jacksonville, AL
    There are some makers who produce stainless damascus, but it's expensive.
  10. Terry_P

    Terry_P New Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    It does make a pretty knife though

    Attached Files:

  11. Dakota Red 1

    Dakota Red 1 New Member

    Nov 26, 2007
    A knife maker had some product laid out at our last gun show. He had damascus and cable damascus (forge welded steel cable) and fake damascus. Yes, he paints a pattern on the blade with mustard and it stains it dark. Should we call that Delicatessen Damascus? Give me a six-inch drop point and hold the mayo. Oh, well...
  12. Dakota Red 1

    Dakota Red 1 New Member

    Nov 26, 2007
    Went to the annual meeting of the blacksmiths' organization in Oklahoma. One of the guys had made a damascus turtle. It is cute. Wish my picture was better.

    Attached Files:

  13. sportour

    sportour New Member

    Jan 18, 2008
    Portland Orygun
    Many years ago a knifesmith told me that the Damascus process not only involved hammer welding layered steel but wrapping it around a core of softer metal, a process still used by Japanese swordsmiths. I like to "play" with scraps of Damascus now and then. Here's a couple of knives I've made with those scraps. The grip of the top knife is an Orca tooth that was given to me by a Native artist many years ago. The dagger grip is Locust but it's a temporary and will be replaced by one of Cocobolo as soon as I solder a guard on the tang.

    Attached Files:

  14. magusjinx

    magusjinx New Member

    Apr 8, 2008
  15. Dakota Red 1

    Dakota Red 1 New Member

    Nov 26, 2007
    Not a problem with blades, just shotgun barrels.
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