Why Damascus Steel?

Discussion in 'Knives & Edged Items' started by OneFatCat, May 13, 2011.

  1. OneFatCat

    OneFatCat New Member

    May 14, 2008
    Frederick Maryland
    I am in the market for a nice hand made Bowie and was wondering why Makers like to use Damascus steel so much is it mostly becasue of looks or is there a spicific reason? I found this knife that I like and it is Damascus steel ...


    Last edited: May 13, 2011
  2. permafrost

    permafrost Active Member

    Feb 24, 2010
    Oklahoma, USA
    I don't know anything about knives, which is why I've kept my trap shut through all the ones you been showin' to Mr. DeShiv's, but I know what I like and that one is beautiful! Some times they speak to ya'.

  3. Jay

    Jay Active Member

    Mar 26, 2003
    That's a nice looking knife. Basically, Damascus steel is alternating layers of hard and soft steels, thus gaining the best that both steels have to offer. This article explains it better than I can.

  4. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

    Feb 3, 2007
    NW Florida
    Damascus swords - the REAL Damascus steel, made in the city of Damascus, has had a reputation for hundreds of years. You could, supposedly, take the hilt in one hand, the point in the other, and bend the blade so that the point would touch the hilt. Then release the tip and the blade would straighten out, and there would be no damage. You could hold the edge upward, and drop a silk cloth on the edge, and the weight of the cloth falling on the edge would cut the cloth in half. Because of this reputation, people WANT Damascus blades. I don't believe modern Damascus will do that. Not even sure if I believe Damascus would do that five or six hundred years ago.

    The secret of making that great Damascus sword steel disappeared. No one knew how to do it for hundreds of years. Then, some thirty-forty years ago, it was rediscovered. Yes, it is extremely pretty. It is possible that the stuff made today is better knife steel than other steels. But I think the sales are caused more from the 600-year-old reputation and the pretty, than anything else.

    I do know that Damascus knives are expensive as hell. Don't really know why, when you can buy a Damascus blade for thirty bucks.
  5. permafrost

    permafrost Active Member

    Feb 24, 2010
    Oklahoma, USA
    I'm like you, Alpo. I doubt todays craftmen have the knowledge or determination and skill required to turn out something like a real Samurai sword. I think it took month's of skilled labor to complete one correctly.
  6. Brisk44

    Brisk44 New Member

    Mar 6, 2011
    Todays market is driven strictly by sales volume there is no time for the truely top notch craftmanship.
  7. Hawg

    Hawg Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2011
    Modern damascus is made from twisting together strands of different strengths of steel wire, then hammer welding it. Some knife makers use wire cable which leaves a nice symetrical pattern but isn't as good.
  8. Zhurh

    Zhurh Active Member

    Mar 19, 2010
    Upper Yukon, Alaska
    I have a buddy from Georgia, his brother has been up here to Alaska hunting a few times. His Brother has a forge, makes super nice knives. Every fall, my buddy shows up with another knife or two and I buy them everytime; pretty nice damascus blades. I even have a few skinning/cutting up knives that are damascus; work just fine and seem to hold an edge longer for me. I throw them in the gun vault, kids will appreciate the knives someday I figure.
  9. Country101

    Country101 Well-Known Member

    Feb 28, 2004
    NW AR
    Damascus is folded sheets of thin steel hammer welded together. The qualities can definately vary.

    There is a guy at silver dollar city in Branson, MO that makes knives and has some VERY nice knives. Some are demascus. He was actually a metallurgist for years before making knives. He's good on a forge too. The trick to any knife is the hardness of the blade and the flexibility in it as well. The blade and the "backbone" are tempered to differant stiffnesses. This guy does a good job with them. His demos are awesome. He takes a knife he has made and will slam it into a heavy walled 55 gal steel drum and then cut a free hanging 1" rope like butter. And repeat the process 8-10 times during his talk.
  10. Hawg

    Hawg Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2011
    Very old damascus like original Samurai swords were folded. More modern damascus uses wire strands.
  11. Country101

    Country101 Well-Known Member

    Feb 28, 2004
    NW AR
  12. Bill DeShivs

    Bill DeShivs Well-Known Member

    Apr 7, 2006
    Modern damascus steel is made in many ways, not just using sheets or wire strands-welded billets, powder metal, etc.
    Damascus steel has no magical qualities, other than some of it has a coarse edge because of the differing metal hardnesses.
    Modern steels are more consistent.
    Differential hardening is a very old process. Most modern steels don't need differential hardening.
    The making of pattern welded (damascus) steel was never lost, except in America. Some WW2 German daggers were made of damascus. The pattern welding process was "rediscovered" by Bill Moran in the 1970s.
  13. OneFatCat

    OneFatCat New Member

    May 14, 2008
    Frederick Maryland
    Well guys just an update on my Bowie knife quest ...I did buy this knife and should have it sometimes this week. The knife is unsigned but this was how the seller wrote up the discription.

    Offered for your consideration is spectacular and unusual hand forged custom damascus bowie knife. The knife is completely unmarked although I have an idea of who the maker may have been. This is an early damascus knife that was likely made in the late 1980's, when only a handful of custom makers were following Bill Moran's lead. The knife comes from a high-end southeast collection that was assembled from the late 1970's to the early 1990's. This collection included knives from some of the top early innovators in the custom knife world and some of these knives were among the first knives to find there way into my personal collection. The collection held many knives from some of the most talented makers in the southeast, primarily Georgia and Florida. One of these makers was Durrell Carmon Johnson, whom I strongly suspect made this knife. Johnson spent roughly four decades as a blacksmith and knifemaker. This is a large, gorgeous bowie that was beautifully crafted. It's very unique in that the blade was mirror polished. Damascus is generally acid etched to bring out the contrast of the layering or grain. The grain is clearly visible in this blade, although from a distance it looks like regular mirror polished steel. It's a very interesting effect that makes for an awesome knife. The massive blade was skillfully forged and is 1/4" thick. The blade appears to have been forged to shape and shows excellent symmetry with very little grind work. The damascus exhibits a beautiful random pattern and one side of the blade shows two small forging voids. To me this adds character and adds to my suspicion that Johnson was the maker. He once told me that he didn't even have a power hammer until like 1990. He said his damascus was forged with "my right arm and three-pound hammer". The clip was aggresively ground to facilitate sharpening of the upper edge should the owner so desire. The blade is exceptionally sharp! In fact, it's razor sharp and will shave with ease. The edge will cleanly wipe the hair from a forearm. The double guard was sculpted from solid brass and was beautifully executed as well. It shows excellent symmetry and the design is somewhat unique, with the top and bottom of the handle side angles shaved to about 45-degrees. This allows the top side of the guard to be used as a thumb rest. The blade was perfect centered with the guard and the blade/guard junctions are very clean. They were silver soldered with a skilled hand and show a seamless fit. The handle is phenomenal section of Sambar stag. It's exceptionally thick and really fills the hand. The natural shape of the stag was exploited to offer a firm, comfortable grip. There was very little shaping of the stag, with just a small area near where the index finger meets the guard that was flattened just a bit to improve comfort. The shaped surface was deeply polished and is as smooth as glass. The stag is very rich in both color and texture. It has a classic appearance and is rock-solid. The pommel is of thick brass as well and was perfectly shaped to match the contour of the stag.

    Despite its impressive dimensions, the knife handles beautifully. It feels great in the hand and doesn't feel awkward or unwieldy at all. It's nicely balanced and offers nice blade control.

    The blade is 11-3/4" and the knife measures just under 17" in overall length. It weighs in at just under 1-1/2 pounds.

    The sheath is the original and was hand crafted as well. It was made from thick leather and was solidly built. It was tooled in a basketweave style and has an unusual belt loop that would allow for traditional (vertical) or horizontal (although I can't figure out why) carry. It's free of any cuts, tears, loose/missing stitching, or any other damage, showing just some soiling from storage. The knife also comes with a large padded zipper case for storage.

    If you appreciate fine, handmade custom knives, this is a very unique, heirloom-quality knife that will be treasured through the generations.

    A huge, gorgeous, and early custom damascus bowie!!
  14. carver

    carver Moderator Supporting Member

    This is what real Damascus steel looked like, Close-up of a 16th century Iranian crucible forged Damascus steel sword. I believe that we have carftsmen today that could produce a very close copy of this steel, but the labor involved would create a price that most would not pay. Folding the metal a thousand times would take months to do by hand. Todays craftsmen try for a few folds to give that damascus rippled look, and create a knife that will sell.

    Attached Files:

  15. Country101

    Country101 Well-Known Member

    Feb 28, 2004
    NW AR
    Aint that a coinkydink...... Same guy as I was talking about presumably.

    Carver, the auto hammer would significantly speed up the process these days. While it would still take a long time to make one, it would be significatly less.
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