View Full Version : Damascus Steel

11-29-2001, 12:00 AM
What is Damascus Steel? Why is it always etched with a pattern? I know it must be good due to the laws of economics... it is highly priced? What makes it so good? If you can recommend a reference site rather than a long response that's fine.



"The Price of Greatness is Responsibility" - Winston Churchill

Sword and Shield
11-29-2001, 03:41 PM
Damascus steel is "pattern-welded" steel. Basically, take a few steel rods, twist or bind them together, and weld. That is the pattern, not from any etching.

Damascus is great looking, which explains why it is very popular. Unfortunately, damascus is also fairly expensive. That is largely due to difficulty in making the steel.

Hope this helps.

11-29-2001, 10:03 PM
Thanks S&amp;S. I appreciate your response... <img src="smile.gif" width=15 height=15 align=middle>

11-30-2001, 12:42 PM

Edited by - sharp1 on 2/19/2002 11:12:16 PM

11-30-2001, 12:50 PM
Edited by - sharp1 on 2/19/2002 11:12:45 PM

11-30-2001, 09:24 PM
I have done some searching and have found out quite a bit over the last several months on the subject. You get two pieces of steel of different carbon contents. You the proceed to forge weld them and bend twist fold etc. This done until you get in the neighborhood of 300 layers. If you gey too many layers you lose the pattern. The blade is final ground then etched with an acid to help expose the pattern. It takes an amazing edge supposedly and is also supposed to be very flexible. This winter I hope to do some knife making. I want to make a black handled damascus blade chinese folder.

Sword and Shield
12-01-2001, 07:20 PM
Sharp1- I know that acid is used to bring out the pattern, but I was attempting to say that the pattern is actually the steel itself, not just a etching.

Thanks for the clarification! <img src="smile.gif" width=15 height=15 align=middle>

Keepin' it real...real sharp, that is.

12-05-2001, 10:31 PM
Thanks for the responses. I also liked the links. I do have search engines, but figured I could get some precise answers or references here in the forum. I hate surfing the web... it seems you find one good site out of every 30 or so... oh yea... and then there's the one about Damascus the porno star.
Thanks again guys...

"The Price of Greatness is Responsibility" - Winston Churchill

12-15-2001, 01:35 PM
Thanks Gary good question and the responses are good. My question is what is the best polish for Damascus stainless steel or is it the same as regular principles of maintaing steel finish?

Knife Knut
12-02-2002, 01:57 PM
Do you use Google, Gary?

Knife Knut on a shoestring budget.

Ed Schempp
12-17-2002, 10:47 PM
Damascus means watered steel. That which has the illustion of rivers and pools. Some of the first was made of wootz ingots brought across the silk road to Damascus. Multiple low temperature forging and the heat treating was responcible for the pattern. Layered steel has been found that was forged B.C. Standard layered Damascus can have the pattern manipulated by twisting or cutting patterns into the billet and then reforging. Mosaic Damascus is end grain pattern welded. Recombining several patterns is often done to give pleasing eye appeal. The difficultly with Mosaic is to transfer the end grain pattern to the side of a blade. This can be done with recombination of tiles cut from the end of the billet like slices off a loaf of bread, and then rewelding to a core piece, or by accordian opening of the billet by cutting slots into the billet alternating from opposite sides to open the steel like a fan,

Ed Schempp
12-17-2002, 11:02 PM
Damascus can be made of highand low carbon, but other alloying components can be even more important, like nickel, chrome, manganese all effect the etched coloration of steel. To get the 40 some pounds of bolster material for the twentyfifth anniversary knife I forged about 450 pounds of steel in primary billets, The forge scale loss was about 15% the balance was to cutting and grinding. This project took about three monthes of forging and labor. I think that gives you an idea to why the material is expensive. By picking appropriate materials of a designed purpose for a piece of cutlery you can enhance the breadth of positive properties that you can bring to use in the designed tool. This was especially true before the development of the bessemer process and industrial steel production. Now days there are so many good specialty steels availible that the need to make composites has been reduced but not eliminated.

12-23-2002, 02:36 PM
Pattern welded steel got the name &quot;Damascus&quot; because that city was a major trade center during the Crusades, and European knights first ran across the steel there.

To over simplify a bit, steel is iron with carbon added. Iron carbide is a whole lot harder than iron. Using primitive methods, it is close to impossible to melt iron, which makes refining steel difficult. But, if you heat up a sheet of impure iron in a forge, fold it in half, and pound it flat, you will knock out some slag, and some carbon from the forge will find its way into the iron. Do that enough, and the iron becomes fairly pure, and the addition of carbon changes the iron to steel. Since the folding process welds two layers of steel together, the effect is something like plywood, which is stronger than plain wood. Theoretically, the number of layers doubles with each fold, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024. Some people might claim that ten folds will give you over a thousand layers, but in practice it doesn't work out that way.

if you use two different kinds of steel, one will be more acid resistant than the other. So, if you do an acid etch, a pattern will emerge. There is no advantage to etching, other than cosmetic. I am not sure if it is still available, but the chemical Radio Shack used to sell to etch circuit boards used to be reasonably good.

Now, of course, the people who make pattern welded steel start out with refined steel instead of, say, meteoric iron. The product is pretty, but I do not believe it has many engineering advantages over a good alloy steel.


Ed Schempp
12-26-2002, 06:56 PM
Damascus laminates can still help us achieve quailties in a working blade that are hard to match with contemporary smelted steel. Currently I'm making some San Mai products that have some impressive qualities. For example: 15N-20, 52100, 15N-20 San Mai has more ductility than straight 52100. It can be heat treated to yield a RC hardnes of 62-63 for the core material that is on the cutting edge, and the ductility of the 15N-20 will support more torque and stress than a homogenous piece of 52100. The 15N-20 material is often the bright color that many smiths use in their Damascus today. The material in the heat treated state is more corrosion resistant than 52100.
In production of a traditional Katana the tagami raw material has to under go many forgings to refine the impurities out of the billet. Often the piece is forged out and folded on one axis then reforged and folded on the perpendicular axis. After these two very important welds are complete, the Japanese smith then often cuts the billet and stacks the pieces so the numbers on doubling the layers goes out the door and you have to multiple by the number of pieces times the number of layers per piece. So when you change the factor from 2 to 8-10 it is much easier to get to the extreamly high layer counts.

01-10-2003, 05:31 PM
Mr. Schempp,

I really enjoyed the explanation. Thanks for taking the time to pass the knowledge along.