Damascus Steel – Everything You Need To Know

Anyone who has watched the game of thrones, or anyone who loves collecting knives must know a thing or two about the so called Valyrian steel, also known as Damascus steel. According to The Game Of Thrones, Valyrian Steel is described as “…a form of metal that was forged in the days of the mighty Valyrian Freehold. It is exceptionally sharp and tremendously strong, yet light, keeping its edge and requiring no maintenance. Valyrian steel is recognizable from its sharpness, as well as a distinctive rippled pattern visible in blades made from it.”

In simpler terms, Damascus steel weapons can be traced back to as early as around 500, often available in two different types; the wootz Damascus, and the pattern welded Damascus.  One distinguishing feature of all Damascus steel weapons was the attractive pattern that comprises of swirling patterns that are etched on the blade. Damascus steel swords were produced by forging different sheets of high carbon and low carbon steel. Although It is also used in making body armor, it is more common in the manufacture of daggers and swords. Unfortunately, the technology used to make Damascus weapons got lost over the centuries and today, very few if any manufacturers are making the real, original Damascus weapons. Basically, Damascus used a unique technology of layering two or even more alloys made from steel; these would then be forged together to create the signature wavy pattern found in all their tools.

  • Damascus steel swords and daggers have their origin from the Middle East. It has been said that when crusaders reached the middle east, they were perplexed that Swords made of this steel “..could split a feather in midair, yet retain their edge through many a battle with the Saracens. The swords were easily recognized by a characteristic watery or ”damask” pattern on their blades.”
  • Despite the popularity of Damascus steel fading around the 16th century, the technology used to manufacture them has resurfaced in the recent past. In 1973, William F. Moran, a famous blade-smith, unveiled his very own version of the ‘Damascus Knives.” Since then, Damascus knives have continued to gain prominence and popularity.
  • The steel used would contain high carbon contents compared to what is found in the standard steel used to make modern blades. The iron ore would be smelt in large crucibles and vats. Some historians believe that some coal or wood would be added into the ore in order to increase the carbon content. This method was not, has not been evidenced anywhere else.

During the forging process, the steel would be folded a dozen times until it formed the signature swirled, watery kind of finish (think of Valyrian Steel). Some weapon makers would fold the steel sheets up to a thousand times till they acquired the finest blades. Rumor has it that the blades would then be dipped in a liquid so as to cool and maintain their hardness even at room temperature. Dr. Helmut Nickel, a curator of the Arms and Armor Division of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, said that “…legend had it that the best blades were quenched in ‘dragon blood.’ In a recent letter to the museum a Pakistani told of a sword held in his family for many generations, quenched by its Afghan makers in donkey urine. Some medieval smiths recommended the urine of redheaded boys or that from a”three-year-old goat fed only ferns for three days.”

Historians agree that there are is no evidence of more Damascus weapons made in the 19th century; actually, the last recorded date for the last manufactured Damascus blades was back to around 1750. For many centuries, Arab sword makers were able to hide the secret behind the wavy patterns on the Damascus daggers and swords. Even European sword smiths who encountered these blades were unable to crack the secret behind. Today, blacksmiths and armorers all agree that Damascus steel contained more carbon components that the ordinary steel commonly used nowadays. Modern damascus steel knives manufacturers use 2 to 5 different alloys that are beautifully forged to come up with impressive patterns. Expert blacksmiths can tweak the blade during the heating process in order to alter the blade’s cutting performance.

Owning a this blade has more to do with your own personal style, as well as the respect this steel commands among sword smiths. A this blade will stay sharper for longer, compared to other types of blades. However, if you’re looking for the best performing blades in the world of steel, then you can always get other options to pick from. Manufacturers are now able to forge the different allows so flawlessly they can create all the required serration surfaces, or perfect edges to slice, saw, or stab. Like we mentioned earlier, most of the modern manufacturers are just trying to imitate the good old Damascus steel weapons; they are doing a nice job at it and are their blades have such huge semblance with the original pieces. However, you should be on the lookout for fake products from China, India, and other unscrupulous dealers. Now that these countries don’t sell the original thing; just that there are numerous scammers who’ll purport to sell you original ‘Damascus knives’ at cheap prices. This type of blades are somewhat expensive and if the price sounds too low to be true, you’re probably buying junk in the name of Damascus steel.

Damascus swords

Scientists have struggled over time to get samples to use in their testing for the method used in making Damascus swords. Such studies would involve cutting many different pieces of blades, for microscopic examination. As such, much of what we know or have heard about Damascus swords borders myth and legendary tales. For instance, some craftsmen claimed that Damascus blades could easily slice through a riffle in the air. Its reputation was enough to invoke fear even in the toughest of warriors. Battle after battle, Damascus daggers and swords were known to maintain their devastating sharpness. All Damascus swords had the characteristic damask pattern on the blades; an engineering marvel as well as an aesthetic attraction.

Modern Damascus blades are made when different allows have been forged together to form what’s known as a billet. Each billet is folded until the bladesmith has acquired the number of layers desired. Today, the American bladesmith society’s rules dictate that for a blade to acquire Master Smith rating, it has to have over 300 layers! With such stringent standards, it is easy to see why most of the cheap knifes in the market today all in the name of Damascus blades, are fake! When it comes to metal and steel, what you pay for is what you get. A good quality Damascus steel blade will cost you not less than $ 200. Beware of the incredibly low offers of $50 or $100. Crafting original Damascus pieces requires meticulous work that certainly comes at a cost. 

If you’ve decided to personally work on your Damascus blanks and billets, it is important you ensure you’re using the right metal type, at correct temperatures. The final products will be greatly determined by how well anneal, heat, and temper your steel. Once you have the blades shaped, do not keep them for long in the open, oiling them is a great way to help maintain their sharpness and edge. Storing the blades in a leather sheath isn’t recommendable, the sheaths contain moisture that easily causes rust on the blade. Hunting knives, golf club heads, kitchen knives, even firearm components; these are best made of damascus steel knife. The fact that Damascus steel stays sharper for longer is an added advantage for anyone who indulges in frequent dicing and slicing. Besides, the steel is easier to tweak and include micro serrations on the edge.

Final Words

Last but not least, always remember that carbon Damascus is often softer when being worked on, but upon hardening, can be even harder than stainless. For stainless Damascus, you’ll need to heat it to higher temperatures before working on it. As long as you’re working with original, genuine materials, Damascus steel is super strong, durable, and aesthetically appealing.

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