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Make a Damascus Steel Knife Part 7

In ths part of the tutorial we etch the damascus steel blade to bring out the pattern.


The knife has been blackened by the forge. Clean all that off with a fine grit emory paper.

The knife

And then clean the whole thing very thoroughly with acetone. We want to get it very clean. Any impurities on the blade will impede the etching.


About Etching -

There are a lot of different ways to etch a steel blade. The method we use is pretty traditional and it has been done this way successfully for a long time. But it uses toxic chemicals. So... this is something not to be done lightly and only by adults with some skill.

Safety Note

I am using Ferric Chloride for the etching. It is a very commonly used acid for the making of circuit boards. It must be handled carefully and you should take all safety precautions including gloves and a respirator. And, once you are done with it you should neutralize it with baking soda then dispose of it properly by contacting your local municipality and asking them where to bring hazardous waste. Do not pour it down the drain. Research the handling and use of ferric chloride more thoroughly before ordering and using it.

If all of this is a bit intimidating there are alternative etching methods such as using vinegar and salt.

Ferric Chloride





I diluted the ferric chloride by mixing it with distilled water. I used three parts water and 1 part ferric chloride. And note that when mixing water and acid you always add the acid to the water. Never ever add the water to the acid. This is important. Things like this are why I recommend researching this whole thing a bit more if you are going to use it for etching.

Interesting Tip about etching in acid. You might think that the stronger the acid the better. But this isn't really the case. We don't want a fast etch. This will leave it irregular, pitted and unsightly. We want a nice slow etch. It will be much better. I diluted my acid and then soaked the knife in it for 15 minutes. And I am confident that it would have been even better if I would have brought the soak time up to 30 minutes.

Just use the minimum amount needed to cover the knife. No need to mix up more than is needed.

Carefully, using a wire, set the knife into the acid so it is completely covered.

Soak in acid bath


Check on the etch

You can carefully check on the progress of the etch.










And when it is ready you can transfer it to a neutralizing bath. That second tub is water mixed with a large amount of baking soda (Calcium Carbonite). Once it has been neutralized you should then rinse it very thoroughly with plain water before handling it.


Rinse the knife


Let's Continue!


The Wonder of Knifemaking Book

The Wonder of Knifemaking

Master smith Wayne Goddard is an icon in the field of knife making. As a full-time maker, teacher and writer, Goddard works as hard to teach knife making skills as he does to acquire them. His affiliation with BLADE Magazine has brought new and interesting information, tips and tricks to thousands of would-be knife makers. Other popular titles from Goddard include The Wonder of Knifemaking (2000) and $50 Knife Shop (2001 and 2006).


Basic Knifemaking book

Basic Knife Making: From Raw Steel to a Finished Stub Tang Knife

Learn the craft of knifemaking. 205 color images and step-by-step instructions provide for all stages of construction, from selection of the steel, to forging the blade, assembling the handle, and constructing a holder.



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