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What is Damascus Steel

Nowadays we use the term "Damascus Steel" differently than in the past.

Now it is a term that generally applies to two different types of metals that have been forge welded and folded multiple times. It is also often called Pattern Welded steel.

Sometimes it is two different types of steel. And often times it is a type of steel and a type of nickel. This steel/nickel combination gives a nice contrast in the pattern.



Let's take a look at the knife made from Damascus steel. See how it has lines in it? That is because it is composed of two different materials. And this combination can vary. It can be two different types of steel or even other things. In the case of this knife it is composed of steel and nickel.

This is the blank that the above knife was made from.



Here is a closer look. The light areas are steel and the dark areas are nickel. This piece has been heated in a forge and partially sanded clean.

And the specifics for this steel is 1095 steel and 15n20 nickel.






About the history of Damascus steel. Let's pull a couple of quotes from this book. It was printed in 1961.

A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times, Together with Some Closely Related Subjects




"Damascening: Decorating a metal by inlaying, or attaching, another."


"Much has been said and written about Damascus steel and swords, and it has had a very high reputation. It is a very rare and, even in Damascus, is hard to find. The reason for its reputation is probably that for centuries Damascus was the place where caravans from the East and West met and exchanged their products. Fine swords from the East were brought there and taken to the West where they were called "Damascus" although all of them were of Persian or Indian make."

Etching the Steel:

Generally the patterns can be seen but they are mild. To accentuate the contrast between the metals and make the pattern pop we can etch the steel with acid. This works because the acid will eat at the two different metals at a different rate, further accentuating the difference between the two.


Here is the damascus after it has been etched in an acid bath.









The earlier Damascus steel - There is plenty of debate about what exactly damascus steel used to be but it does have one very important consistency. The steel had a mottled and patterned look to it. This wasn't however made by heating and folding. It was made though melting iron and other materials in a crucible.

If you want to research this more a couple more things you could look up are crucible steel and Wootz steel.



Early in this video I use two colors of clay to show how damascus steel is made.



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