Damascus Folder


January 6, 2003, 06:21 PM
I've been looking at, drooling over, and wanting to buy a damascus blade knife for years. So now I'm in the "serious" stage of looking for one.

I am thinking in terms of a "tactical" style lockblade folder - up to 3.5" blade length. Locking mechanism not important so long as it is a tried and true type.

Looking for something with some style and class to it that would be appropriate with anything from jeans and a t-shirt to Italian suits. NOT a display piece, but something to carry and use (sparingly of coures).

Any suggestions or ideas? Pictures would be appreciated!


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January 6, 2003, 07:24 PM
I'm not a big Microtech guy but they make 3 wootz autos:


January 6, 2003, 08:21 PM
Why not a tactical Buck? http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid46/p4980903e20b1505b2d0fcae27be10c86/fcd14b60.jpg

You can go right here HERE (http://www.buckknives.com/pcks/index-new.php) and build a damascus folder for around a hundred bucks.

Damascus blades built by a true knife smith are going to cost bucks and they will be something that you would enjoy.

January 6, 2003, 10:44 PM
There are literally hundreds of options. What is the absolute upper limit on what you will pay ($300, $500, $700, +)? Do you want to care for the knife or do you want a "stainless" damamscus?

Kim Breed makes some great damascus folders with damascus bolsters. He makes the damascus, cuts it all himself, and forges the blades. You can get one of his "simple" damascus folders for around $500. Add damascus boslters, exotic handle materials, gemstone thumbstuds and you can work your way up to $1200 in a hurry.

Take a look at bladeart, knifeart, arizona custom knives, etc. for multiple examples.

Take a look at bladeforums search for damascus and you'll be stunned by the returns.


All that aside, damascus and "tactical" don't go together well. Damascus will easily be outperformed by modern steel and non-steel blade materials so it's suitabiltiy for use on a tactical knife (what ever that is) is called into question. If you want a knife that reflects your ability to deal with most situations while at the same time being classy and inspirational then don't limit yourself.

Jim March
January 7, 2003, 12:21 AM
All too many lower-end "Damascus" blades are another way of describing a blade with a huge number of small cracks running through it. Not for me, thanks...'specially not in a defensive piece.

Now, get into a genuine Wootz-type steel and it's a different story. But that's big money, and not a lot of choices in blade type. I know of no such critters in a "modern design folder".

January 7, 2003, 08:54 AM

For the folks that don't know what's the definition of "Wootz-type" steel?

Don Gwinn
January 7, 2003, 10:42 AM
"Wootz" and "Damascus" are technically the same, but "Wootz" is pretty rare. "Damascus" has come to be used to describe steel that is, technically, "pattern-welded." Pattern-welded steel is really not that hard to make if you can figure out how to forge-weld, which is also not as difficult as it sounds when someone describes it. If I can do it, it can't be that hard!
Making Wootz, on the other hand, is very difficult, can only be done with exactly the right alloy, and was a lost art for hundreds of years. It's only in the last 20 years that Al Pendray and some others have rediscovered the way to make Wootz.

The process of making Wootz involves placing just the right iron alloy (in the old days, the smiths who made it in the Middle East knew it had to come from a certain area, but they didn't really know why) into a crucible with clay, leaves, etc. The types and proportions of all the ingredients have to be pretty exact--this is not case-hardening although it sounds similar. If it's done right, the resulting steel has a grained or veined appearance on the outside. This stuff is in fact superior to many modern steels in many ways. In fact, when Pendray and the others first figured out how to make it again, there was talk of mass-producing Wootz for aerospace parts! Amazing the things we've forgotten.
Anyway, this seemingly magical steel was justly famous. Europeans mostly bought it in Damascus, so it became known as Damascus steel. The smiths who could create it were in demand, and they protected the secrets of creating Damascus so fiercely that eventually the method died out and was lost for a couple hundred years. I don't know exactly how to make Wootz and I get the impression that one would have to be a VERY good smith to make the method work even if he knew it. Note that Pendray and the others have shared their findings pretty freely and yet Wootz is still pretty rare. There are people making it, but it's expensive, difficult, and easy to ruin.

Pattern-welding is the art of taking two different types of steels and welding them together into one billet, mixing the steels in some way as you go. The usual methods are to fold, twist, or cut and re-weld the billet as you forge it. By welding two steels together, the old-time smiths sought to combine the hardness of one steel with the toughness of another, for instance. Of course, this is far from a perfect way to do so, but it was better than either steel alone at the time, or at least that was the theory. Nowadays, modern steel alloys far outperform most pattern welds. There is the additional danger, as Jim points out, that the smith might leave "voids" or open spaces in the steel where the weld didn't take. This is devilishly easy to do, but any decent smith will have tested the blade thoroughly before he tries to sell it to you.
Now, I have no expert confirmation on this, but if I were looking for a pattern-welded blade for serious use (defined as all out abuse where I was afraid the blade might break, bend or dull out) I'd look for a very small-grained type pattern--I tend to think that's a tighter, more even "mixture" of the steels and so less likely to have a soft chunk next to a hard chunk and so on. It also usually means the smith spent more time manipulating the billet, thus "mixing" the steels better.
For most people's purposes, such as cutting food or skinning and butchering game, any decent Damascus should work fine.

The short version? Pattern-welded steel is probably what you want. It's beautiful stuff if it's done right, and it can be plenty tough for what you want. Wootz . . . . well, if you have a Wootz pocketknife, you'll never lack for a conversation starter! It is, however, expensive.

Wootz info:
Historical and Scientific overview of Wootz (http://metalrg.iisc.ernet.in/~wootz/heritage/WOOTZ.htm)

Wootz appearance:

Pattern-welded steel can be just about anything you imagine. To get the "Damascus" appearance, the steels are forged together and the resulting blade is etched. The etchant reacts with the different steels at different rates, so one always gets darker, is etched more deeply, etc. This creates the contrast. You can get Damascus with ladder patterns, spiral patterns, stripes, swirls, polka dots, "raindrops" and even words. Daryl Meier once made a bowie with the American flag repeated down the blade--with thirteen stripes and fifty stars in every single flag!
(Don't bother asking me how he did that. If I knew, I'd have made one. :D )

A couple of shots from Daryl's Page (http://www.meiersteel.com):

And one more I can't explain. This one is actually less impressive than the flag, except that he took the time to make the "USA" read correctly on both sides of the blade:

OK, now you all know my dirty little secret. I'm a steel geek. Emphasis on Geek. :D

Don Gwinn
January 7, 2003, 11:03 AM
BTW, you can buy blanks of Wootz and either grind them into blades yourself or send them off to a maker you trust. I wouldn't try to forge Wootz, nor would I want to grind the blade. If you screw it up, you're out a bit of money.

However, Wootz is a ferocious blade steel and would certainly make a great blade. As I understand it (all second-hand, mind you) it's a lot like Talonite or Stellite. It has a high carbide content such that it cuts well without being hardened, so if you forge a blade out of it and leave it annealed you have a soft-steel blade that's springy and tough like good spring steel hardened moderately, but cuts like good tool steel hardened to the max. There's not even a hamon or line between the zones like you'd get with a differentially-heat-treated blade.

Geeze, I was half-joking before, but I really am the Geek of All Nerds. Oh well.

January 7, 2003, 11:30 AM
Wootz vs. Damascus...I thought they were the same! Thanks for the comprehensive explaination!

Don Gwinn
January 7, 2003, 01:14 PM
As I say, technically they are the same. However, more people will understand you if you refer to pattern-welded steel as "Damascus." Damascus gun barrels, for instance, are all pattern-welded steel. At the time most of them were made, as far as anyone knows, there was no one living who knew how to make Wootz.

It's kinda like going into a restaurant in central Illinois and ordering the "Walleye filet." What they bring you won't technically be Walleye, but you and they are both supposed to know that. If you ask for "generic white fish" they'll look at you funny. ;)

January 15, 2003, 08:49 PM
I've made pattern damascus before in my forge, but I've always heard that Wootz damascus was simply a single bar of unrefined iron that was worked over continously in the forge to work out impurities. Eventually the piece became so thin that it had to be folded over on itself and welded. It used to be that the finer the pattern meant the better the steel (since the finer patterns were worked in the fire longer) the lines you would see were carbon desposits that were picked up from the fire, marking weld lines. As has been said pattern welded steel is composed of two distinctly different alloys, I've use a high carbon steel and a mild steel. In this stuff the number of layers is more a matter of taste than a predicition of the quality of the blade. I would say that good quality damascus is a strong steel, theoretically it possesses some advantages over a through hardening steel since the low carbon layers will not harden to the same extent that the high carbon will and thus will back up the more brittel steel, you could probably get away tempering the finished blade to a harder state because of this; however, it is likely that during the forging the lower carbon would have picked up some excess carbon from the fire and would also become brittle. I like damascus for it's looks, but there are stronger plain steel blades made today that are less expensive and I think they are better choices for a working knife.

Jim March
January 15, 2003, 10:02 PM
The high-tech tool steels we have today such as M2, D2-modified and A2 are hard to beat even with Wootz. 5160 is just superb for bigger blades.

I doubt I will ever own a pattern-welded blade of any sort. *Maybe* a Wootz based on their performace versus "tradition".

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