Damascus Blades


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CDR_Glock
August 21, 2010, 04:31 PM
Obviously, The Damascus Blades are gorgeous. Aside from aesthetics, what are the real advantages for this type of blade? Durability? Retaining sharpness? Hardness? Magical powers (ROTFL)?

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birdshot8's
August 21, 2010, 06:16 PM
Damascus is easy to sharpen and holds a good edge, but the magical powers come from the fact that a cheap piece of steel can be hammered into a really good piece of steel. A real metalurgist could explain how the repeated forging of the steel lines up the molecules giving it magical properties.

hso
August 21, 2010, 07:11 PM
Nothing. Pattern welded steel pretty much was an effort to improve the performance of primitive metallurgy in the era before the ability to control the composition of steel well. By sorting steel bloom into different sparking categories of material the early smiths were able to combine higher and lower carbon content steel to make a forge welded blade with better performance. Since that was closely held knowledge a given smith, or group of smiths, could reliably produce blades with exceptional properties compared to others who didn't know the right combination or know how to forge weld at all.

These days there's no need for all the craft associated with it if all you're looking for is pure performance. Modern smiths simply combine known steels of known properties to produce pattern welded steel for it's beauty.

Rail Driver
August 21, 2010, 07:13 PM
Sorry hso, I like birdshot's explanation better :neener:

Me likey da magickal steel!

hso
August 21, 2010, 07:20 PM
I "like" it better also, but it has more to do with romance than reality.

My knowing too much about how the stuff is made doesn't detract from the beauty of it and only makes my admiration for those early smiths sorting through steel blooms in the slag of their furnaces and then combining them with fire, hammer and raw arm power even greater than if there was some magic involved.

308win
August 21, 2010, 07:22 PM
How is damascus produced? Is it simply folded over and hammered? If so, how many folds or layers and how long and at what temperature is the metal worked?

hso
August 21, 2010, 07:25 PM
308win,

It ain't called "heat and beat" for nuthn'.;)

See - http://www.dfoggknives.com/copy_of_index/forgeweld.htm

BTW, Don uses a very HOT forge and high forging temps, but he's a genius and won't burn up his steel like mortals might at those temps. 2100 - 2500 is much more common.

It ain't called "heat and beat" for nuthn'.;)

308win
August 21, 2010, 07:47 PM
Thanks, very informative and interesting. It would be a treat to see it done. I have seen the Japanese sword making segement on TV and as I recall he started with a monolithic chunk of steel not separate pieces.

CDR_Glock
August 21, 2010, 08:18 PM
It would be nice to see a Bowie Damascus knife or other big blade.

hso
August 21, 2010, 09:33 PM
I've posted several. Just search for "damascus" and you'll probably find them.

If you'd like to see one "in the steel" you should check out a real knife show in your area like the Gator show in Lakeland or one of the FL Knifemaker's shows (http://www.floridaknifemakers.org/), or better yet a hammer-in. You'll find pattern welded steel knives galore.

If you're far enough north in FL you can find shows in GA and in SC and NC.

nevermas
August 22, 2010, 05:17 AM
while traditionally to get the wavy pattern normally known as damascus is formed through different layers of steel pounded together, recent cheaper damascus blades are formed by acid etching. I'm not saying that acid etched blades are worse or better than layers of steel, just watch out when you buy in case you get something you didn't know about.

hso
August 22, 2010, 10:17 AM
recent cheaper damascus blades are formed by acid etching.

You're absolutely correct that buyers should beware of buying something they don't know enough about, but those aren't "damascus". They're just a sham to simulate pattern welded steel. The knives that simulate damascus's pattern are pretty much uniformly junk and you should be suspicious of anything being too good a deal since a real pattern welded steel knife will be well in excess of $50 and usually above $100 (even for the cheap offshore low quality stuff).

BTW, the pattern on most damascus is brought out by etching with ferric chloride solution, but this isn't what nevermas is warning us about. He's referring to manufacturers actually masking the blade like a circuit board and using an printed pattern to etch in instead of etching a true pattern welded steel blade to increase the contrast between the higher nickel steel and the carbon steel.

JVoutilainen
August 24, 2010, 03:48 PM
I have to disagree, once again, with hso and others who say there is no performance advantage. I'll be brief this time and return to the topic later when I can use a real computer instead of a mobile phone.

There are high end blade smiths who make damascus blades specifically because of cutting properies. Why would they do something so utterly stupid and time consuming for 'nutting'?

Etching the blade to show a pattern? Why would anyone in their right mind do such a thing if they were looking for performance? I mean how sane does it sound to soak and thus corrode a blade before evaluating performance?

Furthermore, stuff you see in a knife store or even knives made by the majority of custom makers are designed to show a pretty and trendy pattern. These knives are not made to perform - its about business, about making money.

The problem when debating about this issue, and other ontrovercial topics is that automatically people make the asdumption that everything is just 'surface knowledge' and more to the point that we are so technologically advanced that there is absolutely nothing we could learn from the ancients.

hso
August 24, 2010, 06:08 PM
JVoutilainen,

We're usually in agreement on most cutlery topics, but we'll have to disagree on the using merits of pattern welded steels due to our respective studies and direct experience.

Dulvarian
August 24, 2010, 09:04 PM
I did a lot of research on this when I was getting into the habit of making knives. There are several methods that are used to create it. It is basically folding multiple layers of steel into a solid piece. The patterns can be quite beautiful. As far as the actual material properties... one of the discussions is that the layers allow for multiple 'edges'. It is just one of those things.

500 years ago, the metallurgy that was used to create the 'damascus steel' was superior to a lot of the various steels available.

My research, training, and understanding has led me to believe that the most important aspect in knives is the heat treatment. I personally think that forging plus superior heat treating of quality milled carbon steel gives an excellent, lasting knife blade.

The only downside to the patterned damascus steel that you can buy is that forging it will distort the beautiful patterns. (You have to be honest and admit that the steel is gorgeous. I would love a custom 1911 frame and slide milled from damascus steel. Not sure how practical it would be, but it would look really nice.)

Dulvarian
August 24, 2010, 09:06 PM
Here's a link to Texas Knifemaker's Supply (http://www.texasknife.com/vcom/index.php?cPath=87_895)

hso
August 25, 2010, 12:17 AM
You can get differentially heat treated modern steel to perform well or you can get differentially heat treated pattern welded steel to perform well. This is the same argument between smiths and stock reducers. Smiths will tell you that forging produces a better blade and stock reducers will tell you that it doesn't matter. The difference is that you get more consistent behavior from modern steels or you get prettier steel. That's about it.

JVoutilainen
August 25, 2010, 02:09 AM
How do you control the amount of alloying elements in the steel if you are looking for a specific combination? Can you order a batch of factory made steel at a reasonable price?

As Dulvarian said, its all about the heat treatment process. However, in order to get a perfect result you have to know your steel and understand how various alloying elements reflect upon the process.

Black Toe Knives
August 25, 2010, 02:49 AM
HSO, I watched a Guy cut a M1 Abrams tank in half with his Damascus Pin knife. It was one he bought off that Knife show on late at night.

Seriously, I worked with Damascus for a few years. There is no direct advantage over other steels. It does make a beautiful knife. They make stainless and High Carbon Damascus. It runs from cheap to very high dollar. It is about the look.

Damascus is made by welding Layers of different steels together. You don't mix the steels you just weld them together. Then you fold the steels for layers. You then maniplulate the pattern through different means like grinding groves, drilling divots, Twisting and hundred different other methods.

Acid etching does not effect the performance of metals. Because you are only etching a few thousands deep and acid is removed after etching.

Damascus is like a recipe of the maker. He will use 5 layers of X, 8 layers of y, and 4 layers of z. You can google Brad Vice at Alabama Damascus. He explains what layers and combination he uses.

Black Toe Knives
August 25, 2010, 02:54 AM
I did a lot of research on this when I was getting into the habit of making knives. There are several methods that are used to create it. It is basically folding multiple layers of steel into a solid piece. The patterns can be quite beautiful. As far as the actual material properties... one of the discussions is that the layers allow for multiple 'edges'. It is just one of those things.

500 years ago, the metallurgy that was used to create the 'damascus steel' was superior to a lot of the various steels available.

My research, training, and understanding has led me to believe that the most important aspect in knives is the heat treatment. I personally think that forging plus superior heat treating of quality milled carbon steel gives an excellent, lasting knife blade.

The only downside to the patterned damascus steel that you can buy is that forging it will distort the beautiful patterns. (You have to be honest and admit that the steel is gorgeous. I would love a custom 1911 frame and slide milled from damascus steel. Not sure how practical it would be, but it would look really nice.)
Caspian Arms makes a Damascus slide it cost about 750.00. I have been Begging my friend that makes 1911 to make me a Damascus slide.

bikerdoc
August 25, 2010, 07:55 AM
JV - lighten up, we are all knife lovers here.

hso
August 25, 2010, 08:22 AM
JVoutilainen,


There's no way to carry on the debate here. We don't have enough knife makers who study and work with pattern welded steel and modern steels to have a broad base of experience. You'll have people who forge and who have made pattern welded steel who will swear the performance is better than modern steels and you'll have people who have forged it that will swear it isn't. Even the metallurgical literature isn't just of one opinion (which is out there for anyone to take the time to review).

I don't think anyone argues against the accepted fact that you can forge weld different steels together to produce a blade that performs differently for flexibility, edge hardness, ability to bend and return to shape without breaking than either of the steels would by themselves. I think that's even intuitively obvious. I don't think anyone argues that a 3 layer "sandwich" of thin highly hardenable steel can produce a blade that performs differently than the cutting edge layer or the supporting body layers alone. All this is coupled with differential heat treat. But there are now such a broad range of steels (and non-steel alloys) out there and there are so may options for how to form the blade and edge and process the steel that you can get amazing performance out of blades.

The other basis of my opinion is the cutting competitions here in the US that grew out of the ABS cutting competitions at hammer-ins. There are so many makers producing single composition steel blades used in cutting competitions that I see nothing that sets "damascus" steels above these other differentially heat treated steels being used in the competitions. The damascus blades used in these competitions are admired for performing along with the single type steels, not that the single composition steels are trying to keep up with damascus.

When optimized for performance by a good blade maker I've seen damascus and single alloy blades perform equally.

Mp7
August 25, 2010, 09:49 AM
it was simpy the Hightech of History.
And thereŽs beauty in that.
Think of a Kentucky Longrifle and an AR15
side by side ...

... a damascus pocketknife, or a damascus Santoku
will make u proud, when u use it.
It has the magical property to make men smile, as your
instincts say "This must be a mighty tool!"

...when i get rich, iŽll buy a blade from this guy
and make my own grip for it.
Before that make it a Sebenza fullsize from D2 steel, plz. :)

http://www.schmiede-balbach.de/shop/index.php?cat=c10_Damaststahlklingen-fertig.html

"explosiondamascus"
http://www.schmiede-balbach.de/shop/images/product_images/popup_images/115_3.jpg
http://www.schmiede-balbach.de/shop/images/product_images/thumbnail_images/115_0.jpg

hso
August 25, 2010, 12:47 PM
BTW, here is the test an ABS smith has to subject a knife of his making to.

The Performance Test must be conducted in the following sequence:
NOTE: ALL TESTS MUST BE PERFORMED BY THE APPLICANT, EXCEPT AS SPECIFICALLY PROVIDED FOR IN THE ROPE CUTTING. THE MASTER SMITH IS TO SUPERVISE AND SERVE AS THE OFFICIAL ABS WITNESS.
1. ROPE CUTTING: THE PURPOSE OF THIS TEST IS TO TEST THE EDGE GEOMETRY AND SHARPNESS.
The applicant is responsible for supplying the test rope and ensuring that it is a minimum of one (1) inch in diameter. If the applicant brings a larger rope, the applicant will be judged using the same criteria as though the rope was one (1) inch in diameter. The rope is to be hung in a safe manner, so that the end of the rope to be cut hangs loose without touching the floor or any other object. As a safety precaution, the rope is not to be hand held by another person during the rope-cutting test. The hanging end of the rope is to be marked with tape or a marker to clearly indicate the area that is to be cut. The cut must be approximately six (6) inches from the end of the free hanging rope. A minimum of one (1) cut must be made. The applicant is to aim at the mark with a two (2) inch margin of high or low being acceptable. The applicant must sever the rope in two with one stroke. If the applicant fails on the first attempt, the Master Smith will allow two more attempts. However, if the Master Smith believes that the failure to sever the rope is due to the lack of skill or strength of the applicant, the Master Smith may attempt the rope cutting with the test knife. This is a test of the applicant’s ability to make a knife, not his or her ability to cut with it. If neither the applicant nor the Master Smith successfully cuts the rope, the applicant fails.
2. WOOD CHOPPING: THE PURPOSE OF THIS TEST IS TO DEMONSTRATE EDGE TOUGHNESS.
The chopping test is to be conducted with a 2x4 construction grade wood stud. The 2x4 may be either hand held or clamped into a vise or other safety device. A chopping motion (no whittling) is to be used. The 2x4 must be chopped completely through a minimum of two (2) times. The applicant may choose the area of the 2x4 through which to chop. Following the chopping test, the Master Smith will inspect the edge to determine if there is any noticeable damage to the blade. Any nicks, chips, flat spots, rolled edges, or other deformations of the blade, including bending, will result in failure of the test.
3. SHAVING HAIR: THE PURPOSE OF THIS TEST IS TO DEMONSTRATE EDGE RETENTION.
After the Master Smith approves the quality of the edge, the blade will be returned to the applicant. The applicant must then shave hair from his or her arm, using the section of the blade that was most frequently used in the cutting and chopping portions of the test. Enough hair must be shaved to demonstrate that the edge remains keen and shaving sharp.
4. BENDING: THE PURPOSE OF THIS TEST IS TO SHOW THAT THE APPLICANT IS ABLE TO HEAT TREAT A KNIFE WITH A SOFT BACK AND A HARD EDGE.
The bending of the blade is the final test. Safety gear should be worn. The edge and point will be dulled prior to bending. The Master Smith will mark a line across the width of the blade approximately three (3) inches from the tip of the blade. The blade will then be inserted into a vise, tip first, such that the blade is placed into the vise up to the mark on the blade. If the vise jaws are very rough, smooth metal or hardwood inserts may be placed on each side of the clamped portion of the blade to protect it when bending the test knife. The blade shall be bent by force applied to the handle. A leverage device, such as a pipe may be used as long as it does not pose a safety risk. The use of such a device is at the sole risk of the applicant and at the discretion of the supervising Master Smith. The applicant will then bend the blade ninety (90) degrees.
The supervising Master Smith will signal the applicant when the ninety (90) degree angle has been reached. Failure on the part of the applicant to stop his bend immediately when
signaled to do so by the Master Smith administering the test exposes the tester to risk of test failure, as any blade damage occurring during a continued bend after that point will disqualify the blade. The blade is allowed to crack at the edge on bending but not beyond approximately one third (1/3rd) the width of the blade, leaving two thirds (2/3rds) of the blade intact. However, if any part of the blade chips or any part of the blade or tang breaks off, the applicant fails. The Master Smith shall determine if the extent or location of the fracture line is acceptable. The decision of the Master Smith is final.

Every ABS smith has to make a knife that passes each of these mechanical testing requirements.

We have at least two members here that have.

KodiakBeer
August 25, 2010, 03:42 PM
Historical note: Damascus or pattern welded blades are generally attributed to India or the Middle East, but in fact most of the people in Northern Europe were making such blades much earlier than anyone else. The Saxons (and others) were making "Damascus" swords from at least the 3rd century AD.
In Europe, the practice died out about the 10th Century, but then sprang up in India and the Arab world a few years later. By the time such blades were seen again (in the hands of Arabs in the crusades), Europeans had forgotten them and credited the invention to the east.

GENTLEMAN OF THE CHARCOAL
August 25, 2010, 08:15 PM
I know I'vd got a Damascus hunting knife I bought years ago at either Cabela's or Atlanta Cutlery; can't remember which. I don't ever use it, just keep it put away. Paid close to $500.00 for it and it was on sale. It's pretty with a beautiful leather sheath and the blade is as sharp as the Solingen Germany straight razor I shave with every day. I said all of that to say I have no idea how good it would hold an edge or how easy (or difficult) it would be to sharpen..I'm retired and sort of poor so I can't be affording to use a knife with that much money in it. My Old Hickory's and my USMC Kabars and my Leatherman Super Tool get's me through just about anything I have a need of a sharp blade for....

waterhouse
August 26, 2010, 04:24 PM
It would be nice to see a Bowie Damascus knife or other big blade.
I'm too lazy to rearrange the cabinet to get a decent picture but the one on the bottom is fairly large.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v601/waterhouse/dam.jpg

ETA: I found an old pic of it on my photobucket account:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v601/waterhouse/IMGP1361.jpg

GENTLEMAN OF THE CHARCOAL
August 26, 2010, 05:13 PM
WaterHouse, those are good looking blades. My blade is about the same size and made the same way as your 3rd from the bottom. Same shape and all but I think your blade is a little larger than mine, and mine has a white handle like the 1st one in your post here and does not have the golden bands that your's sports. Again, nice looking tools there....

CDR_Glock
December 1, 2010, 01:46 AM
This discussion has been enlightening. I have just bought a knife by Henry Morgan.

http://tapa.tk/mu/62e757ea-eeeb-d4d4.jpg

http://tapa.tk/mu/62e757ea-ef31-954b.jpg

It looks good to my untrained eye.

Is it any good? Anyone know the maker?

Gordon
December 1, 2010, 11:29 AM
I think this is the best use for Damascu IMHO
http://i73.photobucket.com/albums/i203/gordonhulme/Dagger-3.jpg

CDR_Glock
December 3, 2010, 07:25 AM
http://tapa.tk/mu/a68908c2-e1b8-a85c.jpg

My next knife.

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