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Damascus Blades

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by CDR_Glock, Aug 21, 2010.

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  1. CDR_Glock

    CDR_Glock Member

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    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)?
     
  2. birdshot8's

    birdshot8's Member

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    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.
     
  3. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
  4. Rail Driver

    Rail Driver Member

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    Sorry hso, I like birdshot's explanation better :neener:

    Me likey da magickal steel!
     
  5. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2010
  6. 308win

    308win Member

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    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?
     
  7. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    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'.;)
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2010
  8. 308win

    308win Member

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    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.
     
  9. CDR_Glock

    CDR_Glock Member

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    It would be nice to see a Bowie Damascus knife or other big blade.
     
  10. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    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, 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.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2010
  11. nevermas

    nevermas Member

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    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.
     
  12. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
  13. JVoutilainen

    JVoutilainen Member

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    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.
     
  14. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2010
  15. Dulvarian

    Dulvarian Member

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    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.)
     
  16. Dulvarian

    Dulvarian Member

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  17. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
  18. JVoutilainen

    JVoutilainen Member

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    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.
     
  19. Black Toe Knives

    Black Toe Knives Member

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    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.
     
  20. Black Toe Knives

    Black Toe Knives Member

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    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.
     
  21. bikerdoc

    bikerdoc Moderator Staff Member

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    JV - lighten up, we are all knife lovers here.
     
  22. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2010
  23. Mp7

    Mp7 Member

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    it was simpy the Hightech of History.
    And there´s 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, i´ll 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"
    [​IMG]
    http://www.schmiede-balbach.de/shop/images/product_images/thumbnail_images/115_0.jpg
     
  24. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    BTW, here is the test an ABS smith has to subject a knife of his making to.

    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.
     
  25. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer member

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    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.
     
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