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Someone asked me recently, what is damascus? Simply put damascus steel is what you get when you take two or more types of steel (usually), put them into a forge, bring them up to welding temp (about 2000 - 2100 degrees), pull them out and quickly hammer them together into one solid pice of steel.

Typically you will start with 5 - 10 layers of steel approx one inch wide, 3 inches long and 1/8th" thick.
They will be stacked together in alternate layers. One end of the stack will be welded together and welded to an iron rod. You'll heat it up to forge-welding temp, pull it out, whack it with a hammer (starting at the welded end)
in order to weld all the layers together. Then you will stick it back in the forge to reheat it and repeat it.

After you're sure that you have welded all layers in all places, you will begin to draw the bar out. You will make it thinner and longer. When it is about 7 - 8" long, you grind the top clean, score it in the middle, and bend it in two; clean side to clean side. Then you heat it back up to forge-welding temp, yank it out and whack it with a hammer until the gap is closed and you have one solid piece of steel again. You do that over and over and over and over and over until you have the desired number of layers. Usually that is around 250 layers, though the range is from 50 to about 400. After you have your desired qty of layers, you can grind all sides of the bar clean to see if you have any voids. If you used lots of borax for flux, and hit each hammer blow just right during each forge weld, you won't have any voids. Now go forge to shape and grind a knife blade out of your damascus billet.

After you have ground your knife blade, it is all shiny and looks nothing like damascus. You must etch it in acid to bring out the pattern. Most people use ferric chloride which is a very low grade acid. You decide for yourself and you dilute it to your desired strength. After the acid bath, stop the acid with water & baking soda. Here are some photos of some Robert Eggerling damascus and some links to some info.



Below: some damascus by Pierre Reverdy. His method of making damascus is radically different.
He takes two different types of steel, then laser cuts (or water-jet cuts) the exact same profile of the dragon out of each piece. Then he slides the dragon out of each piece of steel and reverses them; light steel into dark steel background and vice versa. Then he forge-welds them together. Take a look at my next blog post on "Powder Steel Damascus" to see how he gets the recurring pattern.


Below: two different examples of damascus from an unknown maker


Thanks for looking. -Paul

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Comment by Hylton Rutherford on January 25, 2010 at 6:07
Yes, I know the best way to use meteorit, but I do have POWDERED meteorite that I'm trying to get the best use out of. I think I will cut a profile of my logo, put it in a cannister and forge out for a logo I can insert into my blades. Doesn't seem to be much else I can do with the meteorite powder I have
Comment by Stuart Smith on January 23, 2010 at 13:04
If I may offer an opinion. If you want to use meteorite in folded damascus it needs to be in solid form, not powder. One can either get a small piece and forge it flat and include it in a layered billet. You won't see the patterns because of the fine grain. However if it is in powder form box welding would be better. There won't be any grain to speak of because of the fine structure of the powder. Meteorite is best utilised in bolsters and handle material. It is very hard and brittle and needs to be worked with care and sharp tools.
Comment by Paul J Granger on January 19, 2010 at 8:56
In my limited experience with working with powder, you have to put it in an enclosed "can" of steel.
In my limited experience with working with meteorite, you don't want to change it much from it's original form. Basically it is only cool because of it's appearance (to the best of my knowledge). If you mix it well with other metals by forging into many-layered damascus or using it as powder it will look just like cast iron. Let me see if I can find some info on working powder...
Comment by Hylton Rutherford on January 19, 2010 at 1:14
Hi Paul. Thanks for the info and interesting links. I have some meteorite powder from a jeweller in namibia who works namibian meteoritr. I have been trying to make a San-mai dmascus billet with powdered steel either side of a 5160 core. The powder has tuned into a crumbly feta cheese type consistency. I think I will run siver solder into the fissures and see how that looks as it seems to have welded to the core well enough. My question is though, do you have any experience with meteorite? I have about 1kg of the powder left and do not want to waste it?
Comment by Paul J Granger on January 15, 2010 at 12:07

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