Pattern welded steel
and its properties
Making Damascus knives is a very old art form
that has more than one origin and can be traced back to nearly the age of steel
itself. The India made blades, first seen in Damascus
Syria, gave us the name. But it was the many layered Japanese swords and of
course those Viking daggers with the composite blades with the chevron twists
etc that gave us the method most used today to make Damascus knives.
The art very nearly became lost to
obscurity, but due to the recent interest in knife making these past short 30
years, it has come a very long way since those early days. It's been a real
modern day renaissance if you will.
Click on image
Making the Damascus bar stock and in turn making Damascus
knives is one of those chores that keeps me
inspired. Not only can you get caught up in the different designs possible, the
thought of making Damascus blades that truly stands out in appearance and
performs as well as any other blade or better is an ever on going quest. It's
more than just making a great art knife, it's taking knife making to an art
form. You can join us here at Country Village during one of our
learn first hand how to make pattern welded steel.
First off, the components in the Damascus blades need to
be compatible with each other or in other words all heat treat the same. Second, the components
need to be quality steel that will attain a good working hardness and be
resilient. Third, the components should etch with good contrast if you expect
Damascus knife to look like a Damascus knife.
The components, 1084 and 15N20 are almost standard with
most smiths these days with good reason. On their own, each steel would make a
good choice for blades and the contrast between the two is excellent.
The 1084, although a simple steel, has just the right
amount of carbon to make a superior blade and the addition of manganese serves
to help the hardening process along. It also serves to make it etch quite dark
with ferric chloride.
The 15N20 has nearly as much carbon and has about 2,5%
nickel content added to make the steel very tough. The second benefit of nickel
is that it withstands the etch very well for a good contrast with its darker
Another benefit of these steels is that they can be
differentially hardened for a tough blade, such as a Damascus Bowie, sword or
Damascus fighter, that can meet battle conditions and
still retain a good edge.
One more very good point about these two steels is that
the carbon is at the eutectoid point and that gives you plenty of carbon to make
a fine blade and not enough to contribute to problems that can be encountered
with higher carbon steels such as grain boundary embrittlement.
These steels also lend themselves very well to natural
bluing and look very nice as bolsters on Damascus folders or other art knives.
I occasionally use other steels for making Damascus
blades such as cable but 1084 and 15N20 are proven winners. Until I find a better pair
of steels they will have a place in my shop.
Making Damascus is very
addictive and therefore I find myself making it quite often when the Sunday
bunch is here. It's a lot like a mini hammer in every weekend. The upside of
this is I have more Damascus in my pile than I can use and when I can find the
time to open up some of these bars, I will be offering it
for sale on the
Background of Damascus steel by Dr. John Verhoven