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Damascus Steel Guide: What is Damascus Steel & Where Did It All Start?

First Of All... What is Damascus Steel?

Customers often ask us about Damascus Steel. This amazing well known yet mysterious steel has captured the imagination of many so I’ll do my best to explain what it is and how it’s made..

The History...

Damascus steel was originally an undocumented forging technique utilized by Near East and Middle Eastern sword makers. While some evidence may suggest Damascus steel dates back to 300 B.C., the first mentions of the famed steel date back to between 300 and 500 A.D.

Western Europe received its first real taste of Damascus steel during the Crusades of the 11th Century when the Crusaders witnessed the famed blades unequivocal sharpness in action at the hands of the Arab warriors. The ferocity of those Arab warriors with their unique blades gave rise to the legends which spread throughout the Middle East and Europe. 

Steel Composition

Not every attractive, patterned blade is a Damascus Steel blade. Blades made from both crucible steel and the infamous wootz steel create the intricate and artsy blade styles you recognize in Damascus blades. Although they may look similar, the blade’s origin and forging process might sway a bit from Damascus.

wootz steel

Wootz Steel From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Traditional Damascus steel is identifiable by its various swirling patterns on the flat of the blade. The unique patterns are believed to originally be derived from blocks of Indian and Sri Lankan wootz steel. These wootz steel ingots contained a variety of “impurities” such as tungsten and vanadium that, when combined with the traditional Indian smelting process as well as the numerous rounds of layering used to prepare each blade, created the magnificent Damascus blades.  

The creation of modern Damascus steel is still an art form. From selecting the proper steel with the proper alloys and carbon content to varied temperatures for forging, shaping and quenching the steel, the process is extensive and precise.

How Is It Made?

Since 1973, modern Damascus steel blades have been constructed from a variety of steel types welded together to form billets. These billets also routinely contain strips of iron to provide the necessary firmness on a molecular level. As a result, they are stretched out and layered according to the needs denoted by the particular application of the blade and the preferences of the blade owner. This indicates Damascus steel blades are produced not in assembly-line fashion but on the basis of individual customization.

The procedure is simple: steel ingots form billets that are folded like “sandwiches” within other metal types. The resulting product can comprise anywhere up to hundreds of layers, and is certain to have a solid density and varied design. This tested process ensures both the integrity and uniqueness of Damascus steel every time.

As mentioned, Damascus is well known for its multiple – visible – 'sandwich' layers. The additional layers don’t only contribute to its toughness, but also quite literally its appearance.

With both the ancient and modern Damascus process, you have to go through the process several different times. With most Damascus steel blades in existence, that’s a minimum of roughly a dozen times but often more – up to tens or even hundreds of cycles.

Damascus Steel Close Up

Damascus Steel Close Up

Damascus Steel: Good in Your Kitchen

Today’s Damascus steel blades may not be exactly the same, but they still have legendary, unique patterns with sharp edges and a reliable overall build. It’s no wonder you find so many Chef Knives, Santokus and other Kitchen Knives using the modern process. 

They’ll look good in your kitchen, and you probably don’t have to worry about replacing them anytime soon. Just watch your fingers – they’ll let you know how sharp they are.