In this post I want to show you some textures of damascus and tell you some stories and construction methods of the main steels obtained for layering of different steels.
What you need to know is a minimum of general culture about the steels obtained with this process and know the textures to choose the one that best suits your purpose.
Now attention is not a post to learn how to make damascus because there are courses, books that explain how to do it and above all you need to have a laboratory equipped and a suitable space to be able to try and dedicate to this discipline.
Personally I use steels to draw and sinterized and if you need a damask I buy it because it is not possible for me to try in this discipline of forging.
The name Steel Damascus refers to three distinct steel products:
- The Damascus welded or packaged steel;
- Wootz Steel or Crucible Steel.
- Toledano steel.
The name “Damascus” has two possible origins.
The first from the Syrian city of Damascus, the second denies the etymological connection with the city and instead refers to the Arabic word damas which means watery,in reference to some structures reminiscent of a watery surface that formed on the surface of the steel.
The process of making Damascus steel
The Damascus package process is a fascinating steel processing technique.
The packaged damask steel is made from a forging steel box, bringing it to the red heat and beating it, bending it and re-twisting it until steel is layered.
This technique is a medieval procedure;
The first to make swords with layered steel were the Umayyad Arabs during our Middle Ages, but they had previously learned indian techniques.
This layering is necessary to make the blade flexible, but at the same time very hard, even so hard that it does not affect even with blade slats on armor or other sword.
The extreme hardness also allows you to sharpen a very fine and therefore very sharp thread without making it too fragile.
The damask in the katane
The Damascus process is the steel processing technique used especially by Japanese master craftsmen to build katanas.
The control of space in the form and the functional design of objects are for the Japanese aesthetic needs.
The fundamental sense of emptiness (suniya) of Zen philosophy, has elaborated objects of elegant sophistication, in their essentialized and exemplary simplification.
The processing of the metal, which arrived in Japan from China, does not predate the 3rd Century BC.
In Japan, metal processing from the 8th century ad to the 19th century AD came to considerable technical quality.
In Japan, the art of sword and knives reached the highest level of quality that was difficult to find in other countries.
Consider that for the Japanese the sword was revered as the bearer of the sword itself; it was handled with great care, never touching the iron, placing it among silk handkerchiefs, placing it on special sword holder in the most sacred part of the house.
The sword was the symbol of the bushide and for the caste of the samurai was the unparalleled good, the very emblem of being.
The preparation of the damask package
The Damascus package is prepared by alternately superimposing the laminates of iron and steel, fixing them with weld at a point at the end, from which first you get the handle to be held even during processing.
With the welding you join the layers and simultaneously they forge, beating them hot.
The slab you get with each shot thins and stretches.
Once a certain thickness is reached, the slab is cut into two or three pieces that again overlap and are rebeaten.
The operation repeats until you get the desired thickness.
We then move on to the thermal normalization of the bar with a first passage of the tempera, thus giving the steel the right hardness to be worked and from the obtained bar you cut out the shape of the blade and begin the gradual work of reducing thickness, polishing and finishing that will put the blade in a position to deal with the second heat treatment, the re-founding.
The blade is then polished with an abrasive and an acid and brings to light the design with different veins and features, but perfectly integrated of the structure.
This effect on the blade is called
, because it resembles the light on the sea.
At this point you add the handle of the knife, the ghieres and the cod and mount all the pieces and polish the whole and proceed with sharpening.
Types of damascus
Welded damask is very old and is the first steel technique used by man.
From the primitive extractive furnaces, an uneven iron-steel cluster was obtained, full of melting and carbon waste.
The only way to use this product was to forge it, stretching it and folding it on itself several times.
This dough work allowed the reduction of harmful inclusions and the spread of carbon evenly in the package.
This was certainly the technique used in some Etruscan blades of the 4th century BC in which two types of iron-iron plus meteoric iron were welded together: steel (or carbureto iron) for the cutting edge; iron and meteoric iron for the sides of the blade, softer and more resilient, deliberately achieving a remarkable aesthetic effect.
This was the technique used by the blacksmiths of the Celts and the Ancient Romans, then passed to the Germans who overwhelmed the Roman Empire creating medieval Europe.
It was only at the time of the Crusades, in conjunction with the increase in contacts with the East, that europeans overcame the package steel model by discovering steel at the crucible.
Today the welded Damascus technique is used for the artisanal production of artistic knife.
Packages of different steels are prepared looking at both chromatic contrast and mechanical functionality, the packages are brought to the temperature of “boiling”, 1200-1300 degrees Celsius depending on the steels used, and beaten with hammer and anvil or malin or presse Special.
With hot typing you get an autogenac welding of the various layers of steel, the elongated package, folded, twisted, engraved and retorted with the most varied forging techniques allows you to obtain almost infinite aesthetic variations while maintaining the blade functionality.
It consists of putting the broken iron, obtained from the primary fuselage ovens, insmalling crucibles in refractory clay along with charcoal and various types of leaves.
The crucible thus filled was sealed and put in a furnace for 24 hours at a temperature of about 1200 degrees.
In the crucible, iron was enriched with carbon by diffusion.
Every now and then the blacksmith would shake the crucibles, in fact when the carbon content began to approach 2 the iron became cast iron and melted.
Waving the crucible you could hear the “splash” of iron-steel in the freshly melted cast iron.
At this point the furnace was no longer powered and the crucibles were kept to cool slowly in it for another 12-24 hours.
The carbon was always diffusion from cast iron to the remaining metal mass obtaining a steel with a carbon content of 1.5 , due to the very slow cooling in the block was formed a macroreticulum of cement (iron carb).
The steel loaf thus obtained was cut and forged.
During forging, the dissolving of cement (the main source of the damasks) was not to be exceeded 750 degrees, the localized hammerings and local removals of material gave rise to the characteristic searing.
Same speech for the tempering to be always done at low aulytization temperature.
The sanding operation highlights the different layers (the so-called damasks), which resemble those in Damascus swords (the effect is similar to the wood streaks).
At the end of the processing, the texture could be further highlighted by immersing the object in acid, in order to corrode the different layers in a differentiated way.
Recent studies have shown the presence of carbon nanotubes (created unconsciously by blacksmiths of the time) in Wootz steel that could explain its remarkable mechanical properties.
This steel has a very particular story about a legend about a blacksmith of swords that in 1400 in Toledo, a city in the center of Spain, in the grip of wine fumes, hardened a blade of damask steel into the urine of the horses of a nearby stable rather than in the water.
Because urine contains azoted compounds and urea, a basic compound, the steel of the blade underwent a nitruration process.
From there on, the fame of Toledo’s blades spread across Europe and beyond its borders.
Liquid solutions for Damascus
To get the design of the damask out of the steel, the blade must be immersed in ferric chloride.
- Ferric chloride for carbon Damascus oxidation (1 litre costs about 12 euros)
- Acid solution for Damascus Inox design finds (1 litre costs about 8 euros)
Surely the damask gives the knife a valuable appearance with its designs that seem to come out of the distant past but that continues to fascinate.
All the makers sooner or later try their hand at a damask blade!
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