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Damascus Steel ? / History

Iron Metallurgy and Damascus Steel Chronological History

Updated October 28th, 2001

3000 to 2000 BC

Neolithic period

Around 2800, 2700 BC the first uses of meteoric iron in Egypt

2500 BC the first iron tools are used in Anatolia and Mesopotamia

2000 to 1000 BC

Copper and bronze period

Around 2000 BC, the Hittites living in the east of the present Turkey collect the iron ore and melt it in small furnaces. 1200 BC is the ending period of the Hittites peoples, probably the blacksmiths spread in the neighboring countries and share their knowledge.

From 1500 to 1000 BC the first iron tools and weapons production centers become very active in Greece, Cyprus, Crete and Macedonia.

In South India melted iron is extensively used.

1000 to 500 BC

Iron period

Around 1000 BC the Greeks start to quench iron to improve the cutting characteristics of their iron weapons.

From 1000 to 500 BC the Hallstatt civilization, in central Europe (present Austria area), is leading the iron period.

Around 600 BC, the Persia and the Etrusquia blacksmiths know how to fire weld iron.

Starting around 600 BC the India blacksmiths use the carburization technique and repeated hammering sequences to improve the iron qualities.

In China, about 1000 BC, knowledge of iron-working techniques reached the country from the West. Using their kiln pottery curing knowledge the Chinese smiths produce the cast iron

500 to 400

Iron period

The use of the iron spreads all over Europe with the spread of the Celt civilization.

400 to 300

Iron period

In China the decarburization technique is used to produce steel

300 to 200

Iron period

Birth of the Wootz in South India.

200 to 100

Iron period

In Europe, birth of the steel. The techniques used to produce steel could be based on iron selection or on carburization. The fire welding technique is used to produce iron weapons with a steel cutting edge.

100 BC to
100 AD

In China hydraulic systems are used to drive the bellows
100 to 200 Birth of the Pattern Welded Steel with twist and chevron patterns in sword blades.
200 to 300

Mixing wrought iron and cast iron in their furnaces the Chineses produce steel

The Wootz is extensively used in India.

300 to 400  
400 to 500  
500 to 600 The "Merovigiens" use the pattern-welded steels for both their esthetical and mechanical properties.
600 to 700 The "Merovingiens" and the "Carolingiens" use the pattern-welded steels.
700 to 800 Pattern-welded steels are extensively used in Europe.
800 to 900 The "Normands" (Vikings) use pattern-welded steels for their weapons.
900 to 1000

Unceasing usage of the pattern-welded steel in Europe.

Kris are made in Indonesia;

Wootz steel is also produced in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (Ph.D. from Ann Feuerbach)

1000 to 1100

The use of the Pattern-welded steels start to decline.

1095 is the first crusade year.

1100 to 1200

In Europe the welded-pattern steel is disappearing.

During the crusade period, the Islamic armies are using Wootz sword blades. It's devastating…

1200 to 1300

No more trace of Pattern-welded steel.

The last crusade end up in 1270.

1300 to 1400

During the XIV th Century the size of the furnaces increases, it's now possible to produce cast-iron with a powerful air blast and then to convert the cast-iron to steel.

Pattern-welded steel is no more used.

1400 to 1500 The use of the steel is growing.
1500 to 1600 Re-birth of the Pattern-welded steel in Europe, in Russia the blacksmiths produce the Bulat.
1600 to 1700 The Pattern-welded steel is mainly used to produce gun barrels in Turkey.
1700 to 1800

In 1771 Jean Jacques Perret issues "L'art du coutelier" with a chapter on "Manière de faire l'acier façon Damas" (text translated in English)

1784 the "pudding furnace " is discovered in England.

1795 first scientific lectures about the Wootz steels (Mushet from England).

1800 to 1900

In 1803 is published an article from Jean François Clouet in the "Journal des Mines" : " Instruction sur la fabrication des lames figurées ou lames dites Damas "

Faraday in England and Bréant in France study the iron alloys. During 1824, Bréant explains the chemical and the crystalline composition of the Wootz.

In Russia Anosoff (1841-43) and after Tchernoff (1860) are able to re-do the Bréant's experiments and to deepen his findings.

The Pattern-welde steel is used in Western Europe to produce gun barrels (Liège, Birmingham, St Etienne, Suhl et Brescia). Damascus Barrel makers have to compete with Fake Damascus makers...

1855 the Bessemer and open hearth processes are used.

1865 the Martin process is discovered.

1900 to 2000

1900 The first electrical ovens are producing steel.

1918 Belaiew, a Russian Scientist, produce Wootz blades with a process using steel and graphite as raw materials. His experiments are duplicated by Von K. Harnecker in 1929.

During the early XX th century, gun barrels are made with plain steel, the usage of the Pattern-welded steel is very limited. Few prestige weapons are produced in Germany for the III rd Reich officers

Starting in 1960, Cyril S. Smith, C. Panseri, Oleg Sherby, Jeffrey Wadsworth, Al Pendray, M. Sachse,W. Yater, Dr Verhoeven and some others re-start the scientific work about Wootz and pattern-welded steels.

During 1973 William F. Moran (Bill) starts selling knives with Pattern-welded blade.

Starting from the States, the damascus steel spreads all over the world.

2000 + Don't stop hammering...

Some interesting links about iron history :

The Age of Iron

Medieval Iron and Steel

Early iron in China, Korea, and Japan

The earliest use of iron in China

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