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Damascus Steel ? / What is Damascus Steel ?

What is Damascus Steel ?

Updated August, 6th, 2002

From :
Damascus Steel: Past and Present
By Motoyasu Sword Forum Magazine



Just what exactly is damascus steel? The word conjures up all kinds of connotations ranging from extremely beautiful to almost magical - even indestructable, when fused with diamond dust, supposedly!

In truth, damascus is just steel. It has no magical properties and is not indestructible, nor is there any "diamond dust" in it (in any case, if you did put diamond in, it would just dissolve into the steel as regular carbon, it would not impart any special properties).

The damascus of legend was also known as Wootz or Bulat and was a very high carbon crucible teelsteel. Bits of steel and iron and carbon are placed in a ceramic crucible and heated at very high temperatures until it all fused together. The high carbon content (usually above 2% - most steels used have less than 1% carbon) forms a lot of carbides, which precipitate out, forming lines on the surface of the steel. It is these lines of carbides that create the "watering" effect that damascus is so famous for.

What we call "damascus" today is really just pattern welded steel- smiths just weld together a few hundred layers of hard and soft steel and then etch in acid. The acid attacks the hard and soft steels at different rates resulting in a visible pattern on the steel that resembles the lines of carbides on Wootz. Neither Wootz nor pattern welded steels are anything magical though; the alternating layers of hard and soft impart a bit more flexibility and toughness to the steel than a solid homogeneous steel (see Damascus Steel mechanical properties), and the hard and soft in the edge act much like serrations and aid cutting, but it is still steel and will break if bent too far and cannot perform any fantastic feats of cutting.

damas corroyage

Pattern Welded Steel

Its primary use is for its beauty and exotic appearance.

Only the beauty of the Damascus Steel is magical… (G.E.)

D. Fogg

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