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About Damascus



Why Damascus? It is beautiful, has integrity, ultimate cutting edge, no two the same, tough, unique, hard to make right, indestructible, and a joy to own.


The blade steel is 224 layers of 0-1 tool steel, S-2 shock steel (jackhammer bit steel) and mild steel.  The blade is made by starting with two 3/8” layers of S-2 steel, one 3/8”layer of O-1 steel and 4 layers of 1/8” mild steel.  They are stacked with the mild steel on the outsides and between the layers of O-1 and S-2. The width is an inch and is about 3 inches long.
















A handle is arc welded on one end to hold the piece when hammering.  The whole thing is brought to a forge welding heat in the forge and fused together under the hammer.  It is then drawn out to about twice the original length, cut almost in half, brushed and folded over with the addition of welding flux (anhydrous borax) and fused again. This process is continued until 224 layers are formed.

                                                                                          CHISEL CUT






                       1.                                                                      2.







3.                                                                                                                                             4.


The finished blank is drawn out to a tapered shape about 1/2” thick. The surface is textured by grinding grooves and possibly drilling shallow holes on the flat surfaces.  During the high heat required for forge welding, carbon migration between the different steels is stopped by the high silicon content in the S-2 steel.  In this way the individuality of each steel is maintained.



                                                                                                    SHALLOW HOLES

                                                                                                    MAKE BULLSEYES












When the bar is hammered to almost finished blade thickness, the grooves and shallow holes are lifted to the surface.  After grinding to outline shape and final finishing, the tapered edge of the blade is hammer packed along the cutting edge to reduce the grain size of the different steels.


A good blade can also be made by twisting the finished billet after it is forged round. When this is hammered out flat the twist pattern, known as Maiden Hair, is evident. It is next to the ladder pattern for increasing the number of layers crossing the cutting edge.


              LADDER PATTERN                                          TWISTED PATTERN












Another beautiful pattern is what I call “Eagle Wing Damascus”. Here I try to force the pattern to look like wing feathers. This is accomplished by grinding diagonal lines and inputting several bullseyes.


After grinding the sides and handle section, it is polished.  After the initial polishing it is hardened at the forge, repolished, tempered and polished again.  Next it is acid etched in hydrochloric acid.  The acid eats away at the different steels at a different rate so that a one of a kind pattern is visible on the blade. After rinsing, the blade is coated with a brass black solution (like gun bluing) then polished with a worn 600 grit sandpaper.  This highlights the raised portions of the steel pattern and leaves the recessed layers dark so that a beautiful contrast is achieved.


The mild steel tests out at a Rockwell hardness on the C scale of 45.  The S-2 tests at 59 and the O-1 between 62 and 64.  The result is three steels with different hardness crossing the cutting edge many times. The grooving of the steel maximizes the number of times the layers cross the cutting edge.  The result is a miniature saw edge with different steels of different hardness that wear away at different rates and in effect self-sharpens for a period of time.  As the mild steel wears away first the O-1 and S-2 steel is left behind for maximum cutting. It stays sharp and also sharpens easily with a very light pressure on a ceramic sharpening rod.  Use a quality ceramic such as Coors ceramic distributed by Spyderco knives.


This type of laminated blade cannot break easily.  The many layers do not allow a crack to propagate through the blade. Testing has shown on one my blades bent to 90 degrees and hammered flat on an anvil, cold, did not show any sign of stress or breakage. This was a combination of O-1 tool steel and mild steel The blade had to be bent to almost 180 degrees before the outer layers crack. Even then the blade did not break. Because of this a Damascus blade is a real survival knife and will out perform any single steel knife. My newer blades may be more less tolerant since I have incorporated lots of S-2 jack hammer bit steel in the layers.


Damascus steel is beautiful and has a superior cutting blade if forged properly from the right combination of steels. Since 1977 I have been experimenting with different steel combinations and have chosen the steels I use because the blade is tough, pretty and durable. The S-2 is used because it stops carbon migration and by itself as a blade can cut any other blade ( i.e. buck) in half without any sign of chips or edge loss.  This was demonstrated at a workshop with 45 smiths in attendance where one of my S-2 blades was placed at right angles to a buck knife held in a vise. It was hammered on the back, edge to edge, through the buck knife with no sign of stress on the S-2  except a shiny spot where the buck blade passed by the sides of the S-2 blade.  The high silicon and carbon content of the S-2 makes it a very durable shock resistant steel. The addition of the O-1 (a common knife steel) adds hardness to the blade.  The mild steel layers add toughness to the blade.


There is a lot of “junk” Damascus on the market today.  Just because a blade is laminated and called Damascus does not mean it is a quality blade.  Damascus from India and Pakistan, as well as, many of the blades made in America are not superior steel. They only look nice but often times are not what they could be.


The differential hardening of the blade leaves only the lower half to two thirds of the blade in a hardened state.  The back of the blade is spring hard and the tang is relatively soft. The blade can rust so keep it lightly oiled, or use Vaseline in inclement weather. Damascus is easily cleaned by using a worn 600 grit sandpaper lengthwise on the blade. The raised portions are polished quickly. It is easier to maintain than any other blade except stainless.


The following tells how I feel about each Damascus knife.


“This knife exists as a thing of beauty, functionality and integrity. It exists as its own being, different from anything else on the Earth.  It has a soul of its own molded into it by the maker.  Its medicine contains the heat and force of the forge fire and the power, skill and creativity of the maker that forged a part of himself into the blade.


This knife will outlive men and should be handed down and admired by those worthy of such a creation.  When holding and viewing this knife it will actually speak to you by a warmth and radiance it emanates.  I can feel its power when I hold it and can recall the sweat, heat and the sound of the hammer ringing on the anvil.


It is one of my creations I have sent out into the world to do what it may to

enhance the lives of others.”