Damascus steel- What is so special about it?

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hiredgun
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Postby hiredgun » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:37 am

It appeals to me visually. I was fortunate to get my hands on a Damascus Mule. This is the finished result:

Image
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SolidState
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Postby SolidState » Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:08 pm

I'd like to add that in Japanese swords, the folding process involved aided in dispersing defects more evenly through the steel, making a more reliable piece of steel with less significant void spaces. It also generally breaks up carbides and carbon inclusions.

Now, with modern methods it is purely cosmetic.
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Postby jmh58 » Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:14 pm

That is some over the top damascus there hg!!! NICE!!! John
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Postby jabba359 » Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:55 pm

Personally, I like a well-made Damascus pattern. Damascus is also available in stainless steels, so rust isn't necessarily an intrinsic trait. I think that when used properly, it can enhance the aesthetics of a knife. On the flip side, Damascus can also make a knife look too busy and even cheap. So far I haven't been too impressed with the Damascus patterns offered by Spyderco, as I'm not a huge fan of the "water" pattern they've been using. I almost bought the Damascus Caly3, but just couldn't justify spending the money on a Damascus pattern that, at best, I felt lukewarm about.

So yes, I like Damascus (in general). But I can understand those who don't. They probably feel the same way about Damascus as I do about the cars that people put all the extra chrome window trim, chrome gas cap, chrome side mirrors, and chrome etc. on. They probably think all those extra chrome tidbits makes their car look cool. I think it makes it look like junk.
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Postby O,just,O » Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:11 pm

SolidState wrote:I'd like to add that in Japanese swords, the folding process involved aided in dispersing defects more evenly through the steel, making a more reliable piece of steel with less significant void spaces. It also generally breaks up carbides and carbon inclusions.

Now, with modern methods it is purely cosmetic.
It is also my understanding that the carbon inclusions is what changed the piece of iron smelted from ore into steel.
This was the old way of making steel which is just iron with added carbon so that it will harden. Higher percentages of carbon will give a greater degree of hardness. In Japanese & some other steels the carbon source was burnt bone, while in true Damascus it was some sort of plant fibre.
You may wonder at this folding & hammering process & ponder on the amount of work done but remember this. Fold once & you have two layers, twice is four, thrice is eight layers, on up to ten folds being one thousand & twenty four layers.
O.

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Officer Gigglez
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Postby Officer Gigglez » Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:15 pm

The only reason I was curious is because I like to make knives, and I get my stuff from Jantz supply. They have numerous Damascus blades, but they want 100 bucks give or take, just for the blade. So I came here to be enlightened.
Spyderco Knives (in order of obtainment):
-Tenacious, Combo edge
-Tasman Salt, PE
-Persistence Blue, PE
-Pacific Salt, Black, PE
-Delica 4, Emerson Grey
-DiAlex Junior
-Byrd SS Crossbill, PE
-Endura 4 Emerson Grey
-Byrd Meadowlark 2 FRN, PE
-Resilience

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Postby Mike Blue » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:09 pm

sal wrote:...When the Vikings made damascus back in the day (800 AD), they were swords/weapons and their lives depended on the performance of their swords. Combining two different steels offered a much tougher blade that resisted breaking better than single steels. The worst thing that can happen to you in a blade fight to the death is that your sword breaks. When sharpening the edge, the softer material gave way to the harder material creating a serrated edge. The serrated edge cut more aggressively and stayed sharper longer.

...sal
Sal, Another perhaps more practical and economical reason was that steel compared to iron was much more valuable to the smith. The first laminates were strips along the edges of an iron bar, extending the useful hardenable steel further than laminating it through out the blade. A hardenable edge and a softer tougher spine made good sense. But even those blades would break. Not being ones to waste materials these would get mixed into the next bar of steel and patterns would begin to develop. Human beings are keen observers and experimenters and variations probably followed rapidly along with the development of the aesthetic of the material.

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sal
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Postby sal » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:17 pm

Hi Mike,

That's another good theory. Maybe I give humans too much credit for planned, rather than chance develoment?

sal

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Postby remnar » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:08 pm

Zenith wrote:To my knowledge Spyderco has never used Damasteel. Damasteel contains RWL-34 and powdered version of 12C27, that is pretty modern manufacturing and steels.

http://www.damasteel.se/

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Forged damascus and pattern welding is a different story and there are some articles on that as well done by more experienced people.

The mystery of Damascus Blades by J.D Verhoeven.

IMPACT STRENGTH AND FAILURE ANALYSIS OF WELDED DAMASCUS STEEL

Here is a small paper.

UNDER_GRAD_RESEARCH/Farzin%20F.pdf
zenith,

Thank you for that correction and the information. I was assuming that Sal's reference to damasteel was a reference to the blades produced by Spyderco. We all know what happens when we assume. :D

-remnar

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Postby bdblue » Thu Dec 12, 2013 9:03 pm

O,just,O wrote:It is also my understanding that the carbon inclusions is what changed the piece of iron smelted from ore into steel.
This was the old way of making steel which is just iron with added carbon so that it will harden. Higher percentages of carbon will give a greater degree of hardness.
This was my understanding- ancient metallurgy didn't have a way to infuse carbon throughout the iron, they could only get it to penetrate a tiny bit into the surface. But if you fold and weld, fold and weld, fold and weld, ... then you have layers of carbon throughout the iron bar which makes it more like steel.

I like some types of damascus because it represents something made by hand, and I like having a few of those in my collection. I have no interest in the fancy patterns that some people make. For a user knife I prefer non-damascus.

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Postby O,just,O » Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:28 pm

Yes you are more technicaly correct there bdblue. The hardening is a form of case hardening, it is not even throghout the whole piece. Then we refer back to Sals post on page one where he says a type of serrated edge is created in this type of blade due to the alternating hard & soft steel exposed on the cutting edge.
I once saw on a TV show where a sword of Damascus type folded steel was retrieved from a warriors grave, he was buried in his armour & with his weapons. The sword was a bar of rust at least four times as fat as it originaly would have been. When they tried to clean it up the sword just flaked apart into rusy shale.
This sugests to me that the folds are not welded too good. Any one else here who has worked at a charcoal fired forge will know as I do that Welds need all the heat you can get into them from charcoal ( coke is hotter ) & you must work quick & clean using a flux. Lot easier said than done.
Those Smiths of yore were not magicians, but man, they were part alchemist & knew tricks of the trade which are now lost as is the trade.
With my limited blacksmith training there were even tricks that the old smiths played close to their chest. The simple reason is that if tricks are given away free then they are common knowledge, no longer a trick of the trade & the trade becomes devalued. You must therefore be apprenticed & guilded & keep your gob shut. Some of the tricks are really so simple & may be arrived at by trial & error but that may take more time than it is worth & is reinventing the wheel.
O.

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Postby The Deacon » Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:10 am

Officer Gigglez wrote:The only reason I was curious is because I like to make knives, and I get my stuff from Jantz supply. They have numerous Damascus blades, but they want 100 bucks give or take, just for the blade. So I came here to be enlightened.
If you like "plastic" scales CF costs quite a bit more than G-10 and, on a full tang fixed blade or a folder with dual liners, provides no real benefit. Yet some folks still prefer it. If you look at natural materials, wood scales can range from a few dollars a pair to over fifty, or you can choose between a $4 pair in plain white bone or spend nearly $100 for pre-ban ivory. Some folks are willing to pay for things that add nothing in terms of function, others are not.
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Officer Gigglez
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Postby Officer Gigglez » Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:13 pm

The Deacon wrote:If you like "plastic" scales CF costs quite a bit more than G-10 and, on a full tang fixed blade or a folder with dual liners, provides no real benefit. Yet some folks still prefer it. If you look at natural materials, wood scales can range from a few dollars a pair to over fifty, or you can choose between a $4 pair in plain white bone or spend nearly $100 for pre-ban ivory. Some folks are willing to pay for things that add nothing in terms of function, others are not.
Yeah. I know people are interested in Damascus, that's why I wanted to know if it would be worth it for me buy up some blades. It seems like they'd sell well. Maybe I'll drop the greenbacks and see what happens. I have only used wood, as all my stuff is handmade. I don't have precision tools. I have power tools, but none are actual machines. I have yet do anything with G10, though I am looking to get some for a Tacticool knife project I am going to start on soon.
Spyderco Knives (in order of obtainment):
-Tenacious, Combo edge
-Tasman Salt, PE
-Persistence Blue, PE
-Pacific Salt, Black, PE
-Delica 4, Emerson Grey
-DiAlex Junior
-Byrd SS Crossbill, PE
-Endura 4 Emerson Grey
-Byrd Meadowlark 2 FRN, PE
-Resilience

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Postby Mike Blue » Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:33 pm

bdblue wrote:This was my understanding- ancient metallurgy didn't have a way to infuse carbon throughout the iron, they could only get it to penetrate a tiny bit into the surface. But if you fold and weld, fold and weld, fold and weld, ... then you have layers of carbon throughout the iron bar which makes it more like steel.
Yes, but...

Once the bar of material is above the critical temperature for the steel/irons involved (usually somewhere above 1200F for simple materials) carbon diffuses. At welding heat, 2350F, this occurs much faster as the materials are more active at the molecular level and with enough carbon the melting temperature is lower. The commonly accepted number of welds to achieve a uniform distribution of carbon across carbon-dissimilar materials (high carbon steel and pure iron for example) is four. Fold the material and weld it back on itself four times and you have a uniform carbon bar. The layers will show even in simple carbon steels, but if you add nickel as we like to in this modern age, the alloy content is what makes the difference between layers, not the carbon.

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Postby Mike Blue » Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:35 pm

sal wrote:Hi Mike,

That's another good theory. Maybe I give humans too much credit for planned, rather than chance develoment?

sal
I don't think so. Human beings are pretty creative once they realize that something cool has occurred. Probably like the invention of gunpowder...."BOOM.

No kidding Sal, THAT was cool...let's do it again!" :rolleyes:

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Postby racer88 » Sat Dec 14, 2013 12:01 am

I'll 'fess up and admit publicly that I like the Spyderco Damascus blades. :) I have a Damascus mule. I've also got TWO of the Caly 3's in Damascus. Liked it so much, I got one to carry and one as a safe queen and future gift to my son.

Image

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Postby Mick » Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:21 pm

jabba359 wrote:Personally, I like a well-made Damascus pattern. Damascus is also available in stainless steels, so rust isn't necessarily an intrinsic trait. I think that when used properly, it can enhance the aesthetics of a knife. On the flip side, Damascus can also make a knife look too busy and even cheap. So far I haven't been too impressed with the Damascus patterns offered by Spyderco, as I'm not a huge fan of the "water" pattern they've been using. I almost bought the Damascus Caly3, but just couldn't justify spending the money on a Damascus pattern that, at best, I felt lukewarm about.

So yes, I like Damascus (in general). But I can understand those who don't. They probably feel the same way about Damascus as I do about the cars that people put all the extra chrome window trim, chrome gas cap, chrome side mirrors, and chrome etc. on. They probably think all those extra chrome tidbits makes their car look cool. I think it makes it look like junk.
That was my immediate impression when I got my Stretch Damascus with Nishijin scales.. WAY TOO busy. Typical great Spyderco fit and finish, but the flashy Nishijin scales and gray water pattern Damascus were just too much for me. It's on it's way back, and I'll be getting a Spydie Southard in return. All my knife money will still go to Spyderco but I'll be staying away from the Nishijin and Damascus. Different strokes. :D

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Postby SpyderEdgeForever » Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:27 pm

I would agree with the other posters on the practical aspects as well as visual appeal or lack thereof. That being said, check this out:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... words.html

http://www.nature.com/news/2006/061113/ ... 13-11.html

http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/ ... 110602.asp

http://howiefirth.wordpress.com/2012/03 ... ium-steel/


It turns out that some of the Damascus Steel swords and knives had carbon nanotubes permeating the structure. The buckytubes (Named after Buckminster Fuller, the Buckminster Fullerene Molecule, Fuller being the geodesic dome man) are formed in the heating and forging process, and so give it extreme levels of strength and hardness while remaining relatively lightweight. Fullerene and Diamond are related but have different structures; these blades were almost diamond like steel. There is speculation that some of the ancient Japanese forge-laminated blades also produced the fullerene structure in them. If you could take diamond and fullerene or graphene and make a nano-laminated blade, it would probably have incredible cutting and durability powers.


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Postby SpyderEdgeForever » Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:33 pm

Oh, and just so you know, the term "Damascus" steel is sortof a misnomer. They became popularized with Damascus, Syria, as one of the places they went out from, but the originals were produced in India. The Indians made the wootz steel and Jewish and other traders brought the bars and pieces of the steel made in India to Damascus and from there it spread outwards.

Here is a map of that:

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/trade/hd_trade.htm

http://archaeology.about.com/od/wterms/g/wootz.htm

From the second link:

" Wootz is the name given to an exceptional grade of iron ore steel first made in southern and south central India and Sri Lanka perhaps as early as 300 BC. Wootz is formed using a crucible to melt, burn away impurities and add important ingredients, and it contains a high carbon content (nearly 1.5%)."

Once we develop some form of molecular-level assembler, perhaps in the form of manmade ribosomes (the molecular assemblers that string together amino acid molecules into proteins in all biological organisms) that enable us to have "hands" at that level, we can make a wide range of layered materials that are as cheap as potatoes and crabgrass and pulp wood.

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Postby Mike Blue » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:56 pm

SpyderEdgeForever wrote:... It turns out that some of the Damascus Steel swords and knives had carbon nanotubes permeating the structure. The buckytubes (Named after Buckminster Fuller, the Buckminster Fullerene Molecule, Fuller being the geodesic dome man) are formed in the heating and forging process, and so give it extreme levels of strength and hardness while remaining relatively lightweight. Fullerene and Diamond are related but have different structures; these blades were almost diamond like steel. There is speculation that some of the ancient Japanese forge-laminated blades also produced the fullerene structure in them. If you could take diamond and fullerene or graphene and make a nano-laminated blade, it would probably have incredible cutting and durability powers.
Daryl Meier did weld up some laminates with industrial diamonds. The results were interesting but impractical. At some point the metallurgical engineers will develop a blade material very much like you describe. What is more interesting is that the carbon nanotubes exist in a material where the smith likely had little or no knowledge of what was happening inside the steel as it was being heated or forged, certainly no intention of creating carbon nanotubes. All that knowledge is recent history compared to the ancient character and manufacture of the wootz materials sampled.


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