Damascus steel is a very mysterious and interesting type of steel. The patterns etched on it makes one fall into their depth trying to solve their unsolved mystery. This steel was actually imported from Sri Lanka and India and was smithed in the East from Wootz steel. It is known for its distinguishing patterns of banding which sometimes resembles the flowing water, sometimes to teardrops and sometimes to just a maze of distinctive lines. There are many stories about the origin of Damascus steel among which the most promising one states its origin to be from the city of Damascus which was the capital of Syria. It was one of its largest cities and it is believed that Damascus steel was originated there, hence it got the name “Damascus.”
There are some other less popular stories about its origin as well among which one is that this steel was named about the person who forged it for the first time or the patterns which are etched on this steel resemble Damask Fabric and this is why it is called Damascus steel. We may not be sure about the origins of Damascus steel but we are sure about the way it is forged and the benefits it provides but before that, let us have a look at the different types of a Damascus steel.
The Different Types of Damascus Steel
1- Wootz Steel
Wootz steel is actually the real Damascus steel as it does not undergo any artificial or manual procedures to form the patterns that Damascus steel is so famous for. Moreover, it consists of microscopic carbides which are also known as bands and these bands are usually made up of martensite or pearlite with high tempered carbon steel. Wootz steel has its origins from Southern India and was originated there in the 6th century B.C.
2- Pattern-weld Steel
Pattern-weld Steel is the one which is fake Damascus steel and is used to manufacture Damascus style steel knives. This steel is formed by the welding of small pieces of different types of steels. This fusion of different steels forms bands in the steel which resemble the patterns etched on the Damascus steel. This is why the knives or blades formed from pattern-weld steel are known as Damascus style steel blades and not the real Damascus blades. This is a cheap version of producing Damascus steel but resemble it a lot as well.
Construction of Damascus Steel
The following are the steps which are included in the construction of Damascus steel. Let us have a look at them.
The first and foremost step is to select the materials needed in to forge the Damascus steel. This means that you have to select the steel which you will fuse together later on to form Damascus style steel. The pieces of steel which are combined to form Damascus steel are called billets. These billets should be strong on the molecular level and firm as well. This is because the billets must fuse together and stay like that when welding is done for the formation of Damascus style steel. Damascus steel can be formed by combining any type of steels and it depends on the needs and preference of people. However, the best materials to fuse together for this purpose are 15N20 and 1084 plates of steel as they make remarkable Damascus steel. The first one which is 15N20 is lighter steel which when combined with a dark 1084 steel, forms the perfect bands for Damascus steel. The 1084 consists of 0.84 % carbon and 0.9 % manganese. The darker color of the 1084 steel is also due to the presence of manganese in it.
During the welding of billets, ceramic fiber is used for insulation purpose and it is further coated with cement. This is done to prevent the flux and also protects the ceramic fiber from undergoing any damage. There is another insulator material which can be used and it is castable refractories. The heating time of these materials is long, however, they provide the benefit of holding the heat and reducing the heating time of the billets during welding. There are different designs for forging and it is totally up to you that which one you chose to adopt. A Hydraulic Press can also be used to make a Damascus steel and this method is known to have several benefits over the use of a hammer for the formation of Damascus. A Hydraulic press can be easily controlled and the complete billet can be dyed in it which makes the forging process quite easy. A Hydraulic Press is also less noisy than a power hammer.
The use of power hammers for forging steel is by far the most conventional and oldest method and is used to make Damascus steel also. Their weight normally ranges from twenty-five to five hundred pounds and are more fun to forge steel than any other matter. But that is if you get the knack of using them, otherwise, you will just end up injuring yourself, really badly. However, they forge steel and mold it the way you want it to be. This way you get good control on the steel but usually, it breaks the forged steel more than forming billets from it.
The billet has to be reheated after the first forging is done. The billets are then drawn out on a bar which is rectangular in shape. The number of layers required in the steel determines the size of this rectangular bar. You can draw out the billets by folding the bar onto itself when it is hot so that the layer is doubled. However, you can also use the cutting and grinding process which is much efficient and provides better results. After this, perform the second welding similar to the first and the number of layers at the end of this forging will determine if there will be a third weld or not.
The next step is to assemble the billets formed from different steels fused together. This assembling forms the layers of billets and makes the steel durable and strong as well. Damascus steel also has some unique properties. Among which a few are that it is ductile or brittle therefore, this steel is quite to be deformed and does not lose its original shape easily. It also absorbs impact which prevents the steel from breaking too easily. Damascus style steel is known for its durability, reliability, sharpness and of course mysterious design patterns. Damasus steel is that strong that it easily cuts through tough materials without the slightest bit of inconvenience or hassle. The steel billets when assembles are subjected to a heating process and then given a smooth finish. The following are the steps elaborating this process.
The Heating Process
A furnace must be preheated at about 1500 Fahrenheit to 2000 Fahrenheit for the billets to be heated. This is not a fixed temperature rather this temperature is subject to differ from steel to steel that is used for the formation of Damascus style steel. The following steps encompass the heating of the billets.
- The furnace must be preheated at a temperature of about 1500 Fahrenheit to 2000 Fahrenheit. This temperature can be changed if some other type of steel has been used in the formation of billets.
- Then you must put the block of steel inside the furnace for heating.
- When the block is heated up to the set temperature, then place it in water for about ten minutes so that it returns to normal temperature.
- After soaking the block in water, soak it in oil and pass it through liquid nitrogen for one hour.
- Then it must be tempered at about 350 Fahrenheit for one hour.
- Repeat the last step of tempering the steel.
- Apply a grit finish on the surface of the Damascus steel.
- Then do etching by soaking the steel in a tub full of ferric chloride and some distilled water. Keep the steel immersed in this solution for about ten minutes and then take it out.
- Rinse the steel by placing it under running water and repeat this step after five minutes.
- Pass the steel through tri-sodium phosphate so that it is neutralized.
So, the above-mentioned process is the one for forging a Damascus steel. This one is a very popular procedure, however, there are other procedures used for this purpose as well. You can use the one which suits you the most.