How to tell if damascus is real?

Discussion in 'Blades' started by gunbunny, Sep 11, 2010.

  1. gunbunny

    gunbunny Never Trust A Bunny

    How can you tell fake damascus steel from real damascus steel? I just bought some knives that were etched pretty deeply to show off their layers. Some of my friends added their 2 cents in and suggested that it may be fake. Now I am wondering.[peep]

    Along the edge grind, I can see minute spots of rust here and there. I thought it was from the one type of metal rusting and the other type not. Is this a way to tell?

    The pattern is pretty deep, or the acid etch is pretty deep. You can feel the uneven surface when you run your finger across it.
  2. Hispeedal2

    Hispeedal2 Nay Sayer

    I may be wrong, but most modern made "damascus" is fake.... as in for looks only. Doesn't mean it's not great steel. And looks great 99% of the time. Remember that damascus was made at a time when consistent steel was rare. Modern techniques have negated the need to fold and layer steel.

    According to wiki the method of making "real damascus" has been lost for centuries:

    I wouldn't worry about it.

    Damascus steel
    Damascus steel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    For Damascus Twist barrels, see Skelp. For the album of the same name, see Damascus Steel (album).
    [​IMG]Close-up of an 18th-century Iranian forged Damascus steel sword
    Damascus steel was a type of steel used in Middle Eastern swordmaking. These swords are characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and mottling reminiscent of flowing water. Such blades were reputed to be tough, resistant to shattering and capable of being honed to a sharp, resilient edge.[1]

    Damascus steel was originally made from wootz steel, a steel developed in South India before the Common Era. The original method of producing Damascus steel is not known. Because of differences in raw materials and manufacturing techniques, modern attempts to duplicate the metal have not been entirely successful. Despite this, several individuals in modern times have claimed that they have rediscovered the methods by which the original Damascus steel was produced.[2][3]

    The reputation and history of Damascus steel has given rise to many legends, such as the ability to cut through a rifle barrel or to cut a hair falling across the blade,.[4] A research team in Germany published a report in 2006 revealingnanowires and carbon nanotubes in a blade forged from Damascus steel.[5] This finding was covered by National Geographic[6] and the New York Times.[7] Although certain types of modern steel outperform these swords, chemical reactions in the production process made the blades extraordinary for their time, as damascus steel was superplasticand very hard at the same time. During the smelting process to obtain Wootz steel ingots, woody biomass and leaves are known to have been used as carburizing additives along with certain specific types of iron rich in microalloying elements. These ingots would then be further forged and worked into Damascus steel blades, and research now shows that carbon nanotubes can be derived from plant fibers,[8] suggesting how the nanotubes were formed in the steel. Some experts expect to discover such nanotubes in more relics as they are analyzed more closely.[6]

    The origin of the term Damascus steel is somewhat uncertain; it may either refer to swords made or sold in Damascus directly, or it may just refer to the aspect of the typical patterns, by comparison with Damask fabrics (which are in turn named after Damascus).[9][10]

    The original damascus was likely produced from ingots of wootz steel, imported from India and Sri Lanka[11] and later Persia.[12]Archaeological evidence suggests that the crucible steel process started in the present-day Tamil Nadu before the start of Common Era. The Arabs introduced the Indian wootz steel to Damascus, where a weapons industry thrived.[13] From the 3rd century to the 17th century, India was shipping steel ingots to the Middle East.[14]

    Loss of the technique
    Production of these patterned swords gradually declined, ceasing by around 1750, and the process was lost to metalsmiths. Several modern theories have ventured to explain this decline, including the breakdown of trade routes to supply the needed metals, the lack of trace impurities in the metals, the possible loss of knowledge on the crafting techniques through secrecy and lack of transmission, or a combination of all the above.[2][3][15]

    The original Damascus steel or wootz was imported from India to the Middle East.[2][3] Due to the distance of trade for this steel, a sufficiently lengthy disruption of the trade routes could have ended the production of Damascus steel and eventually led to the loss of the technique in India. As well, the need for key trace impurities of tungsten or vanadium within the materials needed for production of the steel may be absent if this material was acquired from different production regions or smelted from ores lacking these key trace elements.[2] The technique for controlled thermal cycling after the initial forging at a specific temperature could also have been lost, thereby preventing the final damask pattern in the steel from occurring.[2][3]

    The discovery of carbon nanotubes in the Damascus steel's composition supports this hypothesis, since the precipitation of carbon nanotubes probably resulted from a specific process that may be difficult to replicate should the production technique or raw materials used be significantly altered.[15]

    [​IMG]Bladesmith forging a blade
    Recreating Damascus steel is a subfield of experimental archaeology. Many have attempted to discover or reverse-engineer the process by which it was made.

    Moran: billet welding
    [​IMG]Characteristic "organic" pattern of Damascus steel
    Since the well-known technique of pattern welding produced surface patterns similar to those found on Damascus blades, some blacksmiths were erroneously led to believe that Damascus blades were made using this technique, but today, the difference between wootz steel and pattern welding is fully documented and well understood. Pattern-welded steel has been referred to as "Damascus steel" since 1973 whenBladesmith William F. Moran unveiled his "Damascus knives" at the Knifemakers' Guild Show.[16][17] This "Modern Damascus" is made from several types of steel and iron slices welded together to form a billet, and currently the term "damascus" (although technically incorrect) is widely accepted to describe modern pattern welded steel blades in the trade .[18] The patterns vary depending on how the smith works the billet.[17] The billet is drawn out and folded until the desired number of layers are formed.[17] In order to attain a Master Smith rating with the American Bladesmith Society that Moran founded, the smith must forge a damascus blade with a minimum of 300 layers.[19]

    Verhoeven and Pendray: crucible
    J. D. Verhoeven and A. H. Pendray published an article on their attempts to reproduce the elemental, structural, and visual characteristics of Damascus steel.[2] They started with a cake of steel that matched the properties of the original wootz steel from India, which also matched a number of original Damascus swords to which Verhoeven and Pendray had access. The wootz was in a soft, annealed state, with a grain structure and beads of pure iron carbide which were the result of its hypereutectoid state. Verhoeven and Pendray had already determined that the grains on the surface of the steel were grains of iron carbide—their goal was to reproduce the iron carbide patterns they saw in the Damascus blades from the grains in the wootz.

    Although such material could be worked at low temperatures to produce the striated Damascene pattern of intermixed ferrite and cementite bands in a manner identical to pattern-welded Damascus steel, any heat treatment sufficient to dissolve the carbides would permanently destroy the pattern. However, Verhoeven and Pendray discovered that in samples of true Damascus steel, the Damascene pattern could be recovered by aging at a moderate temperature. They found that certain carbide forming elements, one of which was vanadium, did not disperse until the steel reached higher temperatures than those needed to dissolve the carbides. Therefore, a high heat treatment could remove the visual evidence of patterning associated with carbides but did not remove the underlying patterning of the carbide forming elements; a subsequent lower-temperature heat treatment, at a temperature at which the carbides were again stable, could recover the structure by the binding of carbon by those elements.

    Anosov, Wadsworth and Sherby: bulat
    In Russia, chronicles record the use of a material known as bulat steel to make highly valued weapons, including swords, knives and axes. Tsar Michael of Russia reportedly had a bulat helmet made for him in 1621. The exact origin or the manufacturing process of bulat is unknown, but it was likely imported to Russia via Persia and Turkestan, and it was similar and possibly the same as damascus steel. Pavel Petrovich Anosov made several attempts to reproduce the process in the mid-19th century. Wadsworth and Sherby also researched [3] the reproduction of Bulat steel and published their results in 1980.

    Additional research
    A team of researchers based at the Technical University of Dresden that used x-rays and electron microscopy to examine Damascus steel discovered the presence of cementitenanowires[20] and carbon nanotubes.[21] Peter Paufler, a member of the Dresden team, says that these nanostructures are a result of the forging process.[6][22]

    Sanderson proposes that the process of forging and annealing accounts for the nano-scale structures.[22]

    Damascus steel in gunmaking
    Prior to the early 20th century, all shotgun barrels were forged by heating narrow strips of iron and steel and shaping them around a mandrel.[23][24] This process was referred to as "laminating" or "Damascus".[23][24] These types of barrels earned a reputation for weakness and were never meant to be used with modern smokeless powder, or any kind of moderately powerful explosive.[24] Because of the resemblance to Damascus steel, higher-end barrels were made by Belgian and British gun makers.[23][24] These barrels are proof marked and meant to be used with light pressure loads.[23] Current gun manufacturers such as Caspian Arms make slide assemblies and small parts such as triggers and safeties for Colt M1911 pistols from powdered Swedish steel resulting in a swirling two-toned effect; these parts are often referred to as "Stainless Damascus".[25]
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 29, 2015
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  3. Valkman

    Valkman Knifemaker Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    The folks I bought it from all made it and it was the real stuff. "Alabama Damascus" by Brad Vice is on ebay fairly cheap but the premier makers like Chad Nichols charge $2-3$ an inch for their fantastic stuff.
  4. sticks65

    sticks65 Monkey++

    Pattern welded Damascus steel is produced by combining alternating lengths of high carbon steel with mild tool steel.
    This combination is heated to a spacific shade of red,then hammered until the two steels are melded together.then the resultant bar is folded,heated and hammered again,this heating and folding process goes on until there maybe several hundred layers.

    Bill Moran,the founder of the American Bladesmith society,must be given credit for returning Damascus steel to its present day prominence,he developed the modern Damascus which he called pattern welded.

    You can tell the difference between laser etched so called Damascus and the real thing by looking at the spine of the blade,looking at the spine you will see lines which are the layers.

    I own a Damascus steel knife which has 37 layers which seems to be about the standard theses days.

    Ive also had a go at making my own Damascus and managed to get 5 layers but it didn't meld together properly so I will keep trying until one day I get the alchemy just right.

    Beware of Indian damascus as its crap[nono]
  5. 2RK

    2RK Monkey+

    Sticks is correct as far as i know.

    Damascus steel is actually called Whootz steel , It was so named Damascus by the location it was traded. whoots steel was actually made from iron that would be heated and worked until slag formed and discarding the slag. The iron was then broke in to small pieces and placed in a sealed clay pot with wood chips and heated until the Iron melted. The wood chips would become carbon and Iron would absorber the carbon. This process was repeated until the carbon content was 1-1.6%, then it was worked in to a blade. This was the reason the steel was so fabled and loved, its carbon content was very high but so was the impurity content. Nun the less it made the best edge of its day.

    Current Damascus is actually pattern welded steel. Steels today even them with lower carbon content then 1% are far superior IMO then to whootz steel as they lack many of the impurities. Some steels today are made in a similar fashion by using powdered components and being heated to a melted state and forming a bar. So Modern pattern welded steel is done for visual appeal buy hammering known sheets of quality steel together to form a billet or bar. In the modern pattern welding you actually have the ability to weld low carbon steels to the outside of a cutting edge making a very beautiful blade with a cutting edge as good as any.

    Tamahagane is the Japaneses form of whootz steel in witch Charcoal and iron sand is smelted in a large clay walled vessel to form one very large billet. From this steel various grades of Kera are produced and the sword is forged from that. Its a close second to pattern welded steels as they do use the piece of steel with the most carbon for the edge and use softer steels to form the body. Though the great reputation of the swords is a result of there heat treat using both a clay refractory material to keep the back of the blade softer then the edge and the water quench that causes the blade to bend (They are forged strait).

    I have had the same problem that you have Sticks, I cant get it to weld just right and when I do it has to many imperfections for my taste. I'm told this is the borax but i don't know.
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  6. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Just a NOTE, here, One of my Close Neighbors, (Close = 10 Sq Miles) Adam DesRosiers is a Journeyman ABS Bladesmith, who specializes in Pattern Welded Damascus Steel Knives. His 10" and 12" Alaskan Choppers, are some of the best Bush knives in existence. He makes a Twisted Damascus Steel that, when finished, and heat-treated, not only holds a precision edge, but are Works of Art, as well. Modern Damascus Steel blades will out preform, anything from earlier times when forged properly, and heat treated, precisely. His knives are not cheap, but you only need ONE, in a couple of generations. I just wish I could afford one. As it is, I get along with my 10" Nepalese Kukuri, that I bought off a friend who spent 5 years in Nepal, in the Peace Corps, back in the 60's. It has served "Me" for 40 years, and Adam always liked it, as a kid.
  7. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Ice Bear. Here is an example of, some of my neighbors, Twisted Damascus knives....
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  8. RightHand

    RightHand Been There, Done That RIP 4/15/21 Moderator Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Works of art. Thanks
  9. Brad Singley

    Brad Singley Monkey+

    Great comments guys. I will add my thoughts in as well.
    One of the easiest combinations and one of the most common blends out there is of 1080 and 15n20. The 1080 is just a simple hi carbon steel and the 15n20 is virtually the same steel as the 1080 but with about 1.5% nickel thrown in the mix. If you are making pattern welded steel you want your two metals to expand and to contract the same or as close to it, this prevents delamination and shearing when you are building the billet.
    The sky is the limit on pattern development and when you are done with the knife a simple etch will reveal your handiwork.
    I wouldn't build a pattern welded knife from a hi carbon steel and a mild steel combination. If the mild steel winds up on the cutting egde you are going to have a unhardened knife is those areas along the cutting edge. Not good at all.
  10. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    I have heard it said that a soft/hard combo is not necessarily a bad thing. The theory was that the softer material would wear faster and leave something akin to a sawtooth edge that could be highly useful in some situations. Cutting rope was the case in point.
  11. Brad Singley

    Brad Singley Monkey+

    I don't want anything soft on a cutting edge. Mild steel will not harden at all, not enough carbon to get there. Mild steel on a cutting edge will roll over and deform, not something you want your knife to do. A much better solution is to have a fully hardened knife then etch it to give a micro serrated edge, no chance of deformation in the blade if done correctly and you get the benefit of the micro serrations on the egde. I can't think of a reason in the world to have mild steel in a cutting edge.
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  12. 2RK

    2RK Monkey+

    There are some makers now who use softer metals to add to the look of the steel. Some old swords Are actually forge welded components put in the desired location for the desired results, in some cases wrought Iron is used to form the center of a blade. In many cases this was do to a sheer lack of high carbon steel so a substitute in areas where the strength of the cutting edge was not needed was used. There is a welded laminated steel called San Mai that has a very hard core with various layers of steel on the outside to build thickness. In most cases this is done for visual appearance but every knife i have handled done with one of these methods still had a very keen edge and was well up to most cutting tasks.

    Micro serrations are better left to sissors and the like, I finish my blade edge to 2000 grit as the final thing i do and call it good enough. That docent mean that micro serrations are wrong or bad, just that its not my desired way.

    The amount of where resistance in a pattern welded blade will slightly vary with and steel combination even the high carbon harden able steel, as such a serration effect can develop with use, but this is only my opinion and i cant support this with fact, I don't use pattern welded steel for the most part, Im not against it , its just not my thing at this time. I like simple tools with function at there core , I believe beauty is a by product of flawless function.

    In any case there is room in the knife world for many different types and many different blades with various degrees of use , there is no wrong way , but there is always room for improvement.
  13. Brad Singley

    Brad Singley Monkey+

    Yes 2Rk you are correct in San Mai construction techniques, but the softer steel is where it belongs, not on the cutting edge.
    As for micro serrations, you misunderstand my point I think, the serrations are a byproduct of the etch after the knife is complete, they aren't added in mechanically.
    You are correct in the statement that beauty is a product of function. I like to teach knifemakers that beauty and form follow function. In my opinion the only advantage to pattern welded steel is cosmetic. I don't know about you but after doing this so long I don't usually get to excited about a carbon steel knife, but make that piece in a basketweave moasic or modified w pattern with flawless execution and I will stop and look! To me it's a statement of the skills of the smith to build the billet and then build a knife to compliment the damascus. All a matter of perspective I guess. Good post there.
  14. 2RK

    2RK Monkey+

    I agree, pattern welded steel are a work of art in them self. I have seen the knives you posted and they are just beautiful works of art. I am rather new to beating iron regularly, or the the level that seems so darn common now, there are really just some amazing things being done. I have a Crap load of book knowledge and half as much experience, but im getting there. I dont do pattern welding for a few reasons and none of them are related to the function or beauty, but mainly because of cost. I Want to make a darn good knife that I could afford , if recognition fallows that's just a by product. I'm sure in time ill get to where I desire to make pattern welded steel, but right now its the super simple things that seem to tickle me so. Traditional axes get my blood running pretty hot to, the raw forged look of 3 pounds of steel and a worn hickory handle, in one of the early American patterns. Or some of the traditinal slip joint pocket knives, man they draw me. Right now I think the romantic history of the proses is my draw, not so much current trends though there are Awesome as well.

    I understand the Micro serrations that are caused by the etch, from what i understand a slight toothy edge makes for a great pull cut while a polished edge makes for a push cut. Again this is only my understanding and docent represent fact. In any case I like the very shinny polished edge , its the last thing i do, part of the ceremony if you

    One day I may get to the level some of you are at, but right now im just happy learning more.
  15. Brad Singley

    Brad Singley Monkey+

    2RK, Not sure on the push pull cut idea as I have never thought of that, intriguing. If I am any good at knifemaking it's because I have been taught by some giants in the field. I will tell anyone that I'm not smart enough to figure anything out past tying shoes. People like Ed Caffrey, Steve Dunn, Tim Hancock, etc, etc have spent alot of time in teaching me and I hope in some way I can honor those guys by my work. I have been very lucky in having people spend time with me and be critical of my work. It can hurt the pride for sure but I promise it will make you better at this.
    I'm with you on Early American works, I love them and greatly appreciate them. My favorites are the bowies, I think the modern bowie has taken on so many forms that it's hard to keep in mind what the originals may have looked like.
    You make some great points and I enjoy reading your posts, makes me think and I like that!
  16. limpingbear

    limpingbear future cancer survivor....

    I cant remember who does it but there was a guy out there who put layers of pure nickle between his high and low carbon when he made a billet. He called it twisted nickle and when etched i was truly a work of art. not sure about the edge holding though....
  17. Brad Singley

    Brad Singley Monkey+

    Pure nickel is beautiful when etched against 1084 but it won't harden, it's better to trade a little brightness for the hardness/functionality of the knife. 15N20 is the way to go.
  18. Raydon

    Raydon Neophyte Monkey

    Hi I found this and haven't got a clue about it.any ideas plz?

  19. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Looks like imitation, to me. The striations appear wrong to me, and the rivets in the handle are not stamped with the precision I would expect. They are off center, and hurriedly done. Still, if it holds a good edge, it is still a working knife. (Jmho)
  20. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

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