Damascus Steel – The Lost Art
Damascus Blade was formed from Damascus steel. The truth is that Damascus steel and the type of steel commonly used to manufacture Folded Steel Katana are not same. Some will refer to folded steel as Damascus Steel Katana because it is characterized by distinctive pattern reminiscent of flowing water. Real Damascus steel blades like are said to be tough, resistant to shattering and is capable of possessing a sharp resilient edge. The name Damascus might sound familiar because some believe Damascus steel was named after a city in Syria. There were attempts of producing Damascus steel but, some of these were not successful because of the wrong use of materials or the methods used in manufacturing the steel. There were claims that they can reproduce this steel by modern means.
Folded Steel and Damascus Steel
The difference between Nihonto and Damascus steel varies a lot and due to the fact that the secrets of making Damascus steel are lost, some people compare between the two, in truth Nihonto was making of a samurai sword in Japan, involved folding the steel several times to get rid of impurities, since the iron in Japan was of very poor quality, it needed refining that’s how folded steel Katana were born. the blade is folded several times, what create a certain grain texture (Hada) on the blade while removing the impurities. with today modern steel, folding is done to increase the beauty of the blade and add that folded steel pattern which is loved by many, however it does not increase the performance of the blade. moreover folding need to be done properly otherwise there can be failure between the layers which will create weak spots.
Death of an Industry
There was a time when the thriving industry that produces the Damascus steel swords experienced a decline. It was blame on several factors which includes the following reasons:
The process was loss to metal smiths
Breakdown of trading routes that supply the materials needed to build such a strong steel
Lack of trace impurities in these metals like tungsten and vanadium
Lack of crafting techniques because it was kept as a trade secret
British Raj suppression of this very industry
Resurrection of Damascus Steel in the Modern Times
Reproducing this steel actually falls under experimental archaeology. There were attempts to discover how to make this steel by using reverse engineering techniques and processes. Some blacksmiths were misled to believe that a different technique was used to produce this steel. It was in 1973 when a bladesmith named William F. Moran showed his Damascus knives using the techniques that he used. It was not until two metallurgists from the Stanford University that the mystery of producing this steel was rediscovered. Cast steel like this is known as wootz. It is produce by melting pieces of iron and steel with charcoal. The use of the right atmosphere will produce steel as strong as the Damascus blade. Fabricated Damascus steel is better known as pattern welded steel. This is more popular in the West. This is the same wootz however, it cost less in labor. However, there is lesser yield.