Damascus Blade Blanks - Starting With Quality
Unfortunately, the original method of making Damascus steel has been lost for about the last 400 years. We do know that, like the metal that goes into making Damascus knife blanks today, Damascus steel was a very strong carbon-steel alloy that was both strong enough to hold a good edge, yet malleable enough not to break. Damascus steel was not only quality, it was very beautiful, with carbide bands that spread across the surface of the blade like ripples on water; Damascus knife blades bear a similar pattern, though they are made with a different process.
Damascus Knife Blanks: A Few Resources
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The ripples and bands are not just for show; in both original Damascus steel and in Damascus knife blanks, they are actually carbides precipitated out in sheets. The carbides strengthen the steel in Damascus knife blanks. If the edges you plan for your Damascus knife blanks fall centered on one of those dark bands, the cutting edge will be very strong and sharp, but the blade itself will remain flexible enough to not break.
For years, knifemakers and blacksmiths have sought the lost process of making Damascus steel. Though Damascus knife blanks aren't quite the same as Damascus steel, they are very close.
Most modern Damascus knife blanks are made with pattern welded steel, which is made with a folded metal method; the layers that result, when the Damascus knife blank is shaped and polished into a blade, closely resemble Damascus steel. This method is the most common one for making Japanese katana, which are renowned for their strength.
Finding Good Damascus Knife Blanks
The best Damascus knife blanks will have a clear pattern that, when you view the blank from the edge, lines up fairly straight with the blade. Damascus knife blanks are ideal for keeping an edge because the dark lines in that pattern are the hardest part of the knife. In addition to flat, parallel patterning, you should look for Damascus knife blanks that have beautiful and regular patterns; the pattern in your Damascus knife blank should resemble the wood of fine furniture.
When you polish your Damascus knife blank after sharpening, the pattern will either look like a steel version of wood laminate; alternately, if you choose to give your Damascus knife blank a matte finish, the pattern will show boldly against the steel. The description of your Damascus knife blank should tell you how many layers are folded into it; the more layers (minimum 500 layers), the higher the quality of the blank. Forged to shape Damascus knife blanks are better than stock removal simply because the layers are intact in the blade; however, it's often difficult to get high numbers of layers in a forged to shape Damascus knife blank, so you sacrifice a little of the Damascus beauty for a little more strength.
Damascus knife blanks can be found in a variety of colors, depending on the alloy used to make the steel. In addition, different techniques during the forging of Damascus knife blanks can create different patterns in the metal. For instance, if the blacksmith twists the metal destined for your Damascus knife blank, you wind up with a twist pattern running through the steel. Other types of folding while forging the Damascus knife blank result in star patterns and many others.
After the Damascus knife blank is formed, it is acid etched to reveal the pattern NOT to create it. Pattern etched Damascus is an inferior metal, and a knife blank treated in this manner is not a Damascus knife blank. Acid etching, because it reacts with the different layers at different rates, simply reveals the natural pattern already on the Damascus knife blank. Beyond the pattern already inherent in your Damascus knife blank, you should not have to decorate the blade in any way.
If you want to make a knife with true beauty and strength, you can't go wrong by starting with a Damascus knife blank. With history and beauty both wrapped into its blade, a Damascus knife blank will produce an impressive blade.
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