21
May
08

Fun With Damascus Steel

Today, I have a special treat for you. You may or may not know this, since it does not come up particularly often, but one of my favorite blade materials is Damascus steel. For two reasons. First, barring unfinished or tarnished steels, it is one of the only true “dark” finished steels that I know of.

The next reason is that, even though I have a great love for all dark weapons, (to me they have more character than most) the truth is that, most dark weapons are not inherently dark, and require special finishes, most of which rarely do any more than provide an aesthetic touch to a blade.

Damascus steel on the other hand, has an inherent dark aesthetic beauty that requires no artificial colorings or preservatives. Ok, so maybe there are some forms of Damascus that have artificial colorings. Some shades of Damascus require chemical treatments or the usage of special alloys or metals to achieve the desired effect.

But in the grand scheme of things, these are no worse than the coatings used to enhance the appearance of monosteels. Nonetheless, it is still the only type of steel that I know of, whose aesthetics are also functional, and whose enhanced cutting power does not really require any special finishes / treatments / coatings. Damascus steel has an inherent beauty all it’s own.

But the cool thing is that, in the hands of true metalworking artists, using these various other methods, Damascus can be made into patterns and colors of amazing beauty. I was quite thrilled to find a site that featured such beautifully wrought Damascus blades, each one uniquely and excellently finished to a level of detail that, much like J. A. Harkins work, totally blew me away…

I present to you a taste of the blades of Kevin and Heather Harvey of Heavin Forge. First up:

<_>

The Zulu assegai – In Damascus

Zulu Assegai in Gaboon Viper Damascus

[view full size]

Now obviously, as one of my favorite African weapons, this Damascus Assegai caught my eye. Definitely a thing of beauty. Due in no small part to the very eye catching Gaboon Viper Damascus pattern on the blade:

Zulu Assegai – Close up of Blade

Zulu Assegai Blade Close Up

[view full size]

Now this is a very unique spear, first because of the shaft style, which appears to have been carved to appear like a dark horn grip at the bottom, and smooths out the rest of the way up. Very cool. And the head sports a cool damscus pattern they have appropriately called called “Gaboon Viper”, as it emulates the characteristic diamond pattern found on the back of the aforementioned reptile… I’ve got two words for the head on this spear: Absolutely Awesome…

<^>

Persian Fighting Blade!

Persian Fighting Blade

[view full size]

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, I needn’t explain to you why I like this blade… It’s all about the points and curves… (I’m sure you can figure it out… 🙂 ) And it doesn’t hurt that it has a Damascus blade. Which is actually appropriate since Damascus steel is reputed to have been developed in ye old Persia and was also called watered steel at the time. No surprise, as Damascus does look like Steel with waves in it…

<^>

Next we have a piece i like to think of as from the West. The Wild West. California gold rush and and all that jazz… It should be self explanatory why:

Gold Rush Bowie

Gold Rush Bowie

[view full size]

Yep, we have a bowie knife, perhaps almost the trademark of the wild west, (besides the ever ubiquitous revolver), in an amazing gold and almost cobalt blue Damascus hue… I’ve always like gold accents on black blades, but this just takes it to another level altogether…

Gold Rush Bowie – Close up of ricasso and top of hilt

Gold Rush Bowie - Ricasso and Hilt

[view full size]

There’s gold in that thar bowie!… I seen it with my own two eyes!!

<^>

Finally, but certainly not least, we find a weapon harking from the dark continent of Africa, an interesting little dagger that reminds me of an insect for some reason. A long wasp maybe? I dunno. But here is it, in all it’s insect like glory…

African Dagger

African Dagger

[view full size]

Now this particularly dark brand of Damascus is one of my favorites, perhaps the only true dark steel in existence. And this sample is particularly beautiful, complementing the overall theme of this dagger very well. Between the African styled hilt, and the really very cool horn sheath, it’s perhaps one of the most intriguing implementations of a Damascus dagger I’ve seen to date…

<^>

And that’s all I’ve got for today. You can see more of Kevin and Heathers’ work at Heavin Forge. Perhaps what really impressed me was not only the creative use of color in the steel, but also the overall attention to detail, fit and finish on every weapon. Absolutely beautiful. Make sure you swing by their page.

As much as they were all great works of art, after looking at them all, I discovered I had a favorite. Probably because I tend to gravitate towards more dark colors and organic shapes, I liked that last waspy dagger best. It just spoke to me. We had a grand old chat.

I think I’m gonna give it a name. I’m calling it the Black Stinger… Yeah… In fact I think i’m gonna have to make myself similar blade one of these days. It won’t be nearly as cool as this one, but If it has half the personality, I’ll be looking forward to quite a few great conversations with it…

P.S. I’d like to point out, for the record, that I am not insane. Just a *wee bit* loopy when it comes to certain blades… But I’m totally harmless, I assure you… No really… 😛

Kevin and Heathers Damascus Blades – [Heavin Forge]

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29 Responses to “Fun With Damascus Steel”


  1. 1 Niccolo
    May 21, 2008 at 4:08 am

    Huh. I finally put two and two together… I’ve been reading about blued steel for a while, and just now I noticed that it was in fact damascus that I was reading about. Hunh. You DO learn something every day.

    Anyhoo… ^^ That assegai certainly appeals to me. short, sharp and fast… my kind of death-dealer. I really must get my hands on one; they are absolutely exquisite.

    PS: and for the record, I give you back your testosterone. Posting aswesome Zulu weapons grants you kudos on that regard.

  2. May 21, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Actually, to my knowledge, blued steel actually refers to two different things. One is a form of black iron oxide, which is really not used as a steel per se, as much as a method of creating a protective coating on weapons and firearms called Blueing

    The other, more apropos to this post, is Martensite, a slightly darker, harder steel that is usually seen in tempered blades, and frequently found as one of the layers of Damascus steel. It is not Damascus steel per se, but is a common component of it…

    BTW, thank for granting me my testosterone back… I’ve been told that operating at less than full testosterone capacity over long periods of time can have permanent negative side effects… 🙂

  3. 3 ladyofspiders
    May 21, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    It seems I have heard about Damascus steel once before somewhere but I cannot remeber where.

    But those are really cool weapons, the spear is awsome. But the Persian Fighter is to die for, and the African dagger is wicked cool

  4. 4 CapnPervy
    May 22, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    ugh! this is one of my biggest pet peaves. real Damascus steel does not exist today except in historical artifacts. Damascus steel refers to swords made in or near Damascus, Syria from 900A.D to about 1750A.D. they were well known for they’re strength and ability to hold an edge (they were said to be able to cut right through European swords and even through rocks). the practice of forging these weapons died out around 1750. any new blade labeled “damascus steel” is full of shit.

  5. May 22, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    @CapnPervy
    Actually, I would beg to differ with you about that. I think that either your definition of “Damascus Steel” is too narrow, or you underestimate modern day metallurgical technology.

    I was going to explain why I disagreed with you here, but it turned into a rather long response, so I’m going to make a post of it… 🙂

  6. 6 CapnPervy
    May 27, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    excellent, i look forward to it. until that’s up i’ll just say that my definition of Damascus Steel is steel with a chemical makeup similar to that of the steel made in Damascus, Syria that gained near legendary status due to it’s strength and sharpness. most blades you see today with the name Damascus on them are merely normal steel that has been pattern welded to give it a design.

  7. 7 Niccolo
    May 28, 2008 at 4:11 am

    Hence Phyreblade’s comment about metallurgical technology. Metallurgy is about creating metallic alloys, one of which is Damascus steel.

  8. 8 CapnPervy
    May 28, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    BUT in every reliable source I’ve found, it has been stated that Damascus Steel (With similar chemical makeup and characteristics) has yet to be reproduced. small differences in the forging technique can make the same ingredients react differently. add that to the fact that the mines where the iron they used for the original Damascus blades were exhausted (the reason why the practice of making these blades died out) then getting the right forging processes as well as the correct ingredients would make recreating the steel difficult at best. and even if it was recreated, it would be an extremely expensive process so a private blade smith would not be able to afford them. my main point in all of this is that those blades in this post are NOT made from real Damascus Steel. they’re most likely pattern welded.

  9. May 29, 2008 at 12:40 am

    I’m not trying to get on your case or anything here Capn, but the statement:

    “Damascus steel refers to swords made in or near Damascus, Syria from 900A.D to about 1750A.D.”

    Does not jive with this one:

    “Damascus Steel is steel with a chemical makeup similar to that of the steel made in Damascus, Syria”

    Contrary to your first statement, contemporary Damascus steels (even down to matching the pattern of the iron carbide striations at a molecular level) have successfully been made. My definition matches your second definition though, with a few addendums.

    However I will grant you that the blades above are most likely pattern welded… That probably does partially exclude these from the “traditional” definition of a damascus steel, though it is commonly accepted, though it may not be entirely accurate, that the term “Damascus” includes both original “Damascus” steels, as well as the more contemporary “Damascene” pattern welded steels…

  10. 10 CapnPervy
    May 29, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    alright, you got me there. those are two completely different statements. i still haven’t seen anything from a reliable source that a reproduction of original Damascus steel has been produced though. plus my entire reason for going on this rant is that my favorite part of Damascus steel is it’s function, not it’s form. i mean just imagine yourself a crusader having your sword cut right in half. it’s awe inspiring. so a blade claiming to be Damascus steel just because it’s been pattern welded to give it a design does not sit well with me.

  11. May 31, 2008 at 2:22 am

    I do agree with you about the functionality vs aesthetics bit. Though I found out that Damascus steel is not all that it’s made out to be in the history books… There was a little more going on than just being made of good steel…

  12. 12 Jared
    June 18, 2008 at 6:07 am

    Actually pretty much all of the high carbon alloys are vastly superior to anything they’ve ever made in the past, something as crucial to our infrastructure as steel technology doesn’t regress. Also someone was talking about the “martensite” being what makes the blades darker, all quality blades are made of martensite at least at the edge (discounting bainite) with some of the differentially hardened blades the spine is a pearlitic structure. These blades are dark because two types of steel with different corrosion characteristics are pattern welded together and then etched to produce a contrast. Typically one will be a high magnesium alloy and the other will be a high chrome/nickel alloy and that’s what causes the contrast.

  13. June 20, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    @Jared,
    Agreed, this is also why I try to point out that those who keep talking about traditional Damascus steel being the “magical wonder steel” being better than the steels of today have been mislead by over exuberant historical writing…

  14. July 6, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Dear sir, we saw you production of knives, realy,we never seen this type of damascus
    steel.

  15. July 7, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Hey Nayeem,
    To be fair, these are not “traditional” Damascus steels but most likely a combination of pattern welding, and acid etched “Damscene” steels…

  16. 16 jake
    July 9, 2008 at 7:49 am

    damascus steel is a complex subject, but since at least the 15th C. damascus has been used to denote any steel which imitates the look of wootz or watered steel, produced, among other places, in Syria(possibly – there is a persuasive argument to be made that all wootz was produced in india, and exported to areas where particular patterns became traditional.this is perhaps borne out by the import of wootz to japan in the first half of the 18th C. where it was used to produce traditional japanese patterns such as itame and gane.)wootz is steel, smelted in a cruicible, generally with a high carbon content, which produces a dendritic structure of carbides, which when polished with loose abrasive and perhaps etched, show to give it the distinctive watered pattern, which could be further manipulated by forging, folding, twisting and coining. wootz has been succesfully reproduced by Al pendray, who wrote a fascinating text on the subject, as well as jeff pringle and numerous others, although there is still some debate as to whether most steels produced in this way should be termed cruicible steel rather than true wootz.

    while the blades above are perhaps more properly called pattern welded, these days the term damascus is almost universally applied to laminated blades of more than one steel type, manipulated to induce a specific pattern. pattern welding is usually reserved for straight laminates of composite bars, which have themselves been manipulated to produce patterns, and which are historically typified by the work of viking and saxon smiths, as well as the early celtic iron age and a significant number of roman pieces.

    the reason for the application of the term damascus to the type of steel above is largely to draw a distinction from damascene, which is a surface treatment, for blades an attempt to replicate the apperance of either wootz or patternwelded steel at a fraction of the cost, usually by randomly etching monosteel. both the terms damascus and damascene can perhaps best be described as a marketing gimmick – wootz was never known as damascus in it’s homeland. damascene is more properly fine gold and silver inlay, similar to koftigari, on decorative pieces, or fine embroidering on textiles.

  17. July 9, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Hey Jake,

    You are spot on, I agree with most of what you have said, except for the idea that the term “damascus” is a marketing gimic. A name of a thing does not need to be the same as what it is natively called in order for it to be valid. Even the term “Wootz” may not have been the correct name for what the various native Indians called the steel.

    I will agree however, that the name has been abused, and it’s commonly assumed meaning does not jive with the metallurgical truth of what it really is, but I don’t believe that it makes it inherently invalid…

  18. 18 Joe Mills
    July 29, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Hi,
    I’m a graphic designer working in London and I am interested in using the Zulu Assegai image by Heather on your website for a bookjacket design I am currently working on.

    Would you please contact me asap as I have a tight deadline on the design, and would like to know if you will grant me permission to use the image, or if you can give me details on whom I can contact to get permission.

    My email address is

    joe@blacksheep-uk.com

    Kind regards
    Joe Mills

  19. July 29, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Joe,
    I saw your other post about this and responded in the same thread you posted your inquiry in, but I will send you an email as well…

  20. August 15, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    please tell me the price of Persian Fighting Blade.

  21. August 17, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Hey Kamal,

    I actually don’t know what the prices are on these blades, or if they are still available, as each one is a one-off piece, but you can go to their website, their contact info is listed there and you can ask them if they still have it and how much it costs…

    Their Gallery: http://www.heavinforge.co.za/html/gallery.html
    Contact Info: http://www.heavinforge.co.za/html/contact_us.html

  22. August 20, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    thanks for your kind info. i like your site and topics you touch.

  23. August 21, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    You are very Welcome!

  24. 24 MoZZA!
    September 14, 2008 at 7:24 am

    FREAKIN’ SEXY BLADES!

  25. September 15, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    LOL Indeed. Have I mentioned that I think they are Dead Sexy?

  26. September 16, 2008 at 9:46 am

    hallo sir i am make knife in damascus steel
    thank you

  27. September 16, 2008 at 9:47 am

    hallo sir i am make knife in damascus steel
    thank you

  28. 28 MoZZA
    September 16, 2008 at 11:20 am

    what?!

    please rephrase ram lal parihar i do not understand your comment

  29. September 17, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    LOL

    Hey Ram Lal/Nirbhay,

    Thanks for posting… I’ll keep you in mind… 🙂

    @Mozza…
    I’m gonna let them slide purely for the humor… 😀


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