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Damascus steel 1

Damascus steel
Damascus steel was a term used by several Western cultures from the Medieval
period onward to describe a type of steel used in swordmaking from about 300 BC to
1700 AD. These swords are characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and
mottling reminiscent of flowing water. Such blades were reputed to be not only
tough and resistant to shattering, but capable of being honed to a sharp and resilient
edge.[1]

The original method of producing Damascus steel is not known. Due to 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 in which the original
Damascus steel was produced.[2] [3] Today, the term is used to describe steel that
mimics the appearance and performance of Damascus steel, usually that which is
produced by the techniques of crucible forging or pattern welding.

The reputation and history of Damascus steel has given rise to many legends, such as
the ability to cut through a rifle barrel, or cut a hair falling across the blade.[4] No
evidence exists to support such claims. But National Geographic and others have
reported on research revealing nanowires and carbon nanotubes (which was the first
time this had been seen in steel). Whatever the lost methods of making Damascus
steel, of ore refinement and forging, they accidentally harnessed impurities and
changes at the molecular level. Although modern steel still outperforms these
swords, the microscopic chemical reactions may have made the blades more resilient
for their time. Other experts are unsurprised, and expect to discover such nanotubes
in more and more relics as they are looked at more closely.[5] [6] Close-up of a 16th century
Iranian crucible forged
Damascus steel sword

Etymology
Several theories on the origins of the term "Damascus steel" exists, but none of them may be confirmed
definitively.[7] Damascus may refer to:
• The swords forged in Damascus. For instance, al-Kindi, refers to swords made in Damascus as Damascene. This
word has often been employed as an epithet in Eastern European legends (Sabya Damaskinya or Sablja Dimiskija
meaning "Damascene saber"), including the Serbian and Bulgarian legends of Prince Marko, a historical figure of
the late 14th century in what is currently the Republic of Macedonia.
• The swords sold in Damascus. [8]
• The name of the swordsmith. For instance, the author al-Beruni refers to swords made by a man he names
Damashqi.
• The comparison of the patterns found on the swords to Damask fabrics woven in the Byzantine empire.[8]
Damascus steel 2

History
Historians such as Hobson, Sinopoli, and Juleff state that the
material used to produce the original damascus was ingots of
Wootz steel, which originated in India and Sri Lanka[9] and
later spread to Persia.[10] From the 3rd century to the 17th
century, India was shipping steel ingots to the Middle East
for use in Damascus steel.[11]

In Europe, research has demonstrated that high quality


swords with damask patterns were produced by various
pattern welding techniques since at least the 3rd century BC
by the Celts and Germanic peoples.[12]

A bladesmith from Damascus, ca. 1900

Loss of the technique


The process was lost to metalsmiths after production of the patterned swords
gradually declined and eventually ceased circa 1750. 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] [13]

The raw material for producing the original Damascus steel is believed to be
wootz imported from India.[2] [3] Due to the distance of trade for this raw
material, 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.
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


Close-up of a modern pattern welded
damascus sheath knife this hypothesis, since the precipitation of carbon nanotubes likely resulted from a
specific process that may be difficult to replicate should the production technique
or raw materials used be significantly altered.[13] If this is true, Damascus swords, once manufactured, underwent a
process of testing, and the small percentage that possessed the qualifications of Damascus swords were selected for
delivery.
Damascus steel 3

Modern reproduction attempts


Since pattern welding was a prominent technique used for swords and knives, and produced surface patterns similar
to those found on Damascus blades, a belief existed that Damascus blades were made using a pattern welding
technique. Pattern-welded steel has been referred to as "Damascus steel", since 1973 when Bladesmith William F.
Moran unveiled his "Damascus knives" at the Knifemakers' Guild Show.[14] [15] This "Modern Damascus" is made
from several types of steel and iron slices, which are then welded together to form a billet.[16] The patterns vary
depending on how the smith works the billet.[15] The billet is drawn out and folded until the desired number of layers
are formed.[15] The belief that Damascus steel was pattern welded was challenged in the 1990s when J. D.
Verhoeven and A. H. Pendray published an article on their experiments on reproducing the elemental, structural, and
visual characteristics of Damascus steel.[2]
The Russian bulat steel contains many similar properties, albeit they are achieved by a different process.
Experimental archaeology is a means by which Damascus steel has been attempted to be recreated. A different
technique was proposed by Wadsworth and Sherby.
Verhoeven and Pendray 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 the
hypereutectoid state of the wootz. Verhoeven and Pendray had already determined that the grains on the surface of
the steel were grains of iron carbide, so their question was how 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 destroy the pattern permanently. However, Verhoeven and Pendray
discovered that in samples of true Damascus steel, the Damascene pattern could be recovered by aging at a moderate
temperature. Their investigations found that certain carbide forming elements, one of which was vanadium, did not
disperse until higher temperatures than those needed to dissolve the carbides. Therefore, though a high heat
treatment could remove the visual evidence of patterning associated with carbides, it 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.

Modern methods
Two types of modern forged steel has patterning and physical properties resembling the original Damascus steel:
• Forged crucible steel: Ingots consisting of high carbon steel with added metallic impurities are created by
melting and allowing them to slowly cool and crystallize in its crucible. The resulting ingots are then slowly
forged at "red heat" until the desired shape is achieved.
• Pattern welded steel: Steels pieces of different carbon content are welded together with the aid of flux and
continually bent, twisted, and forged until the piece is solid and its steel grain is of correct form and dimensions.
Most modern steels intended to mimic the appearance of original Damascus are a lamination of folded steels selected
with cosmetic qualities, with grinding and polishing specifically to expose the layers. A limited amount of steel
makers attempt to recreate the original Damascus steel by using ingots produced through wootz methods.
Several steelmaking techniques, other than the original wootz steel (such as Damascened steel and sometimes
watered steel), can result in patterned surfaces, though not for the same reasons, and have been sold as Damascus
steel. Historically authentic Damascus steel is processed from wootz steel or equivalent. A technique currently used
for producing a similar material in appearance is pattern welding, which is widely used for custom knife making.[8]
Modern materials intended to mimic the appearance of Damascus steel are usually made by pattern welding two tool
steels, one with high nickel content, appearing bright, the other appearing more grey so that alternating steels
Damascus steel 4

produce light-dark stripes. Treating or pickling the steel with dilute acid after polishing enhances the pattern by
darkening one of the steels more than the other. Folding and twisting while hammer forging the steel controls the
striped pattern, and the method used is often trademarked. Experienced bladesmiths can manipulate the layered
patterns to mimic the designs found in the surface of the medieval Damascus steel.
One explanation of the legendary properties of the original is that the pattern
consists of alternating bands of harder, brittle iron carbide or cementite and
softer, more flexible iron. Another possibility is that the steel contains a small
quantity of vanadium, which would theoretically strengthen the blade.[17]
Original Damascus steel billet was formed from a small disk that was folded and
forged by a hammer into its final shape. Unlike northern European methods, the
ferro-smelting technique in Iran during the Middle Ages involved crucibles with
a lid, baked in an oven similar to that used for bread.

Carbon nanotubes and nanowires were found in a sample of a 17th century sword
forged from Damascus steel. The process of forging and annealing is thought to
have accounted for the nano-scale structures.[18]

Manufacture
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 cementite nanowires[19] and carbon nanotubes.[20] Peter Paufler, a Celtic sword with Damascene pattern
member of the Dresden team, says that these nanostructures are a result of the
forging process.[18] [21]
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.[22] [23]
This process was referred to as
"laminating" or "Damascus" and these
barrels were found on shotguns that
sold for $12.[22] [23] These types of
barrels earned a reputation for
weakness and were never meant to be
used with modern smokeless powder,
as well as any kind of moderately
powerful explosive.[23] Because of the
appearance to Damascus steel,
higher-end barrels were made by
Belgian and British gun makers.[22] [23] Lefever Grade G shotgun with Pattern welded Damascus Barrels

These barrels are proof marked and


meant to be used with light pressure loads.[22] 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".[24]
Damascus steel 5

References
[1] Figiel, Leo S. (1991). On Damascus Steel. Atlantis Arts Press. pp. 10–11. ISBN 9780962871108.
[2] J. D. Verhoeven, A. H. Pendray, and W. E. Dauksch (1998). "The key role of impurities in ancient damascus steel blades" (http:/ / www. tms.
org/ pubs/ journals/ JOM/ 9809/ Verhoeven-9809. html). Journal of Mettalurgy 50: 58. .
[3] J. Wadsworth and O. D. Sherby (1980). "On the Bulat — Damascus steel revisited". Prog. Materials Science 68: 25.
[4] Becker, Otto Matthew (1910). High-speed steel: the development, nature, treatment, and use of high-speed steels, together with some
suggestions as to the problems involved in their use. New York: McGraw-Hill book company. pp. 10–14.
[5] http:/ / archaeology. about. com/ od/ ancientweapons/ a/ damascus_steel_2. htm which itself cites various sources
[6] http:/ / news. nationalgeographic. com/ news/ 2006/ 11/ 061116-nanotech-swords. html
[7] Williams, Alan R. (2003). The knight and the blast furnace: a history of the metallurgy of armour in the Middle Ages & the early modern
period Volume 12 of History of warfare. BRILL. pp. 10–14. ISBN 9789004124981.
[8] Goddard, Wayne (2000). The Wonder of Knifemaking. Krause. pp. 107–120. ISBN 9780873417983.
[9] G. Juleff (1996). "An ancient wind powered iron smelting technology in Sri Lanka". Nature 379: 60. doi:10.1038/379060a0.
[10] Hobson, John M. (2004). The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation. Cambridge University Press. pp. 85. ISBN 0521547245.
[11] Sinopoli, Carla M. (2003). The Political Economy of Craft Production: Crafting Empire in South India, c. 1350–1650. Cambridge
University Press. pp. 192. ISBN 0521826136.
[12] Stefan Mäder: "Stähle, Steine und Schlangen. Zur Kultur- und Technikgeschichte von Schwertklingen des frühen Mittelalters" (http:/ /
www. schwertbruecken. de/ pdf/ staehle. pdf), dissertation, Berlin 2001, pp. 275-282
[13] Lionel Milgrom (2009). "Carbon nanotubes: Saladin's secret weapon" (http:/ / www. rsc. org/ chemistryworld/ News/ 2006/ November/
15110602. asp). .
[14] Lewis, Jack; Roger Combs (1992). Gun digest book of knives. DBI. pp. 58–64. ISBN 9780873491297.
[15] Kertzman, Joe (2007). Art of the Knife. Krause Publications. pp. 224–226. ISBN 9780896894709.
[16] Loveless, Robert; Richard Barney (1995). How to Make Knives. Knife World Publications. p. 169. ISBN 0-695-80913-X.
[17] Talmadge, Joe. Knife Steel FAQ (http:/ / zknives. com/ knives/ articles/ knifesteelfaq. shtml) zknives.com. October 2005. Retrieved on
2010-07-11.
[18] K. Sanderson (2006). "Sharpest cut from nanotube sword". Nature 444: 286. doi:10.1038/news061113-11.
[19] Kochmann, W. (2004). "Nanowires in ancient Damascus steel". Journal of Alloys and Compounds 372: L15–L19.
doi:10.1016/j.jallcom.2003.10.005. ISSN 0925-8388.
Levin, A. A.; Meyer, D. C.; Reibold, M.; Kochmann, W.; Pätzke, N.; Paufler, P. (2005). "Microstructure of a genuine Damascus sabre" (http:/
/ www. crystalresearch. com/ crt/ ab40/ 905_a. pdf) (PDF). Crystal Research and Technology 40 (9): 905–916. doi:10.1002/crat.200410456. .
[20] Reibold, M.; Paufler, P; Levin, AA; Kochmann, W; Pätzke, N; Meyer, DC (November 16, 2006). "Materials:Carbon nanotubes in an ancient
Damascus sabre". Nature 444 (7117): 286. doi:10.1038/444286a. PMID 17108950.
[21] Legendary Swords' Sharpness, Strength From Nanotubes, Study Says (http:/ / news. nationalgeographic. com/ news/ 2006/ 11/
061116-nanotech-swords. html)
[22] Simpson, Layne (2003). Shotguns & Shotgunning. Krause Publications. pp. 256. ISBN 978-0873495677.
[23] Matunas, Edward A. (2003). Do-It-Yourself Gun Repair. Woods N' Water Inc.. pp. 240. ISBN 978-0972280426.
[24] Hopkins, Cameron (2000). "Damascus Knight .45". American Handgunner Magazine 20 (4): 128.

Further reading
• Eric M. Taleff, Bruce L. Bramfitt, Chol K. Syn, Donald R. Lesuer, Jeffrey Wadsworth, and Oleg D. Sherby,
"Processing, structure, and properties of a rolled ultrahigh-carbon steel plate exhibiting a damask pattern,"
Materials Characterization 46 (1), 11-18 (2001).
• J. D. Verhoeven, "A review of microsegregation induced banding phenomena in steels", J. Materials Engineering
and Performance 9 (3), 286-296 (2000).
Damascus steel 6

External links
• Exeter University recreation of Sri Lankan Steel Furnaces (http://www.fluent.com/about/news/newsletters/
04v13i1/a27.htm)
• "Damascene Technique in Metal Working" (http://www.tf.uni-kiel.de/matwis/amat/def_en/kap_5/
advanced/t5_1_1.html)
• "Secret's out for Saracen sabres" (http://www.newscientisttech.com/article/mg19225780.
151-secrets-out-for-saracen-sabres.html)
• "Damascus Gun Barrels" (http://www.damascus-barrels.com)
• Damascus Steel: Archaeology (http://archaeology.about.com/b/a/257799.htm)
• "Technical Report" (http://www.angelsword.com/DamaskReport03.pdf)
Article Sources and Contributors 7

Article Sources and Contributors


Damascus steel  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?oldid=423410687  Contributors: ARSallier, Abel29a, Acalamari, Adamrush, Aeonx, Agent Foxtrot, Ahoerstemeier, Alansohn,
Alphachimp, Alvis, Andres, Andyvphil, Anthony Appleyard, Antifamilymang, Ashley Pomeroy, B9 hummingbird hovering, BL, BackHo, Backtable, Bart133, Bcameron54, Bhadani, Biff
loman9, Bk0, Bloodshedder, Bobblewik, Bradlegar, Brandmeister, Bryan Derksen, Calmer Waters, Calvin 1998, Ccbball, Charles Matthews, Chris 73, Chris Roy, Conversion script, Cryptic, Css,
Cwkmail, D'n, Darxus, David Gerard, Dbachmann, Deeptrivia, Deglr6328, Djma12, DocWatson42, Droll, Ds13, Ebernie79, Egil, El Suizo, Ela112, Eloquence, Ev, Everyking, Felix-felix,
Ferkelparade, FireHorse, Flauto Dolce, Fluzwup, Gatotor36, Gene Nygaard, Gracefool, Graham87, GreatWhiteNortherner, Grumpyoldgeek, Grutter, Gun Powder Ma, Gzornenplatz, Habad,
Hayabusa future, I Feel Tired, Illuminatiscott, J.delanoy, J8079s, JFD, JLaTondre, JQF, JYOuyang, Jaraalbe, Jarhed, Jasper Chua, Jbuist, Jengod, Jerdwyer, Jerryk50, Jjameyson, Jmcw37,
JohnSmithbubba, Joseph Robert Gray, Jsmasangkay, Ke4roh, Kembangraps, Kennethtennyson, Kent Wang, Knobunc, Kurykh, L Kensington, Lac151, Laudaka, Leonard G., Lovecz, Lowellian,
Magister Mathematicae, Mark Tozzi, Martin451, Materialscientist, Maury Markowitz, Mav, Mcwager, Mike Searson, Miocene, Mirv, MisterSheik, MonkeyFoo, MoogleDan, Moroboshi,
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Image Sources, Licenses and Contributors


File:watered pattern on sword blade2.Iran.JPG  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Watered_pattern_on_sword_blade2.Iran.JPG  License: GNU Free Documentation
License  Contributors: Rahil Alipour Ata Abadi
File:Damascus bladesmith.jpg  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Damascus_bladesmith.jpg  License: Public Domain  Contributors: uncredited
File:DamaszenerKlinge.JPG  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:DamaszenerKlinge.JPG  License: GNU Free Documentation License  Contributors: Frank Schulenburg, Ies,
Pieter Kuiper
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