The main component to consider while selecting a knife is the materials from which the blades are created. This is significant whether or not you enjoy cooking at home or you are a professional chef. There is a wide range of styles and kinds of blades accessible that utilizes different materials. One of the most utilized and appreciated knife blades is the Damascus steel knife. Many people are attracted to the Damascus steel knives because of their wavy pattern, finishing, and chic look. However, it remains mysterious in many ways, which we will be discussing in this article. Let us first unravel the question at hand, ‘what is a damascus knife?’ before learning how strong, durable and convenient they are to use in the kitchen.
What Is Damascus Steel?
The word “Damascus” can be traced back to medieval western cultures. It is basically referred to as an ancient craftsmanship style that first emerged in India around 300 B.C. Damascus steel can be defined as a traditional material utilized in the making of both swords and knives. Even after originally emerging from India, it was named after the capital city of Syria- Damascus. It is a known fact that Damascus steels are not pure. Its charm is still a mystery to the world. However, its charm lies within its building that is characterized by several bands and mottles bound together in a fashionable pattern to create attractive and decorative blades of different shapes and lengths. One of the most amazing things about Damascus steel blades is they do not shatter. It is disappointing to know that there is no record of the composites that go into making Damascus steels (original).
Ever wondered how is present-day damasus steel made? Damascus steels are an assortment of various pure metals made as per the requirement and preferences of people. Even though metal workers have the liberty to choose and blend different materials for forming the steel billets, the most favored material is said to be iron due to its carbide-enhanced solidity and fortitude. This type of steel is easily identifiable because of its wavy patterned design. Moreover, apart from the chic look and beautiful aesthetics, Damascus steels are greatly appreciated for their hard and flexible nature along with a sharp edge.
It is a myth that Damascus possesses the risk of delamination – the layers coming apart, whereas realistically, it’s not the case. Damascus of good quality doesn’t delaminate. Certainly, it’s possible for a smith to have an awful batch; however, any brand of Damascus that has delamination repeatedly presumably contains weak spots in the metal. Breaks, voids, and delamination are a sign that the Damascus you are working with is of low quality and the strength of your steel isn’t adequate.
Is Damascus Steel Strong?
Although Damascus steel is strong and durable, it is not the strongest metal you can get. A few modern metal alloys are extremely strong and are employed in conditions that require extreme durability and strength. Nevertheless, stainless Damascus can do wonders in the case of a hunting knife, or a golf club head, or a firearm component. Damascus holds an upper hand in kitchen knives as an amalgamation of metals creates micro-serrations on the edge that helps to keep the blade incredibly sharp. Due to this, sharping and slicing become a lot easier with Damascus knives.
Since there are many types of Damascus, its strength depends on the material it is made up of. Carbon Damascus is gentle and soft unless hardened. It then becomes harder than stainless. However, proper handling is required for working with a stainless Damascus. If people come across Damascus that is too soft, brittle, or unreliable for practical applications, it signifies that the metal utilized in the making is cheap and poorly made.
How Are Damascus Knives Made?
Present-day Damascus steel blades are designed from different varieties of steel that are joined together to form billets. These billets get require firmness from strips of iron at a molecular level. Hence, they are layered and stretched out as per the application demands and knife owner preference. It can be said that the production of Damascus steel knives is based on individual customization rather than assembly-line fashion.
The general procedure of making Damascus knives involves “sandwiching” the billets with other metal types to form hundreds of layers. It is certain to have a solid density and varied design via this process. The essence of this procedure lies within its nature to provide the Damascus steel knives with integrity and uniqueness. The composition of the Damascus steel involves 2 types of dichotomous structure:
- Ductility- Allows the compression of the material for absorbing an increased amount of energy that would eliminate or at least reduce the integrity of the blade.
- Brittleness- It allows the facilitation of edge sharpness and flexibility of the knife to avoid shattering or breakage
The sharpness and thinness of the edge come from the convex grind that ensures the sliced material yields to the sides at the time of strokes, thereby minimizing “sticking” that often occurs with blades having blunter edges. The malleability and sustained strength come from the carbon nano tubes formed in the steel during the forging process. Carbon is crucial in heavy concentration as it provides steel integrity that guarantees excellent performance. These patterns resemble the grains in Wootz steel that comes from ancient India’s bold aesthetics and production style.
The process of heating for Damascus steel demands a pre-set temperature ranging between 1,500F and 2,000F. This temperature completely depends on the banding and a mixture of cementite and austenite. The general heating and finishing processes for preparing Damascus steel are as follows:
- Temperature pre-setting in the furnace
- Placing the metal block in the furnace and heating through its cycle to its starting temperature
- Soaking of the steel for 10 minutes in order to cool it down
- Quenching the steel in oil
- Transferring the steel to liquid nitrogen for one hour
- Tempering the steel at 350F for one hour twice
The brief procedure that explains the making of Damascus blades is given below:
- Collection of ingredients in a crucible (glass and leaves). These ingredients are known to prevent oxidation.
- The next step involves the heating of the crucible to melt the ingredients.
- Removal of the metal ingots after the crucible has reached its cooling point and heating them to a temperature required for forging.
- It is followed by the hammering of the metal while it is still hot, and this stage involves the sandwiching mentioned above.
- Then, the metal is re-heated for forging once again, and this cycle is repeated for sharpening the edges as well as shaping the blade as per the requirements.
- This step requires cutting the blade along with hand-forging the final details once the final shape is achieved.
- The excess of carburized metal from the surface of the blade is shaved away. This is followed by the insertion of grooves and drilling holes into the blade’s surface as preferred.
- The blade is again heated, hammered, and polished.
- The surface of the blades are then etched for enhancing the pattern.
- The final step involves cleaning the acid from the blade thoroughly.
Is Damascus Steel Knife Good?
- Aesthetically appealing
- A combination of steels provides cutting power and shock absorbent
- Not stain-resistant
- Not rust-resistant
It is not hidden that the Damascus knives serve excellently in certain contexts over others. Its uniqueness in style and patterns and the execution of weaponry as found in hunting and military endeavors make it different from the rest of the knife materials. The Damascus knives have been a ruler in the kitchen since forever. These knives are highly valued and considered to be very special as even after 2,000 years, the style and tradition of Damascus are still going strong. And we can say that attributed to their mystique and special quality; they will last a long time to come without an iota of doubt.