Damascus steel is a name used by a few of Western cultures since
the Middle Ages to mark a category of steel used by Middle Eastern
armourers in 1100 - 1700 AD. The damascus steel swords can be identified
by the 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.
This knife is from Damask, but it was not forged from Damascus steel.
Knives in the souvenir shop. Bazaar Hamidiye in Damascus, Syria
In this photo you see knives in the window of a souvenir shop at Hamidiye market
in Damascus. All the knives here are with blades hidden in the painted sheath.
Why? The real damask steel has a beautiful patterned surface - the result of
multilayered workpiece. Of course, souvenir shops sell souvenir knives from the
East, which are sometimes made of very low quality steel.
Close-up of a 16th century Iranian Damascus steel sword.
Close-up of an 18th-century Persian-forged Damascus steel sword
Damascus swords are characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and
mottling reminiscent of flowing water.
(Photo by Rahil Alipour Ata Abadi)
The reputation and history of Damascus steel has given rise to many legends,
such as the ability to cut through a rifle barrel or to cut a hair falling
across the blade.
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 failed. Today, the term is conventionally 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.
Damascus steel Knife "Vandreren"Imtex.ch
Damascus steel Knife "Aide"Imtex.ch
Photo by Andrey Zhivotov
Characteristic "organic" pattern of Damascus steel
Perhaps this Damascus steel never made in Damascus!
|Balinese kris (or keris),
a type of dagger found in Malaysia,
the southern Philippines and
Many historians believe that Damascus has never been famous with its
blacksmiths. In ancient times, the best blade steel made in India, Persia, and
in some areas of Syria. In Europe these knives and daggers fall through
Damascus market - so the steel was named "Damascus."
In another version the masters of Damascus bought Indian steel billets and
forged knives, swords and daggers. Blacksmiths experimented a lot
and eventually created the technology forge welding. Strip steel with different
carbon contents were collected in a package and forged. The resulting strip
folded in half and forged again. And so while the number of layers reached
Damask masters noticed that if you dig in a metal in the ground for a long time,
the metal (purified from the rust) is markedly improved. The fact that rust first
erodes the place where most non-metallic impurities (sulfur, phosphorus).
In the photo above you see knife, swords and daggers in the window of souvenir shop
(the bazaar Hamidiye in Damascus). Knife blades are hidden in the painted scabbard. Why? This
damask combines high hardness and elasticity and has a beautiful patterned
surface - the result of multi-layer perform. Of course, a souvenir shop is selling
souvenir "knives from the East", sometimes - from the metal of very low quality.
And if you want a knife of good steel, it is better to buy it from the manufacturer.
In Russia any good steel, including Damascus, was called "Bulat",
chronicles record the use of a material known as bulat steel to make
highly valued weapons, including knives, axes and swords. Tsar Michael
of Russia reportedly had a bulat helmet made for him in 1621. The exact
origin or the manufacturing process of bulat is unknown, but it was
likely imported to Russia via Turkestan and Persia, and it was similar
and possibly the same as damascus steel.
The kris is an asymmetrical dagger with distinctive blade-patterning
achieved through alternating laminations of iron and nickelous iron (pamor).
While most strongly associated with the culture of Indonesia the kris is
also indigenous to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the
Philippines where it is known as kalis with variants existing as a sword
rather than a dagger. The kris is famous for its distinctive wavy blade,
although many have straight blades as well.
In former times, kris blades were said to be infused with poison during
their forging, ensuring that any injury was fatal. The process of doing
so was kept secret among smiths. Different types of whetstones, acidic
juice of citrus fruits and poisonous arsenic bring out the contrast
between the dark black iron and the light colored silvery nickel layers
which together form pamor, damascene patterns on the blade.
The kris blade forging uses iron with a small content of nickel to
create this pattern. The faint pamor pattern has been found in the kris
from Majapahit period, which was acquired from iron ores with small
nickel content. Most probably this iron ore was imported from the island
The best material for creating pamor is acquired in a quite
unusual way, as it is made from rare meteorite iron. Traditionally the pamor material for the kris smiths connected with the courts of
Surakarta and Yogyakarta originates from an iron meteorite that fell to
earth at the end of 18th century in the neighborhood of the Prambanan
temple. The meteorite was excavated and transported to the keraton of Surakarta; from that time on the smiths of
the Royal territories Vorstenlanden used small pieces of meteoric iron to produce pamor
patterns in their pikes, kris and other weapons. After etching
the blade with acidic substances, it is the small percentage of nickel
present in meteoric iron that creates the distinctive silvery patterns
that faintly light up against the dark background of iron or steel that
become darkened by the effect of the acids.
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