Saturday, March 23, 2013

'Black Damascus' ???

I see that you teach how to make damascus steel. do you also teack how to make black damascus??

"Damascus" can refer to two entirely different types of material:

- The historic material (India, Persia) is from a crucible produced method. A sealed container with the desired iron materials plus other elements is baked at an extremely high temperature to fuse and convert the contents, first liquified, then cooled into a 'puck'. This then is forged. The surfaces of the finished blade will have a specific random mottled look when acid etched later.
- The modern term usually refers to a specific method of layered steel formation. Thin plates of differing alloys are forge welded, drawn and repeat welded. The surfaces are then distorted, typically in predictable ways to create specific known patterns of the lines. The effects also vary with alloys and acids. There is a very nice summary on Cashen Bladesmith web site.

Northern European 'Pattern Welding' is an archaeological term referring to a specific variation on the layered steel process. Bars are drawn and twisted - creating diagonal lines in the finished surfaces. This is the method I use primarily in my own work. I certainly have created many blades using the flat stack process. I have never undertaken any of the crucible methods.

I have commented before about the problem with slippery termonology between modern knife makers (and worse, commercial retailers!)

I did a fast internet search for 'Black Damascus'.

It is critical to me that ALL of the web references are by commerical, usually low end, blade retailers. *NOT actual bladesmith makers.*
 Near as I can tell 'Black Damascus' is simply a dark chemical process (likely similar to 'bluing' or 'parkerized' finishes on gun barrels). This is added after the forging and heat treating - as a replacement to the etching process. It totally obscures the decorative effect of the layered steel process - which is entirely the reason (in the modern world of alloys) you would undertake all that effort in the first place!
Given the extremely low price of these advertised 'Black Damascus' blades (in the range of retail $100 !!) I can not imagine that there this is anything but a trick to obscure extremely low quality.

These have just got to be mass produced machine ground blades, likely only oven heat treated (if at all).

So I guess the answer on that one is - NO (as in 'Hell NO!')


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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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