Damascus Steel

by Sara at The Brink

When choosing a knife, you have many options: handle style, blade length, and shape. But have you ever considered what the blade is made of? One option that has grown in popularity is Damascus steel.

This metal, characterized by looping, swirled patterns, first appeared around 500 AD in the Middle East. The material received its name from European traders, who admired its durability. Damascus steel held a sharp edge longer than most other sword metals of the time and it was said it was able to cut a silk scarf that was falling through the air in half. Other medieval writers claimed that Damascus steel swords could split hairs or even slice through lesser quality swords. Production continued through the Middle Ages, where it was brought back to Europe during the Crusades.

In the 18th century, however, the methods for creating Damascus steel were lost forever. Some suggest that mining methods in India changed, so the traditional methods of creating Damascus steel no longer produced the same results. Others posit that the written methods were lost, while still others believe that interruptions in trade routes may have ended the demand for this material. This ancient metal seemed to be lost forever, remembered for its superior quality.

In 1992, J.D. Verhoeven, a professor of materials science at Iowa State University, and blacksmith Al Pendray teamed up to recreate this method of old after years of collaboration. Through trial and error, they were able to successfully reproduce a modern Damascus blade by recreating Wootz steel, the original steel ingots from India used to make original blades of Damascus steel. Their efforts have brought these beautiful, sturdy blades back into use.

Now the process is well documented and craftsmen across the world incorporate it in their work - Wayne Beck, one of our featured craftsmen, included.

Wayne beck specializes in handcrafted knife work featuring stag handles, hand detailed ornamentation, and Damascus steel blades. Check out his collection!

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