Introduction: Small Pattern Welded "Damascus" Steel Kife (With NO Power Hammer)

I've been into blacksmithing for a little under a year now, and now that I've finally managed to make and acquire adequate tools, I've been able to really start making things (my initial setup was using a small sledge hammer for an anvil and beating on it with a smaller hammer). This project is an Instructable on how to make a small, forged–not stock removal, knife with only a homemade forge, anvil, a hammer, and determination. I am by no means a professional, and this is definitely not the only way to achieve pattern-welded steel, but it is how I managed it.

Modern damascus steel is a name for what is also known as pattern welded steel, which is the metal equivalent of folding different colors of clay together to get swirly patterns. When placed in an etching compound, the dissimilar metals will etch at different rates, bringing out the beautiful contrast.The original Damascus steel was made with a different and very specific process (though similar-looking, which is why the modern definition arose) that precious few know how to achieve, and gave Damascus the reputation of near magically strong properties. The reason for this is similar to Katanas/Samurai swords–the process allowed for a much more homogenous and therefore controlled steel than other methods allowed, making it possible to turn fairly crappy and varying grades of high/low carbon steel into a controlled substance. This yielded a much more effective blade.

**This knife is dangerous, don't get stab-happy**

Step 1: Materials and Tools


- Two or more steels (preferably high carbon) which will contrast each other. I used 1095, a very high carbon steel, and 15n20, a steel with a lot of nickel in it, which will offer bright and shiny contrast when etched.

- Flux (Borax, can be bought at the grocery store. Traditional "20 mule team Borax" will be perfectly fine.

- Rebar, long scrap rod (to be welded onto the billet as a handle)

- Wood of choice for handle

- Epoxy (5 minute is fine)

- Brass Pins

- Finishing medium for handle, I used Linseed oil

- Quenching oil (vegetable oil)

- Ferric Chloride


- Anvil (Preferably a "proper" steel anvil, though with enough persistence there are many other objects you could use if you don't have access to one. Things that can be used are: RR Track pieces, Big hammers, Random metal chunks, crappy "anvils" from Harbor freight, a big hard rock, really any hard and flat surface. Remember, we started out by hitting things with rocks on top of bigger rocks.)

- Hammer (I used a 3 pound cross-pein)

- Tongs

- Welder (optional, but helps to hold the billet together and onto the handle for the initial weld. If no welder, wrap the pieces tightly with wire)

- Forge *Capable of reaching forge-welding temperatures* – this is very important in order to successfully fuse the layers together. I'll explain more about my forge later.

- Belt grinder/files and a ton of patience

- Oven/method of tempering

- Drill/Drill press

- Vise (very helpful)

Step 2: Assemble the Billet

Cut your steels into the desired dimensions. I chose about 1/2" x 3"; the bigger the billet, the harder it is to form with a hammer. Be sure to remove all oxidation and scale off the sides of the metal so a clean weld can be made. Alternately stack the layers, I used 7–3 15n20 and 4 1095.

Then, align them all and tack weld the layers together (Don't look closely at my welds) and weld a temporary handle on so that it can be moved in and out of the forge easier. Not a big deal, especially after the first weld, tongs can just be used. I accidentally hammered mine off anyway.

Step 3: Forge the First Weld.

About my forge: My forge is homemade. It is made from an EMPTY (bought new for extra precaution) propane tank, lined with 2" Kaowool and a layer of refractory cement. It is heated by a Ron-Reil style burner, for which there is an excellent instructable already existing. This forge is fairly small and has no problem getting to the proper temperatures.

Heat up the billet to a low cherry-red. It doesn't need to be super hot here. Sprinkle the borax on and let it melt and seep between the layers. What this does is it dissolves scale, prevents oxidation, and keeps oxygen from contacting the metal. This will all help achieve a clean weld.

Replace the billet in the forge and repeat this process a couple times, being sure to brush scale off when needed. Now heat the billet up to forge-welding temperature. I'm not sure of the exact temperature, but I believe it is around 23-2400 degrees Fahrenheit. It will be a very bright orange-yellow, even in moderate to bright light. Be sure to have your hammer and tongs ready along with a clear workspace, as you can't waste any time. Quickly move to the anvil, and with LIGHT blows, gently hammer evenly over the whole billet to set the initial weld. Replace in the forge and heat it up to the same temperature again, then continue welding it with moderate to hard blows.

Now it's time to draw it out (stretch it) so that it can be folded.

Step 4: Fold That Billet

Now it's time to increase the layer-count. Hammer the billet out into roughly twice the original length, making sure to hammer all sides so you lengthen it, not just spread it out. Measure halfway and cut it with a hot-cut hardy, chisel, or any other method you have about 3/4 to 4/5 of the way through. Then bend it backwards with the hammer over the edge of the anvil, flip it over and gently tap it all the way onto itself, making sure to turn it on its side to align it.

Now repeat the exact process of the first forge-weld. Flux, heat, set, heat, weld, forge. Repeat this step until you have your desired layer count. I folded it 4 times to achieve a layer count of 112. (If you want to do more, go ahead, it will have a tighter pattern. If you want to calculate the number of layers for any given number of folds, use your initial layer count (7) times 2^number of folds. 7 x 2^4 = 112)

I then put it in the vise at forge-welding temperatures and gave it a nice twist, which I then forged back into a rectangular billet. Before twisting, however, knock off the corners to achieve an octagonal to circular shape, because twisting and forging back into itself could create inclusions and impurities if it folds over onto itself while not at welding temperature.

Once finished welding (I did it several times along the way, too) cool it off and grind one end slightly to make sure a homogenous billet has been achieved. When forging, especially early on, it is important to keep the temperature high and be carful, otherwise it is easy to tear the layers apart (Called delaminating–not good).

Step 5: Concept and Rough-forging the Shape

Plan out the profile of your knife and then rough-forge in the shape. The more accurate you can be while forging the profile and bevels, the less time you'll spend at the grinder (or files, shudder...). There are plenty of tutorials by much better blacksmiths than I, so I won't really get into forging techniques. The easiest thing to remember is it moves exactly like a dense clay when hot, you push it into the direction you wish.

Step 6: Grind the Profile, Start Filing

Fine-tune the profile with the grinder and files. Grab a big drink, you'll likely be there for a while filing unless you have a very nice grinder.

Step 7: File Some More, Start Forgetting Who You Are and Pondering Life Itself. . .

Step 8: FINALLY, Done With the Profile.

Once filing is done, sand it to a fairly high grit, I took it to about 400. File the edge close to, but not all the way sharp. You want a little bit of material on the edge so it doesn't warp in heat-treating. Now drill a couple holes for the pins and trace it to make patterns for the handle.

Step 9: The Scary Part

Heat Treating.

This is the part that will either make or break your blade. It's very important to focus and be very careful or you could end up warping or shattering your blade. The process I used is not the most precise way of heat-treating, but it's what I was capable of with my tools and it was the best oil I could get.

Before the heat treat, normalize the blade. This releases stresses built up during forging and twisting and will decrease the likelihood of warping during the quench. To do this, heat the blade up to above its critical temperature (where it isn't magnetic anymore, it's helpful to keep a large magnet around), then let it air cool. Repeat this 3-5 times, I did 5. This step also helps you practice removing the blade from the forge, because there can be no hesitation when moving to the quench. These are the pictures of me dangling the knife. This part is also cool, because as oxidation builds up it will start to reveal the pattern of the steel.

The Quench: Heat it up one more time to above its critical temperature, then quickly move and quench it, edge-first, in warm vegetable oil (if similar steel to mine). To heat the oil, simply heat up a piece of scrap metal and toss it into the oil. I used a RR spike. Gently move it around so you get an even quench. If you're using a high carbon steel, DO NOT quench it in water, as this could crack your blade–water cools it off much too quickly for high-carbon steels.

Now, treat it like a piece of glass, because if it was hardened correctly it is so hard that it could shatter if you drop it.

Time for tempering.

Step 10: Tempering

Tempering is the process of drawing out some hardness to increase the durability and strength of the blade. This is achieved by heating the blade to specific controlled temperatures. I tempered mine in the oven for 1 and a half hours at 400 Degrees Fahrenheit. A lot like baking, you cook it until it's "done."

Step 11: Etch the Blade

I apologize for the lack of pictures of this and the following steps, but the process here is fairly simple. Dilute the Ferric Chloride as specified on the container and then marinade the blade in it for the length of time it recommends. For me it was 3 parts water to 1 part Ferric Chloride for 3-5 minutes. This is the really exciting part, the result looks like something Batman would carry.

Step 12: Handle and Hone the Edge

There are plenty of instructions and methods on how to handle a knife as well as sharpen it, so I won't go into much detail here. I used two Cherry scales adhered with 5 minute epoxy and held in place with two brass pins. Sanded to 400 grit, finished with linseed oil.

I don't have a very robust sharpening process/setup, so I mainly used a basic oil stone.

Step 13: Time to Pat Yourself on the Back, It's Finally Finished.

My finished knife was about 6 inches long. It's quite fun to show people, most have no idea how that pretty swirling pattern got there.

Thank you for reading, I hope this helps anybody it can!


Romani+29 made it!(author)2017-04-21

This is a huge help ive been looking for a decent tutorial on making Damascus billet without power hammers since i cant afford them thanks for the tips . Look forward to more from you

mauroc1 made it!(author)2015-10-20

Sweet bade!
Is your forge old gas bottle ?
Looking to build one myself
I'm trying

DARKM0R made it!(author)2017-01-01

Go to a local hardware store that sells them empty. Much safer! A mate and I did that, just gotta make it into a forge. Old bottles may have gas in them and that could go very bad for you or anyone near by aha

teki1975 made it!(author)2017-02-24

If using used bottles fill them up with water and drain several times and leave bottle upside down to dry the gas is heavier than air and even with the valve removed can be dangerous.

BiscuitMaker made it!(author)2017-01-02

Yup, agreed, that's exactly what I did and it's the safest way.

Brynleyj made it!(author)2017-02-06

love it , can't wait to have a go , I started as a sheet metal worker , finished as a goldsmith , now I've retired I think I have found my new hobby . Inspirational, thank you

AshleyR94 made it!(author)2016-06-27

Does that pattern apply throughout the entire blade? Back and front? I'm trying to determine if the piece I have is printed on or actual damascus steel

BiscuitMaker made it!(author)2016-06-27

Yup it is throughout the blade, though it will be slightly different on each side because of the distortion of layers during the forging process. If you reallyy want to know for sure about your piece, you could always polish off the sides and re-etch it, though you would definitely risk damaging it.

Dillon.means.Perfection made it!(author)2016-05-25

This blade is beautiful. That is one of the most beautiful pattern welded blades I have ever seen. Good job! I would love to start knifemaking but don't have the resources here in the big city of Hong Kong :(

Could you try making a straight cutthroat razor out of your pattern welded steel? That would be amazing.

ghostrider31622 made it!(author)2016-04-22

Beautiful knife... great instructions...

TheIver made it!(author)2016-02-08

Finally somebody that makes an in depth tutorial

BiscuitMaker made it!(author)2016-03-07

Glad you thought so!

Zaphod+Beetlebrox made it!(author)2015-11-03

Congratulations on the win, I think you deserved higher, but its not up to me :)

BiscuitMaker made it!(author)2015-11-03

Thank you!

SuperKariO made it!(author)2015-10-09

Just as note. The etching is not necessary. You can achieve it with heat treatment also. My father have done a lot of damascus knives without etching. There is couple of images of the knives he made on this link (sorry only in finnish)

electronut made it!(author)2015-10-05

Fabulous pattern, and you have some amazing skills!

Michaeloro made it!(author)2015-10-05

Beautiful knife! A work of art.

BradleyH5 made it!(author)2015-10-05

Nice bro. Going to start soon myself, just getting the required materials set up for my first.

robbadooz made it!(author)2015-10-02

I have several knifes of Damascus steel, Kris from Indonesia. My thoughts on the above instructable whether Damascus or not; the result is a beautiful piece. Nice job!

devoalan made it!(author)2015-10-01

I thought I was a bit of a metalsmith. Until I saw this, I had no idea how little I have done. You sir have the patience of a saint and great skills. Kudos to you.

BiscuitMaker made it!(author)2015-10-01

Well thank you, hope your smithing goes well too!

samtyler made it!(author)2015-09-29

Thank you, BiscuitMaker. I never thought about using a Sledge Hammer Head, for a anvil. Cool Knife.

devoalan made it!(author)2015-10-01

Just a safety note. Please be extra careful when using a hammer head as an anvil. They are harder than Kelsies nuts, and can shatter, sending really hard shards in places like your eyes. Maybe annealing that sledgehammer head first would be recommended. Just a thought.

Crossforge made it!(author)2015-10-01

Just a litle info on fixing warped blades. Right after quenching you still have a time window of about 1 minute in which you can safely straighten a slightly warped blade with soft hammer blows. (It takes a litlle while for the crystaline structure in the steel to "set" after the quench). I have done this successfully on a number of occations, but it has to be done immediately after the blade is removed from the quenching oil. If you take too long it will crack the blade.

Crossforge made it!(author)2015-10-01

Just a litle info on fixing warped blades. Right after quenching you still have a time window of about 1 minute in which you can safely straighten a slightly warped blade with soft hammer blows. (It takes a litlle while for the crystaline structure in the steel to "set" after the quench). I have done this successfully on a number of occations, but it has to be done immediately after the blade is removed from the quenching oil. If you take too long it will crack the blade.

aeverie_and_me made it!(author)2015-09-29

Hi there - this is all very foreign to me, but very exciting! My teenage son and I are anxious to try it when the weather cools off a bit here… Can someone give me a rough time (start to finish), and if there are better or worse places to take a "break" and pick it up the next day? Or is that not done? Also, is there a better starting place/beginner's project that we should tackle first? It appears we have a lot of folks on here who are no stranger to forging/blacksmithing! I'd really prefer to start this way, so please don't direct me to a local class; I'm sure they're wonderful, but I learn better this way. Thanks!

BiscuitMaker made it!(author)2015-09-29

Also sounds like a great father-son project!

aeverie_and_me made it!(author)2015-09-30

Thanks so much for the response! I was afraid we were in for a marathon session, and as first-timers I didn't want to get tired and compromise safety. I can't wait to build the forge!!! (Oh, btw, it's a "mother-son" project, lol. I just learned to weld properly over the past year or so, and when I saw this it seemed like a natural progression and such a satisfying end product! We would be so proud of something like this! ;-)

BiscuitMaker made it!(author)2015-09-30

Thats great! I hope this helps. Whoops, sorry, sounds like an even better mother-son project.

BiscuitMaker made it!(author)2015-09-29

You can absolutely take breaks! The only consequence would be expenditure in fuel from the repeated restarting of your forge. Forge welding, especially without a power hammer or press is very tiring, so it would be perfectly reasonable to rest after each fold. I believe I did the folds in pairs over the course of two days.

bradyje made it!(author)2015-09-30

Could you show some pictures of how your forge works? I'd like to make one.

kooter made it!(author)2015-09-30

Beautiful knife!! Just completed a blade smithing program this summer. You have some very awesome results, good on you.

Hoping to build a small forge in my shop, sooner than later.

Keep up the excellent work.

BobG24 made it!(author)2015-09-29

The process for making Damascus was discovered about 30 years ago and the method was published in Scientific American. The quality of steel is determined not only by carbon content but grain. Continuous folding and forging can achieve fine grain but Damascus steel is made by a process far more sophisticated than that. The finished product has a distinctive surface pattern. Because of its fine grain it can take an extremely sharp edge but must be protected from corrosion. It is not brittle relative to other high carbon steels and it is harder than most alloy steels.

Ray+from+RI made it!(author)2015-09-30


Mak5 made it!(author)2015-09-30

Kudos man, tons of work there and an excellent blade at the end!

Crossforge made it!(author)2015-09-29

Good job buddy. You mentioned that you used the best oil you could get your hands on. I have been using clarified pork fat for many years. It works just as well as some of the most expensive commercial quenching oils I have tried when I initially started forging knives and swords. Only drawback to pork fat is that it will attract flies. This is luckily delt with very easily by adding some gearbox oil to the fat at a ratio of about 1 part gearbox oil to 80 parts of fat. Flies hate the smell of the gearbox oil and will stay away.

In my experience, swirling the blade from side to side when doing the quench is like asking the steel to warp. I prefer to keep it perfectly still. As long as you are using an oil that dissipates heat quickly holding it still will not cause it to take too long to cool down, and quenching oils are designed to do just that.

To all those moaning about the use of "Damascus" versus "Patternweld". Yes, we all know it is not the same thing, that is to say, those of us who are into the business of knife making and history. However. Do keep in mind that this is a tutorial in a public domain where most people are not knife expersts or history boffins. This tutotial was not written for those of us who know how to make knives but for those who do not know how to do it. In my experience MOST people who are not really into knives and knife making call pattern welded steel, damascus steel. Yes, they are ignorant, but without the word "Damascus" in the title many people who would find this tutorial interesting and informative would not have opened it.

Oh, and now you are welcome to attack me for my bad spelling and grammar and leave "biscuit maker" alone. Just keep in mind that my home language is not English. (I am from dark Africa.).

Biscuitmaker, you've got my vote.

BiscuitMaker made it!(author)2015-09-30

Thank you Crossforge, I will look into the pork fat and will most definitely try out keeping it still, especially when I have longer blades. Thank you very much for your kind words.

ideaf made it!(author)2015-09-30

You got an instructable on the forge?

vkmcgee2 made it!(author)2015-09-29

Beautiful! I've always wanted to do somtyhingh like this.

rwlarkins made it!(author)2015-09-29

Great Instructable. And very beautiful work. I just may have to try this some time.

JohnR21 made it!(author)2015-09-29

Great 'ible! I have some experience with knifemaking (forging and stock removal) and the only thing I would add is that if the blade gets bent during the quenching (dunking in oil when red hot) process, don't try to fix it until you know exactly what you're doing. The method that has worked for me is clamping the blade to a flat piece of metal during tempering (heating the blade up after quenching to make less brittle) and correcting the bend by adjusting the clamps every hour or so DON'T BEND THE BLADE TOO MUCH it will break, and if you took the time to pattern weld by hand....

I was using 1084, so the blade was tempered for 2 hours at 400 degrees twice. This gave me enough time to flatten out the warp about 1 or 2 mm at a time.

If you want to learn more about becoming a knife maker, read the expert's posts on knifemaking forums. There are tons of great resources out there with extremely detailed answers to questions you didn't know you had.

BiscuitMaker made it!(author)2015-09-29

Good point, thanks!

sydkahn made it!(author)2015-09-29

I saw a knife like this on Amazon for 1200$+ Now i see why - time is money...

WilliW1 made it!(author)2015-09-29

Yeah, art perfectly melded with hardware.

WilliW1 made it!(author)2015-09-29

Nice job man.

HREFAB made it!(author)2015-09-29

Ray from RI, CALM DOWN CHUBS! (I can call you CHUBS as I am proudly rotund as well). IT's an INSTRUCTABLE, not a metallurgy course.If you're so hung up on terminology and the "correct" usage of same, maybe you want to take an English 101 course and learn about the process of putting something in quotes (These marks if you don't know " " ) to indicate that the word in quotes is not the specific item being described, but a common reference thereof. So when you see the title Small Pattern Welded "Damascus" steel Kife [sic]..." it IMMEDIATELY tells an INTELLIGENT reader that what is being discussed is pattern welding with a Damascus look. So stop trying to be so friggin' smart because you just come off as an angry (yes, we also can discern tone from your writing) blowhard. By the way, this IS a positive and constructive comment. I'm EDUCATING you at no charge.

BiscuitMaker made it!(author)2015-09-29

HREFAB - Hats off to you, sir.

theHankster made it!(author)2015-09-29

Simply beautiful!

M2aestro made it!(author)2015-09-29

I hope someday to dry this different method; I have two knives made by the old folding, semi-carburizing method that infuses a great deal of carbide and carbon into the steel. One of the blades was imperfect, delaminated in a zone, so I ground the bad area out. The blades are able to take a great deal of bending without breaking, take an edge good enough to dry shave, hold an edge quite well, and have almost no resistance to corrosion. Your method looks like fun.


tuanlong made it!(author)2015-09-29

Thank you

About This Instructable




More by BiscuitMaker:HAND FORGED Cold Chisel, From a Rusty Old Coil SpringSmall Pattern Welded "Damascus" Steel Kife (With NO power hammer)Star Trek Pin! from a Nickel and a Copper Pipe
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