Author Options:

What type of steel do i need to get to forge a damascus steel knife ? Answered

I know i need high carbon steel and a nickel alloy steel but what kind is the best to get??



Best Answer 7 years ago

You might try 52100 bearing steel to get started with a good knife.

I understand Damascus Steel originated in northern India where the Hindu's supplied iron and steel to the Romans and the entire Mid East trade routes from at least 200 BC. A metal blank was packed in a metal box with graphite or carbonaceous material, just like we do today to carburize something.

See Woot metal on Google.

I understand the forging technique for the high carbon steel is to continuously forge the metal at about 1500 F to keep it from changing phase during the cooling process. I think you want to achieve a microstructure called 'bainite'.


5 months ago

Can you turn any metal to a damascus steel style? Like to custom something!!

Yes and no... You can use any steels or metals that will stick together to make a cosmetic "Damascus" or makume but to make something that will be used for an edged tool I would say no less than 6 points of carbon ie 1060, so say 1084,1095, 15n20( high nickel/ shinny), s2 as a 15n20 replacement... For edges high carbon... From there experiment

For a pattern welded damascus blade, you simply need two pieces of steel that contrast each other strongly when etched, yet heat treat pretty similarly. The most common pair of steels is 1085 and 15n20, these steels will create a pretty good knife with a nice visible pattern. For your first project, I would go wtih a simple random pattern damascus. Grind away any corrosion on the surface of the steel until you have bare metal, layer the strips of metal, alternating each one until you have a stack about two to three times as large as you need it, since it's better to have to much than too little. You should then either weld the stack together or tie the entire stack with steel wire while it's clamped together, both methods should include a handle of some kind, what kind doesn't matter as long as it can support the stack, withstand the heat of the forge, and doesn't interfere with the pattern. What I do for flux is pour some kerosene over the stack then sprinkle some 20 mule team borax over that, the kerosene allows the borax to stick even though the steel is still 'cold'. Most people heat the stack in the forge before sprinkling the borax over the heated stack, but I find this uses far more flux than is necessary and doesn't protect the stack during the initial heating. You'll just have to find out what works best for you though. you should then hammer the stack together, starting from the middle and moving outwards to press out any flux or air, welding the layer together with heat and pressure. A power hammer or hydraulic press will help, but a good, strong hammer arm should be enough. Be careful of hot splattering flux, it really stings if it hits skin. Keep forging out this stack, then cut or fold the stack to form more layers and repeat from the beginning until you have as many layers as you need. After this is done, just forge to shape and grind away, with more practice you can forge or grind impressions into the surface to create patterns or even start getting mosaic damascus.

If you're talking about Wootz damascus though, then it's a whole different story. The pattern in traditional wootz steel is created from the segregation of different alloys and carbides in the steel, which requires some very specific alloying elements, along with a lot of potentially expensive (both in purchase cost and in potential medical bills) material and equipment to melt the steel alloy. Wootz steel needs to have between 1.3 and 2.0 % carbon content (though some knives are as high as 2.5 or as low as 1.0) to form the necessary carbides to give the steel its properties. The pattern in traditional wootz steel is created when the steel is melted, then cooled really slowly. Certain alloys in the steel, in the right amounts, will precipitate out of the molten metal first in the form of carbides. The process of alloy carbides precipitating out of the hypereutectic iron/carbon solution has been compared to crystals growing from supersaturated sugar water when making rock candy, or the same when using a crystal growing kit. The alloys precipitate from the solution and form dendritic patterns as they grow and attract more carbides, the slower the cooling, the more time these dendrites have to grow, the larger the pattern is. After the steel has cooled enough, the steel can then be forged. When melting the steel, a source of hydrogen should be added to encourage the carbon to dissolve during the initial melt, and a flux must be provided to prevent oxidation. Historically, leaves were used as a source of hydrogen, wood as a source of carbon, and crushed glass or oyster shells acted as a flux. After the steel has been cooled, forging can begin. Damascus steel, being a hypereutectic steel, must be forged in a very specific temperature range to prevent cracking at lower temps or crumbling at higher temperatures. In addition, there's also the risk of homogenization if the steel is heated past critical, in which the pattern, along with it's properties, is lost as the carbon dissolves into the steel once again. I've heard of this being fixed by precice temperature cycling (similar to forming alloy/carbide banding in monosteel), though I have no idea how it affects the properties of the steel. Because the steel is forged at sub-critical temperatures, the grain structure of the steel is broken down very finely and keeps the carbides lined up with the direction of the edge of the blade, this gave wootz its ability to be sharpened to a super fine edge while still retaining its 'toothy' nature while slicing things like rope, while it's hypereutetoid nature gave the steel it's impressive durability and resilience. While historical Wootz can rarely compare to todays monosteels and pattern welded steels, wootz made with more modern equipment that allows the maker to control factors such as carbon content, temperature, time, alloying elements, forging temps, and so on, I firmly believe that this steel can potentially display properties far exceeding those of todays supersteels. Back to the OP's question, the most common kind of steel used for this is 5160 steel, commonly found in some automotive springs, mixed with either charcoal or cast iron to increase it's carbon content, it seems to give the best properties and alloys required for wootz.


7 years ago

The manufacturing technique for true Damascus steel is unknown.
The technique used in the modern day is pattern welding.
In the end it's for aesthetics only, modern day steel is far superior.

Here is some info on different alloys:


Actually, "true" wootz damascus has been replicated by at least a few people, google Al Pendray and J.D. Verhoeven for more info on their experiences with this material, or check out some knifemaking forums for other people's Wootz steel projects, there are some pretty neat blades out there made from wootz.

I know but what kind of steel do you use for patteren welding i want to buy the right steel so the knife wont brake or anything.

it doesn't really 'matter' what kinds of metals you buy, as long as they provide good contrast, and have differing charecteristics. for example if you were make mokume san, then you would go with copper or alloys of copper, combined with metals that have both a high, and low carbon content, that way, the metals will create beautiful contrasts as the metals lie beside one another, however, if you want a more utilitarian knife, i recommend the usage of high and medium carbon steels, however your wish for the inclusion of nickel indicates that you probably would prefer a decorative piece. nickel doesn't help blade holding characteristics.

I don't have too much experience in making damascus steel (I mean not the original one) but if you want to make a knife for basic usage, I would recommend you a stainless and a high carbon steel, I wouldn't say specifical types, as I'm not a master in bladesmithing, I'm rather a collector, but from my knowledge, the stainless and the high carbon steel will be a great mix, as the stainless steel makes the blade resistant, and also, as they are a bit softer than carbon blades, the knife will also be able to do with some heavy work, and the high carbon steel will give you the ability to easily sharpen the knife and to get a razor edge on it...I hope my answer will be helpful to you, and I wish you good luck for making damascus" (let's call it like this for now) steel!

I would personally stay away from stainless if you're starting out, since those are usually harder to shape, are pretty expensive (in my experience), and can be a real pain to work with. That's just my experience as a knife maker, I started out grinding blanks from old saw blades and cold forging iron nails until I got the proper equipment for forging steel properly.

Well if you are starting out, you want a good knife and don't want to cry (pattern welding will make you cry depending on the alloy you use).

52100 is very tough, and you will get a sore arm, unless you have power hammer... I get a sore arm :-(

Black square section spring washers and bright steel nails fore weld a treat, and can produce a nice flexible blade, with a very nice colour contrast. Cost you about $10 for enough metal to make lots of knives.

The patterning can be dirt simple or as complex as you like.

1) The simplest would be taking three of the washers and straightening them, put one aside for later.

2) Bind two steel nails and two straightened washers together. The nails being round are naturally skarfed.

3) Forge weld the pieces together, twist, flatten.

4) Forge weld on the straightened spring washer you had in reserve, this will be your cutting edge.

5) Shape into blade.

This will be a small knife, but it can look pretty nice.

If you want to make a larger blade, just start with more material.

A lot of metallurgical research has gone into finding the lost techniques. Research I read suggests that the presence of trace amounts of vanadium in the steel was critical to the result, and when the ore bed that supplied the raw srock was exhausted, the technique died.

Google reveals a lot of info and modern techniques. As VadimS says, the original methods are lost.