How to Make Damascus Steel: An Introduction

Learning how to make Damascus steel is a thing of beauty. It is a leap of faith if you want to school yourself to this art.
Over the years, Damascus steel has been gradually gaining popularity. We are all aware that there are different steel varieties and composites that exist today. However, the charm and attractiveness of Damascus steel simply are simply incomparable.
Damascus steel itself features the combination of different mottling and bands. It can be patterned and molded in a variety of shape and length. It can also offer a decorative appeal, but its strength remains to be solid. In fact, this said steel is almost virtually indestructible.
The composition of the original Damascus steel is already unknown. There are no metallurgy records or pieces of evidence that would indicate its original build.
Meanwhile, modern Damascus steel is identified through the combination of various pure metals. You can choose any metal, depending on your needs and preferences. Today, you can see craftsmen opt iron due to its innate rigidity and strength. They blend it with other metals to create those refined steel billets. 

How to Make Damascus Steel

As early as now, it is needed to be emphasized that there is no standard way in creating Damascus steel. Seasoned metalworkers will always give you the same story.

 Perhaps, the biggest reason for this is due to the fact that we are all oblivious of the original make of the Damascus steel. People can craft Damascus steel through the process that they are most familiar and comfortable with. Fortunately, this is not an obstacle that can bother you. It is just necessary to accept that we can get to our desired destination by taking different paths and practices.

 The only advice that I can give you is to find all the necessary resources about Damascus steel. Understand its composition, build, purpose, and function. Try to learn a thing or two from every craftsman that you know. Through this, you can refine your own procedure and comprehension toward making Damascus steel..

Material of Choice

Any steel and iron can be used in the creation of patterns and designs. Even a wrought iron can be welded to the composition. If you will combine wrought iron, nickel or mild steel in a standard billet, the resulting output will not be hardened. There is also a possibility that the lower and higher carbon steel won't interact with each other. This could eventually cause the blade to become unresponsive to any heat treatment.

 If you are working with a tomahawk, things will slightly turn well for you. You can accept the soft layers of the steel because you will only need to harden and sharpen the cutting edge. In my case, I choose nickel for my bars. This particular material has excellent construction and versatility.

 There are some steels that cannot work with a billet. They are quite susceptible to tearing apart while you are subjecting them to heat treatment. The reason for this is due to the existence of different alloy elements on these materials. They don't have a balance in the contraction and expansion rate. When you expose them to intense temperatures, they will just wear out.

 I do recommend that you choose the 15N20 steel and 1084 steel. Combining these two will allow you to get everything that you need for your working piece. The 1084 steel has a dark coloration, which is a perfect contrast to the naturally 15N20 steel. On other aspects, these two steel variants have similar nuances. They are great materials for making a solid blade.

 You can also opt for chainsaw chain and wire rope if you want to create awesome patterns to the steel. The wire rope can be welded easily. However, I have noted that the chainsaw chain and wire rope are still not immune from minor flaws.

Process

It is undeniable that high carbon steels can weld at low temperatures. Mild steels do not have this capacity, as far I know. Meanwhile, wrought iron should be processed to scalding hot temperatures before you can weld them. In the case of the latter, coal forging is a highly suggested step. However, if you want to create pattern-welded steel like the Damascus steel, you should go for propane forging.

 Propane forging ensures that you have total control over all the essential factors of forging such as temperature, time, and environment. When you have these things under your watch, you can forge the steel smoothly.

 The next thing that you have to know is the estimated completion time of your forging. How will you know if the Damascus steel is already done? Well, you can't tell if things are ready if you can't see your project. Therefore, it is also necessary that you can wear certain eye gears for visibility and protection. A generic welding lens can work fine.

You need to have a lot of experience so that you can determine the properties of different steels. You have to understand that the lighting condition in your workshop can affect the color that you see in the metal. In my case, I always observe the reaction of flux and appearance of the billet. If the flux is already violet and the billet's color become similar to the forge, I still wait a few minutes before I put pressure. In this way, the heat level of the billet can increase properly.

Take note that any piece will not weld correctly if the temperature is low. However, you should also know that soaking the steel at high temperatures for a long time is not good either. Thermal cycling and specialized deformations can fix the damages caused by overheating. But at the end of the day, steel with bad welds are not usable anymore.

Conclusion

Making a Damascus steel requires practice and experience. The things and steps that I elucidated here are just the fundamentals. You have to go and research deeper so that you can have a good grasp of the process. You just have to take this guide as a starting point so that you won't get lost in the course. Don't get frustrated if your first attempts are failures. After all, nobody was ever born to become an immediate expert of making Damascus steel. It is an art that requires dedication, time, and patience.

 If you have some questions and other things that you want to get clarified, feel free to drop them in the comment section below!

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