The answer to what exactly Damascus steel is doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation. Damascus steel is an exceptionally durable variety of steel that retains its durability no matter how thin it’s cut or how sheer the edge is made. It also has a characteristic pattern when forged into blades; it evokes an image similar to rippling water. Those are Damascus steel’s properties in a nutshell, but there’s still more to learn. How it gets to that point and the method by which it’s made is much more in-depth and interesting.
Damascus steel has been used and made for centuries. Its lineage can be traced as far back as the third century, and evidence for these types of blades has been found in archeological digs in places like Turkey and Egypt. The original metal these blades were made from originates in India, but to achieve the final result, it needs to be run through one of many intense and rigorous processes to achieve its legendary durability and its trademark pattern.
The process we use at William Engineering is known as solid phase bonding, also known as pattern welding. We use the process of diffusion to combine two different materials into one. In this process, two materials are heated to a temperature high enough that they become pliable and flexible, but not enough to the point that they melt. Usually, the sweet spot for this state is a little over half the material’s natural melting point. Once this level of heat is reached, the two materials are compressed together under a set amount of pressure. This causes them to bond together and blends both materials seamlessly. After many repetitions of this process, the bonded materials have not only been hardened many times over, but the blending of the two components has created the trademark rippled pattern Damascus steel is known for. This process is instrumental to create the trademark Damascus steel properties and it wouldn’t be authentic without this lengthy process.