What Is Damascus Steel?

what is damascus steel

The famous Damascus steel that is known throughout history for its rare forging process was thoroughly guarded only by a few.

Thankfully, there has been a modern-day resurgence of this fantastic steel.

With that said, what is Damascus steel?

For hundreds and hundreds of years, this steel’s unique technique for forging was feared to be lost in time.

After all, all the known traditions to create this fantastically crafted steel completely disappeared.

Fortunately, metallurgical science and modern technology have become advanced enough for scientists to come to the aid of professional and amateur metallurgists.

It helped discover modern and new ways to make this exquisitely intricate and resilient Damascus steel.

What Is Damascus Steel?  

Originally, Damascus steel was a type of forged steel of the blades of swords smithed in the Near East from ingots of the Wootz steel, which was imported from South India and Tamraparni.

One of the main characteristics of these swords was the distinctive patterns of banding and mottling that were reminiscent of flowing water, which was sort of in a teardrop pattern.

These blades have a reputation for being extremely tough, highly resistant to shattering, and capable of getting honed to a resilient and sharp edge.

The name of this steel came after Damascus, which is the capital city of Syria.

It is also known to be one of the largest cities in the ancient Levant.

This may refer either to the swords that were sold or made in Damascus or to the aspect of the typical patterns, compared with the Damask fabrics that were also named for this city.

The original method to produce Wootz steel is still not entirely known.

There have been several modern and new attempts to duplicate this metal.

However, they haven’t been completely successful.

There is a significant difference in the raw materials used and the techniques in manufacturing it.

That said, there have been several individuals in recent times that have claimed to have rediscovered the methods by which the original Damascus steel was produced.

Steel Types Used to Make Damascus Knives

The steel needed to forge a Damascus blade can vary depending on the blade’s purpose.

Stainless steel, high-carbon steel, or even a blend of the two are the main requirements to make this blade.

Blades made from high-carbon steel are well known for their ultra-sharp edges.

Whereas, stainless steel blades are mainly known for their ability to avoid oxidation.

You will find that there are quite a few steel grades that are commonly used.

These include AUS8, AUS10, VG1, VG2, and VG10.

AUS8

AUS8 is a steel type from Japan that is produced by the Aichi Foundry.

It is a stainless steel that is known to be mid-level in comparison to the highly superior AUS10 or the VG10.

This material comes with a high carbon content that allows for a harder knife.

However, it is also known for the need for frequent sharpening.

The issue of edge retention separates the knives that are forged of this steel from the more high-end blades forged from AUS10 or VG10.

That said, this allows for the knives made from this steel to be mass-produced and more affordable.

AUS10

AUS10 is another type of Japanese steel that is produced by the Aichi Foundry.

It is a stainless steel and comes with a Rockwell scale hardness that is between 58 and 60.

While it does have far better edge retention in comparison to the AUS8, it is still a problem for this steel, too.  

AUS10 and VG10 are quite similar, and they are commonly used in manufacturing premium-quality kitchen knives.

VG1

VG1 is Japanese steel, as well, and is made by Takefu Special Steel Company.

This is mainly a stainless steel, but it has much a significantly higher carbon content compared to the other VG steels.

This steel is a predecessor to the VG10.

Both are well known for how sharp they are and for producing fantastic edges.  

That said, VG1 does lack vanadium and cobalt in it.

This means that the blades crafted from this tend to chip and corrode.

VG2

VG2 made from the same company is a hard stainless steel and measures at 62 on the Rockwell scale.

It has a lower carbon content compared to VG1 and VG10.

However, the combination with other kinds of metals, like nickel, copper, and chromium, makes this steel highly resistant to corrosion.

VG10

VG10, made by the same company, is a popular Japanese steel that is combined with a specific series of other metals, such as carbon, cobalt, vanadium, and chromium.

In turn, you get a kind of steel that is not only oxidation-free but also much harder.

It scores between 60 and 62 on the Rockwell scale.

This steel is well-known as it holds a frighteningly sharp edge.

This makes it one of the most desired steels for kitchen knives.

If you are looking for kitchen knives made from such high-end materials, we recommend taking a look at our detail reviews of kitchen knives.

Is Damascus Steel Worth It?

It’s fairly clear that the strength of the Damascus steel knife is directly related to the kind of steels used to forge it.  

A high-end Damascus steel knife will not just offer an attractive knife with an intricate and unique design but also produce a durable blade with an ultra-sharp edge.

The carbon in the blade is the real hero when it comes to the creation of a durable and hard knife.

At present, you will find several high-end kitchen knives making use of Damascus steel all over the world.

Its excellent edge retention and sharp blades, along with the intricately beautiful patterns, make this everyone’s favorite.

Depending on the steel that is used to make it, Damascus steel will provide the ideal ratio of carbon with trace elements of stainless steel to offer the correct balance of corrosion resistance, ductility, and even sharpness.

All of these are highly essential requirements for versatility on an excellent knife.  

Conclusion

We hope that this article answers the question of what is Damascus steel.

As you can see, this type of steel is not only known for its excellent edge retention, sharpness, and intricate design but also for its rich history.