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L. Clayton Parker




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Jul, 2011 12:24 pm    Post subject: Relative merits of various steels in edged weaponry         Reply with quote

There has been much said regarding the superiority of what is termed "Damascus" steel both on this forum an in others over the years and I have become curious for more details regarding how the various steels compare when used in edged weaponry. Specifically in comparing "meteoric" steel of which Damascus is a type, and modern tool steels and stainless steels.

Can anyone speak to the strength, flexibility toughness, and edge holding ability as well as the appearance?

How about blends such as meteoric steel folded with something such as 440 or 1084?

They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night. -The Song of Songs, Which Is Solomon's
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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Jul, 2011 12:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Never I have heard about Damascus being from meteors.... WTF?!

As far as I recall, damascene steel was very pure steel that possessed very good mechanical properties due to internal structure of nanotubes etc. And the way in which such properties were achieved is mostly forgotten today, and exact copies of damascus steel pieces cannot be reproduced.

Nothing about meteorites, really. I can be wrong, obviously.
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L. Clayton Parker




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Jul, 2011 12:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The ore that is purported to have been used to form the original Wootz (Damascus) steels was largely from a single meteoric deposit in India. Of course histories vary, and I am quite willing to believe other explanations. I am mostly interested in the relative merits of the steels, not where the ore originated from. Happy
They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night. -The Song of Songs, Which Is Solomon's
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Jul, 2011 2:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Relative merits of various steels in edged weaponry         Reply with quote

L. Clayton Parker wrote:
There has been much said regarding the superiority of what is termed "Damascus" steel both on this forum an in others over the years and I have become curious for more details regarding how the various steels compare when used in edged weaponry. Specifically in comparing "meteoric" steel of which Damascus is a type, and modern tool steels and stainless steels.


Damascus is a high-carbon crucible steel, usually over 1% carbon. This will go down a little in forging. The usual 19th century European opinion seems to be too much carbon, so too brittle (but very hard and sharp). So high carbon modern steel should be comparable, and have the same problems. High carbon stainless will be about as hard, but more brittle. (More on stainless steels vs non-stainless here.)

I haven't heard of wootz ores being meteoric in origin. That wootz is made from iron smelted from iron speaks against meteoric origin; meteoric iron is useful because it starts off metallic, not as ore. Meteoric iron tends to be high or very high in nickel - what's the nickel content of Indian wootz from the "real wootz region"?

Meteoric iron is valued for decorative pattern-welding especially in Malay blades such as kris. Modern nickel sheets will be used as a modern cheaper substitute.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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David Sutton




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Jul, 2011 2:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
Never I have heard about Damascus being from meteors.... WTF?!

As far as I recall, damascene steel was very pure steel that possessed very good mechanical properties due to internal structure of nanotubes etc. And the way in which such properties were achieved is mostly forgotten today, and exact copies of damascus steel pieces cannot be reproduced.

Nothing about meteorites, really. I can be wrong, obviously.


I've not heard of any conclusive evidence of nano-tubes in Damascus or Wootz steel. Its a highly disputed suggestion.

Also as I understand it Wootz was not famed because of its purity. But on the contrary, it was that the ore from which it came that contained certain other elements, (vanadium? tungsten?) in fortuitous proportions, which when combined with the crucible smelting process produced a steel with very desirable properties.

'Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all'

'To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing'

Hypatia of Alexandria, c400AD
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L. Clayton Parker




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Jul, 2011 3:08 pm    Post subject: Re: Relative merits of various steels in edged weaponry         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:


(More on stainless steels vs non-stainless here.)[/url]

I haven't heard of wootz ores being meteoric in origin. That wootz is made from iron smelted from iron speaks against meteoric origin; meteoric iron is useful because it starts off metallic, not as ore. Meteoric iron tends to be high or very high in nickel - what's the nickel content of Indian wootz from the "real wootz region"?



Meteoric iron is more properly described as steel than iron since it generally includes a significant amount of nickel. I would have to research a bit to find the reference to the wootz steel being meteoric in origin as it has been some time since I read that. But yes, it is a crucible steel using the wootz steel.

Thank you for the link about stainless, I had not read that one before and it was informative even if it did not directly address my question.

They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night. -The Song of Songs, Which Is Solomon's
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L. Clayton Parker




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Jul, 2011 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David Sutton wrote:


I've not heard of any conclusive evidence of nano-tubes in Damascus or Wootz steel. Its a highly disputed suggestion.



As I understand it, there were nanotube like structures, which is NOT the same thing as saying there were nanotubes. I think most metalsmiths agree that a metal alloy with a fibrous structure is tougher than one with a granular structure, which makes perfect sense of a "nanotube like" structure.

They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night. -The Song of Songs, Which Is Solomon's
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Bob Burns




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Jul, 2011 5:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As an eager pupil of learning all about sword steels, damascus, wootz and the "whole Ten yards", this thread has the potential to be an "Outstanding" resource of learning! I am hoping both the "Johnson" experts (LOL) meaning Craig and Peter, (Sited in the plural as an expression to be inclusive of all the metallurgic experts and NOT omit anyone), in other words trying to express myself in a most respectful manner so as not to through any human error, exclude anyone! As I see this thread as a great potential for the experts to teach us yearning students for their knowledge!
Thank you so much for igniting this subject matter!

Bob

It IS What It IS! Only In Truth, Can Reality Exist!
To "Learn" we must empty our minds and therefore open our mind and spirit. A wet sponge absorbs no water. A preconceived mind is recalcitrant to new knowledge!
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Tod Glenn




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Jul, 2011 7:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It depends on what you mean by 'Damascus'. Modern understanding is layered steel made up of high and low carbon steels. Until the crucible process, it was impossible to melt and alloy steels to create a uniform material, so steel lumps of differing harness were were blended through forge welding to obtain the desired balance of hardness and toughness. Even Japanese folded steel can be considered a form of 'damascus'.

Damascus steels fell out of favor for most applications once uniform cruciform steels were available. The latter product is easier to manufacture and more consistent. Alloying elements and heat treat can be optimized for particular application. Damascus is now relegated to things like artistic artifacts like knives because modern crucible steels can do a better job more cheaply.

Damascus blades due tend to have some advantages in cutting certain materials, but this is due more to the fact that the harder and softer steels wear at different rates, creating a saw edged cutting edge at the layer interface mush like mini serrations.

As far as stainless steels like the 440 series, they really aren't useful for items like swords because the tend to be too brittle in longer application. Most steels used in swords tend to be spring steels, because a sword must be more likely constructed for its weight than a knife and flexibility and impact resistance is required. There really aren't any stainless steels that fill this need - most are too hard and brittle. Instead, steels like 1060, 5260 and 9260 - all carbon steels - are typically found in swords. These are all spring steels and 5160 is the typical steel one also finds in automotive suspension leaf springs. Other common steels found in modern swords are 1045 which is easier to work than 1060, but not as tough, and 1065 which is a little tougher.

There are many knife and sword forums with in depth information on steels and their application. Anything like meteoric steels are a crap-shoot and the random composition could mean good or bad steel. The careful smith selected his steel by checking carbon content via spark test, and combines the raw material to obtain exactly the final product desired. Without modern analytical tools, this required a lot of experience. These days, you can order exactly the steel you want and have it heat treated to get the performance you require.
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Bob Burns




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Jul, 2011 9:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very interesting post "Tod" and informative. I have some questions regarding a few swords my wife and I have which are all by Hanwei. First is Gayle's Ming Sword (no longer produced) that is advertised as a powdered 120 pattern welded steel (if memory serves me correctly). It holds an edge very well, my wife is practically in love with it, about 14 ounces, for such a narrow straight blade with strong central ridges. Has fine pattern lines in the steel.
Then we have the former and I think much better version of the Song Sword which has a very complex geometry to the curved hollow ground pattern welded blade. The patterns in the steel are profound and beautiful, it too holds an edge very well. Being a Chinese willow leaf sword with a false edge, spine, fuller and another very narrow fuller along the spine and the blade is hollow groung, it's a fiecely efficient cutting sword with much larger patterns than the very fine patterns on the Ming (a Jian type sword). I'm wondering out of curiousity what is done and what is used to create these distinctly different types of patterns?
Finally, the Shaolin Wootz Sword which is entirely different in the "pattern" aspect, no lines or swirls yet not patternless. On this blade you can feel the micro tiny "fluctuations" in the flat of the blade. ("Ayman trying to find relative words to describe looks and texture of steel).
This "so called and advertising strategy WOOTZ" sword is very different. Hit the distal flat of this single piece forged steel sword on a wood object and it rings like a bell. I described this sword in another post titled "The Hanwei Shaolin Wootz Sword". Which is another (Jian) type sword. A very narrow solid steel core grip, as this sword is essentially one piece of steel and no separate pieces of steel furniture.hanwei calls it "Wootz", I am wondering what it actually is, is it indeed "Wootz" steel? Finally, the performance of these 3 swords are Outstanding and Fantastic and all were bought from Kult Of Athena at well below the retail price.
Curious to Learn!
Bob

It IS What It IS! Only In Truth, Can Reality Exist!
To "Learn" we must empty our minds and therefore open our mind and spirit. A wet sponge absorbs no water. A preconceived mind is recalcitrant to new knowledge!
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Tod Glenn




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Jul, 2011 7:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Powder metal steels are an interesting new twist on the 'damascus' steels and are a variation on sintering. Rather than forge welding and folding, different powdered steels (high and low carbon, typically) are blended and sinter welded under pressure. This give a more uniform diffusion of the two steel types. Unlike monolithic steels, the properties of both steels in a powdered metal alloy are preserved.

Patterns are created in damascus by twisting, drilling and otherwise modifying the steel laminate while forging.

For example



Here's and article that details how some different patterns are created: http://www.fisk-knives.com/Progressive_W_pattern_Sendero.html

Hope that helps.
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Jeff Pringle
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PostPosted: Wed 20 Jul, 2011 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is no association between meteoric iron and wootz, the idea that wootz came from one ore source with ‘special impurities’ which eventually ran out, ending wootz production is no longer a viable theory, the metal was made for too long over too wide an area for that to have been the case. Some of the old recipes call for things like old mule shoes and nails, so there are many reasons to think ore was not a critical factor. If you have a modern commercial product with the name ‘wootz’ it is not made of the stuff, though it may use material that has a similar appearance.

Nanotubes, it is really not all that strange to find them in a carbon-saturated material like wootz, once you’ve invented microscopes powerful enough to see them:
http://www.nature.com/news/2006/061113/full/news061113-11.html

Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, meteoric iron (properly called ‘iron’ because that is what the meteoriticists call it, and they are the ones who really care about the stuff Cool ) is an alloy of iron, nickel, cobalt and a bunch of other trace elelments.

Current materials science seems to indicate an isotropic fine-grained stucture which responds to stress the same way in any direction is preferrable to a fibrous structure which would cause uneven response to stress, hence the multitude of powder metallugy steels thses days.

One way to look at it: wootz and pattern-welding are two solutions to the problem of refining raw materials to get high-grade steel for weapons/tools; in the first case the material is melted so it becomes homogenous and the impurities get separated by gravity (steel being heavier than slag etc.), in the second the material is folded, stetched & re-folded so the material is homogenized and the impurities are reduced in size and squeezed out. They were both rendered obsolete by improvements in metal refining technology, and that is why most of our steel is boring these days. Sad

A few hundered years ago, wootz may have earned a good reputation because wootz swords tended to be harder steel than the equivalent plain or PW swords. See for example “The Metallurgy of some indian swords” by Alan Williams & David Edge:
http://gladius.revistas.csic.es/index.php/gla...ew/102/103
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