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G. Freeman




Location: Prague, Czech republic
Joined: 29 Jun 2007

Posts: 25

PostPosted: Fri 31 Oct, 2014 1:51 am    Post subject: Damascus & Wootz & common steel         Reply with quote

Hej everyone,

I would like to ask you for your knoledge and experience...

Knowledge:
As far as I am aware the european people used damascus steel (they made by themselves) in ancient, dark and early mediavel times ..
Do you know of some (ancient, early mediavel) weapons made of wootz steel from these times?
- I mean the steel they really made themselves (not imported) ....and preferably from Viking period.. :-)

Experience:
What are your experience of using Damascus (or Wootz) steel weapons compared to standard steel weapons?
- I mean the use in training, duels, battles, in woods or real work ... not just by looking at it and holding it in hand while doing nothing :-)
- different behaving, higher / lower endurance, breaking limits, tendency to rust etc.

thank You :-)

p.s. web pages (and videos) I found about making WOOTZ STEEL (in english) - to better describe wootz matter: http://provos.org/

..following my heart, I'm living free..
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 31 Oct, 2014 4:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If by "Damascus", you "pattern welded" and/or "folded" or "piled", then, yes, that was common in ancient Europe, and was still being done into early modern times.

If by "wootz", you mean crucible steels, then many of the Ulfberht Viking swords appear to be crucible steel (low slag content, high and relatively uniform carbon content). But the steel is suspected to be imported from Central Asia; the swords to be Frankish. I don't know of any crucible steel being made in Europe before the 18th century.

As for performance, the main folded steel weapons I've cut with extensively are actually sanmai construction ("three plate"), with a non-folded steel sandwiched between folded steel sides. The non-folded steel forms the cutting edge, so I can't comment on the edge-holding of the folded steel. But this kind of construction lets you use very hard steel for the edges while avoiding brittleness in the main body.

As for antiques, I've seen folded steel weapons that have suffered damage like bent tips, cracked edges, etc. and remained functional. The folding helps stop crack propagation - cracks grow until they reach a fold, and stop. The composite construction pattern welding allows can result in tougher weapons. However, welding flaws can weaken the blade. This isn't so bad, since the pattern welding is usually done in such a way so that welding flaws aren't fatal to the blade (e.g., welds running parallel to the edges, along the blade, rather than across it).

I have a couple of folded steel knives that a more prone to rust than I'd expect if they were a typical carbon steel. I don't know the alloys used in the folded steel. It's also possible that the sheaths are to blame, not the steels.

The carbon content of crucible steels/wootz could be very high, sometimes well over 1% carbon. Carbon contents of 1.3% or so makes for very hard knife blades, with superb edge retention. Good for kitchen knives, but they can be prone to chipping due to brittleness.

As for wootz swords, I have heard of people accidentally breaking antique wootz blades by dropping them. Depending on the heat treatment, wootz swords can be brittle. (Often, they were air cooled rather than quenched, to avoid brittleness. They could still have good edge retention due to the carbides in the blade.)

"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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James Moore





Joined: 27 Jan 2011

Posts: 61

PostPosted: Wed 05 Nov, 2014 7:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:

If by "wootz", you mean crucible steels, then many of the Ulfberht Viking swords appear to be crucible steel (low slag content, high and relatively uniform carbon content).


I'm not sure that 9 out of 120 swords marked with the name Ulfberht is really best described as"many". Because that's how many of them there are which are crucible steel.
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 05 Nov, 2014 2:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A. Williams, "A metallurgical study of some Viking swords", Gladius 29, 121-184 (2009) classifies 9 swords as made from crucible steel, and another 5 as possibly made from crucible steel. His entire Group A (spelling of +VLFBERH+T) are either crucible steel or possibly crucible steel, all 14 out of 14. None of the other 30 swords analysed were crucible steel. 44 sword were analysed.

So 9-14 out of 44. If 14, then that's all of the +VLFBERH+T swords, and about 1/3 of all Ulfberht swords, if the 44 swords analysed are representative of Ulberht swords overall.

The crucible steel Ulfberhts are more likely to have snapped blades - more brittle can make a difference in practice.

"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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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Wed 05 Nov, 2014 2:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
The crucible steel Ulfberhts are more likely to have snapped blades - more brittle can make a difference in practice.

There is a primary source complaining about wootz blades being more likely to break in European winters.

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Nov, 2014 7:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would say wootz and bulat (both crucible steels with unusual non-equilibrium phases depending upon forging and handling, as opposed to piled and pattern welded sword construction) are relatively similar if we are trying make a general classification. Wootz and Bulat swords are identified in materials or metallurgy research articles. Bulat may come up in Slavic or Russian examples, and is stated as having been known during medieval/ crusade era. There was a resurgence in the Bulat technique, although I don't know if the more modern material can easily be compared with pre- 15th century material. You can find researchers stating swords made of "bulat" from 15th through 19th century era fairly easily though. I believe Verhoeven studied and entire collection of Russian bulat material swords and compared them with wootz.
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Thu 06 Nov, 2014 4:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:
The crucible steel Ulfberhts are more likely to have snapped blades - more brittle can make a difference in practice.

There is a primary source complaining about wootz blades being more likely to break in European winters.


Al-Kindi discusses brittleness in cold (and comments on "milder" heat treatment to produce less brittle swords). I think there are other comments on brittleness of swords in Russia in winter.

"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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Jens Nordlunde





Joined: 06 Jan 2004

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PostPosted: Sun 09 Nov, 2014 10:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is well known that in the very early centuries the Indians exported tons of wootz ingots to countries like Italy, Egypt and the Arabian countries - likely to east Africa as well, as they has colonies there.
It is also well known that the Vikings had trade routes to Rome and other coultries in that area, so they may have used Indian wootz ingots for their weapons.
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Sun 09 Nov, 2014 12:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Or more directly from Transoxiana, which had a large crucible steel industry at that time. Given that the Vikings were trading around the Don bend (i.e., where the Don and Volga rivers near each other, just north of the Black and Caspian seas), and raided in the Caspian Sea, that would be a more direct source. That trade would go through Scandinavia, and from there to the rest of Europe, which might explain why Ulfberht swords are concentrated in Scandinavia (while other Viking swords are much more pan-European).
"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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Shahril Dzulkifli




Location: Malaysia
Joined: 13 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2014 7:22 pm    Post subject: Damascus & Wootz & common steel         Reply with quote


Here is a wootz Persian tulwar. The owner remarked that the blade has a fine contrast wootz pattern on its blade (closeup below).

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”

- Marcus Aurelius
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