A Craftsman's Perspective : Why Damascus Steel ?
The charm of Damascus
When first introduced, Damascus Steel knives were expensive and of interest solely to enthusiasts.
These days affordably priced Damascus Steel Knives are common and they have become best sellers.
Why is Damascus Steel popular ? The simple answer is beauty.
After all, the unique ripple pattern flowing along the blade is insanely cool.
Ofcourse the core principles of a good knife remain important, such as sharpness and durability,
but the added beauty makes Damascus blades so much more desirable than your typical tool.
What is Damascus Steel ?
Damascus Steel is a steel characterized by a wood grain or water ripple pattern in the blade.
Historically produced by the “Crucible” method in ancient India, it spread through the middle east, and gained a
reputation as a high quality material across Europe during the middle ages.
The name itself comes from a region in Syria, where Damascus Steel was produced.
Historical Damascus and modern Damascus are two separate types of materials.
The exact method for producing historical damascus has been lost,
with many modern smiths trying to reproduce it as closely as possible through careful research and practice.
Modern Damascus steel is at its simplest is made by layering two or more steels, forge welding them together
and then etching by acid, or polishing to bring out the pattern.
What is Japanese Damascus Steel ?
Modern Japanese Damasuc is called “Suminagashi” or “Uzushio”
in the Sakai region or “Laminated” in the Seki region.
It differs from Historical Damascus in the sense that, most of the time it is a Steel core, wrapped with
Damascus Steel, rather than a Full Damascus Steel Blade.
If you think about the pattern on Damascus blades,
you can feel the strong connection to Classical Japanese Swords and their beautiful “Hamon” lines.
It can also be seen in the patterns formed on “Honyaki” Japanese knives.
There seems to be a connection between natural flowing patterns in Steel that resonates with people.
Perhaps making the blade feel more connected to the natural world or even spiritual for some.
Are there disadvantages to Damascus Steel?
Modern Japanese Damascus Knives are essentially a Steel core with 2 outer layers of thin Damascus Steel,
essentially a “San Mai” 3 Layer construction.
This layer of Damascus is less than 2mm thick in most cases and with such thin steel around the core,
it is often difficult to maintain an even sharpness and overall durability across the blade’s edge is slightly reduced.
These days VG-10 is the most popular steel to use in the core of a Damascus Blade and though VG-10 has good edge retention and durability,
a VG-10 Damascus blade cannot match the overall strength and edge capabilities of a Full VG-10 Blade like the Sakai Ichimonji SWORD FV10 Series.
A diifficult to maintain pattern
During production, Damascus Steel knives are exposed to either an acid or a blasting process to bring out the rich ripple/flowing pattern of the steel.
The problem is, as you use the blade and sharpen it, over time that pattern will dull and recede.
The only way to restore it, is for an experienced sharpener or polishier to carry out the restoration process with a multitude of Whetstones, patience and skill.
Even though Damascus Steel knives have become more affordable, their cost to performance ratio is quite low compared to a knife with a Full Steel blade.
A Damascus blade simply doesn’t have as much usable steel in it to be as durable or sharp for as long in comparison.
What does this mean to the consumer ?
At Sakai Ichimonji, we strive to be as clear and informative to our customers as possible. As with any product, there are advantages and disadvantages.
When it comes to Damascus, though it’s overall practicality may be a little less than a Full Steel blade,
for many people the beauty is enough to bring joy to their cooking experience.
The one thing we know for sure, as technology advances, the quality , sharpness and beauty of Damascus knives can only increase in the years to come.