Damascus steel knives, firearms, and other metal pieces are becoming more popular as craftsmen and rediscovering the art. As more Damascus knives pop up in the market, buyers and smiths new to the material want to know: is Damascus steel strong?
Not All Damascus is Created Equal
Damascus is made of multiple metals which are fused together to create a single piece. The contrast between steel types creates those distinctive patterns, especially when etched and oiled.
Like pretty much every other metal product on the market, the strength of Damascus steel is directly related to its quality. Great Damascus is made from high quality materials, and the forging process is meticulous to ensure that there are no voids, cracks, or risk of delamination while you’re working with the metal.
It’s a common misconception that when you work with Damascus, the risk of delamination – the layers coming apart – is just something you have to deal with.
Realistically, that’s not the case.
Good quality Damascus doesn’t delaminate. Sure, it’s possible for any smith to have a bad batch, but any brand of Damascus that has repeated delaminations probably has weak spots in the metal. Cracks, voids, and delaminations are a sure sign that you’re working with Damascus of poor quality, and the strength of your steel probably isn’t up to snuff.
Ask around before you choose a brand of Damascus to use for your own projects, and if you hear more than one story about delaminations or voids in the material, it’s probably wise to choose a better brand.
Meanwhile, whether you’re working with Damascus steel billets or buying a finished Damascus product for your use…
Beware Cheap Damascus
Junk is junk.
If you decide to buy a cheap Damascus knife or budget billets, odds are you’re getting something that’s pretty, but not particularly practical.
There are lots of cheap “Damascus” knockoff knives on the market. They’re a little more expensive than a basic, budget blade, but they’re priced far lower than high quality Damascus steel blades from reputable sources.
In the case of metal goods, you usually get what you pay for.
Crafting reliable and durable Damascus takes time and meticulous attention to detail. Like any artisanal craft, that kind of integrity comes at a premium price.
If you’re going to get a quality Damascus knife, you can reasonably expect to pay $200 at the very least. Beware those “bargain” blades in the $50 to $100 range.
Treat Your Damascus Correctly
Another thing that impacts the strength of your finished Damascus piece is how you heat treat it.
Carbon and stainless Damascus austenitize and temper at different temperatures, and some types of Damascus can even be cryo-hardened, too. If you’re working with Damascus billets or blanks, be sure to heat treat it appropriately for the metal type.
Properly annealing, heat treating, and tempering a piece of Damascus is an important part of the process and greatly affects the quality of the finished product.
Etching Damascus helps bring out the contrasting colors in the pattern. Poorly etched pieces will often have spots.
Once you have a Damascus piece, be sure to care for it properly. Keep the metal oiled and avoid long-term storage of Damascus blades in leather sheaths because the leather can hold moisture against the metal, causing rust. For more on polishing, sharpening, and cleaning Damascus, see this quick guide to caring for Damascus.
So, Is Good Damascus Steel Strong?
High quality Damascus steel is not the strongest metal you can get. For most projects and uses, though, it’s plenty strong and durable.
There are some modern metal alloys that are incredibly strong, and if you’re working on a project that needs to stand up to the absolute harshest conditions imaginable, you should probably use one of those.
However, for something like a hunting knife, a golf club head, or even a firearm component, good stainless Damascus will do the trick.
Damascus has an added advantage for things like kitchen knives, as the combination of metals creates micro-serrations on the edge that keep your blade super sharp. Damascus also tends to stay sharper for longer, which is a definite advantage for slicing and dicing.
Remember, too, that there are different kinds of Damascus.
Carbon Damascus is softer to work with but once hardened, it’s harder than stainless. Stainless Damascus is handled a little differently, so if you’re going to work with it, make sure you heat treat it correctly.
The idea that Damascus steel is too soft, brittle, or unreliable for practical applications comes from the prevalence of cheap, poorly made metals. If you’re using good quality materials from a reputable forge, Damascus is plenty strong.
NICK DIMASSIO says
EXCELLENT INFO APPRECIATED THANKS
Chaud Poivron says
I find it disingenuous to call it Damascus steel. Unless you know otherwise the never did figure out the complete process and materials used. So it isn’t really Damascus steel in the first place. They cannot duplicate real Damascus steel from the past. It is just a gimmick sold with a lie holding it up. IT IS NOT DAMASCUS STEEL.
What would be a good steel for bushcraft hunting knife 5-6in blade
Good stuff Thx. Good thing no cheap. Cheap thing no good.
Nicholas MacNaughtan says
Thank you, I found it really interesting.
Jesse Harber says
Thank you for the visit
David Hanna says
I just bought a damascus knife I hope is good. Whats the first thing I need to do when I receive it. D Hanna
Jesse Harber says
Cut something of course! ha
Daniel Bush says
Very informative, thank you so much!
Jesse Harber says
Barry Perhamsky says
I really don’t know anything about knives, except what I already read. Why am I saying this? Just recently, my girlfriend ordered for me a Damascus hunting knife from the Stauer catalog……go figure! My birthday will soon be here, and she thought it would be a great present. But a hunting knife? When I say I don’t know anything about knives, I know a little.
I always wanted a folding knife when I was a kid, a penknife. However, I never got one for the simple reason I had no use for it. Then one day when I was at a festival with my girlfriend, I found a Swiss Army Knife. I saw it on the ground, someone must of dropped it. Well it’s mine now! I just put it in my pocket, and looked at it when I got home.”So you found a Swiss Army knife”, my girlfriend said? Yep, and it’s mine now. But what an I going to do with it? I know, open all the boxes you order…but that’s about it.
The big blade on the knife (if you call it big) had a drop point, and the small blade had what you call a sprey point. I think that’s what it’s called. The knife also had a bottle opener and a can opener. Oh, and it also had a toothpick and twizers. I had it for two years, then I lost it…..Darn.
My nephew saw the knife, and asked me if he could have one. Well not really. Not really, why? A knife is not a toy, it’s a tool. And if you play with it, you could get hurt. And even if you have a use for a knife, you need to know how to use it the right way.
My mom has a silver set. You know forks, spoons and knives. She keeps it in a special wooden box in a drawer in the dinning room. It has this iron rod with a handle. My mom says it’s a knife sharpener. I told her it’s called a knife iron or a knife hoaning tool. It doesn’t sharpen knives. What it does is removes microscopic pieces of metal from the blade so it will cut smoother.
Well back to the Damascus knife my girlfriend got me. So When I got it, I opened the package and looked at it. A hunting knife…..thank you. She told me the people on the phone told her it was called a Damascus knife. I never saw a pattern on a knife blade before. Well the next day I looked it up on the computer and learned about this type steel. Pretty interesting! But I really have no use for it except to open boxes and when we go camping. The rest of the time it’ll be in it’s box in a drawer. Then I started to read things. It said on the box it came in: This product contains led which is known to the state of California to cause cancer, etc. wash hands after use. Well the handle is rapped in leather, and the blade doesn’t have led, so it must be the back part, called the pommel. I think that what it’s called.
Now as I just recently learned, these knives (Damascus steel) are subject to rust, and must be taken care of. Of course you must care for any knife. Damascus steel is supposed to be very strong, and have a very sharp blade that keeps it’s edge for a log time. But it can rust. With stainless steel you just wipe it off after use, put it back in it’s sheath, and you’re done. And even if you forget to wipe it off, the stainless steel will not rust. Now being The Damascus knife My girlfriend got me has the handle rapped in leather, I can’t get it wet ether or it will start to shrink and tare. So there’s three things I need to worry about: rust, the led, and the leather handle. I told my girlfriend I’m going to send it back….the lead. And I don’t know if it’s real Damascus or not. I could take to a knife dealer.
“So what kind of kitchen knife would you get”, my girlfriend asked? A nice stainless steel knife. It doesn’t have to be anything special. And it doesn’t need to look dangerous ether. All it needs to do is chop and cut, and be easy to take care of. But you also don’t want a piece of junk. You don’t want to have a hard time cutting off the excess chicken skin.
Jesse Harber says
Great stories Barry, you and your girlfriend rock
Thanks for all the informations. Really appreciate it. Have a great day!!