There is some debate as to what damascus steel means. By some definitions, damascus steel refers to a folded steel made from wootz ingots over 1000 years ago. The folding created swirling patterns in the steel that can still be seen today in some historical weapons.
In more recent history however, the term has come to describe pattern welded steel. This is how I will be referring to Damascus steel here.
Modern blacksmiths and bladesmiths create patterns by using 2 or more alloys of steel layered, folded, and distorted together. Since some alloys resist corrosion more than others, an etch after polishing is used to reveal the pattern. There are a vast number of patterns that bladesmiths have developed each requiring a slightly different process. I will go into more detail by outlining a few damascus knife builds that i have done in the past, but first I want to cover a few myths:
Is Damascus steel is stronger than regular steel?
No A well crafted Damascus knife will perform equally to a monosteel knife. A poorly crafted one will perform worse. Folding/layering was historically done to improve and homogenize impure or uneven steel from the smelting process, but modern steel manufacturing techniques eliminate the need for this altogether. Pattern welded steel is purely aesthetic in the modern era.
Is historical Damascus steel is stronger than modern Damascus (pattern welded) steel?
No again. Modern steel alloys are superior to historical alloys arcoss the board. This includes wootz damascus, and japanese tamahagane (samurai sword steel).
About Damascus/pattern welded steel that I make
I make all my Damascus by hand! I don’t have a power hammer or forging press (yet) so the process is very labor intensive. I have made blades with patterns ranging from simpler random patterns to more complex mosaics, but usually avoid the more complicated patterns for custom orders since there’s a higher chance of welding failure when I do this by hand and its hard to guarantee lead times/prices when labor can vary so much.
All the Damascus steel I currently make is carbon steel (read more about carbon vs stainless steel on the general info page). This is because forge welding stainless is very challenging to do in a small shop without industrial equipment. There are options to buy premade stainless damascus and I am able to make blades with these materials which i will do on rare occasions. This enables different materials and a wider range of patterns! In the long term I’m developing my skills and workshop to offer a wider variety of materials made by me.