Our Damascus Story

“Damascus” must be one of the most maligned words in Bladesmithing!

As we at Clarke Knives understand it, the origin of “Damascus Steel” stems back almost 2000 years, long before bladesmiths in the city of Damascus were using it. Steel makers in Southern India & Sri Lanka had access to high-quality magnatite (a type of Iron Ore) and were refining it by heating the ore in sealed clay pots with carbonaceous materials such as bamboo and leaves. The sealed environment meant that the slag rose to the top and the heavy iron sank to the bottom of the crucible, absorbing a considerable amount of carbon in the process. This was the cleanest steel available at the time and was known as Wootz Steel.

By the 12th century AD (CE) Wootz steel had found its way to the swordsmiths of Damascus who were making the best weapons of the era, and the Wootz steel they were using became known as Damascus Steel. It was easily recognisable by the flowing watermark patterns on the polished blades caused by the huge amounts of free carbides in the structure. These free carbides are not what any modern-day steelmaker wants to see but were the reason that the Damascus blades of that era had such a great cutting edge and still retained a measure of flexibility.

Today, we create patterned steel by forge-welding together good quality steels with differing chemical compositions that, when heat treated and etched, create different coloured patterns. This material is correctly called Pattern Welded Steel but is almost universally known as Damascus.

At Clarke Knives, our 3-generation family-run forge only uses high-quality steel sourced from European steel mills and we quite unashamedly call our pattern welded steel “Damascus”. We have a very high level of metallurgical knowledge and experience and all our Damascus comes with full after-sales backup. You get full details for normalising, machining and heat treating your Damascus as well as access to our heat treatment services if required.

We offer Damascus and San Mai in various styles and patterns and specialise in the more exotic, including copper laminates and fully stainless Damascus. All our billets come with heat treatment instructions (or you can make use of the Clarke Knives Heat Treatment Service to do it for you).

All Damascus is offered as stock removal billets which have been normalised, annealed and surface ground ready for immediate knife making.

All San Mai and Laminate billets are supplied “as forged”, normalised, annealed and pickled (to remove rough scale) only. This is quite deliberate so that you can easily locate the core centrally to your blade. Full grinding and heat treatment instructions are supplied with each billet.

We can also supply re-forging stock – please send your requirements using the contact form below and we will get back to you asap.