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can anyone explain to me the advantage of a damascus or pattern welded blade other than appearance.
Im having a difficult time trying to understand how you can take several types and grades of steel and forge weld them in an uncontrolled enviroment and come up with something as strong or as good as a known type or grade of a good tool steel designed for a specific purpose.
putting aside all the folklore and magic I just have a hard time believing there is an advantage other than appearance

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Before modern steel melting processes, it was one of the best ways to get a high quality piece of blade material. All the fine Japanese, Persian and other blades from centuries past were made with some form of pattern welding, wootz or damascus. The Vikings made "weld and twist" blades that were both superb in cutting ability and appearance so pattern welding can indeed produce a high quality blade. Initially, the patterns were probably "happy accidents" that were later refined by the smiths for both function and appearance purposes.

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Well, sit down this is might be a long post.

On pattern welding, this all depends upon the skill and knowledge of the one doing it and the methods and materials employed. On a laminate bar (what I mean is one that is just stacked/folded or one that is twisted to get a pattern) if you use the PROPER alloys you will get superior cutting IF your heat treating is dead on (I will explain alloys further down..) and you do everything right. But you must know your materials.

Now where pattern welding really beats a homogenous steel is when you do it the "right way" and that is very similar to the way the sword and knives were made in pre-1000AD Europe and that is using a built or composite method of construction. Here again your thermal treatment must be dead on (as it always should be by the way) and you must use the right materials.

What I mean by a built/composite blade is where you use severeal different steels, relying upon each one's "strengths" to back up each one's "weaknesses".. Here you can weld up a super hard edge material to a body of softer and tougher steels and have the thing hold together under tremendous strains during use.

There are many theories as to why these blades were made this way in period and well, my own is the fact that in addition to the above, the amounts of real steel, when compared to iron were rather small percentage wise due to the time needed to make shear steel from bloom iron. So they used the bloom iron (wrought iron actually) for the body and the steel for the places where a hard edge is required.

Pattern welding was used in nearly every iron working culture at one time or another. It is a logical progression in iron working evolution.

Now, as far as alloys and thermal treatment, well the maker must understand both of these intimately, you can't simply "slap a couple of pieces together" and expect it to cut any better than a homogenous piece of steel. Here is where knowledge comes in (a lot of makers don't understand this for some reason, or if they do they don't care) as far as what alloy does what best.

Side note: understanding a "cut" is needed here. If you look at the "traditional understanding" of the "saw tooth" effect of pattern welding and when you understand that carbon migration does occur, you will realise that using a high carbon/low carbon mix in a laminate is like making really expensive 1060. NOT my idea of a good blade, especially in a laminate pattern like a ladder, maiden's hair or any other "one piece" pattern. What I mean buy the "saw tooth" effect is where the "softer" material "wears away" under use faster than the harder material, thereby leaving the saw "teeth" of the harder material to cut it's way through. You will not get this effect using a simple high/low C mix of steels due to the carbon migration. You can get it using steels of different alloy elements as well as getting a greater degree of "toughness"..

Now to do this you have to reralise what a given element does in a steel. Using a mix of 1095 and say the old Vasco-wear will give a blade that will start to "out cut" a plain Vasco wear blade once the 1095 has abraded down a bit from use. The "saw tooth" effect. This is for a one piece laminate pattern, not what I would call the best way to make a blade if you are pattern welding for performance if you ask me.

Now where pattern welding really "shines" is using a built/composite pattern/ This is where you have a 'body' made of a very tough and/or "springy' material ands a cutting edge of a very hard and/or wear resistant material. This harder material could be a homonegous alloy or another piece of pattern weld. The idea here is for the "tougher and softer" body will "back up" the harder and not as tough edging.

I have done destructive tests on blade built this way side by side with homogenous blades (almost broke my heart to do it but it needed to be done) and every time the homogenous blade failed way before the built one finally let go and I was rather brutal to say the least in what i put these things through.

Now I will say that 90% of the makers making pattern welded materials, like I said before, aren't choosing the materials or construction methods for the cutting effects but rather for contrast. I personally do not believe that a sword should be made in any other way, as far as pattern welding goes, than a composite method of construction.

Additional note: as with any other piece of hardenable steel, the maker must know how to properly heat treat the materials. Thermal treatment is the most important part of making any blade. It doesn't matter if the blade is homogenous, pattern welded, ground or forged, if the thermal treatment is bad, then the blade is.

I will probbaly get crucified by what I just wrote by alot of makers but I stand by what I said and well, if you think it through and understand my attempt to convey what I am trying to explain, I am sure you will see things in a new light. If not, well, that's ok too.

Hope this helps..


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I actually do agree with a lot of what you say / by the way its refreshing to hear from someone that seems to know what they are talking about / I guess I should have been more clear but I was refering to using banding material , cable , chains etc where at best its a guess as to what the contents of the material really is.
modern saw blades are bimetal with hard teeth and soft backing but this is usually more for cost containment.
I agree that you would have to know what you are doing and take into consideration all of the constantly changing varibles / warm anvil,cold anvil,shop temperature ,heat of the fire to a closer control than most smiths today would admit to knowing exactly at any given time and all of this is before any given properties of the component materials are known / not assumed or guessed at / power hammer / hand hammer and the list of varibles could be almost endless.
I really expect to to get hammerd on this one but I really am curious as to how others do it

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< I guess I should have been more clear but I was refering to using banding material , cable , chains etc where at best its a guess as to what the contents of the material really is. >

Ok given these parameters, they is no way. Here you are talking about using "lower end grade" recycled materials and well, you are getting the "wow" factor by doing this. While some of the items you mentioned can make a decent blade, you will not get the perfomance level above what that particular material is. In fact, if you aren't careful you could suck so much C out into the atmosphere working it into a usable "solid" that you could ruin the whole thing.

On the cable. I buy mine direct from Otis Elevator, I KNOW what it is cause they get melt specs on the cable. They have to know what they are getting cause people's lives are on the line. I use the XXX Improved plow steel...aka 1095. But a welded cable knife, just like one using motorcycle or engine chains, banding, saw blades or anything else, here you get the "novelty" of it..

Xxxx's bells... I am even "guilty" of doing this when I use siderite. Does a extra-terrestrial piece of iron with some nickel thown in make a decent knife? No but it sure is unique to have a knife with a chunk of it in there. the "wow" factor again.

As far as the control you mentioned, that is not that difficult. Not at all. There are a few of us "out there" that have advanced degrees in metallurgy, material science, engineering and the like. The amount of control needed is easily obtained using not much more than a forge and an anvil. Sometimes air tight containers are employed for the really "exotic" stuff but most of the work comes down to knowledge, skill and experience on the grip of the hammer.

Using high qaulity materials, properly employed and treated will make a better blade in terms of cutting and holding together. Using scrap materials, well, here's on step lower on the scale from the start if you ask me. While I have suggested using a few recycled materials in the past while you are learning, once you get the skills mastered, move up to the "good stuff"..and believe me you will see the difference.

In regards to your concern about getting hammered? Not with me around you won't. You asked a good, solid question and you have, if you asked me..gotten a couple of decent answers. If others can't take being questioned, they should be in a different line of work. Personally I have no problems with folks asking solid questions and believe me I have had some really dumb ones asked as well...the folks things say will never cease to amaze you...But your question? yours was one that hasn't been asked that often, but is one that needs to an answered. Don't worry about getting hammered..won't happen here..

One last thing...I have been doing this now for a little while. I have picked up a few things. If I sound like I know what I am talking about, that's OK, but no one knows it all. Some folks know more about this stuff, some folks know a bit less but all of us know something useful. Everyone has something they can teach and everyopne has something they can learn..In other words I am not above stealing an idea on how to do something..hehhehehehee

Hope this helps


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  • 1 month later...

As for the "fold/weld"...yes it has to be re-welded or else it will stay in seperate sections. However I do NOT fold..takes to long..rather I cut into 3 or more pieces (usually 4) and work that way. When you consider my first weld is usually between 35 and 50 pices, I am ready to pattern after the second welding course.


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