I was in my local gourmet shop again the other day… just checking to make sure that I had all the latest gizmo’s and gadgets. I had to stop and admire the Miyabi case and drool over the Damascus bladed knives. I am fascinated by the whole process involved in making Damascus steel. It involves taking the steel and folding it back on itself several times. I have heard that this process can be repeated hundreds of times to produce a blade that is not only hard but also flexible. The hardness of the steel enables it to keep the edge but also means that it will take some time and effort to sharpen when it needs it. For the really fine knives the recommendation is to send it back to the factory for sharpening I would agree especially for the single bevel edged knives, since you are working with a blade that is razor thin and easily made more dull by incorrect sharpening efforts.
In an effort to understand the process involved in making Damascus steel I searched the net(what a concept) and discovered “One Man’s Blog” Besides all the other things it appears John is involved in, John is a certified “Blade smith.” In the post above he gives a brief explanation of the process of making Damascene steel and then includes the video below, which I have embedded here. The wavy pattern is produced by the folding process.
Next I went looking for examples of custom made knives. It didn’t take long to find this site with several different Japanese knife artisans represented. JapaneseChefsKnife.com has several different knife maker’s on it’s pages. This is true Knife lovers eye candy as in the shot below of a knife by Mr. Hiroo Itou from northern Japan. Spent a few minutes on this site, you will see some amazing creations. Notice also that the give the spec’s of the steel when they are able to get them. In the case of Mr. Itou the company that he buys his steel from will not release the content due to competition secrets.
I have had this article floating around for some time and thought that here would be an appropriate place to include it.
How The Katana Sword Was Made
How was a katana sword made? This question is more of an inquiry into the physical build of the Katana but there was much more to it than that. Before the blade forging would begin, the sword maker underwent fasting and ritual cleansing. They would then do their work in robes of white, much like priests. These sword makers were held in very high regard.
As early as the 13th Century, Japanese swords were known to be far more superior than any made anywhere else in the world. Not until the development of contemporary scientific metallurgy in the 19th century, could steel be made that would face up to the superiority of that made by these Japanese 600 years earlier.
To fabricate their unmatched katanas, Japanese artisans had to conquer a problem that had baffled many others throughout the world. They could make swords that were very strong, but this would also result in them being very brittle and would snap easily. The Japanese defeated this problem by folding the steel over and over repeatedly hundreds of times to make it extremely hard yet durable. When it was honed to a sharp edge the metal resisted dulling and the soft steel kept the sword from breaking.
To produce their best blades the Japanese used a much more involved process. For the interior of the katana, they used a comparatively soft, laminated metal that would resist breaking. The blade’s exterior and edge were made of different kinds of hard steel welded together in a compacted form that was folded and hammered out as many as 20 times or more, giving it more than a million laminations! This outer coat of steel could be made even harder by first heating the sword and then quenching it quickly by submerging it in water. In the final step, the sword maker would cover the rough blade with a thick layer of adhesive material, mostly clay, leaving only the edge uncovered, and heat the blade until the glowing metal reached an extreme bright glow. The sword maker would then thrust the heated blade into water. This would cause the exposed edge to cool instantaneously while the rest of the blade, protected by the clay, cooled slowly and remained relatively soft.
The result was a blade of soft non-brittle metal encased in a very thin layer of hard steel. About one fifth of an inch of its edge was made of metal so hard that it held a razor’s edge during repeated use.
That is the legend of how the katana sword was made. To get your very own magnificent peace of history visit us at A Perfect Knife.
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I just stumbled across this site. http://www.chenessinc.com/theforge.htm These “katana style” swords come from China. The process is briefly explained on this page. Note the explanation for “claying” which refers to the hardening of the steel by quenching it in water. They cover the upper portion of the entire blade leaving only the edge of the sword/blade exposed and then heat it up and cool it down. The clay keeps the blade from cooling as rapidly as the edge. Why? to get the edge super hard while maintaining the flexibility of the blade itself. This is the process known as “Honzubaku” originally developed by the Japanese for their original Katana sword.
Thanks for reading,