Carbon nanotechnology in an 17th century Damascus sword

By Ed Yong | September 27, 2008 10:00 am

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Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchIn medieval times, crusading Christian knights cut a swathe through the Middle East in an attempt to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims. The Muslims in turn cut through the invaders using a very special type of sword, which quickly gained a mythical reputation among the Europeans. These ‘Damascus blades‘ were extraordinarily strong, but still flexible enough to bend from hilt to tip. And they were reputedly so sharp that they could cleave a silk scarf floating to the ground, just as readily as a knight’s body.

657px-types_of_carbon_nanot.jpgThey were superlative weapons that gave the Muslims a great advantage, and their blacksmiths carefully guarded the secret to their manufacture. The secret eventually died out in the eighteenth century and no European smith was able to fully reproduce their method.

Two years ago, Marianne Reibold and colleagues from the University of Dresden uncovered the extraordinary secret of Damascus steel – carbon nanotubes. The smiths of old were inadvertently using nanotechnology.

Damascus blades were forged from small cakes of steel from India called ‘wootz’. All steel is made by allowing iron with carbon to harden the resulting metal. The problem with steel manufacture is that high carbon contents of 1-2% certainly make the material harder, but also render it brittle. This is useless for sword steel since the blade would shatter upon impact with a shield or another sword. Wootz, with its especially high carbon content of about 1.5%, should have been useless for sword-making. Nonetheless, the resulting sabres showed a seemingly impossible combination of hardness and malleability.

img_1564.jpgReibold’s team solved this paradox by analysing a Damascus sabre created by the famous blacksmith Assad Ullah in the seventeenth century, and graciously donated by the Berne Historical Museum in Switzerland. They dissolved part of the weapon in hydrochloric acid and studied it under an electron microscope. Amazingly, they found that the steel contained carbon nanotubes, each one just slightly larger than half a nanometre. Ten million could fit side by side on the head of a thumbtack.

Carbon nanotubes are cylinders made of hexagonally-arranged carbon atoms. They are among the strongest materials known and have great elasticity and tensile strength. In Reibold’s analysis, the nanotubes were protecting nanowires of cementite (Fe3C), a hard and brittle compound formed by the iron and carbon of the steel. That is the answer to the steel’s special properties – it is a composite material at a nanometre level. The malleability of the carbon nanotubes makes up for the brittle nature of the cementite formed by the high-carbon wootz cakes.

It isn’t clear how ancient blacksmiths produced these nanotubes, but the researchers believe that the key to this process lay with small traces of metals in the wootz including vanadium, chromium, manganese, cobalt and nickel. Alternating hot and cold phases during manufacture caused these impurities to segregate out into planes. From there, they would have acted as catalysts for the formation of the carbon nanotubes, which in turn would have promoted the formation of the cementite nanowires. These structures formed along the planes set out by the impurities, explaining the characteristic wavy bands, or damask (see image at top), that patterns Damascus blades.

By gradually refining their blade-making skills, these blacksmiths of centuries past were using nanotechnology at least 400 years before it became the scientific buzzword of the twenty-first century. The ore used to produce wootz came from Indian mines that were depleted in the eighteenth century. As the particular combination of metal impurities became unavailable, the ability to manufacture Damascus swords was lost. Now, thanks to modern science, we may eventually be able how to replicate these superb weapons and more importantly, the unique steel they were shaped from.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology

Comments (42)

  1. Oh wow! Thanks for this post; Damascus steel has always been one of those unsolved mysteries in my mind, and seeing the scientific method take it on so thoroughly is just fascinating. :)

  2. ummmmmm, if “…the ability to manufacture Damascus swords was lost.”
    then how are these guys producing swords?

  3. nemo

    It’s not true dmascus steel – however, it has been hand-forged to render a dmascus-style pattern on the blade.

  4. smarterthanu

    @ Ted Nugent:
    Because it’s not impossible to FIND lost things???

  5. Trexdacy

    The process described as used by the Muslim smiths sounds a lot like the art of the Japanese Samurai sword.

  6. pablo hassan

    Its not that they lost the ability to make Damascus blades, its that the blades were brittle, and these are Damascus blades, folded steel over and iron core (and sometimes just folded steel) is what Damascus is.
    They created the nano tubes by selecting only the “Woots” that did not dent (hit the woot with a hammer, if it dents chuck it out), it is also debated that this is how Japanese Damascus steel blades were made, so they can be both high in carbon therefore holding their edge, but also flexible and not brittle.
    Awesome.

  7. Glen

    What would Prince Marko think if he lived in modern times?

  8. i like how here ted nugent is an expert on swords from antiquity.

  9. jeremy

    i think you meant “alloying”, instead of “allowing”

  10. Just stumbled upon your article and blog and I really love the blog premise and this post, I’ll definitely be back. Cheers!

  11. Traroth

    Damascus swords are not the only ancient technique involving nanotechnology. It’s also the case for stained glass.
    http://nanopedia.case.edu/NWPage.php?page=over.stained.glass

  12. allzipy

    Interesting, Also is the fact that the ‘Wootz’ came from India. How they came to know about that is unclear, but
    almost all these sort of mystical unsolved mysteries
    include India in some or the other way.
    Its just a pointer that these things originated from India, but got obliterated from history with a passion by the invaders in the last 1000 years, the process which is still going on.
    Before it was language, science, medicine, navigation, mathematics etc and now its the roots themselves.

  13. Michael

    so wait, those ‘damascus blades’ for sale in shops are just fake or what? how are they made in modern days?

  14. Shamiq

    The modern “Damascus” swords only have the visual effects. Acid is poured on the blade to give it that etching pattern seen on true Damascus steel. Aside from that, it’s probably good ole Steel 550.

  15. jim

    ‘ummmmmm, if “…the ability to manufacture Damascus swords was lost.”
    then how are these guys producing swords?’
    -Ted Nugent
    ‘so wait, those ‘damascus blades’ for sale in shops are just fake or what? how are they made in modern days?’
    -Michael
    Did u guys actually read the article?
    “the ability to manufacture Damascus swords was lost…we may eventually be able to replicate these”
    and ‘It’s not true damascus steel’ nemo? So the BHM’s sword was a fake? Well then, back to the drawing board… Please read the words next to the pretty picture. Or at the least give reason why u say it isn’t ‘dmascus steel’

  16. Raptor

    Jim:
    To explain it simply there are several types of Damascus steel:
    A. The historical steel forged from Wootz iron between 1100 and 1700 in the middle east, known as oriental damascus steel
    B. Other types of patterned steel that was formulated using folding techniques and combinations of various different steel compositions
    The sword from the BHM is a museum artifact from the 1100 to 1700 period (Damascus steel of type A) that was creating using wootz steel.
    The knife by Georges Emeriau is a steel of type B. The end result of this technique is a steel that appears with the striated (almost watery looking) pattern similar to ancient damascus steel however it does not possess the same tensile strength of true Damascus steel.
    See here for more information:
    The Key Role of Impurities in Ancient Damascus Steel Blades
    Nanowires in ancient Damascus steel
    Damascene Technique in Metal Working

  17. James

    jim: You are stupid. Modern “Damascus” steel is pattern welded or acid etched as said before. The sword mentioned in the article is a 400 year old sword from back when real Damascus was still made.
    nemo wasn’t talking about the sword in the article, he’s talking about Damascus knives in the link Ted Nugent posted. The guy on that website even says it’s “pattern-welded,” which is a way to make modern steel look like damascus.

  18. I heard about Damocles’ sword before. Damascus sword is more interesting. Magnificently presented!

  19. African “iron” is also high-carbon steel, and has been for about two thousand years. Generally, it could be said, but no one will, that the Europeans were doin’ it wrong for thousands of years. But since we believe that the Europeans always did/do everything better, we’re not going to say that. Makes them feel bad.

  20. Baka

    greg laden: I’m pretty sure Damascus is in Syria. Last time I checked, that’s part of Asia, not Europe. I think the point is that European blades were inferior in quality to Damascus blades because of the different alloys and methodologies used. Granted, history is often Euro-centric, but I think this is not one of those times.

  21. Not Saying

    People need to quit listening to “scientists” who have never even made a test cut on any subject other than chemical composition, and start reading the works of sword nerds and people like the deceased founder of Museum Replicas who had been making swords longer than the writer or commenters have been alive. I don’t know that much about swords, but I know who the real “scientists” are in this regard.
    there is no magic “superior sword”. Making a sword is a series of tradeoffs, just like modern engineering endeavors. A katana is extremely and sublimely sharp, but sword on sword contact tends to make it chip like hell and can render it useless with surprising speed.
    Many European swords were not as famously sharp, but tended to be “sharp enough” to still cut a man in half. And they were tough as hell to the point they would survive weapon-on-weapon or accidental weapon-on-armor abuse that would render other swords useless, and be repaired and functional in a fraction of the time of more fussy swords.
    Many Islamic swords were somewhere in-between those two extremes, depending on location. Indonesian swords and knives were almost a world away from Damascene blades.
    Local swordmakers generally had good reasons to make the sword in the manner they did. For instance, in the absence of European-style heavy armor in Japan due to lower native supplies of iron, the Japanese katana made perfect sense – it’s toughness was sufficient to survive contact with the Japanese armor of the time, and later Japanese import of European armor was never in sufficient quantities to threaten it’s usefulness seriously.
    The katana would have been of limited usefulness on a early European battlefield, simply because accidental contact with European heavy armor would have resulted in too many shattered or bent swords and heavy armor tended to favor thrusting attacks, which the katana could do capably but not as optimally as European swords – but in the post-gunpowder world of European conflict where full suits of armor were too much of a hindrance, and in the world of European civilian swordsmanship in times of peace, it might have been a suitable replacement for the rapier and military swords of the time.
    also, “Damascus” steel was already being made by Vikings before and contemporaneously with the advent of Islam. In fact one of the chief exports of the Viking peoples were fine swords, many of which passed through Damascus on their way to Middle Eastern buyers.

  22. Excellent article and easy to understand that we are not scientists.
    http://www.sergioacevedovalencia.com

  23. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.

  24. First of all what we modernly call Damascus is 2 different things.
    First there is pattern welding this is what most people think of Damascus and what the Vikings did. It’s alternating layers of high and low carbon steel or other alloys with nickel in order to get a pattern when etched.
    Wootz is a crucible steel from the Middle East and India. That comes out in cakes the shape of the crucible. While the Muslims were making crucible steels in the 12th century the Europeans didn’t do it until almost the industrial revolution.
    Both have similar results such as patterning and at the time made superior weapons but neither process was actually lost. As modern metallurgy got better they didn’t need these techniques to make superior steels. However it was still done in small areas and groups. It just wasn’t in the done a mass. However bladesmiths have brought back a lot of these techniques back into the public eye including wootz.

  25. “African “iron” is also high-carbon steel, and has been for about two thousand years. Generally, it could be said, but no one will, that the Europeans were doin’ it wrong for thousands of years. But since we believe that the Europeans always did/do everything better, we’re not going to say that. Makes them feel bad.
    Posted by: greg laden | September 28, 2008 2:39 PM”
    Greg this is incorrect, steel is not naturally occurring. Steel is a man made process we do this by adding carbon to the iron. Most of the African and Indian iron ore as I understand it was not from the earth but meteorite you can tell this by the high volume of nickel in the steel. Earth iron ore does not contain nickel at all, unless of course we add it in.
    As far as thousands of years go the Greeks and Romans were part of the Iron Age. The Anglo-Saxons were making steel and pattern welding since at least 400. The difference in the tech isn’t necessarily brains and inelegance but how much ore and how difficult it is to turn that ore into usable material.

  26. Sandro Magi

    Damascus steel was replicated back in 1998:
    http://www2.mse.iastate.edu/fileadmin/www.mse.iastate.edu/static/files/verhoeven/muse.pdf
    The secret was small concentrations of Vanadium impurities. The “ancient secret” of Damascus steel was likely lost simply because the mine which had these impurities in the ore was exhausted.

  27. Smokey Moss

    I thought the pattern in Damascus steel was formed by the smiths rolling or folding the metal and pounding it out and each time the process made the metal harder and harder. I remember my grandfather having an old double barrel shotgun with a Damascus steel barrel.

  28. Smokey Moss,
    The gun barrel is pattern welding which as I mentioned earlier is commonly called Damascus these days. You can achieve similar patterns in both steels by manipulating them. In wootz I believe it’s the dendritic crystalline structure where in pattern welding it’s the layers.

  29. Research on Domascus steel/swords was kind of on a mental to do list, as the mention of them comes up quite often in my findings of ancient weapons related sites/articles so now I know how these highly regarded weapons came to be.
    Thanks for the easy to follow info for us non science types.

  30. Sword fan

    There is a lot of information being gained on what ancient swords were and could do. Certainly, there are many stories of famous scimitars, but not everyone had one. Likewise, there were some sweet european swords in every century, but not everyone had one. Just like your reliable cars and your hi-end sports cars.
    The Vikings record their smiths welding small chunks of ore and fusing them to make sword blades. This allowed them hi and low carbon iron to make very nice blades. Many of the German mines of the middle ages had naturally occuring impurities of vanadium, selenium, and other elements that made the resulting products incredible. There are Norman French swords which have been found with upwards of 100 layers of alternating soft iron and hard steel, strikingly similar to the classic Japanese katana. The japanese had to develop very high quality smithing techniques, because the iron in their area was very poor, so anything less than high skill would make a complete crap sword.
    Sweeping assertions about any area of the world or any time period make one look very uneducated, just like a high school chemistry student claiming that they know all there is to know about nanotechnology.
    I’d recommend looking here;
    http://www.myarmoury.com/features.html
    and here;
    http://www.myarmoury.com/feature_higgins_vik.html
    to get some background.
    Also, want to see someone that makes good damascus? http://www.atar.com/old/index.php?module=pagemaster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=4&MMN_position=4:4

  31. Fascinating article and information.
    But dear g_d, the comments make my head hurt. The sheer amount of mythology and urban legend driven ignorance that passes for metallurgical education presented is staggering. People interested in science need to learn to either find proofs for what they hear in legends, or to shut their traps and stop repeating bad information because its what they heard. Being a bladesmith and knife/sword metallurgy geek, this is particularly annoying as the field is just littered with this kind of nonsense.
    The mythology and legend and complete misunderstanding of the processes involved makes it all the more harder for people to study and get a grasp of this field. Just stop it people!
    Very few people repeat the ghosts and near-mythological notions of 150 year old physics, chemistry, or biology as by-Hoyle fact, yet in the area of metallurgy, even otherwise well educated people do just that.
    In the face of all that nonsense, exhibited so well in these comments, its nice to see a serious scientific effort at steel analysis being made by someone other than the small handful of rather eccentric individuals in the cutlery world (such as bladesmith Kevin Cashen, Kevin Cashenhttp://www.cashenblades.com/Info/Info.html ).
    I’ve been a bladesmith since I was a teenager and damascus (both true, and pattern welded [folded, layered, forge welded steel]) has been extremely interesting to me over my career.
    In 1973 a smith by the name of Bill Moran introduced what he believed was the recreation of ancient Damascus steel. He had spent a long time working on it, and refining his processes, and believed it was in-fact the correct method. He was, of course, wrong. What he had re-introduced was pattern welded steel. The process of combining different steels in multiple layers and folds was not new � It was an old world method, known to the Vikings, Persians and Arabs, and Japanese, particularly. It can add certain qualities to a blade, as some steels are very complimentary to one another � But, by itself, forge welding layers and folds of steel together offers nothing more than a pretty pattern. If bad steel is used, it will still be a bad knife. Moran however rekindled interest in these types of blades, driving others to search deeper for the �secret� of true Damascus.
    While the steel of Saracen swords probably had a true �edge� up on that of European crusaders, given the nature of metallurgical practices of the time, which were poor in most of Europe, the real impact of damascus steel has been in its mythology from the era. The reputation of damascus steel coming from the Crusade’s is not an uncommon side-effect of war. Nearly the same thing happened during WWII, as US GI’s encountered Japanese officers swords. The swords gained a reputation for being able to cut through steel helmets, machine gun barrels and perform other fantastical feats. Similarly, the properties of Moro swords were greatly exaggerated by soldiers during the Moro rebellion of 1913. I’m sure if you did the research, you could find evidence of this theme repeating across pretty much every well documented conflict involving edged weapons, on both sides. It is a means of both honoring and further demonizing your enemy � If your enemy is capable of feats that challenge the imagination, it makes your prowess as a warrior all the better to have championed him, while adding yet more onus for (and justification of) the savagery of war, in that you obviously have to fight harder and more brutally to defeat such a great threat.
    Such a reputation for the damascus blade, having a long history to pass from mouth to ear and blacksmith to blacksmith, has driven its reputation and the mythological qualities of its performance to much greater heights than pretty much any other blade type. It was this rabid fantasy that drove Moran on his search, and has driven others.
    In the early 1980’s a Mastersmith by the name of Al Pendray claimed to have discovered the true process involved in manufacturing Wootz steel, and how to recreate it. This was verified by a metallurgist by the name of Dr. John D. Verhoeven PhD ( http://www.mse.iastate.edu/who-we-are/people/emeritus-professors/john-verhoeven.html ).
    Pendray has been producing Wootz for years, and it is widely considered to be very much the real thing. So, while the nanotube discovery is fascinating, I believe its a mistake to say that it puts us closer to recreating Wootz, as that seems to have already been done. I would imagine that the Pendray Verhoeven process would create the same structures in their steel, as are found in the old-world Damascus.
    Its also important to remember that the performance of a blade is controlled by more than just the steel used. Steel is critical, but even when using good steel, the nature of that steel can be changed drastically by the tempering and heat treating process. Proper control of thermal cycles, and final thermal finishing, controls the crystalline conversions of elements within the steel, and the final crystalline structure. A poorly heat treated and tempered blade of good steel will still be a bad blade, with bad qualities, such as low edge retention, or brittleness or myriad other problems. The final determinate of a steel’s performance is its heat treating and tempering once shaped into a blade.
    Beyond that, edge geometry plays an incredibly important role in blade performance. Many, if not all, of the modern stainless �super-steels� and tool steels used in cutlery (for example, Crucible’s Particle Mettalurgy steels, CPM-s30v, CPMs90v, CPMs3v, and so on) can be ground to the right blade and edge geometry to cut a falling silk scarf with ease, and perform other feats of that nature. A blade that is too thickly ground in blade and edge will have a difficult time displacing the material being cut, causing a poor cut, whereas a blade of thinner blade and edge geometry will make the displacement much more easily. For blade type, shape and purpose, different geometry is required for maximum performance with the least chance of negative effects � A large heavy chopping blade with a thinly ground edge will chip and break (or fold and roll, if the steel is soft), and a small delicate skinning knife with a thickly ground edge will skate along the surface of the material to be cut, barely marking it.
    There are many factors, beyond simply whats inside the steel, that go into making a performance blade. Steel is the beginning of it, but not the end all be all.

  32. Charles

    allzipy: How do they know the wootz came from India, well it’s well documented, and of course there is that huge pure iron pillar thousands of years old that hasn’t deteriorated. India was a cool place for ancient tech.
    Michael: Fake is such a harsh word, just misnamed. They should be sold as pattern welded. There are some experimenters that attempt to make true Damascus blades, but even these guys are only close.
    Not Saying: Vikings were making Damascus swords, well in a word that’s bull. Viking swords technology was terrible, they usually bought their swords from the Franks, Viking swords had to be straightenend under foot in combat, because they would bend. Pattern welding in “not” a true Damascus technology.
    Sandro Magi: Mister Pendray is getting a close approximation… only.
    Sword fan: Jim doesn’t do “Damascus”, his bread and butter comes from his very good books and his pattern welding ;-)
    Summary: Pattern welding = European and Japanese sword construction. Woots = no folding necessary.

  33. Duke

    I agree completely with NAGROM. The hype and mistique that is perpetuated about blade making is silly. I’ve known Hank Reinheart for over 35 years and I admit he was very knowledgable, but he sure wasn’t right about everything he promoted. He was in business to make money when he started Museum Replicas ( as well as making good affordable swords available to Americans), and so he showboated his information to make it seem more “authentic”. A lot of blade mekers or sellers have similar “spiels” to get you to think their stuff is best and you should only listen to them and buy their stuff.
    I was just watching the Smithsonian Channel the other day and saw another “expert” proclaim the “Blood Gutter” on a bayonet sword was to “break the vacuume created when you tried to pull out the blade from a stabbed enemy”. That is a common fable associated with grooves in blades. They are simply to make the blade less heavy because the center of the blade doesn’t add very much strength to it and so can be removed without weakening it much and make it lghter in weight. A simple matter of physics, not mistical hocus pocus.
    I agree that simple scientific analysis may not give all the answers in how a blade was able to perform and I am completely in favor of testing replicas to see how well they work. But just because someone proclaims they “Know” all about them due to a few testing experiments, I don’t believe they do. Historically many blades were made by many smiths out of many sources of iron ore. To say a single testing, or of a small number of blades or styles, can define a much larger body of artifacts or traditions, is rediculous. IT WILL TAKE MANY TESTS AND EXPERIMENTS TO FIND THE FULL ANSWERS. TILL THEN WE SHOULD ALL TAKE EVERY “PRONOUNCEMENT OF THE TRUTH”, WHATEVER THAT MAY BE, WITH A LARGE GRAIN OF SALT. None of it is Gospel. And I would advise those that are interested in finding the REAL truth , to keep an open mind and read and study as much as you can. Learn what it really takes to make a blade, yourself! Don’t rely on other’s fancy descriptions, since they often are motivated to make themselves look better ( see NAGROM’s comment above about demonising the enemy to make you look better) or smarter or to make their wares more desirable for you to buy, and PAY THEM for. It doesn’t take much effort or expense to produce a simple blade ( see how cheap some imported blades can be) if you know what you are doing. So why not learn and do it yourself? It’s a lot cheaper and more fun than shelling out big bucks for fancy looking blades that often aren’t any better than what you yourself could make!
    Start by learning and be careful of who you listen to. If it sounds too hard to believe, it’s probably at least an exageration and posibly not true.
    Good Luck!

  34. Robert Nichols

    I really am a metallurgical engineer and amature smith. Nagrom nailed it. Go learn something about the process before you post igorant theories and vain repetitions. I post regularly on the blacksmithing and bladesmithing sites. If you want to meet some bladesmiths who know their metallurgy, go to the formum at http://www.dfoggknives.com I have the highest respect for the folks who post there. It is rare that I read there the kind of drivel I read here.

  35. Sandro Magi

    Just came across this thread again. Great post Nagrom!
    Charles wrote:
    Sandro Magi: Mister Pendray is getting a close approximation… only.
    A “close approximation” that is identical at a molecular level is certainly an interesting interpretation of term “approximation”! Perhaps a link or a bit more elaboration would help in explaining how exactly Pendray falls short.

  36. Ted

    In addition,the appreciation of Japanese sword was developed from strength inspection of non-destruction.It is big defference compared to Damascus sword. And wavy pattern on sword surface is made not only by forging but also by quenching.
    And also beautful wave pattern is controlled by raw material”Tamahagane”.So tamahagane is made by ancient steel making “tatara” which high-tech steel maker Hitachi Metals deal with.

  37. Withheld

    Wow. There has been a great deal of misinformation given here, much of it from some very experienced people. I have long followed the history of pattern welding and exotic steels of antiquity. Blended steels were not uncommon. Each culture which used them (and there were at least a dozen distinct) did it for local reasons. Japanese steel (plentiful, in fact) was low in carbon, and was folded to increase carbon content (by forming carbides at the surface) and create a variety of steels from which to make different areas within a blade. Conversely, European iron was too carbon rich (compare with cast iron), and folding was required to reduce carbon content (by oxidation) and prevent brittleness and sponginess. Malaysia folded steel to mix mild steel (which was common) with meteoric steel (which was precious). Pattern welding is (broadly) this process of folding steel at the forge to change its characteristics. 12 such folds will produce about 4000 layers (enough that the metal becomes homogenous by migration and pattern is lost), and so was not as heroic as often depicted (though it requires superior skill to pattern weld at all).
    Wootz has been known to be a very different animal for a long time and has been known to contain substantially more than 1% carbon since modern science. NO MODERN STEEL has been able to reproduce this high carbon content without brittleness and porosity, and this includes modern pattern welds, which combine high (approaching 1% carbon) and medium or low carbon steels. These produce (something like) the traditional appearance of some pattern welded steel, but do not possess the carbon within, or characteristics attributed to, Damascus steel. Finally, it has been known since at least 2000 that Damascus steel originated in India, and generally agreed that its ‘secret’ was lost when the natively specially alloyed ore was consumed: the Indians had little idea why their steel was special, only the technique to get the most out of their very special ore. It is called Damascus steel because it was exported to Europe through Damascus which was assumed (incorrectly) to be its source. I hope that clears up some of the dumb guy misinformation here, now to the not-so-dumb-guy misinformation.
    Those who are embedded in the dogma of pre-2000 metallurgical discovery are missing the point of this article. The tools to inspect metals to the degree of detecting nanotube structure did not exist until recently, and have made metallurgy from prior times obsolete. Nanotubes have their own unique geometry and properties, but if one had to make a comparison with another material, it would be diamond, not any kind of carbon or other alloy steel. By locking up cementite (a carbon steel geometry, someone should have explained that…) in the carbon-carbon bonds of nanotubes, Indians (inadvertently) appear to have actually created the mythical blade which “cleaved man and horse together, and all armor, in twain”. It seems they created the 15 year old child’s sword dream: a steel sword with an edge of diamond, which brings me to a final point, not formerly dealt with.
    High carbon steel, even cast iron, is only incrementally harder than low carbon steel. Two properties of mythical Damascus blades were their ability to self-sharpen and to cut like a saw. This myth has been approached, but not met, by modern pattern welding techniques which expose a thin layer of brittle and chipping metal at the edge. This cuts like a microscopic saw and wears more slowly than supporting softer steel. Such blades cut best by slicing rather than hacking (as Mideastern blade were said to have) and require less sharpening. Most had written more than this off to the hyperbole of myth, and set it to rest.
    But… Nanotube molecular bond strength and wear resistance are far greater than those of metal carbides (which are what makes all types of steel strong). In addition, the edge exposed in such a blade must necessarily consist of nanotube ends. Imagine a blade with needle points, made of something like diamond, of molecular size, as a sword edge. Suddenly the myths concerning self-sharpening may not have been so far-fetched. Such a blade would improve itself by wear far better than it could possibly be sharpened by hand. Imagine fiberglas, but instead of plastic, the supporting structure is steel, and instead of glass fibers, the threads within are diamond and are orders of magnitude smaller and more numerous. I am very excited by this.

  38. Asad Shbaita

    for Damascus sowred and the reuslt been made during crusaders war in middle east , that sowreds of european were brittle while this sowred was sharp , hard and not breakable.
    before 300 years a reasrech study been started in One of Uk universities to produce same sowred of damascus one, and after that with coordination with Yale university , this research study been closed after they bring same caractaristcs of damascus sowred with traditional ways of anneling , heating and cooling process.
    one of my Brit emplyee from Bemingham city , that there is
    story among people there talking about that Brit. took with
    them experit from Syria to taought the english workers how to produce such sowred.
    realy this sowred is amaizing piece of product.
    tks
    shbaita

  39. Gaey Ford

    Back in the early 90’s i went to several blade smithing classes at Mr. Cleston Sinyards shop in Alabama. At one of these classes Mr. Al Pendray taught a class on making wootz steel in a crucible. The process was done in a gas forge that took some time to do. i don’t remember the total time the crucible was in the forge as there were other things going on . if memory is correct i think the woots soaked in the fire all day and into the night. Mr. Pendray broke the crucible open the next day to show the lump of steel inside.He didn’t do any more to the steel at this time. He also demonstrated useing a top and bottom spring fuller die to make a ” T ” topped blade of middle eastern design. i do make pattern welded steel for my knives i sell my favorite steels are L 6 and 1084 for doing pattern welded as the different steels show up nicely after etching. Garey Ford . Moss Point Mississippi

  40. … wow
    (maybe Tolkien’s Elves and Dwarves used that trick too ;) )

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