In simplified terms, Damascus steel is made by fusing thin
laminations of two (very rarely more) steels (or iron) which have
different colors and/or textures. The resulting laminated billet is
manipulated by forging, grinding or milling, twisting, etc, to cause
the steel to display patterns which can be entirely random or with
some recognisable regularity. Some special patterns can be initiated
by carefully fusing shaped pieces of steel within the billet, but
this is an advanced technique. The patterns are usually enhanced by
acid or chemical etching, and/or by patination, which affects some
alloys of steel differently. The most frequent use of Damascus
steel, or pattern- welded steel, is by knifemakers. Damascus can
sometime be purchased through advertisments in knifemaking magazines
and catalogs, or directly through a blacksmith or bladesmith who
In appearance, Damascus is similar in appearance to mokume gane. In
general, they are produced in similar ways, and the pattern induced
in the billet in similar manner.
There are a number of web sites, books, and magazine articles about
the production of Damascus. I would be happy to compile a list for
you, and/or a short list where you might purchase pattern welded
steel. You could make it yourself, but unless you are already
somewhat skilled in forging steel and accustomed to the labor
involved, it could be a daunting task.
If you are going to use Damascus in jewelry which wears against the
skin, it is usually lined in silver or gold, because not everyone’s
body chemestry is compatable with direct contact of iron, steel and
Where are you located? There is a possibility that there may be a
blacksmith or a bladesmith near you who can help. Most at least know
of someone who produces pattern welded steel. The chapter of ABANA
(Artist/Blacksmith’s Association of North America) to which I belong
here in Memphis, has several people who produce Damascus for their
own use, and one who produces Damascus for use primarily by a
specific commercial knifemake who buys almost all that he produces.
I have also made my own, but don’t do so with any regularity.
Please feel free to contact me either on or off list, if I can help.
I’ll email you any references I find or remember in the next few
days, my time to be somewhat consumed by family this weekend!