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Help needed machining Damascus

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  • Help needed machining Damascus

    Hi All,

    I have to make something for someone with a piece of Damascus that he provided (acquired from ebay).

    I have to cut it and mill it, silver solder it and drill it.....problem is: it's pretty rough on the tooling as far as I've seen (just cleaning up the rough edge).

    I have a mapp gas torch, but that's about I need to take it to the local heat treating place to have it annealed, or is it something I can do at home with my limited equipment/knowledge?

    It's probably 1095/nickel (according to a knowledgeble associate), so I don't know if that presents any particular troubles.

    Thanks for your help,


  • #2
    It all depends on the hardness.If a file will cut it,you can possibly get away with HSS tooling.If it barely mrk with a file,then carbide is your weapon of choice.Coolant might be a good idea as well.
    I just need one more tool,just one!


    • #3
      Damascus steel is the knifemaker's version of the hot rodder's billet aluminum. It is a term that has evolved that really does not identify anything.

      It is a forging process that combines hard and soft steels together by folding and forging. It produces a metal that combines the features of the individual materials.

      Depending on the materials involved, carbide tooling might be used with success. It is also entirely possible that is cannot be dealt with by means other than grinding or EDM. I doubt that annealing will have much effect on it.
      Jim H.


      • #4
        Why wouldn't annealing work on it?

        If the term means anything, it is essentially alternate layers of high and low carbon steel. Annealing should work fine, although the favorite high carbon steels seem to be jackhammer bit steel, which I understands work-hardens like crazy.

        Too much heating might dissolve carbon out into the low C steel and reduce the differences. Then the patterning might not work as well.
        CNC machines only go through the motions


        • #5
          If it is a layering of steel and nickel, annealing will not affect the nickel.

          I poked around at knifemaking a while ago, and what is presented as Damascus steel varies as widely as the makers making it. Some fold in motorcycle chains, tool steel, ball bearings and whatever else they might find. The effects of annealing on these cannot be predicted unless the actual content is known.

          Even if you could anneal it, how would know how to re-heat treat it? That is assuming some predictable method was used for the original heat treat. Heat treating and tempering of knives varies even more than the composition of damascus.

          Damascus steel is made today for appearance, performance is secondary.

          Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of craftsmen making beautiful knives. But the ink seems to go to the "secret processes" some use.
          Jim H.


          • #6
            If the material was made for the creation of a blade then an annealing cycle would definitely fall into the category of "it can't hurt and likely will help". The problem is that you're going to have to use the cooling cycle for something like a stainless as the "silver" layers could be either nickel or a high-nickle alloy (I've seen 1095/L6 pattern welded blades). I'd suggest taking it through the L6 anneal cycle (slightly higher than 1095, slower cool-down) in a stainless wrap or vacuum furnace, then machine as though it were a tool steel. Good luck in the machining - use all the grinding, sawing and drilling that you can and only resort to milling if there's no other option as delamination is a real concern when you point stress the material at a lamination.

            As for heat treating it, if you can find the folks who made the steel ask them, some of them go to quite a bit of work to maximize the performance; failing that I'd simply harden it as though it were 1095, maybe take it a little bit higher in the HT.