Damascus steel is steel that is composed of two or more component steels that start off as individual billets arranged in a stack. One of the component steels is normally a pure high carbon steel like O-1 tool steel or S-2 shock steel and the other is a mild (softer) steel. The billets are arranged in an alternating stack with the mild steel on the outer layers of the stack and also between the high carbon steel layers in the center portion of the stack. The entire stack is brought to a forge welding heat in the forge and then fused together by hammering the stack flatter on an anvil. The stack is drawn out to about twice its original length, brushed, the folded over on itself with the addition of welding flux, and then fused again. The entire process is repeated until the desired number of layers is achieved, which could be several hundred layers. The resulting billet may then have shallow holes drilled in it or groves ground in it and/or twisted like a rope. It is then brought back to forge welding heat temperature and hammered flat again. The techniques used to texture the surface determine the "pattern" of the component steels when viewing the blank. Common patterns are "birdseye", "ladder", "twisted", and "raindrop".
Grooving and twisting maximize the number of times the individual steel layers cross the final cutting edge. The result is a miniature micro-level saw-like serrated edge with different steels of different hardness that wear away at different rates and in effect self-sharpens for a period of time. As the mild steel wear first the high carbon steel is left behind for maximum cutting effectiveness. It stays sharp and sharpens easily with very light pressure on a high-quality ceramic rod.
Damascus Knife Storage
Normal Damascus steel has a mild disadvantage. The blade and exposed portions of the handle blank will oxidize, corrode, or rust (depending on your terminology and the component steels involved) to some degree. Oxidation, corrosion, and rust are chemical reactions where the steel reacts with moisture forming an oxide layer. Iron oxidize is more commonly called rust. This requires that should additional care be taken in the storage of the knife.
A Damascus steel knife should NOT be stored for long periods in a leather sheath since leather draws moisture from the atmosphere. When the knife is not going to be regularly used, it should be stored separately from the leather sheath.
Custom-Molded Knife Sheath
Your knife comes with either a standard or a deluxe hand-made leather sheath. These knife sheaths have been custom designed for the knife. The component leather pieces or layers have been glued together with a pliable rubber-based leather cement, then hand stitched with locking stitches (recessed below the surface of the exterior leather so they will not be abraded), dyed, and then treated to be moisture resistant. The leather front has actually been molded to conform to the shape of the knife, which helps prevent the knife from extending too far down into the sheath and reduces the possibility of cutting the stitches holding the sheath together. As a result, there is aright way and a wrong way to insert the knife into the sheath. As you hold the sheath in your hand with the front of the sheath facing you, the knife should be inserted into the sheath with the sharp edge facing your left. The knife should slide into the sheath with a slight resistance and sort of "pop" into place. This is its natural resting place.
Damascus Knife Care
Since normal Damascus steel will oxidize to some degree, additional care needs to be taken with a Damascus steel knife. There are several methods of controlling the oxidation. The best method is to provide a periodic application of Renaissance Wax, which is a combination of a very mild abrasive polish and wax. Renaissance Wax can be (and is) also used on fine wood furniture as a protective coating and polish, so that the entire knife can be given a light coating of Renaissance Wax and then buffed with a soft cotton cloth. Your knife was treated with Renaissance Wax before it left our shop.
Another method that is also commonly used and can also be used on the wood handles is a very light coat of Boiled Linseed Oil. Raw Linseed Oil should NOT be used. The term "Boiled" Linseed Oil is somewhat of a misnomer. The raw Linseed Oil has not been boiled, but has had drying agents mixed with it. A very light coat can be applied to the entire knife. The knife should then "rest" for about 10 minutes and then all of the excess wiped off with a clean lint-free cotton cloth. The knife should then dry for at least 48 hours to allow the Boiled Linseed Oil to cure and form a protective coating.
The final method of combating the oxidation problem is to periodically apply a light coat of good oil to the blade.
Your Damascus steel knife was sharpened using two separate and distinct angles. If the knife you purchased was a drop-point hunting, skinning, or camp knife, the first angle, called the relief angle is 19o. The blade was sharpened at this angle until a burr formed on both sides of the blade. The second angle, called the secondary angle is 23o. The smaller this angle is, the sharper the blade will feel. However, the edge will be less "rugged" and will dull more quickly. The 23o angle was chosen as a compromise between ultimate sharpness and durability of the edge. For additional details on sharpening, see our article entitled "Knife Sharpening: The Way We Do It!"
Note: High quality precision slicing knives such as used by Japanese Chefs to slice sushi normally have an angle of about 13o-15o. Knives intended to take a lot of abuse such as survival knives used by Navy Seals have an angle of about 30o.
Your knife was sharpened with progressively finer grit stones with the final stone being #600 grit equivalent. The edge was then polished with 3M #3000 polishing paper and lastly it was final polished with White Jeweler's Rouge and a leather strop.
What Is a Knife?
A knife is a precision instrument designed for cutting. The shape of the blade, the length of the blade, and the angle to which it is sharpened, determines it's primary functionality as a cutting instrument. Actually, a much better question is "What is a Knife Not?" It is NOT a hammer. It is NOT a screwdriver. It is NOT a chisel. It is NOT a pry bar. If you need one of these, they can be bought much cheaper than the knife you just purchased.
Even with real Damascus the pattern does not really show up until it is etched with acid. The acid reacts differently with the different types of steel so the pattern stands out. When Damascus is ground, and before it is etched, it is hard to see the layers and/or pattern but you can usually see it if you hold it at an angle in the light.