Things You Learn in LIfe; Can Bring Pleasure, or Money
A Job Description, or Perhaps a Career Someone Might Find Fascinating? I found it fun in the past, and for got it till recently, and now I may just take it up once again, for fun and for profit?
Making Damascus Steel Knives, Cutlery, or even Battle Swords; called these days Hunting Swords. I in my older age have had a resurgence of weaponry, and may just try some new projects. Besides true Damascus steel is nice to look at.
The History, and thus the design of Damascus Steel is absolutely wonderful thinking, and most creative.
Before we go into much historical detail, which is easily found on the Internet, let me introduce you to a few ideas, and the ease with which knives can be made.
I made my 1st sword on this basis alone; that high carbon steels held the best edge, and could be honed to an edge that can shave the hair off one’s body with ease. So after a bit of study, I found that automobile leaf springs were of a particularly high carbon content and yet the flexibility in the content to where the final product would not be brittle, or snap into two pieces easily. For my 1st idea was to use large planner blades, which cut, or shaved rough cut wooden boards to a very smooth surface, and they held a very very sharp edge for a long time; but they were very brittle, and could snap into by just hitting a knot in the wood just right. So I had to find just the right metal, and I did so in an automobile leaf spring.
Well, I had to heat it till the whole thing was red hot, in order to take the temper out of it, and allow it to cool slowly, so it would be easily workable. I mean it would be easy to mold the way I wanted it to look. Now, I needed to get it to the thickness I wanted, and by most older, or even ancient works, that would have meant heating it till it was red hot or hotter, and then hammering it out, on an anvil, till it was the right thickness, length, and width, and using tools to cut it as well. But, I took a more simple approach since I taught at a machine shop. I used a milling machine, and various tools to do all of this for me. So now, my sword was exactly the right size, and shape I wanted, and the tang where the handle would be attached was ready. So, now I needed to do the rough sanding, then lighter sanding to a very smooth finish, which included giving it the 1st edge, for cutting. After that I had to heat treat it to bring back its super strength, and its ability to hold a very sharp, and long lasting edge. So I again heated it to a red hot condition and the quenched it in a special oil bath, watching out not to get burned or create a huge burst fire. Now, this takes great care, for it is the actual life of the sword, and many use a second time, and then quenches it is an ice, and salt water bath.
So now, I am ready for the long time of finish sanding, before I install a handle. For in my reasoning, that I did not want to damage a finished handle until I had at least a mirror finish to my sword. This process took me weeks, in my off time. The reason for a finish like this is simpler than one might think, for we are talking about high carbon steel, and it will surface rust quite easily. But, carbon steel holds and more lasting edge than any stainless steel, and so there is gain and loss with these projects. So why the polished surface? I will explain; I finally got to a polished surface and I felt comfortable that I had slowed down the rusting. Yes, a highly polished surface of high carbon steel slows the rusting process, for there is less surface to an ultras smooth surface, as to a rough surface. An ultra smooth surface has less area for the oxygen to get into the pours of the metal, and to allow the moisture to linger with the oxygen, which creates rust. Also, any pours not seen with the naked eye, is taken care of with the lightest coating of oil, or wax. I will show you a picture of my 2nd sword, and it has not received any attention for over 20 years, now. It really does have a lot of rust on it, but 20 years, not bad I guess.
So now, time for a handle, and to make the decision depends upon its use. Is it big enough to require two hands to weld it properly or is it light enough for a single handed dueling sword? Like the difference between a Samurai sword, a Fencing sword, or perhaps the Roman short sword to a all purpose sword like the famous Excalibur.
So I went with a sort of combination, and an idea of my own for my grip. As you will see in the picture.
I had to make sure it could never come off like so many handles do, after time and use, and I also hand to make sure the wood I was using (cheaper, and more original) would not crack, nor easily break like a soft wood might do. So I found a piece of Bird’s Eye Maple, which is used in fine pianos. Hard and pretty to look at. I did not want all that winding of rope, strings or cords, and so I wanted the wood only to show. So again came the process of figuring how to make it stay. So I machined it perfectly into two pieces, machined out the center to and exact fit to the tang, It put holes in the tang for pins, and then the corresponding handle parts. Then I found the world’s best glue with historical data to support its ability to last over time, and I joined them for over a week, before I removed the clamps. Then came the process of my grip, for one, or two hands… a feature I thought was important, and I did not add the famous hand guard, or blade deflector, so I could just see my sword; personal.
I might add I used to take time to teach some weapons usage, but most people (well young men) want to know it all in one move and start at the top rather than taking time and learning slowly with much repetition, and then speed and strength come with time, control, and ability. So I dulled the edge of my swords and put them in closets, to draw dust and rust, I had lost my interest. With the sword in the picture I was able to cleave a spruce (not real hard, kind of soft) 2”x4” board into two pieces with almost no breakage, and leaving almost a smooth edge all the way through. This is not just due to the blade or sharpness but also to speed and accuracy in one movement without hesitation or variation in movement. A similar idea would be a tornado driving an otherwise blunt end wheat straw through an oak wagon wheel as is seen in a museum in Topeka, Kansas. By the way, I doubt I could do the same at my age now, I just don’t have those moves any more.
But, folks we have not even gotten to Damascus yet; which is the multiple heating of at least two metals, and constant folding, and or twisting while red hot and then hammering this flat over and over again sometimes a dozen times, and for the better knives, or swords hundreds of times. Some of the most famous swords with the best properties for all purposes has been folded or twisted at least a hundred times while always being heated again and again to do so while hammering by hand or in a mechanical machine process, in order to weld these surfaces over and over again. Many times even additives are added to Damascus to make it quite unique, in look and in attributes of sharpness and strength. Some even have the center of one Damascus while the outer surface is of quite another type, which is, or is of tightly guarded secrets among master sword makers. Well sorry I did not get to the history, yet, and perhaps I can do this again in the near future.