View Full Version : Damascus kitchen knives?

11-12-2012, 03:18 PM
At sams, today, I saw a set of damascus kitchen knives. $99. a chefs knife, chinese type chefs knife, and two utility knives.

Here's the catch: They were 66 (count them) layer damascus, and it had a "core" listed. for those who may not know steel, to start with, you simply can't get 66 layer damascus, it doesn't exist, unless it's plain bogus from the get go. You take two different steels, or iron and steel, and weld it together, then forge flat. Fold, forge, fold, forge, fold, forge, fold, forge, and fold and forge again. That gives you 64, not 66 layers. Second, you can't "core" damascus, as that destroys even the slightest utility, or reason for having a damascus blade. lastly, if you are serious, you forge the edge thinner, and then grind the profile. the only reason for damascus steel is to pack as many layers of softer iron and harder steel, along with the accompanying crystalization, on the cutting edge.

So, what makes the things a rip off? First, you need more layers to make a fine blade. Second, the edge was not forged, meaning that when the blade was ground, all of those "66 layers" were ground off. The knife will have wound up with a poorly constructed cutting edge as the center layers of the steel will meander back and forth. If there was, as implied, a core of another steel, your knife should have just been made out of this "core" metal. instead, you will have a wandering edge that will be inconsistent metallurgically, and NOT, as implied, as good as a genuine layered damascus knife with a forged and packed edge. Since there was a pretty line of ripples going down the blade, you know that they forged it flat, and ground right through the layers.

So there you have it. Don't buy damascus kitchen knives.

btw, it used to be that 128 was considered a minimum number of layers for a truly good knife,with packed edge, and then ground to shape. otherwise, you get no benefit from the laminated steel.

11-12-2012, 03:32 PM

scroll down and read this one's description... 67 layers!


11-12-2012, 03:33 PM

it must be better than 64 layers! it has 2 more layers!

11-12-2012, 04:08 PM
There you have it. Apparently a core of a hard stainless welded between a couple sheets of lousy decorative damascus. You could stick a hard core in a piece of aluminum foil and still get a functional knife, so the damascus is for decorative purposes only. As shown in the photo, it was just a couple of flat sheets that got ground to nothing to expose a harder cutting edge.

The answer to this dilemna is to just buy a plain set of henkels or other fine quality blade, instead of trusting the chinese to sell us great cutlery.

In truth, though, the danes or norwegians used to make some nice laminated knives, but it was only 3 layers. inner core and mild carbon steel.

Don't know why it irritated me so much, it was kind of like someone showing off a counterfeit rolex.

11-12-2012, 05:27 PM
(Slapping hand over wrist, walking away, muttering imprecations)...

11-12-2012, 05:44 PM
stay away from woot, gene.

11-12-2012, 08:20 PM
interesting the prices on some of them I found doing a google search of 66 layer damascus steel.

related story kind of, Nova had a great show about Viking swords... where did they get high carbon steel 1000 years ago?

11-12-2012, 09:53 PM
Simple. Charcoal or coal smelting. Take a pot full of iron ore and coal, fire it, and basically, you wind up with iron of one or another form, or steel. Steel is formed at high temps, with the iron melting, and taking on carbon atoms, at about one percent carbon.

At lower temps, you can only get purified iron, since the iron won't melt and absorb carbon into the structure. Seriously, the process has been trial and error throughou the ages, until some groups got the exact formulas right.

another thing t consider is the ore. Different ore from various locations will be tainted with different metals and other elements that would create different alloys when smelted. a tiny bit of chrome, vanadium, nickel, phosphorus, or any of a dozen other impurities will make great differences in the final product.

so how would the vikings have had carbon steel blades? My guess would be that they had coal, a very refined smelter design similar to the bessemers, and good ore. They probably build kilns, filled them with coke and ore, fired them, and let them run until the steel was fluid, then poured it out. Then, IIRC, they could take the cast iron and work it until some of the carbon was reduced out or add carbon by heating low carbon wrought iron with more coal.

So, I guess it isn't that simple after all. It's like baking. Add the right amount of ore, right amount of coal, heat to the right temps, etc, and not make any mistakes, and you wind up with steel. Most of the ferrous metals used up until the industrial age would have been wrought iron, since any blacksmith could take a piece of iron and make it into something. A cast iron foundry was a whole different thing. Steel itself wasn't something that was easily obtained.

11-13-2012, 03:52 AM
The issue is not Damascus knives, the issue is Chinese manufacturing.
The Chinese look at something, and decide they can make something that looks just like that.
With no consideration of intrinsic properties (materials) or even function.

This is a fly reel, a replica of vom Hofe reels from the 20s. This particular reel, made by Zhu in China, and sold under several importer's brand names in the US, was copied from a Bill Ballan reel, benchmade in Florida.
Looks good, right? This is where the similarities end.
This reel was sent to me to make it function better.
After cleaning away a pound of grease, this is what I found
the white line inside the caliper spring is where the drag gear was self-machining into the aluminum backplate of the reel.
No concept of manufacturing tolerances or how this reel is supposed to function, but they made it look good.

Damascus knives? Yes, you can get very nice ones from Al-Mar, Kanetsune, G. Sakai

If you want a damascus knife, you don't buy it from China, you don't even buy it at Sam's.
You buy it here
Seki City, Japan was founded in 1950 as a center for Japanese craftsmen to hand-make traditional cutlery. But the tradition goes back 1000 years.

Something else you may consider is lost in translation - a veritable certainty with Japanese to English.
if it's not a power of 2, 67 layers could have been meant as 67 folds, which would be 1.476 x 10exp20 layers

11-13-2012, 04:02 AM
Jeff, if you can get an 1800oF coal bed and beat on a piece of bloom iron, it will eventually become steel. The high carbon part is easy. As you beat it, you literally squeeze out the molten dirt, and every time you expose it to the air, you burn out a little carbon, gradually reducing it from bloom iron to steel. Low carbon steel was the tough one and required the Bessemer process to mass-produce a clean steel billet up front.

Metallurgy came from fire pits. By building their fires in the same place, coal bed temperatures reached 2000oF (bronze) and 2600oF (bloom iron) - ores were reduced and nascent metals puddled. When they dug up their fire pits, they found their gift from the fire gods, and learned how to work it into tools and weapons.


11-13-2012, 05:16 AM
The Vikings likely learned steel making from their central asian trading partners, maybe. The steel they made was crucible steel which meant they basically made pots to fit around ore and charcoal, then buried it in charcoal. The shows is worth finding on PBS, it was quite interesting. Even 1000 years ago their were fakes of the viking swords. That was funny.

Chinese, alfa you nailed it, it looks good. They make a knock of of a BMW X5, I would love to see it driven like a real one. But alas that isn't the point.

But moving Xikar steel fro solingen to china... how sad

11-13-2012, 05:18 AM
the Mongols at one point invaded the Vikings and assimilated. That is where "dark" Norwegians originated.

yes, they were making bloom iron. They hammered it into steel, but the technology was the space shuttle of their era

11-13-2012, 06:16 AM
they had the steel analyzed and the metallurgists said it was good steel, very little slag in it... and actually it was clean as it cooled, when they hammered it there were few sparks coming off


Rob G
11-13-2012, 08:35 AM
Onions have a lot of layers, just like Ogres. At least that's what Shrek said.

11-13-2012, 11:43 AM
It all depends on what I'm doing.

If I'm making Middle Eastern, Indian or Asian food I use the Damascus blades, but if I'm invading the Middle East, Africa, or Northern Europe I will use the Toledo Steel.

11-13-2012, 12:05 PM
what about sushi?

11-13-2012, 12:23 PM
my thoughts were that these aren't even a decent imitation of damascus. They're decorative crap. They took what I assume to be a cutlery grade steel, mass produced sheets of laminated steel, laminated a couple of billets to each side of a core, and roll forged the whole thing. Then they ground the profile, and lord only knows if they were properly heat treated. I'd be better off taking a set of henkels, for example, and using silk screen masking to acid etch a pattern on them, and just tell the yahoos who'd show up in my kitchen that they are handmade japanese damascus steel created by a master smith who only works one day a week in order to preserve his chi.

The chinese sold them for maybe $20 to a distributor, who sold them for maybe $50 to sams, who is now reaping the rewards of a foolish customer base. gotta love it.

11-13-2012, 01:49 PM
makes you want to go and ride the elevators in tall buildings in china doesn't it?

11-13-2012, 01:52 PM
I heard that thousands of people have jumped out of those buildings because they thought jumping was safer than the elevators.

11-13-2012, 01:55 PM
1.599999999 billion left behind...

11-13-2012, 02:55 PM
If they all jumped out of windows, how would we ever find chinese people to work at the chinese restaurants?

11-13-2012, 03:08 PM

11-13-2012, 05:25 PM
Damascus even by Japanese knife makers is still pretty much decoration. Be more concerned with the type of steel, the craftsmanship and the overall profile of the knife. Some blue steel #2 can be very cheaply made and be highly reactive while others will be of very high quality like what is used in aogami super steel. I take performance over looks. The natural patina of a more rustic kasumi forged knife is a beautiful thing and can be a bargain over a honyaki which is forged from one piece of metal.

11-13-2012, 06:59 PM
good damascus can create an edge so sharp and durable it almost defies science. So can super steels.

Damascus, more than any other product, has a romance and beauty all of it's own. I'll take a real damascus over supersteel every day. There ought to be a law against just laminating crap and calling it "damascus steel."

It's just like a plastic stock on a rifle. It ought to be illegal to put plastic on steel.