Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

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Fishtail Picklock
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Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby Fishtail Picklock » Sat Jan 07, 2017 9:06 pm

I have been looking all over the 'net and saw that most of the online sellers describe the purpose of these pocket knives are for collection. This gave me pause to wonder about their viability for pocket carry. I know that real Damascus blades hold a good edge. Why do Blade Play and other vendors recommend these knives for "collection"? Is it because Damascus blades are prone to rust? Do they require special care to survive pocket carry?

Opinions?
Last edited by Fishtail Picklock on Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby sammy the blade » Sat Jan 07, 2017 11:32 pm

Not completely sure but I think I seen somewhere that they rust easily.
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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby john » Sun Jan 08, 2017 4:04 pm

I am not an expert but I believe a Damascus bladed knives can be used the same as you would a regular stainless steel blade. I have several Damascus bladed knives infact some over 10 years old not a spot of rust. To be completely honest with you I have never use my Damascus bladed knives for anything except maybe to open a letter.

Hopefully someone with more experience than me can comment on your question.
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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby Luke_of_Mass » Wed Jan 11, 2017 1:55 am

Yes you can use Damascus and, if it's correctly-made Damascus, there should be no problems as far as functionality goes. Rust can be a problem with cheap Damascus, but if the correct materials were used and the person making it knew what they were doing, this shouldn't be an issue.

Now, just because you can doesn't necessarily mean you should. Damascus was developed during a time in history when steel was scarce, and it was difficult/very expensive to obtain in large enough pieces for blacksmiths to craft larger objects like swords, ect. They'd be forge-welded together to produce bar stock long enough for the desired project. These days Damascus is more or less of a novelty - rather than using forge-welding to join smaller pieces of metal for lack of a larger, more whole alternative, people will forge-weld pieces of steel together and fold it over copious amounts of times for aesthetic purposes - much of the metal used is lost to attrition during this process and if you ever make Damascus steel yourself, chances are you will find yourself adding more pieces of steel to the billet halfway through to make up for this loss. The blacksmiths of old never would have done all this folding you see today in quality Damascus pieces because A) the aforementioned loss of material and B) 2-3 folds will get the job done if your key objective is to simply make a larger piece of metal to work with.

Additionally, the joints and folds will be difficult to even notice if you do not etch the finished blade in some form of acid. The acid eats away at the softer layers of metal faster than the harder ones, and that is why you get this rippling effect in modern Damascus blades. Again, the Medieval blacksmiths would not have bothered to do this because aesthetics were not usually atop their list of reasons to do time and labor-intensive forge welding projects.

Having this been said, using Damascus for everyday stuff is not very sensible for several key reasons; namely that it's very expensive. Its unique appearance can also be hindered by sharpening, and, should it get badly scratched, re-finishing the blade would be more labor-intensive as it would involve another acid treatment to completely alleviate the blemishes without compromising the pattern weld appearance, and you can really only do this a few times before the blade begins to lose its integrity.

So in short, can you use Damascus pieces for everyday use? Sure! Is it practical or sensible? Well, if it's high-quality Damascus, then not really.
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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby john » Wed Jan 11, 2017 3:17 am

Luke of Mass, that was awesome!
Thank you,
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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby Luke_of_Mass » Wed Jan 11, 2017 10:31 am

Glad I could be of help... I think I wanna buy me some Damascus now... :arrow:
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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby john » Wed Jan 11, 2017 10:05 pm

My Damascus blade knives are among my favorites. Damascus doesn't come around too often. Whenever I see a Damascus blade knife I try to added to my collection. Providing the timing is right $$$.
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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby ILikeStilettos » Thu Jan 12, 2017 6:35 am

Damascus is not much more expensive than steel or stainless, just hard to find at a good price. Pakistan Damascus is incredibly cheap, just look on Ebay. If you want a particular pattern from someone famous like Chad Nichols, then it can be very pricey. I have a couple of fixed blade knives I bought on Ebay just because there was enough material to make a switchblade by repurposing it.

Check these out:

http://www.talkblade.info/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=24222

http://www.talkblade.info/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=23486

http://www.talkblade.info/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=23088
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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby Luke_of_Mass » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:40 am

Very nice-looking specimens, but I couldn't seem to find any info on their monetary value in your posts (to be fair, one of them I could not view for lack of membership on the sharperdeals forum) ... Looks like a lot more work went into that Damascus Stiletto than the Pakistani ones all over eBay! Although it looks like that one is actually a Campolin and therefore irrelevant to the case you make about the affordability of Eastern Damascus products as a whole ... But for all I know, the billets for the others could have originated in just Paki or even China too! Just because a country gets a bad reputation for ubersellers exporting garbage by the megaton doesn't mean there aren't highly-skilled and respectable bladesmiths within their borders. It just depends on who's making them and what their business ethics/tactics are... There's no telling exactly where the billet was forged, and the exact origin of the finished pieces themselves seem murky at best...

The Pakistani Damascus folding knives selling for under 30 usd are technically Damascus, just like the Milano knives coming out of Taiwan are technically Stilettos - You get what you pay for. If you look at the majority of these Pakistani knives, you will see that the amount of layers is usually less than half of that on the links you provided, and 70+% of the time the pattern is almost completely random. This is the type of Damascus that people likely report rust issues with.

With the minimum wage in Pakistan being what it is (roughly 100 USD per month) it is perfectly feasible to suspect that some knife tycoon is just paying a few workers to mass-produce simple billets with cheap materials, and this has only exponentially grown for them since they only need to sell 15-20 knives per month to cover worker's salaries and material costs.

On the other hand, though, I will concede that I have never personally purchased any of these pieces so I can't tell you first-hand how they stack up to more expensive Damascus coming out of Europe. What I can tell you first hand, though, is that forging high quality Damascus steel is a highly time-consuming undertaking for even a skilled bladesmith, and on top of this uses more than 5 times the amount of resources than an ordinary forging project, from the gas or coal used to heat the forge, to the amount of metal needed, and most of all the time it takes to do it right. To make this endeavor slightly more economical, I believe a lot of modern blacksmiths will produce much larger Damascus billets than they need for any one project, and then later break it up to use in 5-6 smaller projects (not a whole lot of metal goes into that of a stiletto blade).

I'm going to use Damascus stilettos as an example because, well, I like stilettos, and so do you! :)

A highly-skilled forge-welder (far more efficient and competent than myself) could probably make enough damascus for 5-6 stilettos in roughly 40 hours. Now assume that they are only working for a minimum wage of $10/hour, and that's almost $70 for each stiletto blade alone, not including all the time it would take to forge these finished bars into the actual blades, nor counting the finishing process/acid treatment required, and then you still have the cost of the other parts of the knife, assembly time and quality control. All told I would expect an 11'' Damascus stiletto on the cheaper-end of the genuine Italian spectrum to be in the realm of $130-$200 compared to its $80 standard satin bayonet counterpart at bladeplay. Losses/screw-ups/manufacturer error is also something to take into account. Suddenly the Maniago bladesmith's almost unilateral reluctance to offer refunds in general is a little more understandable, if only by a little :oops:

This is why most of the 'affordable' Damascus is coming out of third-world countries like Pakistan, China and India. Again, just because a country is known for its exploitation of cheap labor doesn't mean there aren't respectable bladesmiths in the region, but this biased, judgmental, and most of all less-than-professional-caliber bladesmith has his reasons to be skeptical of such cheap knives when the true definition of "genuine, legitimate Damascus" is so subjective. As a rule of thumb, if a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. But I digress...

I would love to hear some input from anybody who has purchased this Pakistani Damascus and actually tried using it for everyday carry purposes!
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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby ILikeStilettos » Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:42 pm

Luke_of_Mass wrote:Very nice-looking specimens, but I couldn't seem to find any info on their monetary value in your posts (to be fair, one of them I could not view for lack of membership on the sharperdeals forum)

Ok, first off I fixed the reference to SharperDeals, that was an oversight on my part as I typically post on both forums. Nothing against SD, I just try to avoid the situation that made a member here chase something that he couldn't see.

And no, I didn't mention any monetary value because I don't think it's appropriate to say what I paid for a given piece. Most of those cutlers are still in business, and it's not fair to them to quote prices; you'll just have to speak to them directly.

I did get a bit off topic by stating that the Damascus could be had reasonably, without presenting information to support my position. I just grabbed some Damascus pieces from old posts and that I thought were bargains when I got them. The old man knife is a Timberwolf (definitely 3rd world) that BudK had on sale, 2 for $59.95 and I gave around $60 for the handle and Duke made the guard and put it together for me. We're partners in crime, so he did it as a favor. The others? Let's just say that I paid less for the base knives than their equivalent non-Damascus counterparts and then an equal amount in the customization.

Luke_of_Mass wrote:Looks like a lot more work went into that Damascus Stiletto than the Pakistani ones all over eBay! Although it looks like that one is actually a Campolin and therefore irrelevant to the case you make about the affordability of Eastern Damascus products as a whole ... But for all I know, the billets for the others could have originated in just Paki or even China too! Just because a country gets a bad reputation for ubersellers exporting garbage by the megaton doesn't mean there aren't highly-skilled and respectable bladesmiths within their borders. It just depends on who's making them and what their business ethics/tactics are... There's no telling exactly where the billet was forged, and the exact origin of the finished pieces themselves seem murky at best...

Yes, they are Campolins and the blade steel could have come from almost anywhere or have been made from scratch in Maniago. On the Ebay Paki-mascus knives, typically I wonder how they can sell a knife so cheaply, no American would put that amount of hours into a knife for ten times the price. I get conflicting stories from Pakistan about whether switches are legal or not. I have a Damascus switch being built there right now, and hope to post it with the next 30 days. Again, it was pretty cheap for a full custom, but I am planning on the worst of outcomes and hoping for the best.

Luke_of_Mass wrote:... The Pakistani Damascus folding knives selling for under 30 usd are technically Damascus, just like the Milano knives coming out of Taiwan are technically Stilettos - You get what you pay for. If you look at the majority of these Pakistani knives, you will see that the amount of layers is usually less than half of that on the links you provided, and 70+% of the time the pattern is almost completely random. This is the type of Damascus that people likely report rust issues with.

Oh come now, you're actually counting the layers? All the knives that I got out of Pakistan came heavily oiled and I haven't experienced any particular oxidation issues. Some of the cutlers on FB say that when they mirror polish 1095 it rusts over night, again that hasn't been my experience.

Luke_of_Mass wrote:What I can tell you first hand, though, is that forging high quality Damascus steel is a highly time-consuming undertaking for even a skilled bladesmith, and on top of this uses more than 5 times the amount of resources than an ordinary forging project, from the gas or coal used to heat the forge, to the amount of metal needed, and most of all the time it takes to do it right. To make this endeavor slightly more economical, I believe a lot of modern blacksmiths will produce much larger Damascus billets than they need for any one project, and then later break it up to use in 5-6 smaller projects (not a whole lot of metal goes into that of a stiletto blade).

While FB seems full of blacksmiths, most of the automatic guys seem to be more oriented toward material removal. My friend Duke makes Damascus out of surplus steel cable, but mostly he starts with something already done, and precision ground to thickness, if possible. The whole thing strikes me as a terrible way to make a living, because most of these guys make peanuts on an hourly basis, and are driven by the love of the doing rather than profit. The rarified few who can make a living at this charge staggering pricies and have long established reputations. I have my share of those knives as well and to me they aren't all that different than the ones from the starving artists.

Luke_of_Mass wrote:A highly-skilled forge-welder could probably make enough damascus for 5-6 stilettos in roughly 40 hours. Now assume that they are only working for a minimum wage of $10/hour, and that's almost $70 for each stiletto blade alone, not including all the time it would take to forge these finished bars into the actual blades, nor counting the finishing process/acid treatment required, and then you still have the cost of the other parts of the knife, assembly time and quality control. All told I would expect an 11'' Damascus stiletto on the cheaper-end of the genuine Italian spectrum to be in the realm of $130-$200 compared to its $80 standard satin bayonet counterpart at bladeplay to offer refunds in general is a little more understandable

I think that the time and energy costs are greatly reduced if you have a power hammer. Also, the market is rather depressed right now. That typical 11" should be about $100-125, and the Damascus about another $100 in a decent market.

Luke_of_Mass wrote:This is why most of the 'affordable' Damascus is coming out of third-world countries like Pakistan, China and India. Again, just because a country is known for its exploitation of cheap labor doesn't mean there aren't respectable bladesmiths in the region, but this biased, judgmental, and most of all less-than-professional-caliber bladesmith has his reasons to be skeptical of such cheap knives when the true definition of "genuine, legitimate Damascus" is so subjective.

I would love to hear some input from anybody who has purchased this Pakistani Damascus and actually tried using it for everyday carry purposes!


Again, I drifted off your OP. You wanted to know about Damascus for EDC, and I was thinking of Damascus as a decorative part of custom stilettos. I carry that Russian scale release as my EDC, and it could have been had in Damascus for an additional $20. I do indeed love stilettos, but they're poor EDC knives unless you're planning to stab someone. The aren't even great as letter openers. I'm going to shut up now and hope that someone else answers your question, you've certainly heard enough from me!

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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby john » Fri Jan 13, 2017 10:39 pm

Hi,
FYI
The last time Frank Beltrame made a Limited Edition Damascus Stiletto he told me he bought his blades from a Swedish company. I don't know where Armando Beltrame or Due Buoi buy their Damascus and I can't recall the last time Compolin offered a Damascus knife.
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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby TRYKER » Fri Jan 13, 2017 11:44 pm

is it damascus ??? or damasteel ???
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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby sammy the blade » Sat Jan 14, 2017 12:42 am

TRYKER wrote:is it damascus ??? or damasteel ???

Duh, can you inform this moron what damasteel is?
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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby whippersnapper » Sat Jan 14, 2017 5:01 am

sammy the blade wrote:
TRYKER wrote:is it damascus ??? or damasteel ???

Duh, can you inform this moron what damasteel is?


A little of a read but explains the difference here http://www.knifeart.com/damasteel.html

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Re: Is a Damascus blade suitable for a carry pocket knife?

Postby Luke_of_Mass » Mon Jan 16, 2017 9:47 am

ILikeStilettos wrote: no, I didn't mention any monetary value because I don't think it's appropriate to say what I paid for a given piece. Most of those cutlers are still in business, and it's not fair to them to quote prices; you'll just have to speak to them directly.


Sorry but I don't quite understand what is unfair about quoting prices you paid for fine cutlery, especially when making the case for the ultra-affordability of Damascus in general, and in particular, Pakistani.

ILikeStilettos wrote:I did get a bit off topic by stating that the Damascus could be had reasonably, without presenting information to support my position


But either way you go on to disclose such information anyway so... hey-ho :roll: Or was it just the Italian Damascus that you didn't want to price-quote? Does this mean it's only okay to price-quote Pakistani Damascus?

Not trying to jab or give you a hard time or anything like that, perhaps this is some type of collector etiquette that I'm just not familiar with, and if so, I apologize.

I'm not sure why the majority of your examples shared were high-quality blades supposedly made by famous knife makers of Maniago, when the point you were trying to support was the ultra-affordability of third-world Damascus (perhaps just trying to make me jealous? 'cuz if you were, it worked :x ), but, at least one of them supposedly really was from Pakistan...

ILikeStilettos wrote:Oh come now, you're actually counting the layers?


Well, I wouldn't say I'm "counting the layers" so much as I am pointing out that there is an obvious difference in the workmanship between your Italian Damascus, and the picture below that I just lifted from a Pakistani eBay auction:

Image

The difference between this and your Campolins? Just like I said before - the Pakistani el-cheapo was clearly not folded nearly as many times as your Campolin blades, and there is almost no discernible pattern, also unlike your Campolin made in Italy and likely worth much more.

ILikeStilettos wrote:On the Ebay Paki-mascus knives, typically I wonder how they can sell a knife so cheaply, no American would put that amount of hours into a knife for ten times the price.


Well, the answer to this is fairly simple; less time is put into Paki-Damascus blades than higher quality, more expensive Damascus knives made elsewhere. They can sell these knives so cheaply because they crank them out in 1/4th the time it takes to make a top-quality pattern weld. And cheap labor too, of course. Not all Damascus is created equal, and it's a matter of knowing what to look for to ensure you get a top-notch piece. Disregarding tell-tale signs of lazy production-bladesmithing such as neglecting to fold the billet enough times to produce a quality pattern-weld is a buyer's mentality that keeps these people going - lots of people just see it and go "ooooh Damascus...." and buy it because they can afford it and they aren't exactly purists. Not that there is anything especially wrong with this - I type this with an odd sense of jealousy - if the cheap, third-world versions of the knives I collect satisfied my collector's cravings, I would have been able to pay off my car in 3 years instead of 5.

ILikeStilettos wrote:All the knives that I got out of Pakistan came heavily oiled and I haven't experienced any particular oxidation issues.


Well I'm glad to hear that you haven't had any rust issues, but I also have heard that heavy oiling is a method people use to prevent rusting in blades that have a risk of oxidation. I'm not sure if you cleaned off this oil on arrival or not, and to tell you the honest truth, I'm not even sure where the "Damascus steel rusts quickly" rumor came from, but I just made the assumption that if some Damascus is indeed prone to rust issues, it would likely be the cheap third-world stuff rather than the high-priced pieces coming out of Europe and America.

ILikeStilettos wrote:Most of the automatic guys seem to be more oriented toward material removal


What exactly do you mean by this? I was talking about the attrition of the metal via forge-welding, but it sounds like you are referring to grinding down the billet pieces to produce the desired blade-shape towards the end? I'm a little confused as to exactly what you meant here...

ILikeStilettos wrote:Damascus is not much more expensive than steel or stainless


ILikeStilettos wrote:I think that the time and energy costs are greatly reduced if you have a power hammer. Also, the market is rather depressed right now. That typical 11" should be about $100-125, and the Damascus about another $100 in a decent market.


Since the first 5-8 strikes are really the only ones that count per heat, I wouldn't think a power hammer would really increase speed of production, but I could be wrong. I do think, however, that a gas forge easily could, though.

Well there you have it, a $100 difference in a good market, it looks like our price estimations regarding Damascus stilettos are roughly similar, but perhaps we have a different definition of the "much more expensive" part you mentioned in your first post - $100 is much more to me, and knowing what I am getting and the amount of work that goes into Damascus, I will happily pay it if I have the money to spend for it. But a $100 difference can and often will be a deal-breaker for me, but with that said, I will reiterate my steadfast belief that if a price is too good to be true, then it probably is, and this price hike has darn good reasoning behind it.

ILikeStilettos wrote:Again, I drifted off your OP. You wanted to know about Damascus for EDC, and I was thinking of Damascus as a decorative part of custom stilettos.


Actually I am not the OP, I just used the custom Damascus stilettos as an example because, well, once again, I like stilettos and so do you! Perhaps using them as an example in a thread regarding EDC Damascus was a poor choice, though, because you are definitely right, they are very poor EDC knives.
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