How To Sharpen Damascus Knives

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Damascus Steel is a type of metal that has been used to make weapons for centuries. The blades are made by folding and welding together two different types of steel and creating an intricate pattern on the blade that resembles a damask fabric. Damascus knives can be quite expensive but they're also considered to be among the sharpest knives around because of their construction.

Previously, we have covered how to make Damascus steel?

If you want to know how to sharpen your own Damascus knife, read on.

Materials Needed for Sharpening the blade of a Damascus knife

In this section, we will discuss the materials that are necessary for effectively sharpening Damascus steel. It's important to note that due to the unique composition and properties of Damascus steel, special care and specific tools are required to sharpen it properly. The materials listed in this section will ensure that your sharpening process is safe, efficient, and results in a razor-sharp edge.

  • Sharpening stones (e.g. diamond stones, water stones, oil stones) with varying grits (coarse, medium, fine)
  • Honing oil or water (to lubricate the sharpening stones)
  • A strop or leather honing wheel (for final polishing)
  • Gloves and eye protection (for safety)
  • A blade clamp or vice (to securely hold the blade during sharpening)
  • Optional: a honing guide (to help maintain a consistent angle during sharpening)

It's important to note that when sharpening Damascus steel, it's best to use sharpening stones that are specifically designed for use on hard steels, such as diamond stones, as regular sharpening stones may not be abrasive enough to effectively sharpen Damascus steel. Additionally, honing oil or water is necessary to lubricate the sharpening stones and prevent them from clogging with steel particles. A strop or leather honing wheel is also useful for final polishing and creating a razor-sharp edge.

Preparation Before Sharpening Your Damascus Steel Knife

Before beginning the sharpening process, it's important to properly prepare the blade for sharpening. Proper preparation will ensure that the sharpening process is efficient and will result in a razor-sharp edge.

  • Clean the blade thoroughly to remove any dirt, grime, or other debris that may be on the blade.
  • Secure the blade in a clamp or vice to ensure that it stays steady during the sharpening process.
  • If using a honing guide, adjust it to the desired angle before beginning to sharpen.
  • Make sure you are wearing gloves and eye protection, as the sharpening process can produce metal shavings and debris that can be dangerous.

Methods of How to Sharpen Damascus Steel

IV. Sharpening Techniques When sharpening Damascus steel, it's important to use the proper technique to ensure that the unique pattern in the steel is not damaged and that the edge is razor-sharp. Here we will discuss some of the best sharpening techniques for Damascus steel.

  • Method 1: Sharpening with sharpening stones. This method involves using sharpening stones with varying grits (coarse, medium, fine) to sharpen the blade. Start with a coarse grit to remove any nicks or chips, then progress to a medium grit to sharpen the edge, and finally finish with a fine grit to hone the edge. It's important to use honing oil or water to lubricate the sharpening stones and prevent them from clogging with steel particles.
  • Method 2: Sharpening with a honing rod. This method involves using a honing rod to sharpen the blade. Hold the honing rod at a consistent angle and run the blade down the rod, repeating the process until the desired sharpness is achieved.
  • Method 3: Sharpening with a belt sander. This method involves using a belt sander to sharpen the blade. Start with a coarse grit belt and progress to finer grits as you sharpen the blade. It's important to use a jig to maintain a consistent angle during the process. It is recommended to use a combination of these methods for achieving the best results.

Note: it is important to sharpen and honing the blade at the same angle in order to maintain the integrity of the pattern in the steel.

Two Types of Damascus steel exist:

Pattern-welded steel – made out of 1 or more layers of hard steel with high carbon content stacked on each other under extreme temperature variations; this produced interlinked laminations of two or more different types of steel. Pattern-welded Damascus is usually made out of low-quality steel and it's not very sharp. Decorative patterns are etched in this type with acid, sandblasted, or ground off leaving mostly rust behind which makes the blade almost useless for cutting. 

Random-pattern welded steel – composed of 2 groups of steel with one being harder and more resistant to wear than the other; edges were folded over each other many times using hammers while they were still hot and molten inside a smithy's forge which caused the edge to fold like the petals on a flower.

The harder layers outside the folding point function as a guard to protect the softer layered material beneath them from wearing away too fast. This way the edge retains its sharpness for a long time. Random-pattern welded Damascus steel is rare and very expensive to make, so the price of these knives can be very shocking to people not familiar with this type of metal; it doesn't rust or wear away easily which makes these blades last for hundreds of years if they're properly cared for.


Finish Your Damascus Steel Sharpening 

After sharpening the blade, it's important to properly finish the process to ensure that the edge is razor-sharp and the pattern in the steel is not damaged. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Use a honing rod or leather strop to further polish and refine the edge.
  • Wipe the blade clean and apply a small amount of oil to protect the blade from rust.
  • Inspect the blade for any burrs or rough spots and remove them with a fine grit sharpening stone or honing rod.
  • Check the edge for sharpness by running your finger along the edge or by slicing a piece of paper or tomato.

It is important to remember that the finishing process is crucial for the preservation of the blade, it gives that final touch to a razor sharp edge and a protective barrier for the blade.

FAQs about How to Sharpen Damascus Steel

How do I know if my Damascus knife needs to be sharpened?

There are a few ways to tell if a Damascus knife needs to be sharpened. One is to check the edge for dullness. If the knife is not making clean cuts anymore or is tearing through food or materials instead of slicing, it's time to sharpen it. Another way is to check for nicks or chips in the blade, which can also indicate that it needs to be sharpened. If you notice any of these signs, it's time to sharpen your knife to ensure that it stays sharp and performs well.

What is Damascus steel and why is it special?

Damascus steel is a type of steel that is known for its unique pattern and strength. It is made by layering different types of steel and then forging them together. The resulting steel is very hard and durable, making it ideal for knives and other cutting tools. The unique pattern in Damascus steel is also highly sought after for its aesthetic appeal.

How do I know if my knife is made of Damascus steel?

There are a few ways to tell if a knife is made of Damascus steel. One is to look for the unique pattern in the steel. This pattern is created by the layering of different types of steel during the forging process. Another way is to check the blade for a high level of hardness and durability. A professional can also use a microscope or other specialized tools to confirm the Damascus steel.

Can I sharpen Damascus steel with regular sharpening stones?

It is not recommended to use regular sharpening stones on Damascus steel because they may not be abrasive enough to effectively sharpen the steel. It is best to use sharpening stones that are specifically designed for use on hard steels, such as diamond stones, as they will provide the necessary abrasiveness to sharpen the steel effectively without damaging the unique pattern in the steel.

How often should I sharpen my Damascus steel knife?

The frequency of sharpening will depend on how often you use the knife and what you use it for. Generally, a well-maintained Damascus steel knife should be sharpened every 6 to 12 months, but if you use it frequently for heavy-duty tasks, you may need to sharpen it more often. It's important to regularly check the edge for dullness and sharpen it as needed to ensure that it stays sharp and performs well.

How to clean Damascus steel?

The Damascus knife's blade should be cleaned thoroughly before you start grinding a new edge because you don't want any dirt particles between layers of steel ruining the pattern. Grind downwards slowly while applying lubricant made out of oil and water in equal amounts on flat stones used to grind edge; keep your hand steady at all times when working with a sharp tool because one false move could cost you some skin.  

Wear safety goggles to avoid eye injuries and protect yourself from flying debris; make sure that you're grinding your knife over thin stones so that they can't break under pressure of repeated sharpening. 

There are several things that you'll need before starting this operation: a whetstone for the initial grinding, a polishing stone (or fine sandpaper) for the final finish on the edge, some leather straps used to sharpen swords or axes for the handle's grip (don't use modern synthetic material because it will lose its properties soon), superglue for making everything stick together properly.

As a side note, if you want to learn how to make Damascus knives, do some research before doing anything else and buy high-quality materials like steel or leather from a good supplier; don't try buying large quantities at once in the hope that you'll use all of it before it goes bad because this usually doesn't work out.

If you want your knife to last for a long time, take care of it and learn everything about the process you're undertaking because only then will your knife be truly sharp.

Do Damascus knives rust?

Damascus knives are made out of different types of steel and they're usually covered by a layer of impregnated oil or wax which is used to enhance their durability. 

In the right conditions, almost all materials can rust but when it comes to Damascus knives,  they're much more resistant to rust than other knives because the two types of steel they use are very different.  This is also one of the reasons why Damascus knives are so famous! Hard outer layers prevent softer inner layers from touching the air, so there's much less chance for rust or corrosion to occur but if you store your knife in a humid place without proper care, it may still get damaged by rust. 

Modern Damascus knives are usually made out of high quality stainless steel so there's no problem with rusting but again, if you store your knife for a long time in a humid atmosphere, it may get rusty.

rusty damascus knife
Image Credit: Kitchen Infinity Photo

Can you sharpen regular forged blades with Damascus patterns?

You should avoid sharpening regular knife blades with Damascus patterns because each pattern is unique and special; over time, a lot of work goes into forging these patterns which may not come back after it's done. If your blade has been damaged to the point that it needs resharpening, you'll probably end up ruining its pattern in the process if you try sharpening it regularly.

Unless your blade's pattern was ruined from use, don't attempt to sharpen or repair any part of the technical design by grinding down even a small portion of Damascus steel as this could ruin the entire blade and make sharpening impossible in the future.  Only damage caused by impact can be repaired properly without affecting the existing pattern; use fine-grit sandpaper wrapped around a flat stick to remove rusted materials from damaged areas after making sure that you won't damage the original pattern.


If your blade has been made out of fine grade Damascus steel, avoid exposing it to air as much as possible because this might cause discoloration; leave your knife in its sheath or somewhere where it can be protected safely when not in use.

Bottom Line: How to Sharpen Steel Damascus Knives

In conclusion, when it comes to sharpening Damascus knives, the most important thing to remember is that you should have patience and use only the best quality equipment when trying this; if you apply too much pressure or don't know what you're doing, chances are good that your blade will be damaged beyond repair.

However, with some practice and a proper approach, you'll find yourself working on a knife that leads to something that’s truly beautiful – speaking of beautiful, have a quick look at these Japanese Damascus Kitchen Knives if you’d like to know more about this topic.

Dino Paccino

Dino Paccino

Dino is a lifelong writer and home improvement specialist. He enjoys bringing cutting-edge information on home renovation and remodeling to Kitchen Infinity.

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