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.

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

Sharpening the blade of a Damascus knife

There are three main reasons why any blade starts getting dull: 

(1) Cutting surface is too abrasive and prevents the edge from gliding along with it without deforming it. 

(2) Cutting surface is too uneven and makes the blade “jump” from one jagged edge to another, causing micro-serrations on the edge. 

(3) Edge is chipped and rolled over in some places which decreases its sharpness in those locations only.

To sharpen a Damascus knife you'll have to know what kind of steel was used for making the original blade so that you can reproduce it when grinding your new edge by using similar techniques. 

Only 2 main 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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Final thoughts on how to sharpen 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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