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working Damascus steel

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steve harris 316/05/2021 20:17:21
4 forum posts

i have been given a Damascus steel billet from which i would like to make a couple of end caps that will involve some milling and then turning to fit, (i am told the steel mix is 15n20 and 1095 if that helps), however being very new to this hobby my question is how easy / realistic is it for a novice to work this kind of material?

thanks, Steve

charadam16/05/2021 20:34:48
185 forum posts
6 photos

Are you interested in the appearance of the finished product in terms of the damascus pattern?

Martin Kyte16/05/2021 22:07:41
2725 forum posts
48 photos

End caps for what?

Unless you are interested in the decorative effect get some free cutting steel and start from that. Damascus steel is for forged knife and jewelry making as far as I understand.

regards Martin

Ady116/05/2021 22:55:21
5066 forum posts
734 photos

Sell it and use ordinary steel

Hopper17/05/2021 05:12:35
6197 forum posts
321 photos

If I could avoid machining Damascus, I would. Depending on how well made it is, it could tend to pic up on the edges of the laminations while being machined, which could be a real nuisance. Or it might be ok. Only one way to find out...

Thor 🇳🇴17/05/2021 05:22:38
1602 forum posts
45 photos

Hi Steve,

I have tried milling Damascus steel using carbide tools. Use a slower speed than for mild steel and of course lower feed rate. The cutter got blunt much faster than when milling mild steel. Citric acid was then used to bring out the pattern.


steve harris 317/05/2021 08:30:03
4 forum posts

thanks everyone, it was the decorative pattern that appealed, but after a measure and a re-think i have realised that the end caps idea won't work, the billet is probably meant to be a knife (approx. 300mm x 100 x 6mm ) as Martin mentioned so i will put it to one side for now, it's a very attractive pattern so will use it later as skills and ideas develop. thanks Thor for the Citric acid tip. will let you all know what happens when i do try it.


Yuri Gajdosik12/07/2021 17:41:33
3 forum posts

You can get Damasteel, which made by powder metalurgy, and the machining is same as stainless steel, you can get them in solid bars so just to turn it to shape.

ChrisB13/07/2021 14:51:51
659 forum posts
212 photos

You can etch with ferric chloride and instant coffee. You can buy it or make your own as it's quite easy to do, I bought some for etching pcbs, but later did my own. The coffee helps getting a darker etch without going too deep compared to the acid etch.

noel shelley13/07/2021 15:37:03
1281 forum posts
21 photos

Haven't we moved on a little from damascus steel ? This material is normally worked by forging to maintain and show it's laminar structure,not cutting as in lathe or mill as this would weaken it.. In this day and age best known for it's decorative uses ! Noel.

ChrisB13/07/2021 16:33:04
659 forum posts
212 photos

I don't have first hand experience machining damascus, but from what I've seen it is perfectly safe to do so as long as the material is sound, in that it has been forged and welded correctly. Pommels are turned and guards are milled.

Steviegtr13/07/2021 18:15:53
2422 forum posts
336 photos

I've seen some stunning rings made from that material.


not done it yet13/07/2021 18:41:01
6734 forum posts
20 photos
Posted by Steviegtr on 13/07/2021 18:15:53:

I've seen some stunning rings made from that material.


Damascus steel (should it be classed as a steel?) was used extensively for shotgun barrels up to about 120 years ago. Many of the high quality ones are still operational now (but requiring suitable ammunition as pressures and pressure gradients of cartridges have changed with modern powders).

Even when guns are deactivated/scrapped, those with Damascus barrels are sought after/worth more for recycling in other forms.

Robin14/07/2021 11:36:42
539 forum posts

The blacksmith at Rodmell forge told me that when steel was in short supply due to WW2 the shepherds would bring him old shotgun barrels to be made into the Sussex leg crook. When he tried to reduce the diameter on Damascus barrels they came unwound. It was never actually welded.

Similarly, if you wind a Damascus barrel then rifle it, you are cutting across the grain of the Damascus and the rifling has no strength. A rifled Damascus barre starts with a tape wound core.

I have one of the original Liege Damascus shotgun barrel blanks Peter Dyson was selling off. It has a beautiful loopy pattern. Wonder if he has any left.

not done it yet14/07/2021 12:49:19
6734 forum posts
20 photos

… Damascus barrels they came unwound. …

They were wound in layers, in both directions, for strength. Heat and hammering would have been the means of welding the iron and steel? Some were not made to a good enough standard to last more than a lifetime, which is why Damascus barrels have received poor reviews from some quarters.

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