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Dr.Verhoeven released a book about wootz a little while ago. Make no mistake, they call it Damascus but they are referring to wootz (true Damascus). 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Damascus-Steel-Swords-Solving-Mystery/dp/6139884837/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Verhoeven+wootz&qid=1634069431&sr=8-1

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Thanks Joël Mercier. It was after a saw Al Pendray & Dr. Verhoeven documentary about wootz Damascus steel I star my research I’m intrigue with this process. I remember seeing the steel in the Arms and armour national museum of New Delhi India. Many years ago. I thought it was just forge welding Damascus. 
One thing I don’t understand is why does the bladesmith community doesn’t work with wootz knowing it is the best steel for blades. 

 

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4 minutes ago, Matias Brustle said:

why does the bladesmith community doesn’t work with wootz knowing it is the best steel for blades. 

It isn't.  Modern steel is definitely superior.  Wootz is difficult to make and work, but looks nice.  It was better than other "steels" centuries ago.  What we refer to as damascus now is much easier, and often has a look that pops a bit more, as well as being able to control the patterns very well.  

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Jerrod Miller I’m not a expert in the matter. 
I humbly ask you to explain me why in my research about steel used for blades or sword the metallurgical said that wootz and tamahagane are the best. 
like I said I’m not a expert. But putting apart the fact that the wootz and tamahagane are extremely difficult to make and work with. Can you explain your point about modern steels are superior for blades. 
thanks for your time an help

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13 hours ago, Matias Brustle said:

Jerrod Miller I’m not a expert in the matter.

 

But Jerrod is. Seriously. Pay careful attention to any advice or comment he might offer.

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14 hours ago, Matias Brustle said:

why in my research about steel used for blades or sword the metallurgical said that wootz and tamahagane are the best. 

 

They were the best, for certain very specific uses, prior to 1760.  Wootz in particular has some interesting properties, but it is not inherently superior to any modern homogeneous blade steel.  Read that thread Jerrod linked, it will reveal much.  Jerrod is, by the way, a professional metallurgist.

 

Tamahagane is just steel.  Nothing special about it, it's just cleaner than most bloomery-derived steels of the same time period due to the extensive processing of the bloom. It does show a pretty microstructure when polished properly, but it's basically fancy axle shaft steel.  It can't cut machine gun barrels with no damage.  It does have a lot of aesthetic and cultural significance, but any modern blade steel will easily outperform it as a cutting tool. As an artistic medium for hamon, not so much, but in terms of performance, very much so.

 

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8 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

Tamahagane is just steel.  Nothing special about it, it's just cleaner than most bloomery-derived steels of the same time period due to the extensive processing of the bloom. 

 

I could use some education here as I may have this backwards:

 

I understood tamahagane to be the bloom that comes out of the tatara.  However, I also understood the bloom to be quite inconsistent with a wide range of carbon content ranging from very low to nearly cast iron.

 

My thinking was that the smith took the relatively poor material from the bloom and refined it at the forge to make it an an acceptable material for the application.  All of the refining (folding) creates the hada pattern, but more importantly it evens out and reduces the carbon content to a level appropriate for the swords of the day.

 

Is it tamahagane in the pig iron state, or only after the smith has cleaned it up?

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Nope, you have it right.  Tamahagane is a slippery term.  The high carbon portion of the raw bloom is the correct usage, because at that stage it looks like jewels, thus the usual translation of "jewel metal."  It's not a cast product and so never enters the "pig iron" stage, and yes, the lower carbon iron is not called tamahagane.  To break it down, tama = Round, ball, jewel-like, ha = cutting edge, gane = metal.  hagane = cutting edge metal = steel. 

 

For ease of use, it's normal to refer to traditionally produced Japanese bloomery steel as tamahagane. 

 

The difference between it and western bloomery steel is that the west tended to take the bloom all the way to low carbon iron, refine that to bar stock, add carbon via cementation (making blister steel), then refine those bars into high carbon steel barstock (shear steel).  The amount of refining is often less than that for tamahagane, so you see more slag in the finished product of the lower grades of that steel. For the higher grades there is no discernable difference between the two, it's just that the Japanese way of polishing to reveal hada was not done.  If you do subject a high-end western shear steel (or natural bloom steel!) blade to that process, you will see hamon and hada.  Note this also works for steel made by decarburizing cast iron in a finery forge or by puddling iron. The steels derived from cast iron tend to have higher manganese levels, and so don't always show as much hamon.  

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OK, so strictly speaking, the bloom from the tatara contains tamahagane as well as a lot of other material.  Every time I see a documentary showing the old guy running the traditional tatara in Japan, I come away with the impression that a relatively small percentage of the bloom is the "good stuff".  Is that correct?

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4 hours ago, Don Abbott said:

 

But Jerrod is. Seriously. Pay careful attention to any advice or comment he might offer.

I feel I should note that I understand steel metallurgy fairly well (better than most, but there are still many better than I), but I do not have a strong interest in wootz, and thus don't know all there is to know about it.  I have looked into it on a pretty technical level before, but after discovering that it isn't a great material (by modern standards), I deemed it as too much effort to be worth pursuing.  Likewise I do not absolutely adore tamahagane/blister steel either.  I have a lot of experience melting steel with modern means (induction and arc furnaces), but none with cupula or hearth furnaces.  Someday I look forward to smelting some ore and running an Aristotle furnace.  But that is more for the historical interest than for the "great final product" (it won't be great, but it will have sentimental/cool factor).  The best blades are made out of modern steels that have been designed and heat treated properly.  Modern damascus (pattern welding) does not provide the benefits that it once did, when materials were not as good as they are now.  Everything a smith does besides mono-steel with modern alloys is for an aesthetic reason, not quality.  That being said, a well made blade with these "non-optimal" materials can still vastly out perform most factory made knives, and aesthetics should not be ignored.  Beautiful and highly functional tools are a joy to use, in a way that just highly functional tools are not (though plain and highly functional is still better than not very functional).  

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5 hours ago, Brian Dougherty said:

OK, so strictly speaking, the bloom from the tatara contains tamahagane as well as a lot of other material.  Every time I see a documentary showing the old guy running the traditional tatara in Japan, I come away with the impression that a relatively small percentage of the bloom is the "good stuff".  Is that correct?

 

Yes.  Don't get me wrong, they used every bit of the bloom, but the low carbon we'd call wrought tends to end up in the core of kobuse (hot dog in a bun) blades if it's used for blades at all. Most of it went into general-use iron for non-tool objects.  The cast was kept and recast into things like teapots. 

 

Western bloomery furnaces like the Catalan type were more efficient at making wrought iron (though you can make steel in one if you're careful), and the ore they had access to was far easier to smelt than the iron sand the Japanese were stuck with.  Titaniferous* magnetite is seriously nasty stuff to smelt!  But it's what they had, and the tatara was developed to deal with it. It will invariably clog a short-shaft furnace like we tend to use these days, which are based on a composite bunch of early iron age furnaces from Scandinavia that were designed to run bog ore and produce a medium carbon bloom if you're not careful.  

 

In other words, the Japanese, stuck with one of the most difficult and contrary iron ores to smelt, developed a way to make really nice steel from it.  They are to be applauded.  But it's still just straight carbon steel from a bloom, no different than the Roman bloom steel made at Noricum in the province of Styria.  Carbonate ores, like magnetite ores, tend to make steely blooms rather than the soft iron that brown or red ores tend to produce in an open furnace.

 

*Yes, the iron sand has titanium in it. No, it does not alloy with the iron to make a super steel.  It runs off (well, gloops off, it makes the slag really thick and sticky) in the slag.  Tamahagane is a straight iron/carbon alloy with no manganese, vanadium, titanium, or anything else that makes it in any way mystical.  It's just the result of very hard work and skillful smelting of an obstinate ore most people wouldn't bother using if they could find anything better.  There's pockets of it in western North Carolina near me. The old ironmasters wouldn't even try it once they recognized the telltale slag in their initial assay. 

 

 

 

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On 10/12/2021 at 2:54 PM, Matias Brustle said:

I don’t understand is why does the bladesmith community doesn’t work with wootz

Alloying changed everything people thought they knew about steel performance. Industrialization changed everything they thought they knew about making steel. Wootz was probably the very beginning of the alloying process as ancient smiths experimented with additives to the melt. 1000 years of experimenting has made high quality alloys more accessible and far less expensive than the small crucible workshops can produce "wootz".

 

There are several smiths out there making wootz/Pulat/crucible steel, or whatever you want to call it, and it is a very difficult and time consuming process. There are also more than a few smiths out there making bloomery steel on a regular basis and making blades from it. If you really want a "wootz" puck to forge into a blade, you had better have some sort of forge set up, with the ability to reach high temperatures easily, and be prepared to climb a very steep learning hill to forge a blade from it. 

 

Ric Furrer is an American smith who makes crucible steel, and teaches classes on how to make it, forge it, and finish it.

His YT channel is: https://www.youtube.com/user/RicFurrer/ He has several videos on the subject.

 

For an idea of how difficult this is to forge something out of, the latter part of the PBS NOVA special from years ago will show you the process of forging a sword from it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=namXt4Etn_o The entire hour production is the full process of re-engineering an ancient sword. 

 

Jean-Louis Regel is a French smith who makes his own Wootz and fabricates blades from it. He does not have a website, but he is on FaceBook and Instagram. You might be able to commission a knife from him. Be prepared to pay handsomly for anything he makes. His work is unique and exquisite.

 

 

 

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