Damascus Steel

creativity hope knives restoration

Damascus Steel. It might be the coolest type of blade you can have. 

Known for its beautiful, wavy light and dark patterns, quality Damascus steel has a legendary ability to hold an edge while still being flexible and strong. When developed around 300 BC, it was a vastly innovative improvement over iron weapons. Unfortunately, the ancient process for making this material was lost to the ages, and just recently reinvented in the 20th century.

A blacksmith has to layer different types of steel bars on top of each other, or combine several chunks of metal objects (ball bearings, nails, fish hooks, etc) and forge them into a single bar to work with. The more layers/objects, the more intricate and distinct a pattern you will end up with.

But if you are shopping for a Damascus steel blade, it's worth understanding the difference between the quality carbon Damascus steel versus the cheap version.

Carbon Damascus is made from layering iron and steel together with charcoal, and then forging them together in an environment lacking oxygen. The metal absorbs the carbon from the charcoal, making it softer to work with, but results in a harder edge that can take a lot of abuse.  It can take days just to make the patterned steel correctly, not to mention the process of shaping it into a usable blade. And then, it has to be dipped in acid for the beautiful pattern to really show up. If you want quality, plan to spend a couple hundred dollars.

Cheap Damascus is what you are often buying when you go for the budget friendly version- it looks cool, but it’s weak. The layers weren’t forged together correctly, making it too soft, or too brittle. When done quickly and incorrectly, Damascus steel will delaminate or disintegrate under pressure. 

Making quality modern Damascus steel is a lot of work, and a lot of time, using the right amount and type of materials, heat, pounding, and tempering.

If you shortchange the process, you end up with a useless hunk of metal. Our lives are similar.

I don’t know about you, but at this stage in my life I mostly feel like I’m either in the fire or getting hit by something. It's only occasionally that I get to see glimpses of who I am being formed into, and for what purpose. So while I want to be able to speak authoritatively and say that we are all being formed into a beautiful and powerful creation, I cannot say that from experience. I can only say that in faith.

We can know this because we can know God. We know He is a personal creator, and that he didn’t just spin the world like a basketball on his finger and let whatever happens happen. He is continually shaping us into his ultimate purpose for us. He is removing our impurities and making us sharper. All these circumstances we are living through are making us different people. We know this because the Bible says so, and because the Spirit reminds us that it is true.

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”  Romans 5:3-5, the Message

As we take on difficult experiences, and feel the heat and pounding, we are being slowly forged to be stronger. To be more beautiful. To be more useful. To be able to stand up under pressure. He is taking our raw materials and making us a masterpiece. 

He doesn’t make crappy things. He makes the best things, and that includes you and me. 

How might you view the difficult circumstances in your life if you trusted the outcome in the end? Can you bless the forging that has happened and will happen in your life?

Cody Buriff
Restoration Project Director of Resource Initiatives