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Damascus Blades

iron, process, anossoff and steel

DAMASCUS BLADES, swords or scimi tars anciently made at Damascus, Syria. These famous weapons, used among nations little skilled in the metallurgic arts, long before the Christian era, and made familiar to European nations from the time of the crusades, long defied all attempts at imitation. It appears that the Indian wootz or carbonized iron was in ancient times exported from the region of Gol conda in Hindustan (where, as well as in Persia, it is still manufactured by the original rude process), and at Damascus was converted into weapons. These were particularly distinguished for their keen edge, capable of severing heavy iron spears or cutting the most delicate gossa mer fabric floating in the air; and for the peculiar watered appearance of the steel, which was covered with delicate black, white and silvery veins, parallel to each other or inter laced. The Damascus appearance may be given to iron by welding together bars of different de grees of hardness, drawing them down, and repeating the process several times. (See DA MASCUS IsoN). Karsten suggests that by the use of bars of good steel the best Oriental blades may have been fashioned in this way. The process differed from the other by cut ting the bar into short lengths and fagoting these pieces, the cut surfaces always being placed so as to face outward. Blades of great excellence were thus produced, but still inferior to the genuine Damascus. It was not till after

the investigations of General Anossoff in the first half of the 19th century that successful reproductions were obtained. These researches led to the establishment of works at Zlatoosk in the Ural Mountains, where Anossoff manu factured Damascus steel by processes of his own invention. According to his best method 11 pounds of iron were melted in the crucible with one-twelfth as much graphite and one thirty-second part of scales of iron. All his sword blades were tempered in boiling grease. The process of bringing out the watered appear ance was accomplished by the use of a diluted acid, which acts more upon the ground than upon the lines. The Zlatoosk weapons proved to be of properties similar to those of the old Damascus blades. General Anossoff with one of them cut through floating gauze. Bones and nails may be cleft without injury to blades tem pered for such use, and other steel tempered to the same point may be nicked by them with out causing a gap. Their elasticity is so great that one may put his foot upon the end of the blade and bend it to a right angle, when it will fly back perfectly unchanged. General Anossoff died in 1851, and his successors at the works failed to produce the remarkable blades for which the establishment had become celebrated.