Have you ever seen those sturdy knives that possess beautiful, mottled, and wavy patterns all across their blade length? Yes, we are talking about Damascus steel knives. Damascus steel has been used for centuries to make swords and armors because it offers incredible blade strength, durability, edge retention, and sharpness to cut through all types of cutting surfaces. Not only this but Damascus steel is much easier to forge than other metals, including the high-end stainless steel and carbon steel.
Aside from its breathtaking aesthetics and elegant look, the main reason why Damascus knives are the ultimate favorite of all the chefs out there is their ability to stay super-sharp for a very long time. However, on being used consistently, daily, the blade might lose its original sharpness. The good news here is you can hone the Damascus steel without getting any professional help or utilizing some specialized technique.
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So just keep reading the article to learn how to sharpen Damascus steel and many other interesting facts about this amazing kitchen steel knife. By the end of the article, we are sure that you’ll become a master at handling and maintaining your expensive Damascus knife collection.
How is a Damascus Steel Knife Made?
There is no clear data to explain the manufacturing technique of ancient Damascus knives. However, to make modern Damascus knives, various sorts of chemical and physical procedures are used including forging, welding, and acid etching.
In the forge-welding technique, two steel layers; hard steel and soft steel, are fabricated together in a way that the hard steel is sandwiched by two softer steel plates. All these metallic sheets are hit with a heavy hammer until these three metal layers transform into a fourth metal plate. In this way, the hard steel imparts strength and durability to the end product while the softer steel imparts sharpness and sleek cuts.
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Another way to make Damascus steel knives is to flatten out a single layer of steel and then fold it over and over again, for hundred times, to make multiple, built-in layers. These built-in metal layers add to the overall vigor and even out the natural impurities present in the metal, to make the blades flexible. Due to these harsh forging and welding processes, the typical organic patterns are formed on the blade surface. To emphasize these patterns even further, the technique of acid etching is used.
As stated before, you don’t need to hire a professional or utilize some advanced sharpening techniques to regain the original sharpness of your Damascus knives. Instead, you can chase the same goal with simple household sharpening tools like a tabletop sharpener, fine grit, honing steel, or whetstone. However, all these tools need to be used in a particular manner to get the job done. So, What is the correct method? Let’s find out!
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1. Sharpening Damascus steel with a whetstone
Whetstone can either be an artificial or natural stone that has been used for centuries to sharpen blades. These stones usually consist of aluminum calcium carbonate and silicon which forms a fine-grained, granular surface. To use them, you first need to lubricate the stone either with oil or water.
What sort of lubricating agent you should use depends upon the type of whetstone you have. For example, if you have an oil stone, you need to lubricate it with water. After some time, the stone will convert into a thick and abrasive slurry.
On the other hand, to lubricate the water stones, you need to soak them in a carrier oil. Almost all the whetstones come with a specific set of lubrication instructions; whether they have to be soaked in water or oil. Whatever lubricate you are asked to use, it’s advised not to use both at a time.
After making a pool of water onto the stone’s surface, place it over a flat object, like a table or your kitchen countertop. Then, set the angle of the stone in a way that you can conveniently swipe your knife onto the stone’s surface, at an angle of 10°-30°. For this, use one hand to hold the handle of the knife while placing the two fingers (index and middle finger) at the blade, on the non-cutting edge. Then, start scrubbing the blade’s edge in a to and fro motion with the stone, repeatedly, until it gets razor shaped.
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2. Sharpening Damascus steel with tabletop Sharpener
There are usually two types of tabletop sharpeners exist; manual and electric sharpeners. Manual sharpeners are simple and easy to use having two sturdy, metal slots; mostly tungsten carbide. To use this tabletop sharpener, all you need to do is to set the tool on a firm and even surface, place your knife’s blade in between the carbide slots, and pull it across the slots several times, while exerting light but even pressure across the cutting edge.
Keep doing the same until your dull blade gets back to its blazing sharp life. In the end, wipe the blade with a damp rag. On the other hand, if you want to make the least effort to restore your blade’s razor-sharp edges, electric tabletop sharpeners are your go-to solution. These automatic sharpeners feature plastic guards to hold the knife handle and a grinding stone over which the blade is scrubbed.
Thus, to use it, you just need to affix your knife handle to the plastic guard and turn the power on. Resultantly, the blade will start to glide in a back and forth motion over the grinding stone and within a few seconds, you’ll get the results.
- Remember that all types of knives get dull when being used to cut abrasive or too rough materials like celery, bone, etc. So, never use your Damascus knife to chop or cut such materials.
- To wash the Damascus steel, use warm soapy water and clean the area between patterns, using a soft-bristled brush.
- Wipe with a soft paper or kitchen towel after washing the knife and dry thoroughly before storing it.