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Pattern welding

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A high resolution image of a modern pattern welded knife blade, showing the dramatic patterning on the side below, and the layering of the steel in the spine above.  Acid etching darkens the 1080 plain carbon steel more than it does the 15N20 low alloy nickel steel, producing alternating bands of light and dark on the surface.
A high resolution image of a modern pattern welded knife blade, showing the dramatic patterning on the side below, and the layering of the steel in the spine above. Acid etching darkens the 1080 plain carbon steel more than it does the 15N20 low alloy nickel steel, producing alternating bands of light and dark on the surface.

Pattern welding[1] is the practice in sword and knife making of forming a blade of several metal pieces of differing composition that are forge-welded together and twisted and manipulated to form a pattern. Often mistakenly called Damascus steel, blades forged in this manner often display bands of slightly different patterning along their entire length. These bands can be highlighted for cosmetic purposes by proper polishing or acid etching. Pattern welding was an outgrowth of laminated or piled steel, a similar technique used to combine steels of different carbon contents, providing a desired mix of hardness and toughness. Although modern steelmaking processes negate the need to blend different steels,[citation needed] pattern welded steel is still used by custom knifemakers for the cosmetic effects it produces.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ What is Pattern Welded Steel ("Damascus") - Explained by Blacksmiths (Part 1 of 2)
  • ✪ Michael Pikula: Pattern Welding A Viking Blade
  • ✪ How Pattern Welded Steel is Made - Explained by Blacksmiths (Part 2 of 2)




Pattern-welded 19th century Moro (Philippine) barung sword
Pattern-welded 19th century Moro (Philippine) barung sword
Close-up view of the blade of the same Moro barung
Close-up view of the blade of the same Moro barung

Pattern welding developed out of the necessarily complex process of making blades that were both hard and tough from the erratic and unsuitable output from early iron smelting in bloomeries. The bloomery does not generate temperatures high enough to melt iron and steel, but instead reduces the iron oxide ore into particles of pure iron, which then weld into a mass of sponge iron, consisting of lumps of impurities in a matrix of relatively pure iron, which is too soft to make a good blade. Carburizing thin iron bars or plates forms a layer of harder, high carbon steel on the surface, and early bladesmiths would forge these bars or plates together to form relatively homogeneous bars of steel. This laminating process, in which different types of steel together produce patterns that can be seen in the surface of the finished blade, forms the basis for pattern welding.[2][3]

Pattern welding in Europe

By the 2nd and 3rd century AD, the Celts commonly used pattern welding for decoration in addition to structural reasons. The technique involves folding and forging alternating layers of steel into rods, then twisting the steel to form complex patterns when forged into a blade.[2] By the 6th and 7th centuries, pattern welding had reached a level where thin layers of patterned steel were being overlaid onto a soft iron core, making the swords far better as the iron gave them a flexible and springy core that would take any shock from sword blows to stop the blade bending or snapping. Arguably the most famous group of pattern-welded Viking swords – and incidentally one of the first known examples of value being increased by the presence of a brand name – are the Ulfberht swords, of which 166 are known to exist. By the end of the Viking era, pattern welding fell out of use in Europe.[3]

During the Middle ages, Damascus steel was produced in India and brought back to Europe. The similarities in the markings led many to believe it was the same process being used, and pattern welding was revived by European smiths who were attempting to duplicate the Damascus steel. While the methods used by Damascus smiths to produce their blades was lost, recent efforts by metallurgists and bladesmiths (such as Verhoeven and Pendray) to reproduce steel with identical characteristics have yielded a process that does not involve pattern welding.[2] However even these attempts have not been a huge success.

Modern decorative use

The ancient swordmakers exploited the aesthetic qualities of pattern welded steel. The Vikings,[citation needed] in particular, were fond of twisting bars of steel around each other, welding the bars together by hammering and then repeating the process with the resulting bars, to create complex patterns in the final steel bar. Two bars twisted in opposite directions created the common chevron pattern. Often, the center of the blade was a core of soft steel, and the edges were solid high carbon steel, similar to the laminates of the Japanese.

The American Bladesmith Society's Master Smith test, for example, requires a 300 layer blade to be forged. Large numbers of layers are generally produced by folding, where a small number of layers are welded together, then the blank is cut in half, stacked, and welded again, with each operation doubling the number of layers. Starting with just two layers, eight folding operations will yield 512 layers in the blank. A blade ground from such a blank will show a grain much like an object cut from a block of wood, with similar random variations in pattern. Some manufactured objects can be re-purposed into pattern welded blanks. "Cable Damascus", forged from high carbon multi-strand cable, is a popular item for bladesmiths to produce, producing a finely grained, twisted pattern, while chainsaw chains produce a pattern of randomly positioned blobs of color.[4][5][6]

Some modern bladesmiths have taken pattern welding to new heights, with elaborate applications of traditional pattern welding techniques, as well as with new technology. A layered billet of steel rods with the blade blank cut perpendicular to the layers can also produce some spectacular patterns, including mosaics or even writing. Powder metallurgy allows alloys that would not normally be compatible to be combined into solid bars. Different treatments of the steel after it is ground and polished, such as bluing, etching, or various other chemical surface treatments that react differently to the different metals used can create bright, high-contrast finishes on the steel. Some master smiths go as far as to use techniques such as electrical discharge machining to cut interlocking patterns out of different steels, fit them together, then weld the resulting assembly into a solid block of steel.[6][7]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c John D. Verhoeven (2002). "Genuine Damascus Steel: a type of banded microstructure in hypereutectoid steels" (PDF). Materials Technology. steel research 73 no. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 September 2006.
  3. ^ a b Ian G. Peirce, Ewart Oakeshott. Swords of the Viking Age. p. 145.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  4. ^ Goddard, Wayne (2000). The Wonder of Knifemaking. Krause. pp. 107–120. ISBN 978-0-87341-798-3.
  5. ^ Ed Caffery. "Damascus Pictoral". Archived from the original on 2011-07-23.
  6. ^ a b Ed Caffery. "Bits of Steel". Archived from the original on 2005-12-15.
  7. ^ Don Fogg. "Damascus".


  • Engstrom, Robert; Lankton, Scott Michael & Lesher-Engstrom, Audrey (1989). A Modern Replication Based on the Pattern-Welded Sword of Sutton Hoo. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University. ISBN 0-918720-29-X.
  • Maryon, Herbert (1948). "A Sword of the Nydam Type from Ely Fields Farm, near Ely". Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society. XLI: 73–76. doi:10.5284/1034398.
  • Maryon, Herbert (February 1960). "Pattern-Welding and Damascening of Sword-Blades—Part 1: Pattern-Welding". Studies in Conservation. 5 (1): 25–37. doi:10.2307/1505063. JSTOR 1505063.
  • Maryon, Herbert (May 1960). "Pattern-Welding and Damascening of Sword-Blades—Part 2: The Damascene Process". Studies in Conservation. 5 (2): 52–60. doi:10.2307/1504953. JSTOR 1504953.
  • Meilach, Dona (1984). Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork (first ed.). New York: Crown Publishing. ISBN 0517527316.
  • Meilach, Dona (1999). Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork (second ed.). Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0764307908.
  • Peirce, Ian G. & Oakeshott, Ewart (2004). Swords of the Viking Age. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-914-1.

External links

This page was last edited on 25 November 2019, at 11:36
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