What is Damascus Steel?

ancient blacksmith cartoon

So back in the ye olden days, blacksmiths were pretty creative when they weren’t busy dodging bubonic plague carrying rats, purges, and famines.

They created this famed steel touted at being strong enough to your neck beard with a single flick of the wrist. Eat that Gilette.

The origins are still unclear. Some scientists believe it’s named after the capital of Syria, Damascus.

Weirdly enough, the only suppliers I could find on Alibaba are blacksmiths from Pakistan!

The exact formula for Damascus steel is unknown, but we can speculate it involved the hammering of two different types of steel to forge an ingot.

Because the original formula was lost, its more appropriate to call this fancy item “Modern Damascus Steel”.

How is Modern Damascus Steel Made?

Modern metal workers now use two – five different types of steel to make a Damascus steel rod or bar.

One of them is generally stainless steel and the other is plain carbon steel or iron. By hammering the different metals into a single bar, they create layers of the different alloys to create the new patterns.

Imagine a jawbreaker candy where the different color layers are different types of steel.

How Much Does Damascus Steel Cost?

A single rod of Damascus steel costs around $100-$200 depending on the size. I was quoted $180 for a 65 mm diameter rod with 12″ length several months ago.

This stuff is RIDICULOUSLY expensive because most of it is artisan forged. You have some Pakistani guy slaving away with a hammer to form these into rods and billets for knife and vape makers.

What About Damascus Steel Fidget Spinners?

fidget spinner damasteel damascus steel
Rotablade Damasteel Stubby – NOT Damascus Steel (Rotablade.com)

There aren’t very many fidget spinners made from this material for a reason.

Simple answer – it might create a wobble monster. The different densities of the alloys can lead to an uneven weight distribution in the CNC process.

But Max… What about the stubby in the picture?

This stubby uses Damasteel – NOT Damascus Steel.

However, many makers been making fidget spinner buttons out of Damascus steel.

damascus steel fidget spinner button
Kong Damascus Buttons (FidgetHQ.com)

The process is pretty simple once you obtain the Damascus. It’s CNC milled identically to stainless stainless, but the patterns are lost due to the friction from the drills.

To bring the patterns out, you need to etch the metal using acid like Ferric Chloride.

Damascus Steel vs. Damasteel?

Damasteel is a LUDICROUSLY expensive patented take on this ancient alloy made by a Swedish steel company. I think it was around $5,000 per meter for a 50 mm rod.

Rather than hammering and folding different types of steel by hand, the Damasteel process uses powder based metals and machines. You can learn more about the manufacturing process here.

Long story short, if you want something with history and that artisan feel, make sure you’re getting Damascus steel and supporting some artisans instead of a gigantic multinational 😛