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Process of Making a Custom Knife

Making a Damascus Feather Blade

Casey Feather Damascus Tutorial

The Damascus Feather Pattern is historically very old. I fell in love with this pattern several years ago and have been making this steel on regular basis since then. To make this pattern one must have the ability to forge weld a good sized billet and to make a clean hot cut in a billet. Power equipment, though not required, makes the work go faster. I use a KB-1 Kuhn power hammer and a 24-ton press.

The prepared billet ready for welding shows the individual layers of contrasting steel. I use carbon steels for their ability to weld readily together and for ease of heat-treating. One steel is type 1080 (0.95 % carbon) and the other is type 15n20 (Carbon 0,78 %, Ni 2,1 %). The alternating layers are bundled together and a handle is welded on one end to hold the billet in the forge while bringing it up to welding temperature.

This picture shows the billet in the forge coming up to welding temperature, which is approximately 2200 degrees F (1200 degrees C).

As the billet is heating it is removed before it reaches welding temperature to apply flux. The flux is applied to prevent oxidation form occurring between the individual layers. The flux I use is anhydrous borax. When forge welding, it is very important to have clean metal surfaces, proper temperature, and no oxides forming from oxygen on the pieces to be welded.

Once the billet reaches the welding temperature, it is quickly removed from the forge and brought to either a hammer or press for forging together into one piece of steel. This picture shows the billet being welded on a 24-ton press. Welding occurs from heat and compression not from power. One could also use a hand hammer to weld the billet together too. Using a power hammer and/or press speeds up the process.

Wire brushing scale off the welded billet. Scale is removed from the billet after the weld has been made. Again, clean steel is essential.

This picture shows the completed billet welded into one piece of solid steel. The billet is now ready to drawn out (i.e. hammered out) into a longer and narrow piece for cutting and refolding or stacking the pieces to increase the layer count. The number of layers in a billet can be increased to whatever number the smith wants. Different layer counts give different visual pattern effects. The more layers the more welding.

Billet under the hammer being drawn out. The hammer is an air German Kuhn KB-1 75 pounds US (35 Kilo)

Partially drawn piece being reheated in forge.

Billet being drawn and finished for next step in the process.

Detail of drawn billet marked for final cutting and stacking. After the billet has been drawn out to the desired size the piece is marked for cutting and re-stacking.

The cut pieces are stacked with the end grain (cut faces) in the same orientation. The stack is tacked welded to hold it together for forge welding. Notice the visible pattern of each individual piece within the stack. It is these patterns, when welded together, which will produce the basis for the final feather pattern.

Stacked billet in forge. Again the new billet is heated to welding temperature in the forge.

At welding temperature the billet is welded on the press.

After the stack has been welded, it is reheated in the forge and cut in the press with a hot cut tool

After the billet is cut in half, it is immediately refluxed and hammered back together, reheated to welding temperature and welded back into one piece.

The billet has been re-welded, hammered, drawn and shaped for blades. Note how the cutting process pulled the layers to make the feather pattern.

Using a band saw, the finished billet is cut into individual blade blanks.
The pattern is revealed in the billet.

Finally the blade is forged to shape. In many patterns the forging is very light, as to not distort it .

and the finished knife!!