Which is better: a damascus or carbon steel knife?

Which is better: a damascus or carbon steel knife?

You can check the answer of the people under the question at Quora “1080 knife steel

0 thoughts on “Which is better: a damascus or carbon steel knife?”

  1. As with most “which steel is better” question, I have to answer with another question; “Better for what use?”
    A good modern high carbon steel is fully the equal, and even better, than mediocre quality stamped out “Damascus” steel, or 1000 year old hand forged from the crap quality iron ores a given smith had to work with…
    But a good Damascus steel, made of modern alloy steels, could be better than a mediocre made-somewhere-in-asia stamped out carbon steel knife.
    A good modern alloy steel (L6, 5160, or 52100… ) can be used to MAKE Damascus, which then comes down to the skill of the maker and the quality of the work.
    In other words, the simple “yes or no” answer you’re looking for doesn’t exist.
    I have made a couple knives from 5160 that are TOUGHER than the knives I’ve made out of cable damascus, but the cable damascus holds a better edge…
    Likewise, a Damascus knife made from nickle and 1050 steel is likely to be tough, but hold a poorer edge than a knife made from 1095.
    It’s all about quality, and what you’re asking the material to DO. I’d pick different steels for a hunting knife than a meat cleaver, a straight razor or a kitchen knife…

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  2. From a performance standpoint? Not a whole lot and what I am about to explain would only really present itself if you were EXTREMELY diligent in comparing two identical knives side-by-side.
    There will be absolutely no difference in toughness (how resistant to breaking) what so ever. Plenty of ABS smiths have charpey tested their damascus and found that the values are no different than if they had used a monosteel blade. This makes sense, considering that when good damascus is made, two very similar steels are used with very similar properties. For example, I use 1080 and 15n20 as my contrasting damascus steels. The only difference between 15n20 and 1080 is 2% nickel and .10% carbon. With enough layers, the carbon actually balances out, making the whole thing of similar carbon content and the 2% nickel actually makes the blade tougher. I heat treat my monosteel 1080 blades and my 1080/15n20 blades exactly the same and have noticed no effect on the toughness.
    From a corrosion perspective, you will likely think the damascus stays cleaner, but this has to do with the pattern and how many layers you have. What gives you the contrasting lines in the damascus pattern is actually etching the steel. The 15n20’s 2% nickel makes it more corrosion resistant, so it doesnt turn black. Once etched, the 1080 has been eaten away a bit, and ridges where the 15n20 is the peak and the 1080 is the trough. when you clean the knife, you really just polish the 15n20 ridges so it keeps its appearance rather well. Personally, I dont mind a bit of rust on my blades and have found no real difference .
    You might notice a bit of difference in edge retention as well with the damascus blade appearing to stay sharper longer. I got into a rather long conversation with several ABS mastersmiths about it and what they claimed made some sense. They explained that as those layers wear down, they tend to wear at VERY slightly different rates, which creates a very toothy, saw-like edge over time. Personally, I have not payed attention to that degree (or the difference is small enough to not really matter) and have seen no difference.

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  3. This is a really complex question, but for most applications the answer is modern steel. We can make modern steel that are better than old Damascus steel in every possible way; harder, more corrosion resistant, more ductile, name any property you want. The trick is making a steel that is better in every single way. That we have not done yet.
    Better in almost every single way? Sure, most modern knife steels are better in almost every single way. Most people would argue that modern knife steel is better in every single way that actually matters, which I find to be largely true (baring outside edges cases). But there are still applications that old fashioned high carbon steels like Damascus still shine (and do not be fooled, Damascus was not special as far as high carbon steel is concerned, what made it special was the time period is was made in, and how it got that carbon content.).

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