Damascus: The Wonder Of It All

Ron Newton's damascus is spellbinding.

ABS master smith Ron Newton calls the damascus on his bowie “Newt’s Wootz.” (Chuck Ward photo)

Damascus steel has fascinated blade enthusiasts since 11th-century Crusaders first brought tales of it home from the Crusades—and the steel lives in style today on many of the custom knife industry’s leading blades.

One of the things that makes damascus so appealing is the almost infinite number of patterns in which it is forged. From its modern introduction on the American knife scene by BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame© member Bill Moran at The Knifemakers’ Guild Show in 1973 to today’s array of assorted patterns, mosaics, stainless versions and more, the steel is almost always a visual feast.

Moran named the ladder-pattern damascus, seen herein on the sub-hilt piece by Bill Behnke, after the Biblical Jacob’s Ladder. Note the “rungs” that run vertically on the blade from guard to tip, constituting the “ladder.” Steve Nolte’s wide skinner herein showcases the steel known as mosaic damascus, or also “canned steel.” There are any number of versions of it, and they are most all breathtaking.

Steve Nolte's wide skinner is highlighted by mosaic damascus.

Mosaic damascus lights up the blade of Steve Nolte’s wide skinner. (Chuck Ward photo)

Ron Newton’s “Newt’s Wootz” on his bowie herein is another of the maker’s astounding damascus steels. The damascus blade has a “Newt’s Wootz” core with 9mm handguns and AR-15 rifles plugged into the core and surrounded by tight Turkish twist bars of 1095 and 15N20 carbon steels. The two phrases in the core read “Right to keep and bear arms” and “Just try to take them.” The guard and finial knob are of a single twist damascus. The handle is six-bar Turkish twist damascus.

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