Is Damascus Steel Good for Kitchen Knives? Pros and Cons Revealed

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I have been asked by many, is Damascus steel good for kitchen knives? Well, Damascus Steel is famous for its long and rich history. Its appearance and uniqueness only adds to the legend and mystery surrounding it.

The true name of the steel is actually Wootz steel, however, it was through the city of Damascus that blades were traded to the west and hence it became known as Damascus steel.

Little History of Damascus Steel

From 3rd to 17th century Damascus steel (Wootz) were produced in Southern India (Tamil Nadu & Kerala). The Arabs introduced Wootz steel to Damascus (Capital of Syria), at that time weapons industry thrived there.

In the beginning of 19th Century production and exports of Woots ingots started declining. Reason like breakdown of trade routes, traces of impurities, loss of crafting technique (due to secrecy and lack of knowledge transmission). Moreover,  Brithish Raj suppressed the industry.

The process of making “Damascus Steel” has been around for hundreds of years. Many modern attempts to duplicate it have not been completely successful due to differences in raw materials and manufacturing techniques. But several individuals in modern times have successfully created pattern forming hypereutectoid crucible steel with visible carbide bands on the surface, consistent with original Damascus Steel.

Is damascus steel good for kitchen knives?
Is Damascus steel good for kitchen knives

The legendary Damascus steel is one of the most famous steels in history. It was made famous by its strength and beauty. Even today it’s highly sought after.

I am going to discuss how good is Damascus steel comparing to its high reputation. Also I will compare it with other steels used in making knives.

Is Damascus steel good?

Definitely Damascus steel is good for knives. The multiple layers of steel make it stronger and durable for use of a longer period of time. If we compare between a traditional stainless steel blade, Damascus steel blades are significantly sharper and retains the edge for a long time.

It’s a great steel because it creates a fine, sharp edge. When you combine Damascus steel with a softer steel, it makes the blade more flexible and durable.

To know Damascus steel better, we need to understand its basic principle. Why Damascus steel is good for kitchen knives? Main reason of its hard nature and sharpness is because its distinctive patterning created by the layers of metal.

While making knives two different properties of steel is used. One is hard and the other soft and flexible. 

A Damascus steel knife is made by forging steel in a pattern. The pattern gives the resulting steel qualities of both. The steel is heated until it glows orange and is pounded into a single block. It is then folded over and over and over again (you have heard 67 layers of steel right!). 

It make the steel enough strong to create a super sharp edge, and a flexible blade to keep the edge from chipping or cracking.

How good is Damascus Steel for knives?
Handmade Japanese Damascus steel knife

How Good is Damascus Steel for Knives?

There is no point to argue on whether Damascus steel is good or bad, it is already established. But how good is Damascus steel for kitchen knives?

As in the beginning I have mentioned the main ingredients of Damascus steel (Wootz ingots) once used to be produced in India and Sri Lanka is now over. And many individual as well as businesses tried to make exact same thing. So it depends on quality of the steel used to make a Damascus knife.

Types of Damascus steel used in knives

(its not the entire list, but covers mostly the best ones)

VG-10 is a high quality Japanese stainless steel, Apart from Chromium (Cr) it contains Co (cobalt), C (carbon), Mo (molybdenum), Mn (manganese) and V (vanadium). This steel was invented by Takefu Special Steel Co. Ltd. (Fukui, Japan).

10A or AUS-10 is an alloy of high-grade stainless steel. It’s made by Aichi Steel and contains vanadium, so it has the same characteristics as VG-10. In fact, they’re almost identical and are often confused.

VG1 also widely known as V Gold 1 steel made by the same company that makes VG-10 steel. High on carbon and chromium it tends to have higher score on Rockwell rating (56-61).

VG2 also has similar traits in terms of ingredients and nature. And it is also proudly made by Takefu Special Steel Co. Ltd.

AUS 8 is another steel made in Japan (even if not better it is comparable to steel-like CM-154, D2 and 440C types of steel. AUS 8 steel has around 58-59 HRC. It is heat-treated well to achieve toughness, resistance and edge retention capacity. To be considered true stainless steel the metal should contain a minimum of 10.5 percent of chromium. AUS 8 contains 14.5 percent Chromium.

VG MAX – is the grandfather version of VG1 or VG2 steel? It contains a whopping 16 percent of chromium! VG MAX is called so because of the additional contents of steel alloy. It is mostly used in Shaun series of knives. Though the steel is super impact-resistant, it is easy to clean.

Damascus steel is used for making jewelry also
Damascus steel used in making jewelry

Damascus Steel vs Stainless Steel

What is more durable, Stainless steel or Damascus steel? It’s good quality stainless steel that is more durable. While most Western-style knives are made from good quality stainless steel and they are durability-focused, Damascus is the best balance between strength and durability.

Damascus steel is quite popular because of its beautiful wavy patterns. Now, only being beautiful doesn’t make people pay for it. It is kind of unique blend of edge retention, strength, durability and flexibility.

So what is better? Damascus or Stainless steel? As I have mentioned in the Carbon steel vs Stainless steel, an entire batch of metal is known as steel. Depending on the composition we call it stainless steel. As mentioned earlier if any steel has 10.5 or higher percentage of chromium in it, we call it stainless steel, because chromium prevents rusting. The high percentage of chromium produces chromium oxide which protects the steel from rusting. It prevents from forming iron oxide (rust).

In simple terms, the chromium composition creates a protective layer. 

There are many different types of steel, and each has unique properties that make the perfect blade for certain tasks. Each type needs to be selected for the task it will do, but for most purposes, you want a combination of flexibility and strength.

A steel that has less than 13 percent of chromium is considered to be of poor quality. If it is greater than 14 percent then we assume the steel is of good quality.

Handmade patterns on Damascus steel knife
Handmade patterns on Damascus steel knife

Damascus Steel vs Carbon Steel

High carbon steel knives are famous for having edge retention and sharpness. On the other hand Damascus knives are favored for being flexible and at the same time hard. It is more durable.

Now, most of the Damascus steel knives have high carbon composition in them. So there is not much difference between a high carbon stainless steel knife or Damascus knife.

Usually, the question arises  – what is high carbon? There is no concrete regulation to measure or mark high carbon steel. American Iron and Steel Institute specifies – if a steel has 0.6-1% of carbon it can be considered as high carbon steel. It will be better if your knife has 1 percent or more carbon composition in it (it can go even above 2 percent).

Pros and Cons of Damascus Steel

  • Damascus steel looks beautiful with those wavy patterns
  • They are considered to be highest-quality Japan made steel
  • Sharp edge
  • Damascus steel is pricey
  • Only few reputed knife makers use Damascus steel so choice is less
  • Be aware of fake Damascus steel
Damascus steel knife with micarta handle
Damascus steel knife with micarta handle

Is Damascus Steel Worth The Money?

Sure! Damascus steel knives are loved and famous all over the world. There are thousands of happy users. Good quality Damascus steel knives are well worth the money.

You will find single piece of Damascus knife for around $100 but if you buy a set then it will cost you less. I don’t say low-price knives are not good. There are lots of good quality cheap price knives available on the market. But for Damascus knife, if it comes cheap, probably it is a fake copy.

If you love to cook tasty food and you need a good quality beautiful knife then Damascus knife can not be ignored.

On the other hand, if you use your knife for a commercial kitchen and it takes lots of cutting, slicing that going to torture the knife too much then a good quality stainless steel knife will be suitable.

Is Damascus steel high maintenance?

You should treat Damascus steel well to maintain the lustrous look. The presence of high carbon makes it rust prone. But a small care can keep it working for a long time.

Does Damascus steel rust easily?

All high carbon blades rust easily. Don’t get scared, it is just iron oxide. It is very easy to maintain Damascus steel. Don’t leave your knife wet and open. Keep the knife dry and in a sheath.

Is Damascus better than normal steel?

Damascus steel is known for its strength, durability and performance. The blades are flexible for cutting and easy to forge than traditional stainless steel blades.

Why is Damascus steel so special?

Damascus steel is popular due to its flowery wavy patterns. As the blades are made multiple layers of steel, it is best balance of strength and durability.

Is Damascus steel water proof?

No, Damascus steel is not water proof. It will get rust if you leave your knife wet for a longer period. Wipe you Damascus steel knife with dry cloth and air dry it before storing into the sheath.

Final Words – Is Damascus Steel Good For Kitchen Knives?

So, is Damascus steel good for knife? The best patterned knives are not necessarily better than the best non-patterned ones. Both types of knives have their advantages. They are usually a matter of aesthetic preference.

 You don’t have to choose between stainless and carbon steel. Both are great choices for kitchen knives. While carbon steel knives can be sharper than stainless steel ones, they require more maintenance and will rust more easily.

And yes Damascus steel knives are made from high carbon stainless steel. I love the age old  dedication and finest quality knife making tradition of Seki city Japan. Their unique design and detailed work on each knife. Most important is enthusiasm towards quality.

Hope you enjoyed the discussion, you are welcome to let us know your opinion.

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