Friday, April 8, 2011

Wrought Iron and Nickel Pattern Welded (Damascus) Belt Buckles.

I'm happy to share just a tiny slice of some of the work I have produced while serving as Artist-in-Residence at The National Ornamental Metal Museum, Memphis, TN.

Wrought Iron and Nickel Pattern Welded (Damascus) Belt Buckles.

Pattern welding is the practice in sword and knife making of forming a blade of several metal pieces of differing composition that are forge-welded together and twisted and manipulated to form a pattern. Often called Damascus steel, blades forged in this manner often display bands of slightly different patterning along their entire length. These bands can be highlighted for cosmetic purposes by proper polishing or acid etching. Pattern welding was an outgrowth of laminated or piled steel, a similar technique used to combine steels of different carbon contents, providing a desired mix of hardness and toughness. Although modern steelmaking processes negate the need to blend different steels, pattern welded steel is still used by custom knifemakers for the cosmetic effects it produces.

By the 2nd and 3rd century AD, the Celts were commonly using pattern welding for decoration in addition to structural reasons. Alternating layers of steel would be forged into rods, which would the be twisted to form complex patterns when forged into a blade. By the 6th and 7th centuries, pattern welding had reached a level where thin layers of patterned steel were being overlayed onto a soft iron core, indicating that the pattern welding was primarily decorative rather than functional. By the end of the Viking era, pattern welding fell out of use in Europe[3]

During the Middle ages, Damascus steel was being produced in the Middle East and brought back to Europe. The similarities in the markings led many to believe it was the same process being used, and pattern welding was revived by European smiths who were attempting to duplicate the Damascene steel. While the methods used by Damascene smiths to produce their blades was lost, recent efforts by metallurgists and bladesmiths (such as Verhoeven and Pendray) to reproduce steel with identical characteristics have yielded a process that does not involve pattern welding.[1]
A similar technique was also employed by Scandinavian Medieval swordsmiths. The Mora knife is today manufactured with a similar technique. Today the traditional crucible steel is seldom used, but the high carbon steel is usually tool steel or stainless steel.

The ancient swordmakers exploited the aesthetic qualities of pattern welded steel. The Vikings in particular were fond of twisting bars of steel around each other, welding the bars together by hammering and then repeating the process with the resulting bars, to create complex patterns in the final steel bar. Two bars twisted in opposite directions created the common chevron pattern. Often, the center of the blade was a core of soft steel, and the edges were solid high carbon steel, similar to the laminates of the Japanese.


  1. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL! I'm dig-en it! Thanks for the back story on damascus Holly.

  2. Holy Krap...Beautiful work!
    I've pattern-welded many knives...but always w/ whatever I had at hand...St. Steel w/ junk steel, low&hi Carbon, and finally landed on some real wrought iron to move up to the next level. Your work inspires me at just the right time. Again, friggin' sweet smithing! :)