The history of iron and Damascus steels is described through the eyes of ancient blacksmiths. For example, evidence is presented that questions why the Iron Age could not have begun at about the same time as the early Bronze Age (i.e. approximately 7000 B.C.). It is also clear that ancient blacksmiths had enough information from their forging work, together with their observation of color changes during heating and their estimate of hardness by scratch tests, to have determined some key parts of the present-day iron-carbon phase diagrrun. The blacksmiths’ greatest artistic accomplishments were the Damascus and Japanese steel swords. The Damascus sword was famous not only for its exceptional cutting edge and toughness, but also for its beautiful surface markings. Damascus steels are ultrahigh carbon steels (UHCSs) that contain from 1.0 to 2.1% carbon. The modem metallurgical understanding of UHCSs has revealed that remarkable properties can be obtained in these hypereutectoid steels. The results achieved in UHCSs are attributed to the ability to place the carbon, in excess of the eutectoid composition, to do useful work that enhances the high temperature processing of carbon steels and that improves the low and intermediate temperature mechanical properties.
Thermec 2000, International Conference on Processing and Manufacturing of Advanced Materials, Las Vegas, Nevada, December 4-8, 2000