Damascus steel was once used to make the strongest swords known to the ancient world. The original method of forging them has since been lost, but a modern method has been developed to recreate strong, durable, and sharp swords that are probably quite similar to the original Damascus steel. It’s often combined with Japanese forging methods to create beautiful katanas as well.
Because of the highly individualized process of producing Damascus steel blades, no two swords or katanas are alike. Here is your guide to choosing the perfect Damascus steel sword or katana, as well as the benefits of Damascus steel and how to maintain it.
Best Damascus Swords and Katanas
So, let’s check out some of my favorite Damascus swords and katanas.
The Hand-Forged Red Damascus Samurai Katana from Sword of Northshire features a 28.7-inch red blade, a 10.6-inch tsuka with rayskin and silk wrappings, a natural hardwood saya with rayskin and a buffalo horn koiguchi (mouth of the saya), copper fittings with a tiger design, two bamboo mekugi pins that secure the tang to the tsuka, over 16,000 layers of steel, full tang construction, and an option for custom engraving.
The sword is polished with a traditional 13-stage hand-polished finish. A sword bag and spare mekugi pins are included with the katana. The blade’s sharpness makes it perfect for tameshigiri and bamboo. It has a very authentic feel that honestly feels like I’m back in time when I hold it. I really love the overall feel.
- The sword’s red color makes it a beautiful display item or gift.
- The tsuka’s copper fittings feature a gorgeous tiger design.
- The tsuka’s wrappings are made of rayskin and silk, making it durable and comfortable to hold.
- Full tang gives the katana stability and durability.
- More than 16,000 layers of steel give the blade strength.
- Students of tameshigiri and bamboo cutting practices will find the katana very effective.
- The blade can be engraved with the smith’s name or a message in either English or Kanji.
- The hardwood saya must be kept dry at all times to avoid rusting the entire katana.
- The tsuka must also be kept dry at all times. If it becomes wet, it will be difficult to remove the wrappings in order to dry the wood on the inside. This in turn could lead to rusting of the tang and blade.
The Handmade Damascus Steel Sword from Poshland features a 19-inch wide blade, a handle made of rose wood and colored bone, a Damascus steel guard, 176 layers of steel, full tang construction, and a leather sheath.
The blade features a unique twist design and the distinct Damascus steel pattern. The handle is my favorite part though. I love the way it looks and the grip is really nice.
- The blade is wide and sharp.
- The handle’s composition of natural wood and colored bone gives it a beautiful look and feel.
- 176 layers of steel, making it strong and durable.
- The guard is made with the same Damascus steel process as the blade, making it strong and durable as well.
- The leather sheath will keep the sword secure and protected.
- The full tang lends stability to the sword.
- The handle is made of wood and bone, both of which could absorb moisture and lead to rusting of the tang.
- The bone in the handle can crack if left sitting for too long.
- The leather sheath will also absorb moisture, leading to rusting of the entire blade.
The Damascus Clay-Tempered Handmade Japanese Katana from Jiang Tong features a 28.7-inch blade, a 10-inch tsuka wrapped in rayskin, full tang construction, and a rose wood saya.
The katana is clay-tempered, which increases the strength of the sharp edge. The saya is very nice and it feels great pulling the sword from it.
- The tsuka is comfortable to hold while cutting.
- The full tang gives the katana strength and stability.
- The edge is very sharp and strong.
- The rose wood saya is beautiful, but will absorb moisture easily, which will rust the blade.
- The saya can curl, bow, and warp, which leaves the owner a sword that they cannot sheathe.
The Damascus Folded Steel Katana from Handmade Katana features a 27.8-inch blade, a 10-inch tsuka wrapped in rayskin, a hardwood saya, a full tang, over 4,000 layers of steel, a bo-hi (blood groove) on each side of the blade, a brass habaki (blade collar), and an included silk bag.
The bo-hi lightens and balances the blade.
- The full tang gives stability to the katana.
- More than 4,000 layers of steel make the blade very strong.
- The bo-hi on each side of the blade improves the balance of the katana by making it more lightweight.
- The hardwood saya will absorb moisture and must be kept dry at all times.
The Handmade Damascus Steel Sword from Poshland features a 17-inch blade, a six-inch G-10 micarta handle, a Damascus steel bolster, a full tang, and a leather sheath.
This is definitely one of the most beautiful swords in my collection, and when I show my swords off, this is the first non-katana I take out.
- The handle is a sturdy G-10 (military-grade) micarta handle. It will not absorb moisture, keeping the blade rust-free.
- The Damascus steel bolster and full tang keep the sword strong and secure.
- There seems to be a high iron content, as it rusts very easily if not oiled regularly.
- The leather sheath will absorb moisture, which will rust out the entire blade if not kept dry.
What is Damascus Steel?
Damascus steel is used to make swords, knives, and other blades that are very strong, sharp, and durable. It is created through a process which involves either layering iron and steel or creating an alloy of iron and steel. Either way, the resulting metal is then folded over and over to create a strong metal which can then be forged into a blade.
This process reinforces the strength of the iron and steel, making it resistant to almost any impact and durable enough to last for a lifetime. It also creates distinctive patterns throughout the metal that have become the trademark of Damascus blades. This pattern appears as waves and loops that give the blade a watery look.
Due to the process of folding the metal, Damascus blades contain many layers. Most knives and swords will have several hundred layers, with some numbering in the thousands of layers.
There are even some that claim one million layers.
Advantages of Damascus Steel
Why should you consider Damascus steel for your swords and katanas? There are many advantages to doing so. The numerous benefits of Damascus steel include:
- Beautiful Design
- Fewer Flaws and Impurities
Damascus Steel Sword and Katana Buying Guide
The purchase of a sword or katana is different from buying a kitchen knife, personal pocket knife, or hunting knife. Katanas especially are a category by themselves. The following factors should be taken into consideration during your search for the perfect sword or katana to suit your needs and preferences:
- Length: Consider how you will be using the sword, such as for tameshigiri practice. Do you need a shorter or longer sword for this activity? What length would suit your arm and build best?
- Sayas and sheaths: Do you prefer a more traditional wooden saya (Japanese scabbard) or leather sheath, or would you prefer another type that is easier to maintain?
- Wrappings: Cloth and silk wrappings for a tsuka (katana handle) are beautiful, but will they suit your activities? Will they be difficult to maintain?
How to Care for Your New Damascus Sword
Damascus steel swords and katanas are sturdy and durable, but they still require a certain level of care. Without proper care, these special blades will rust and sustain damage, shortening their lifespan. You may then find yourself looking for a replacement before you know it.
In order to properly care for your new Damascus steel sword or katana, follow these tips:
- Keep your sword dry at all times.
- Store your sword properly. This means storing it in a dry place that doesn’t experience extreme temperatures. Katanas should remain inside the saya and stored horizontally. The edge should face upwards and the curve should face the ground.
- Sharpen your sword every so often. A Japanese water stone can be used for sharpening your sword or katana.
- Keep the blade oiled to prevent rusting.
Swords and katanas are elegant additions to any home and make great gifts. Damascus steel can add an extra element of beauty to these swords. It also adds strength, durability, and utility to a sword or katana that will be used outside of the display case.
By taking your time to choose the perfect blade and taking proper care of it, you can ensure that your beautiful Damascus steel sword will last a lifetime.