Written by Maria Zarah

Care & Sharpening

Damascus Care

In our estimation, Damascus and Carbon steel knives are better than stainless steel knives, but do require a little care. Here are some tips to help you care for your knife.

  1. Never store your knives for long periods in the leather sheath. Leather can absorb water, which will rust the knife.
  2. After use, wash the blade, dry it, and use Flitz, WD-40, vegetable oil, or Vaseline on the blade to prevent rust. Kitchen knives can be washed and dried without oiling. Carbon steel will change colors with time but will still perform well.

*Clean the brass and handle metal with Flitz or other brass cleaner. Johnson’s paste wax can be used on the blade handle and sheath to protect it.  Birchwood Casey gunstock wax is another alternative for the sheath, metal parts and the knife blade.

*Damascus is very easy to clean up if rusted but seems to be rust resistant. Sometimes Damascus gets dark with age. To brighten up the blade, sand it lengthwise with a worn piece of 600 grit sand paper. This just hits the raised portions of the etched pattern and makes the blade look brighter.

  1. If your sheath gets wet, don’t store the knife in it if you can help it. If my sheath gets wet and I still need to carry my knife in it, I liberally use WD-40, Vaseline or vegetable oil. Vaseline is handy because you can use it on chapped lips, dry hands, rifles, etc.

Sharpening Damascus

When the Damascus is put into the acid it is sharpened first. After the acid etching the blade is re-sharpened with 320 grit sanding belt on a 1 x 42 inch belt sander. Then it is sharpened on a 600 to 1100 grit worn belt. The cutting edge is placed so that it is facing the belt – the belt is moving towards the cutting edge. After several passes the blade is stropped on leather, re-sharpened, stropped again until it has an edge sharper than a scalpel. Stropping breaks off any wire edge that is developed on the edge from the sharpening.

This is the state you should receive your Damascus knife. As the mild steel wears away faster than the other two high carbon components, a miniature saw is created at the cutting edge. After a while the minute saw teeth become misaligned a bit. Now, with two gentle strokes per side on the ceramic rod the knife will be shaving sharp again. This is done by holding the ceramic rod in the left hand. Put the heel, near the guard, of the blade on the rod at about a 20-degree angle. Draw the blade from heel to tip gently and slowly with very little pressure. Do not try to remove metal, just use a light pressure from heel to tip. Do the other side, and then repeat once more.  The edge on your Damascus when you receive it has a uniform angle the whole length of the blade. So sharpening should be easy.

Serrated edges are another story. These should be sharpened on a triangle cross-section set of ceramic rods supplied by Spyderco Company. The knife blade should be held vertically and drawn from heel to tip down the ceramic rod, alternating each side. Each individual serration does not need to be filed or worked with a stone.

Occasionally, the Damascus blade and the brass fittings should be cleaned. To clean the blade use a piece of worn 600 grit sandpaper and sand lightly lengthwise on the blade. This will polish the raised portions of the pattern and make the blade look brighter. I use Flitz metal cleaner on the blade after it is sanded and also on the brass and handle tang metal that is exposed. This cleaner will clean all metals. Any brass cleaner should work on the brass pieces. WD-40, Birchwood Casey gunstock wax, Johnson’s paste wax, Vaseline, or vegetable oil will also work on the blade.