Meet Ilya Kulikov, a famous blacksmith from Yaroslavl who is a real master of his craft and can turn damask steel into beautiful objects without any efforts.
Beautiful damask steel is obtained when several plates made of different metals are forged together. Thin plates undergo numerous forging, metals are mixed and damask steel is got. Unlike damask steel, wootz which is represented in the picture is boiled.
A blacksmith needs to concentrate on the boiling process as it’s important not to overheat the alloy. Further the process totally depends on a master. Ilya prefers cutting the alloy into 4 parts.
The lines of an alloy are far from being attractive. Correct forging determines firmness and future pattern of lines.
The tube is welded at the initial stage of the process to ensure easy grasping.
Damask steel originates from India where people can spend years on meditation or making a sword. Ancient Indian blacksmiths had small hammers and seemed to have a plenty of time.
Russian masters have always returned for help to their apprentices who could hold the sledge-hammers in the right way. This method reduced time spent on goods manufacture but still couldn’t accelerate the process enough.
Invention of a forging hammer helped a lot. Many years ago the appliances were equal to an engine in size. Now blacksmiths use pneumatic hammers which produce less noise but are also less productive than the first ones.
Finally the one fourth part is turned into a plate. It will take half a day to produce such a plate manually, 10-15 minutes – in case of mechanized equipment usage. Ancient Indians spent several days on doing the same though.
Ilya is careful with small details and never skips the work.
He works thoroughly at his objects which are of high quality.
Working with metal a blacksmith knows for sure what side will be a cutting one and which will become a back edge. The external part of the alloy will be transformed into a cutting edge.
Why is damask steel that was so widely spread in the beginning of the last century is now a rare thing? The point is that today we have many other alloys which are produced in an easier way and are much cheaper. But properties of damask steel still make it the leading material used in cold weapon manufacture.
Why is damask so unique then? It is not about non-homogeneity of the alloy. Metal with low carbon level is soft unlike metal that contains much carbon. In forging the two kinds of metal are mixed forming the most beautiful pattern. After hardening the blade becomes both stiff and flexible.
However, magic force of damask steel is nothing else a myth. Moreover, the origin of the word itself is doubted as well.
The city of Damask has never been a metallurgical center but rather a huge market where eastern goods to be delivered to the west had to be sold. Sold, but not made.
Quality of goods made in the Middle Ages is far from being perfect as well. Separate good objects are stored in museums, all the others which are not good at all were used during wars.
It’s quite natural as it was impossible to produce a great amount of qualitative objects using manual labor only.
Ilya likes doing something that he is good at and seldom spends his time on exclusive objects.
It takes an equal period of time to produce an exclusive, reliable knife and several other models that have been manufactured already.
The ready-made blade is waiting for further processing. You can see damask on the left and piece of meteorite on the right.
The only meteorite knife in the world has internal layer made of damask and external one – of meteorite.
Rough polishing of the blade will be the next stage.
He takes care about his health as smithcraft is very bad for lungs.
That’s how a new knife was born.
This blade still needs hardening, polishing, etching and grinding. After that it will turn into a beautiful knife and acquire a loving owner.