Damascus Steel maintenance

by Nick



I have a damascus steel katana, and have come across so many sites saying slightly varying techniques as to their maintenance (including not to lean them or breathe too heavily close to them), and would just like a simple guide on proper care for her (yes she's a girl, but she'll bite ;) ).

Comments for Damascus Steel maintenance

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Here is a basic guide..
by: Paul

Hi Nick,

Generally speaking, the basic maintenance requirements of Damascus (i.e. folded) steel is the same as any other sword. Just ensure it is kept well oiled at all times, clean off any residue or water from cutting as quickly as possible, etc, etc.

Touching the blade with bare hands and not cleaning it quickly afterwards will lead to rusting due to the acids in your hands. Breathing on the blade will also cause moisture to accumulate - and again, lead to rust. Prevention is better than cure in all cases, but especially so with Damascus steel swords because you can't just grab some metal polish and clean it up like a normal sword or you will blur the Damascus pattern..

But of course, if you have no choice - then you need to take a totally different approach. First you should polish out any scratches or rust as you would any other sword as explained in our free sword maintenance ebook here

Then you need to bring out the pattern again - and to do this you need to use a mix of acid and vinegar, so you need to be extra careful using protective clothing, goggles, a well ventilated place and no disruptions as obviously playing around with any kind of acid is going to be dangerous.

The acid you need to use is PCB (Printed Circuit Board) Etchant and White Vingear as a 50/50 mix, pouring the vinegar first (not the other way around as it can cause a flash out if you add the Etchant first.

Then simply take a white clean cloth and using gloves, dip the cloth in the acid mix and wipe the blade with the wet (but not dripping) cloth along the whole length of the blade until it starts turning darker than you would expect and the pattern should start to reappear. Finally, carefully wash the blade off with water, wipe down with some alcohol or spray with WD40 and you are done..

In some cases, the pattern will not come back at all. What this usually means is that the sword was never actually folded at all but was faked Damascus steel, which sadly is surprisingly common on low end swords (but on low end swords, it is actually better if they are NOT folded as explained elsewhere on our site).

Hope this helps..!

Great advice
by: Nick (London)

Thanks I've made a note of this in careful detail! As to the actual cleaning process, in summation (from what I've read) and in I think correct order;
~ wipe completely with lint free cloth to remove existing oil/lint/moisture etc
~ (then do I?) gently dab the sword with the powder ball and spread with a second cloth
~ wipe blade again
~ gently spray/apply with sword oil (what are the best over-the-counter Choji oil alternatives? I am happy to buy a proper sword maintenance kit)
~ evenly spread oil to give a continuous thin coat (gleam/sheen) across the blade

> Do I need to oil the blade-base inside the handle from time to time, and if so how exactly without damaging or being unable to fit it back together?
> And exactly what is the little hammer thing for?

Some more info..
by: Paul

Hi Nick,

Yup, you are on the right track. You can find detailed info here but to your other questions:

1. No, you don't need to oil under the handle. Over time it will rust and end up with a natural protective black patina. This is normal and it will not fall apart because of it. You only place you need to worry about rust forming is on the blade itself as it will look unsightly and effect the sharpness.

2. The hammer is called a mekugi-nuki, the idea is to unscrew the top pin and use it to gently remove the mekugi pegs.. Most found in cheap cleaning kits are pretty useless in my experience as the hammer spins when you try to use it - a substitute is a blunted nail and small, normal hammer you can buy at a hardware store.

Hope this helps!

- Paul

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