What Is Damascus Steel And German Steel?

What is the Damascus Steel?

The origin of the name "Damascus Steel" is contentious: two Islamic scholars Al-Kindi and Al-Biruni (from circa 800-873 CE) both wrote about swords and steels for swords based on the appearance, geographical location of where they were produced or forged, or the name of the blacksmith. And there is a mention from both scholars of 'damscene' or 'damascus' when describing the swords to some extent.

Drawing upon these references, there are three possible sources from where the term Damascus originates from in the context of steel:

  • Al-Kindi called swords forged in Damascus in Siberia as 'Damascene', but it is important to note that these swords were not described as having a wavy pattern appearance on the surface of the steel.
  • Al-Biruni refers to a sword-smith called Damasqui who made swords of crucible steel.
  • In Arabic, the word 'damas' means 'watered', and Damascus blades are often described as having a water-pattern on their surface.

The most common explanation is that steel is named after the capital city of Syria, Damascus, the largest of the cities in the ancient Levant. It may either refer to swords made or sold in Damascus directly, or it may just refer to the aspect of the typical patterns, by comparison with Damask fabrics which are also named for Damascus. 

What is the German Steel?

German knives are usually made with stainless steel, which has a Rockwell scale rating of 56-58. Stainless steel contains chromium. This is what lowers the Rockwell scale rating. The benefit is a knife blade that resists corrosion and rust.

Cooks generally agree that German-style, stainless steel knife blades are hardier than Japanese-style blades. There’s less concern about chipping or breaking the blade of a German-style knife. Its durability means you can use it for more cutting and chopping tasks.

The softer characteristic of the steel still provides a sharp edge, but stainless steel will require you to hone and sharpen it more often. The softer steel also makes the blade easier to sharpen the blade — even though a stainless steel blade means that a German knife will lose its sharp edge quicker than its Japanese counterpart, which is made of high-carbon steel.

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