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Old 13th December 2016, 04:34 PM   #1
Jens Nordlunde
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Default Wootz or not?

In Shakespeare’s drama Hamlet, the prince did not say. ‘Two beers or not two beers – that is the question, no he said, ‘Wootz or no wootz – that is the question’.

I am sure that a number of the blades from Deccan and the south are mande of wootz, although it is not shown, and few try to etch these blades.

Another type of blades which could be made of wootz, are the burnished sword blades. Burnishing blades strated relative late, due to fashion, but a lot of old blades were burnished, and some of these can have been made of wootz.
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Old 14th December 2016, 03:20 AM   #2
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You pose a good question Jens. Over the years I have polished and etched many Indian blades. Interestingly, most that had blades burnished bright either had a very poor wootz pattern that was inconsistent and visually unappealing or they were pattern welded with faint or minimal pattern. So perhaps this was done to obscure that fact. The exception to this rule seems to be where the center of the blade or the fullers are left in etch showing the wootz or PW and just the edges burnished. These obviously done for the contrast and visual appeal of said contrast.
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Old 14th December 2016, 09:14 AM   #3
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Hello Jens and RSWORD,

In my oppinion and based on my "Indian experience," most wootz blades that are currently polished to a bright shine ended up like this simply because they were rusted then cleaned, but the person who did the cleaning either didn't realise it is wootz, or simply didn't know how to etch it.

Even as we speak, one can easily aquire a dirt cheap Tulwar in fairly poor condition, then realise it is high quality wootz and only the blade itself is worth a few times more than what it has been paid for the whole thing. But this is definitely a game of chance that not too many are willing to take.

PS: As a mechanical engineer, I would like to point out that burnishing is a plastic deformation of the surface, at cold and through pressure and sliding or rolling.

Last edited by mariusgmioc : 14th December 2016 at 06:32 PM.
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Old 14th December 2016, 10:09 AM   #4
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Thank you for your answers. I hope others will join in, so we can have a broader view on the subject.
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Old 14th December 2016, 05:21 PM   #5
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It is an interesting question . The bottom line of it is what technologies were used in India to manufacture steel?

Obviously, the most ancient and the simplest one was bloomery steel. It produced a lump of metal mixed with slug, and the percent of carbon varied dramatically in different parts of the bloom. Then the smith separated the pieces into high-carbon and low-carbon piles , forged separate ingots and,- Voila!, - one had a perfect material for producing mechanical damascus. As a matter of fact, all old European swords and all Japanese swords were made this way.

Another technology was crucible steel, i.e. wootz. Only in India, potentially in neighboring countries, but later on. India was exporting tens of thousands ( or even significantly more) wootz ingots all over the Orient.

Both of these techniques could have been done in rather primitive village smithies and were based on manufacturing small quantities of steel or more precisely, small ingots.

The manufacture of monosteel AFAIK is a later European invention, requiring large industrial facilities.

Again AFAIK, the Brits built advanced metallurgical factories in India only in the 19th century.


If this is true, until that time all Indian blades should have been damascus: either mechanical or wootz. Of course, manufacturing and forging conditions might have obscured the innate structure: erratic melting or cooling of the crucibles and/or overheating of wootz ingots during the process of forging blades would transform them into ( in fact) monosteel. But that would be an error of manufacture.


Is my logic correct? Am I missing something?
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Old 14th December 2016, 05:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel

Is my logic correct? Am I missing something?


Hello Ariel!

I think your logic is correct... up to a point.

You seem to miss the part that not all crucible steel is wootz. So not all the steel produced in India through crucible process has necessarily resulted in wootz.

So yes, wootz is crucible but crucible is not wootz. In other words, woots is not any crucible, and it is exactly this tiny difference between crucible and wootz that remains mostly a mistery even today.

Even today, there are Indian bladesmiths making crucible and presumably following precisely the same old crucible process like their forerunners, yet the result is at best sham, but in most cases monosteel.
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Old 14th December 2016, 06:07 PM   #7
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I had written a longer mail on the subject, but it seems to be in outer space.

Dont forget, that at one point the British had send ingots to England, but the British smiths could not make wootz blade out of them. The reason was, that they heated the ingots far too much - to white and not to cherry temperature. Working on blades at cherry temperature was, of course, far more work and a lot harder, than when the iron was ' white', but the Brits did not know this.
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Old 14th December 2016, 09:07 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
Hello Ariel!

I think your logic is correct... up to a point.

You seem to miss the part that not all crucible steel is wootz. So not all the steel produced in India through crucible process has necessarily resulted in wootz.

So yes, wootz is crucible but crucible is not wootz..


I have mentioned it in the penultimate paragraph. You must have missed it.
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Old 15th December 2016, 09:27 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I have mentioned it in the penultimate paragraph. You must have missed it.


Nope, I didn't miss it, but you are inferring that the rule is that anything that is crucible is wootz, and if it is not wootz, then it must be an accident of some sort ("error of manufacture" as you name it). When in fact wootz is the result of a more elaborate process than ordinary crucible.

So the rule is that crucible is simply a method of obtaining monosteel.

If you want to get wootz, you need to do more than just follow the crucible process.
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Old 15th December 2016, 12:26 PM   #10
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I know it. I simplified the argument to avoid going on a tangent.

How about that: wootz can be obtained only by using a crucible, and that was the methodology routinely used in India.

Any deviation from the optimal process, whether accidental, intentional or a shortcut would result in monosteel as a final product.

Now let's go back to the original question.

Last edited by ariel : 15th December 2016 at 01:11 PM.
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Old 15th December 2016, 12:54 PM   #11
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Has anyone else noticed how many of the common and cheap horn handled Kurdish daggers have a watered\wootz blade? Anyone know why this should be?
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Old 15th December 2016, 01:22 PM   #12
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My guess because wootz was plentiful.
The low efficiency of the process was compensated by the simplicity and low cost of establishing the enterprise in any village with easy access to iron ore.

That's exactly what I was talking about:-)
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Old 15th December 2016, 05:07 PM   #13
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Definitely wootz was plentiful, as it is demonstrated by the relative abundance of surviving wootz-bladed weapons, from India to Turkey.

Most Kurdish daggers have Persian blades, and come from a period for which wootz was the standard, then they were passed on from generation to generation, while changing hilts and scabbards.

Yet, now despite all technological progress, advanced metalurgy and intensive research, there isn't a single bladesmith (not even Ivan Kirpichev or Zaqro Nonikashvili) capable to consistently produce wootz displaying the same mesmerizing watering like the antique original.
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Old 15th December 2016, 05:29 PM   #14
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Not wanting to sidetrack the conversation,

But can anyone explain to me (or maybe through a link) what how bloomery steel was produced (tamahagane?)

And when did Mediterranean nations forfeit this method for newer methods and what are they?

I know how wootz is produced btw through a couple of youtube clips...

Cheers!
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Old 16th December 2016, 05:00 AM   #15
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Yes, bloomery steel is essentially tamahagane. In the original variant, furnaces were built with an air-supplying orifice situated on the windward side.
That was further improved by hearth refining, shaft furnaces with bellows and then by puddling furnaces at the end of 18 century.
After that, the tempo of progress accelerated: Bessemer and Siemens -Martin processes allowed rapid production of large quantities of steel; the end of 19 century.
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