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Ancient Swords Made of Carbon Nanotubes

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the built-to-last dept.

293

brian0918 writes "Nature reports that researchers at Dresden University believe that sabres from Damascus dating back to 900 AD were formed with help from carbon nanotubes. From the article: 'Sabres from Damascus are made from a type of steel called wootz. But the secret of the swords' manufacture was lost in the eighteenth century.' At high temperatures, impurities in the metal 'could have catalyzed the growth of nanotubes from carbon in the burning wood and leaves used to make the wootz, Paufler suggests. These tubes could then have filled with cementite to produce the wires in the patterned blades, he says.'"

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interesting... (5, Funny)

RelliK (4466) | more than 7 years ago | (#16878940)

So swords are a series of tubes too?

Re:interesting... (5, Funny)

gijoel (628142) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879336)

No, this means that the internet is far older than we thought.

Re:interesting... (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879968)

So swords are a series of tubes too?
No, this means that the internet is far older than we thought.
...or at least mightier!

- RG>

And, therefore... (2, Funny)

HiggsBison (678319) | more than 7 years ago | (#16880014)

No, this means that the internet is far older than we thought.

And, therefore, Al Gore is far older than we thought.

Locking up Jefferson. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16878944)

"But the secret of the swords' manufacture was lost in the eighteenth century."

Not anymore!

Re:Locking up Jefferson. (1, Interesting)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879038)

Actually, even this article seems a bit strange to me- I always thought Damascus Steel required the sacrifice of a young male slave with proper supplication to the gods to temper the steel (the blood of the slave provided the carbon for the nano tubes) while this seems to be a different process.

Re:Locking up Jefferson. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879728)

Close, that's a japanese process, though really it was a pig.

*sigh* I have no choice (-1, Offtopic)

Enoxice (993945) | more than 7 years ago | (#16878946)

I, for one, welcome our new uber-1337, w00tz-making overlords.

Sorry.

And neither do I (-1, Offtopic)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879420)

Hassan chop! [urbandictionary.com]

Re:*sigh* I have no choice (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879584)

Almost every post on slashdot has an overlord joke with a +5 Funny rating. I'm waiting for the day when its not funny any more...

Re:*sigh* I have no choice (2, Funny)

v783650 (948198) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879644)

What on Earth do you mean, "any more"?

Re:*sigh* I have no choice (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879720)

I, for one, do not welcome our eventual humorless overlords.

Re:*sigh* I have no choice (2, Funny)

belligerent0001 (966585) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879722)

And when that day comes I for one will welcoe our humorless overlord rulers.....

wootz? (4, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#16878950)

Look, this isn't really a 'mad loot' or 'MASSIVE DAMAGE' moment so please, so try to speak and write proper English.

Re:wootz? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879064)

Look, this isn't really a 'mad loot' or 'MASSIVE DAMAGE' moment so please, so try to speak and write proper English.

When correcting someone else, you might want to look over your own stuff more carefully.

Re:wootz? (4, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879188)

Actually it was much worse. I almost used right instead of write.

Now then on to our next lesson, there is a difference between making a stupid joke and correcting people. For instance, stupid jokes may reference Giant Enemy Crabs while corrections often do not.

Re:wootz? (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879978)

yes, however it apparently went over the heads of /. mods and you got modded interesting instead of funny.

(hey, I got the joke, I swear!)

Re:wootz? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879070)

wootz: woot woot woot woot. wootz.

Thank you. I'll be here all week.

WTF are you talking about? (2, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879590)

Look, this isn't really a 'mad loot' or 'MASSIVE DAMAGE' moment so please, so try to speak and write proper English.
If you bothered to RTF-Wikipedia link, [wikipedia.org] you'd discover that Wootz describes a certain type of steel alloy that became known as Damascus Steel.

The wikipedia article says that Damascus steel was rediscovered in the 1980's, but I got to meet an ABS Master Bladesmith (there's less than 100 of them) several years ago (around 2001) and had the chance to heft in my hand what he said was the first hunk of real raw damascus steel that his friend (an ABS Master) had given to anyone since rediscovering the process.

So, from what I understand, we already know how to recreate the original style of Damascus steel aka wootz.

Re:WTF are you talking about? (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 7 years ago | (#16880010)

Do you hear a whistling sound? Sort of like something flying well over your head?

I wonder what that could be? ^_^

Re:wootz? (1)

magnumquest (894849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879622)

haha.. What's funnier is the +4 Interesting Rating.. The people rating it clearly didn't get the joke..

Re:wootz? (2, Funny)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879880)

Look, this isn't really a 'mad loot' or 'MASSIVE DAMAGE' moment so please, so try to speak and write proper English.

And uh...why is that exactly? Oh, because you said so. I'm sorry.

Those of us with a sense of humor will continue to enjoy the irony of this article and will have a good chuckle. But please, do let me know if you need any help removing the rod from your ass.

Re:wootz? (4, Funny)

SinaSa (709393) | more than 7 years ago | (#16880018)

Is the rod made of wootz?

Wootz? (5, Funny)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16878952)

I knew about the special properties of Damascus steel -- there have been many theories about the source of its strength and ability to hold an edge.

But I didn't know it was called "wootz". That's almost too good to be true. Next we'll find out the it's made of pwned ore.

Re:Wootz? (5, Funny)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879044)

"What have you been doing slave?"
"Pwning ore sire!"

Re:Wootz? (1)

magnumquest (894849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879638)

+4 Informative! hahaha... The rating just makes this joke +10 Funny haha.. I would however like to know how the person who ranked it got 'informed' from that joke..

Re:informative (5, Informative)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879804)

simple - the slashdot mod system is broken, funny posts get no positive karma. Thus, kind moderators will often mod a funny post as informative or insightful, so that the poster gets the karma.

this can really fuck you over, by the way, if you tell a controversial joke... get modded +5 funny, then get a -1, troll, and another funny, and another troll. When a moderation war kicks in, you keep losing karma from the -1 troll's and gain no positive karma from the +1 funny's. Eventually you could end up with a +5 post that cost you an assload of karma.

Pwning for ore. (1)

FeriteCore (25122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879888)

Actualy, the best samurai swords were made from iron bearing sands once found in Japanese rivers. One theory has the iron for Damascus coming from similar deposits in India. The unique impurities (in both cases) added to the special properties of the blades.

So pwning for wootz iron for a 1337 sword actualy makes sense.

Re:Wootz? (4, Interesting)

Feyr (449684) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879068)

it might not be "wrong" to say it was lost, but it's not entirely right either. i remember a few years ago some engineer had replicated the process and was trying to streamline it for commercial production (it required something like 10 highly involved and time consuming steps).

wish i could find that article now

Re:Wootz? (4, Informative)

user24 (854467) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879520)

you can buy damascus steel no problem, but the -original- technique was lost. Today there are several techniques, from lazer etching to acid etching (both imo cheating) to folding different types of steel together in the forge to produce effects like this: http://www.knifekits.com/store/images/steel/kkdam_ random_sheet.jpg [knifekits.com]

Re:Wootz? (1)

Feyr (449684) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879664)

no the article im thinking about claimed to have replicated, or close enough, the original process. laser etching isn't that involved :)

Re:Wootz? (1)

asCii88 (1017788) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879684)

Thats totally awesome! Now I can be the medieval warrior I allways wanted to!

Re:Wootz? (2, Insightful)

LarryLong (899387) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879318)

From TFA: "Their blades bear a banded pattern thought to have been created as the sword was annealed and forged." That's actually incorrect. The pattern is in fact the ancient arabic translation of the word pwned!!, repeated over and over. (Also from TFA) "But his suggestion isn't necessarily rock solid." Does anybody else reckon this may not have even made Slashdot if it wasn't for the steel being called w00tz!??

Re:Wootz? (1)

onx (956508) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879350)

No, clearly it's made of wootz ore!

http://ffxi.allakhazam.com/images/items/wootz.jpg [allakhazam.com]

GOATSE WARNING (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879542)

Do not click on that link.

Re:Wootz? (1)

iNetRunner (613289) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879382)

The ore might have been dug up in India where there is a little bit of tungsten in the iron. Also read Neal Stephenson's book The Confusion, if you want a fictional description of the forging of that steel (pages 580-584). (The book is the second book in a three book series.)

Wootz? (-1, Redundant)

aeinome (672135) | more than 7 years ago | (#16878958)

Might I be the first to say... woot?

Re:Wootz? (4, Insightful)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879100)

Might I be the first to say... woot?
Unless you were around in 900AD, I think the answer to that question is, well, "No. No you may not be first."

Sorry about that...

I'm very interested in word origins (5, Funny)

Crimsane (815761) | more than 7 years ago | (#16878964)

This, for instance, tells the story of old Damascan warriors that would run around slaying their enemies, and at each kill would shout a prayer of "W00Tz" to their ancient sword gods to thank them for their glorious victory.

Re:I'm very interested in word origins (4, Informative)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879040)

The entomology of the word may very well relate to the modern slang in sword slinging battle games.

Wikipedia says "the word wootz may have been a mistranscription of wook, an anglicised version of ukku, the word for steel in many south Indian languages."

So probably WoW wasn't responsible for this word, but maybe a type of back pain related to a sedentary lifestyle, will be called "pwned spine".

Re:I'm very interested in word origins (4, Informative)

haluness (219661) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879126)

I think you mean etymology :)

Re:I'm very interested in word origins (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879146)

I'm very interested in sword origins, too. What? Oh.

Re:I'm very interested in word origins (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879206)

the word wootz may have been a mistranscription of wook

So probably WoW wasn't responsible for this word

No, apparently Chewbacca was.

Re:I'm very interested in word origins (1)

cheshire_cqx (175259) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879218)

Wootz? Are you kidding me?

Ancient Guy 1: Whoa--this is a really sharp sword.

Ancient Guy 2: Wootz!

Re:I'm very interested in word origins (2, Insightful)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879228)

wy would WOW be responsible for a word that predates it by at least a decade to my knowledge?

Re:I'm very interested in word origins (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879394)

Yeah, one of my favorite things to do is study the entomology of words. You'd be surprised how many words actually have microscopic insects crawling around on them, and how those insects can lead to new slang. The word "bugs" itself stemmed from the invertebrate fauna present on punch cards and in old vacuum-tube machines.

As for the word "woot", it was around long before WoW, although the Z was added later, probably by an as yet unidentified insect.

Re:I'm very interested in word origins (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 7 years ago | (#16880016)

Well played sir. See my (and other's) corrections through this thread.

Re:I'm very interested in word origins (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879926)

This brings up an interesting and very related question. Where did the modern-day "w00t" come from? Obviously it didn't come from this, it couldn't have...the people who use this phrase tend to be too young/immature to learn about this kind of thing to introduce it into gamer culture!

Re:I'm very interested in word origins (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879998)

The apocalyptic explanation I heard is that it stands for We Own Other Team.

Yes, I threw the word apocryphal for humour after I blew etymology.

Re:I'm very interested in word origins (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879996)

People actually moderated this joke informative? Now that's gullible. Oh wait this is /.

Re:I'm very interested in word origins (1)

Kopl (1027670) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879272)

Research:
Wikipedia says it's from the word root(uncited)

Google groups:
Very early: There's "Woot-boof wammie"
1994-1995: lots of "Woot! There it is!"
In 1996 it's used how it is today.

Nice history lesson... (2, Informative)

IAstudent (919232) | more than 7 years ago | (#16878968)

but when do I get my Dragon's Tooth?

Piffle (1, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 7 years ago | (#16878982)

Suggest is the word. I think the author was smokin' the wacky tabaccy when he came up with this one.

Nanotubes solve global warming, cancer, deficit! (0)

6350' (936630) | more than 7 years ago | (#16878988)

Oh jesus christ, when will the carbon nano-tube apologists give it a rest? I swear, these guys are like string theorists crossed with Amiga enthusiasts.

Re:Nanotubes solve global warming, cancer, deficit (4, Funny)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879130)

This just in: carbon nanotubes found in Amiga computers! Also, carbon nanotubes made of vibrating strings!

Re:Nanotubes solve global warming, cancer, deficit (1)

daemonenwind (178848) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879476)

You forgot it takes a healthy dose of Neutrinos to make the tubes fully form.

Re:Nanotubes solve global warming, cancer, deficit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879732)

It's all part of the vast right-wing conspiracy!

So that's what they're talking about... (0, Redundant)

StringBlade (557322) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879022)

All over IRC I see people typing w00tz! w00tz! And now I know they were really just referring to Damascus steel and carbon nanotubes. That makes a lot more...er...hmm...

Re:So that's what they're talking about... (1)

Psiven (302490) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879462)

MPU. This is a lot more inteligent then some of the other "funny" posts.

Well, that's certainly the most interesting theory (4, Insightful)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879026)

... I've heard so far.

From my understanding the steel was hammered into very very thin sheets- of approximate shape- and then bundled. 30 to 50 of these sheets were then dipped in an carbon-iron fluxed solution at high temperature which was then 'wicked' between the plates by capillary action. Cooled and drop forged by any number of techinques the steel was work hardened and quenched, and provided the best of both world- steel's strength and hardness (sharpness), and the raw iron's fibrous flexibility.

As you know raw iron (no carbon) has packed fibres- you can see them as they rust away- but I have no idea if the fibres are that small...

Anyway... interesting theory.

Re:Well, that's certainly the most interesting the (1)

udderly (890305) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879136)

I've always had an unhealthy appreciation of pocket knives and have coveted one of these Boker Damascus steel models: https://www.bokerusa.com/images/1054DAMASCUS.jpg [bokerusa.com] . I just can't see dropping > $500 on a knife to strip wires and sharpen pencils.

Re:Well, that's certainly the most interesting the (1)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879262)

Well, you could always go overboard on the Damascus and get one of these [atlantacutlery.com]

Re:Well, that's certainly the most interesting the (5, Informative)

jmarkantes (663024) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879160)

Maybe I'm mis-reading your post, but it sounds like you're thinking of pattern welding [wikipedia.org] . The true damascus steel was produced in a different way from pattern welding. Because the of the similar appearance of the two steels, pattern welded blades are just called damascus steel nowadays.

Katana comparison (5, Interesting)

Ekhymosis (949557) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879028)

Since the secret of manufacturing was lost in the 18th century, it would make sense that they were still made during 1500-1600. How would their properties in manufacturing compare to the folding method of the Japanese katana? Would the nanotubes be present in the katana as well, or was this unique to Damascus?

Re:Katana comparison (5, Informative)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879232)

*puts on his swordsman and apprentice blacksmith hats, looking funny for wearing both at the same time*

Most Japanese swords created before higher quality iron began being imported in large quantities from other countries were made from volcanic black sand (which is high in iron oxide). The sand was smelted with rice stalks and the resulting block of iron was broken into pieces and sorted by color (carbon content).

These different carbon content metals were formed into billets and used to make the different parts of the blade since katana blades were not traditionally made in one piece. They were usually made in anything from two pieces (core/edge and outer casing) to five pieces (back ridge, both sides, core, and edge - in this case usually made of harder iron recycled from old pots) with some being made in even more pieces.

Incidentally, this is also what caused them to be curved since the different metals cooled at different temps. Unfortunately, it also meant that tempering the sword was a very delicate time because if the sword had any non-minor defects or was cooled improperly, the blade would literally rend itself apart.

So, to answer your question, they were two completely different processes.

Re:Katana comparison (1)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879436)

I was just looking around on ye olde interwebbe for someone knowledgeable on knives and techniques for forging them- and I think I might have stumbled across the right person ;)

I was given a knife as a gift for helping someone out (he's a Blacksmith and made it for me ^^ ), and he set me the challenge of finding out what was special about the material in the blade.

I suspect it may be Damascus steel or a related technique........... the pattern in the steel resembles the type of pattern I've seen in those blades, though it's nowhere near as dense and I personally think it actually resembles wood grain..... anyway here's macro shot of the blade [chrisdidthis.com] I hope you can help- mail me if you need more info :)

Re:Katana comparison (5, Interesting)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879536)

From the photo, it does indeed look like the metal in the blade has been folded (damasced). That may or may not be the answer he's looking for. I can say that, from the up close shot, the patterning is pretty.

My master would be a better judge than I am. He's also a swordsman. One of us is better at blacksmithing (He did it professionally for quite some time and used to teach at a school) and the other is generally a better swordsman (though he'd say that was him, we both know better).

I started learning to work steel because I wanted to make my own weapons (I've trained martially since I was about 6 and got my first sword at 10). Unfortunately, things happened which caused me to stop that pursuit for the moment.

While I was there, I got to use a type of forge setup which is basically only found in a few places in the world and got to meet a lot of interesting people including a master gunsmith whose work is in the Smithsonian. It was a real trip.

Re:Katana comparison (1)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 7 years ago | (#16880000)

That should be enough to earn me the secondary reward (I was promised some sort of alcoholic beverage * 6 if I got the answer from somewhere)

I was going to thank you in words, but the good karma points got there first.

Thanks! :D

Re:Katana comparison (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879540)

While its hard to tell from that angle without more of the blade being in focus, it *looks* like it might be what's referred to as "cable damascus" or "wire damascus".

Take chunk of steel cable, weld ends to keep it together. Heat, flux, and heat to welding temp, forge into billet (twisting while heated but before forge-welding to tighten up pattern if you'd like). Forge billet into blade.

Re:Katana comparison (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879606)

Should mention I'm not a swordsman and not really much of a blacksmith to be honest -- though I do enjoy 'smithing I haven't had as much time as I'd like to devote to that hobby.

I'm basing my guess on examples I've seen, and descriptions and photos from Jim Hrisoulas' books. If you're interested in knife and swordmaking, I'd highly recommend his books, if you can find them (amazon has the first of his, the others are backordered, STILL)

Re:Katana comparison (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879912)

I just looked at a picture of something very similar.
A guy posted a wiki link about Pattern Welding [wikipedia.org] .

Tungsten content. (1)

Shark (78448) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879456)

I remember a post here on Slashdot about a pair of guys (A blacksmith and a metallurgist) from Florida I think who said the secret was merely related to a certain quantity of tungsten in the steel and pounding it *very hard*. If someone can dig out the link...

Re:Katana comparison (4, Informative)

El Torico (732160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879278)

One thing that I noticed on the wiki entry on Wootz steel was the presence of tungsten and vanadium (which is used in modern day steel alloys, as well as chromium). As far as I know, the steel used in Japanese swords ("white") steel didn't have the same impurities, although "blue" steel does.

Again, I only have a passing knowledge of this. Interestingly, blue and white steels are used in modern Japanese woodworking chisels and planes. Here's are brief explanation of the types of steel used - http://www.woodworking-forum.com/woodworking/White _and_Blue_Japanese_Steel_936937.html [woodworking-forum.com] .

Re:Katana comparison (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879314)

I was going to post "DUURRRR ITS NOT AS GOOD AS A KATANA AM I RITE" but you already mentioned them, and now the nerd rage of the Japanophiles will begin anyway.

Re:Katana comparison (2, Informative)

YetAnotherBob (988800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879424)

The folding and reforging technique the Japanese masters used produced a blade similar to what the imediate poster called out, but, that is not a true Damascus steel. It is really just a lot of welded razors. It is very sharp, but has a different pattern, waves, not speckles, and is not as strong as a true Damascus steel blade. That is why museums pay a sizable fortune for a real Damascus Steel blade. The Japanese blades are still made, a few a year. The Damascus blades are not.

Re:Katana comparison (1, Insightful)

typidemon (729497) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879662)

Since the secret of manufacturing was lost in the 18th century, it would make sense that they were still made during 1500-1600. How would their properties in manufacturing compare to the folding method of the Japanese katana? Would the nanotubes be present in the katana as well, or was this unique to Damascus?

The assumption that Japanese sword making techniques are magically better than European knowledge is just piffle, end of story. This is the same hocus pocus rubbish that makes out that all Japanese Samurai had near mystical abilities in combat and paints European combatants as doofus's who wore hundreds of pounds of armour and if they fell of their horse they where useless.

Folding steel to make blades is a relatively common technique known to all nations who's natural resource in iron resulted in poor quality steal. For every story of blades with magical properties coming out of Japan there is at least one equivalent from Europe. Most people just don't know them because we, in general, don't have any interest in our own history.

The simple truth between the matter is that in the case of martial technology and prowess Asia and Europe were very close to each other.

Von Daniken Strikes Again (0)

whatnever (1028390) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879032)

Ancient Astronauts teach Syrians secret nano-tube technology in 900 AD...

Re:Von Daniken Strikes Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879120)

Gah, the wootz steel was made in India. All the Syrians did was lend their name to it. http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/9809/Verhoeve n-9809.html/ [tms.org] is a chemical analysis of various Damascus steel swords and the conclusion by the authors is that the steel used has impurities that show the origin of the metal ingots as coming from India.

Re:Von Daniken Strikes Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879852)

Maybe it was the same guys who brought Transparent Aluminum [wikipedia.org] to our times...

LocalHost: root$ cal (-1, Offtopic)

p4ul13 (560810) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879102)

Wait, it's not April Fools day!?

Believe, might, could..... (0, Redundant)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879230)

With all these diluting words there's not much conclusive.

The blades were very good compared ... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879300)

A modern blade that would be considered unremarkable would be very good by most ancient standards. There are ancient Chinese stories of knives that were able to split iron rods that were being used as weapons. If I swing a steel bar at you and you split it with a knife, your knife may be good but my iron bar must be pretty bad. In fact, by most ancient standards a piece of rebar would be considered pretty formidable.

The other telling thing is that the Muslim warriors were dismayed by the protection provided by European armor. A Damascus blade might be amazingly effective against silk handkerchiefs and human flesh but not so much against other pieces of metal.

Stephenson (3, Interesting)

radarsat1 (786772) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879344)

Neal Stephenson mentions this in the Baroque Cycle. He talks about how the little eggs of steel were forged in India and hammered out to make watered steel, then sold to the asian market. I assume he is talking about the same thing? I believe he even used the word "wootz", but I can't recall.

Re:Stephenson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879412)

That's correct, it's where I first read of wootz.

Wasn't the riddle of steel solved? (3, Interesting)

the Gray Mouser (1013773) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879354)

By these guys [ntsource.com] ?

Or has their worked been made suspect or not confirmed?

Old News (5, Informative)

YetAnotherBob (988800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879368)

Scientific American reported over a year ago that a metallurgist and a blacksmith managed to reproduce Damascus steel. The secret was in the Wootz. Wootz is a lump of iron that was produced at the mine, then exported. The folks in India didn't know how to make it into Damascus steel, the folks in Damascus did, but the process only worked with a wootz from one particular mine in India. The mine in India played out several hundred years ago. That's why the secret died, after being a state secret for over 1000 years. It stopped working.

According to the team SA reported on, the secret is in a small amount of molybdenum. the process of manufacture used up to 50 forgings, and used acids to etch designs into the blade. The forgings cause microscopically fine strands of molybdenum to be located throughout the steel, breaking up the crystaline structure, and with it the fracture points. This also caused the famous 'watermarks' that all true Damascus steel has.

As some nanotubes result from almost any coking process, there would be nanotubes in there, (vanishingly small quantities), but the strength would come from other things.

I understand that it is now possible to buy a new Damascus steel sword again, but the price is very high. (it always was.) A flying car might be cheaper.

Re:Old News (4, Informative)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879588)

Thanks for the pointer. The SA article is online here [mines.edu] .

Nice article on rediscovery (4, Informative)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879370)

The making of Damascus steel was lost around 1750, but rediscovered around 2000. There's a nice article on the rediscovery [ntsource.com] referenced from one of the wikipedia pages.

Re:Nice article on rediscovery (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879784)

I'm more interested in how we managed to lose the method in 1750 when we had managed to keep track of it so long up to that point. I mean, 1750 isn't that long ago. You'd think we could keep track of records better in that time period than, say, the dark ages.

Hey Dresden (0)

mpn22 (1017218) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879374)

Connor McLeod [imdb.com] called, he thinks you have something that belongs to him... or at least to his friend Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez

Writes this down... (4, Funny)

Kent Simon (760127) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879406)

*Makes a mental note of this word for the next scrabble game*

wootz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16879464)

wootz [woot.com] is having a woot-off today!

How to make a bunch of Damascus swords (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879480)

1. Make Damascus sword [ntsource.com]
2. Sneak sword into virtual world
3. ??? [isthereason.com]
4. PROFIT!!!

How did they pay for the swords? (1)

khoker (1028434) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879554)

Flooz?

Damascus secret rediscovered! (4, Informative)

naasking (94116) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879558)

Scientific American published the secret of Damascus steel back in 2000:

http://www.mines.edu/Academic/met/pe/faculty/eberh art/classes/down_loads/damascus.pdf [mines.edu]

As with most things in material science, the "secret" came down to the impurities.

The article concludes that there was never a "lost technique", it was merely a fluke that the source of their iron contained just the right type of impurities in the right amounts, to result in the incredible Damascus steel. Once that source was exhausted, the "technique" no longer seemed to work, and the "secret" was henceforth considered lost.

Not really news... (2, Informative)

Apakosis (1028422) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879608)

In the article, John Verhoeven is given a small amount of space to relate his experiences with Wootz. As a matter of fact, both he and Al Pendray, a master Bladesmith from Florida, succeeded in rediscovering the methodology for creating Wootz "cakes," or ingots, that are in turn forged into blades. I had the pleasure of talking with Mr Pendray after a demonstration at the ABANA Conference in St Louis a number of years ago. He brought samples of the Wootz cakes and they are nothing like what you'd expect from an Ultra-High carbon steel. The carbon content in these ingots is higher than "cast Iron." Most cast Iron items, such as frying pans, are closer to cast Steel - possessing over a percent of Carbon in it. What was fascinating was seeing the forging process. Mr Pendray demonstrated some of the difficulties he encountered working the materials. He said that he had to unlearn traditional bladesmithing techniques, then create a process for working this stuff. During the demo, it became apparent why. The steel is not completely homogenous - in fact, it looked like wood with worm holes! These created a very entertaining forging challenge, as the material could begin to fall apart around these areas. Ultimately, what he and Verhoeven said was that the "watering" that people had thought was created by laminating steel was the way certain parts of the steel precipitated out. No doubting the cutting ability, though - this stuff makes a wickedly sharp blade. If anyone else is really curious, head on over to Google and search Al Pendray and Wootz together. Here's a sample... http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/9809/Verhoeve n-9809.html [tms.org] It's an amazing eye opener and, I think, one of the most important rediscoveries in modern times.

Cutting a sword (3, Interesting)

jamie (78724) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879682)

Maybe it's time for MythBusters to RE-revisit cutting a sword with a sword [televizzle.org] ...

Scientific American Version 1.0 (4, Informative)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879868)

Sometimes Scientific American is just like /. - dupes and all.

Back in the 70's SA ran a similar article on Damascus steel. The authors (iircc, one was from Stanford) attributed the steel's property both to the impurities which this article talks about and to the heating/cooling cycles that gave the steel its strength. The article referenced an ancient blacksmith's poem that described the various colors the steel had to take as it was heated and cooled. Since the poet didn't have a Pantone color palette available, he compared the colors to the sun and moon at various times of the day and year. Heaven help the color-blind or weak memoried blacksmith.

One last point that I remember from the article was a discussion of the quenching fluids. For the final quenching, the poem describes killing a slave by driving the steel into his chest. The authors, noting the current shortage of slaves, concluded that a saline solution held at 98 degrees Fahrenheit was the salient factor in the quenching fluid.

aha! (4, Funny)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879870)

I was wondering where the tem 'w00t' came from, lol. Obviously they took that from the Damascans as well as the Carbon swords from the Phantasy Star series on good old Sega Genesis. Must be the basis for a +1 sword in D&D too. So what's Drizzt Du Erden's +5 scimitar based on in reality you ask? Well that's simple, it's a carbon nanotube enhanced, antimatter bladed, quantum slash enhanced, electric current carrying, Ruby on Rails using blade :)

Hard to believe (3, Interesting)

newt0311 (973957) | more than 7 years ago | (#16879924)

I find it hard to believe that a normal furnace is hot enough to produce carbon nanotubes. Currently CNTs have to be manufactured using plasma torches. in a normal furnace, there will be too many defects in the CNTs for them to be of any use.
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