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The prestige of craftsmanship

Our family business has one blacksmith who works with Damascus steel.

Our traditional craftsmanship is a combination of two key professions:

  • the knifemaker’s trade (assembly and fashioning of the knife)
  • and the blacksmith’s trade (making the blades, springs, etc.).

In the blacksmith’s trade, we have a specialty: we produce our own Damascus steel, a steel composed of layers and with unique patterns.

These are the different steps involved in producing our Damascus steel – it all starts out with the steel strips and ends with the finished product.

It is because of this lengthy process that our traditional craftsmanship can guarantee that every Laguiole is a unique object.

The history of Damascus steel

Damascus steel originated with a style of blacksmithing that dates back over 2,000 years. 

The exact origins are not known.

Archaeological digs in northern France led to the discovery of a cache of sidearms made of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ metals that had been welded together (dating back to the Merovingian and Carolingian periods).

Where the West is concerned, Damascus steel appears to have been in use since the first crusades (in Syria, in Damascus!)

Damascus steel has survived for centuries, has crossed continents and stood the test of time. Impressive swords, barrels for canons and guns, etc. – these works of art and collectors’ items have forged its reputation.

Damascus steel was rediscovered for knifemaking by American blacksmiths 30 years ago.

There are different methods of making Damascus steel. Our blacksmith produces wrought Damascus steel in our workshops.

Damascus steel "wild" pattern

From 80 to 120 layers of steel. That is between 4 and 8 folds.

Average hardness: About 55 HRC

Damascus steel "mosaic" pattern

About 1000 layers of steel. That's between 15 and 30 folds.

Average hardness: About 55 HRC

The blacksmith's trade requires specific skills.

It is a profession that requires a variety of materials (each with their particular tools):

  • a gas forge (to heat the metal, for quenching)
  • several swage hammers (mechanical hammer for welding, wire drawing)
  • a rolling mill (for welding, wire drawing)
  • an abrading machine (for the beveled edge of the blade or for honing at an angle)
  • a press (for stamping)
  • a grinder, etc.

Our method for producing Damascus steel

1- Preparing the billet

The blacksmith stacks up identically sized layers of steel, alternating low-carbon and high-carbon steel. They create a billet (using different types of steel, depending on the type of blade being forged).

2- Welding

The steel billet is heated until the right temperature is reached for the different types of steel (a gas-fired furnace allows even and constant heating in every section of the steel): it is forged.

The billet is hammered while hot so that the layers of steel in the billet form just a single homogeneous block. 

3- Drawing and straightening

After welding, the billet is heated and then flattened in order to be able to draw it (to maintain a steel bar with an homogeneous section, regular straightening on the anvil while hot). Now the billet is double the length it is cut. The two sections are folded on top of each other. As these two sections are distinct from each other, the previous step is repeated: welding the two sections, then drawing the billet, which become homogeneous again.

This process of folding, welding and drawing is performed as many times as required to obtain the desired number of layers in the blade (if, from a first billet of five layers, the aim is to end up with a blade with 320 layers, it is necessary to carry out six cuttings/weldings and drawings in succession).

In order to obtain the required thickness and shape, this billet of Damascus steel is hammered while hot and passed through the rolling mill. The blacksmith is able to obtain between four and eight single blades from a billet of Damascus steel crafted in this way.

4- Forming and finishing

  • - precise forming of the blade
  • - fashioning the heel precisely depending on the size
  • - honing
  • - buffing

All these steps are performed by hand on the grinding belts. Heat treatment (with oil quenching)

Etching (to produce the contrast between the different steels used) is carried out after burnishing the blade.

The blade is immersed in an acid bath and then in a bath that neutralizes the action of the acid.

Characteristics of Damascus steel

Damascus steel:

  • unique as the designs on the steel layers are never identical 
  • the knife has a very special appeal as it is crafted entirely by hand 
  • carbon steel: very good edge and easy to sharpen, but does not leave food tasting of steel or hardly at all
  • easy to care for: if you use it regularly, wipe the blade each time you use it. If you use it on occasion, remember to grease the blade to prevent fading of the contrast between the different layers of steel (silicon grease, white grease, etc., containing no acid).

The Damascus steel forge in pictures

Damascus steel blacksmith’s workshop

Buffing mosaic Damascus steel

Billet of Damascus steel in the furnace

Billet of Damascus steel out of the furnace

Twisting of Damascus steel

Working at the swage hammer

The blacksmith removing scale

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