Quote Originally Posted by certifiedbodyman View Post
I've read a paper (can't remember the author) on the very subject of Damascus steel and its edge keeping tendencies. From the article, the jest of it was that Dmamscus steel did hold an edge better. This was due to the production of the metal and the carbon in it taking the form of carbon nanotubes that were filled with a slightly harder material and the overall structure was called "cementite" if my memory serves. Basically, the Indians (of the country India) who were making the steel for import to Damscus inadvertently found a way (unknown to them) to forge the steel that had something close to the modern day kevlar in it but it was a tube filled with a compound almost like plaster that came from the wood itself that was usued for the carbon. I wish I had the article but alas, I do not.
Thanks Mike_Blue for finding the article.

One thing that is known is that Damascus was made
from iron sands with a high concentration of minerals
that make carbides.

The sands used for famous Japanese and Swedish steel
do not have these carbide friendly impurities and result
in an almost pure iron that when carbon is added results
in the quality steel we enjoy for razors.

Carbides are interesting because they are too hard
to sharpen in common ways yet when the grain size
is small they add greatly to the quality and ability of
a slicing edge.

Mike can comment in more depth but heat treating in
"pure high carbon steel" steps beyond chemistry and
steps into the ill understood world of meta stable and
stressed atomic lattice.