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and being carefully cleansed from grease in wood ashes, white vitriol (kussees) dissolved in water is rubbed over all the surface excepting the edge. This, eating deepest between the interstices of the crystals, exhibits their arrangement which constitutes the damask of the blade.
In following the mass of cast steel through all the changes of figure produced by the action of the hammer (figures 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,) we perceive that, as it cannot be welded, the pores in the centre of crystallization must remain, although immensely elongated under the extension of the mass. These accordingly exhibit themselves in an irregular and ugly seam in the back of the blade, impairing both its elegance and its solidity. And hence it is manifest, that in order to the production of a blade without flaw, either the porous heart of the mass should be ground out previous to the action of the hammer, or the blade should be forged of excessive breadth, and the unsound back be ground away. But the necessity of either precaution would not exist were necks made to the moulds (fig. 9) in which the steel is originally cast; so that there might be a surplus of metal (as in casting bullets and guns)—to give solidity by pressure to the incumbent mass.
We further observe, that as the flat surfaces of the blade (figure 10) are formed of the edges of the lenticular mass (figure 11) they present a section across the crystallization ; rectangular in the centre, but of various obliquity toward either end. It follows, that the less the original mass is altered by hammering, the more nearly lateral will be the disposition of the dots representing the ends of crystals—and hence the various figures presented by the same metal under slightly different treatment. It is also apparent, that these figures will materially alter, according to difference in the shape of the original massand it may be reasonably doubted, whether the shape in which the cast steel is brought to India, he the most conducive to symmetry of damask or to soundness of fibre.
As the damask of a blade is the map of its crystallization, so it is probable that the figures alter according to the purity of the iron of which the steel is formed, the quantity of carbon contained in it, or to both these circumstances combined. Nay, the degree of heat of the fused metal at the time of casting, and the temperature of the mould in which it was formed may both contribute to differences in the crystallization.
Col. Anosoff, himself the reviver, if not the inventor of the elastic damask, lays down the following laws, as the test of quality of the damask, viz.
1st. The Damascene formed principally of right lines, almost parallel, denotes the lowest quality of damask.
2d. When the right lines become shorter and are partly replaced by curves, they denote a better quality than the first.
3d. When the lines are interrupted, show points; and when the dimensions of the curves increase, this is a still better symptom.
4th. When the interrupted lines become still shorter, or rather when they change to points as they increase in number, so as to form in the breadth of the steel, here and there, as it were, nets, interlinked by threads, which undulate in diverse directions from one net to the other ; in this case the damask approaches perfection.
Finally. When the nets open further to form figures resembling grapes : or when they occupy the entire breadth of the steel and partake it in nearly equal articulations, in that case, the damask may be recognised as of the highest possible quality. See Appendix, 2d Vol.' p. LXXVI. Abbott's Journey to Khiva, &c.
Now, whilst I concur with Col. Anosoff in believing that a connoisseur may read the quality of damask steel in its Damascene, I rather doubt the above being the key to the language, because the globularity of the marks must depend very much upon the angle of section of the crystals, an angle dependent upon the figure in which the steel was first cast.
Several very costly damask blades were exhibited to Burnes at Cabul, and it was explained to him, that they were valued according to the continuity of the flossy streaks from hilt to point. I myself observed when in Khorussaun, that a decided preference was given to the streaked variety, viz. to that which appears like an amalgamated mass of infinitely fine wires. It will be seen from the process of forging the simple damask that any continuity of fibre must be a mere accident, and denote nothing as respects the quality of the metal.
I have before me a beautiful specimen of Siberian damask, given me by Anosoff, and presenting upon its surface the prismatic play of colors which he values so highly. In appearance it differs from the Jullalabad blades chiefly in the greater uniformity of its interlaced streaks ;
attributable probably to a better figure in the mass of steel from which it was forged. It is perfectly elastic. The simple damask of Jullalabad being tempered in oil, has little elasticity, and the makers will not warrant it to undergo any proof. It is liable both to bend without recovery and to snap short on concussion. The same is observable of the damask of Khorussaun, constructed by a similar process. The cast steel when tempered in water becomes too brittle for sword blades, and the elasticity given by oil is not greater than that which brass possesses.
A very elegant elastic blade which I purchased in Siberia, and thought cheap at 20 guineas, exhibits a damask of oval concentric rings, so regular and beautiful that I would not believe it to be real damask, until a portion of the blade had been burnished and the acid applied in my presence, when the re-appearance of the Damascene, placed the matter beyond doubt. I have seen a similar though less beautiful Damascene upon daggers forged at Isfahaun. It is difficult to imagine this to be the mere exhibition of crystallization.
The simple damask of Jullalabad is wrought into three figures. The very narrow, rather thick, much curved Khorussauni sabre—whose section is an abrupt wedge, unwieldy in the grasp and as unfit for offence as for defence.
The broader, much curved, plain or fluted blade of Damascus, with a double-edged point, which its curvature nullifies.
And a long straight single or double-edged blade, broad, thin and fluted, wider near the point than at the hilt: always set in a basket hilt, with a pommel projecting three inches to protect the sword-arm and much used by gladiators who exhibit at the Mohurrum. All are forged in the same manner from the same material, yet each has its own separate Damascene, owing to the greater diffusion of the grain of crystallization in one kind than in the other. In the very narrow blade it is more streaky—in the broad blade it more resembles the most delicate of the streaks upon watered ribbands. The darkening of the blade toward the edge, observable in Khorussauni sabres, is not visible in these-I attribute this darkness to an increase of carbon. But at Jullalpoor the sword-cutters think it proceeds from increase of temper, and that the stain upon the damask is dark according to the degree of its temper.
Such is the secret of the pretty but useless damask of Goojrat ; at least of the simple variety. The compound damask is far less elegant, but constitutes a good blade, little inferior perhaps to the produce of Salinjer, though certainly less elastic. The following is the process employed in the fabric of the Sukkaila or compound damask.
A ribband of keeri or sheer steel being bent into the figure of a siphon (fig. 13) is filled with six or more ribbands of cast steel, blistered steel and sheer steel as per accompanying diagram. I distinguish between cast steel and blistered steel, because the first has been in actual fusion, whereas the second appears to me that which goes in England by the name of “cast or blistered steel," and comes from Europe in small square bars. This mass being well hammered at welding heat, is doubled, -welded, redoubled and rewelded. A small bar of sheer steel of similar length is then welded upon the side which is to be the back, and a similar bar of cast and blistered steel well mixed together is welded for the edge. It is then beaten out, flattened and shaped into a blade, and tempered in water. The Damascene of this blade is coarse and resembles the transverse lights upon a watered ribband. It has a moderate elasticity, if well tempered: but of course its quality must depend chiefly upon the fineness of the steel employed in its fabric,--and there is little choice of material in India.
There is no doubt that a blade may thus be constructed, the edge of which may be keen as that of cast steel, whilst sufficient elasticity is preserved to render it proof against distortion or fracture under very severe shocks. And if, instead of thick ribbands of the several metals, fine wires were employed, an elegant Damascene might be the produce. This I am inclined to think is the original Damascus blade, as distinguished from the blade of Isfahaun : for, as its celebrity was greatest, when defensive armour was in common use, it is absurd to suppose it could have resembled one of the faithless brittle blades of cast steel, which now bear the name.
The price of the Jullalpoor or Goojrat blade in a scabbard, without hilt, varies from 8 to 12 Rs. (16 to 24 shillings.)
The instruments employed in the manufactory are rude and imperfect. Yet as the solidity of a sword blade depends much upon the quantity of labour expended in hammering, the very imperfection of the implements may tend to the excellence of the work. A bar of steel