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What is Pattern Welding?

Pattern Art

Pattern welding is a technique that is commonly used in the creation of swords and knives from many pieces of metal that have varying compositions.  These metals are then forge welded and twisted to form a pattern that is visible on the blade.  This process of joining many layers of metal is also known as Damascus steel.  To enhance the patterns that are created by this process, welders can polish or use acid etching.  Both of these techniques provide one of a kind result that is truly eye-catching.

Pattern welding was created to make weapons that were both hard and strong.  Because of the weaker iron that was used from early iron smelting in bloomeries, the need to make it stronger became very important, which is why pattern welding was created.  It was discovered that by carburizing thin iron bars or plates made a harder high carbon steel than the steel that was created in the bloomery.  The layering and forge welding of the different steel bars is what creates the patterns that can only be found in pattern welding.

The process of pattern welding has evolved over time.  During the 2nd and 3rd centuries, pattern welding was being used by the Celts in order to create decorative pieces as well as functional pieces.  They would alternate layers of steel that would then be forged into rods and then twisted to form various patterns.  In the 6th and 7th centuries, pattern welding had evolved to a level where thin layers of patterned steel were placed onto a soft iron core.  These pieces were created more for a decorative purpose than for use. 

In the Middle ages, Damascus steel was being created by craftsmen in the Middle East.  When these pieces were seen by Europeans, they thought that it was the same process that they used.  It was during this time that European metal workers rediscovered the process.  The process of pattern welding has seen much advancement over the years until it has become the process that we are familiar with today.

While the process of pattern welding was used more out of necessity in early times, it serves as a more decorative process in modern times.  Many collectors today, seek unique and well-designed pieces to add to their collections.  Pattern welding has come a long way from being developed out of necessity to being used to create rather impressive designs.

Ed C.


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