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Thread: 1818 Article on Watering Persian Swords

  1. #1

    1818 Article on Watering Persian Swords

    Article from the Annual Register in 1818

    Method of Renewing the Giohar, or Flowery Grain of Persian Swords, Commonly called Damascus Blades, (By Mr S Barker, His Brittanic Majesty's Consul General at Aleppo)

    (From the Same)

    Having bought two Kermani Dabans, and perceiving that some parts of them had a yellowish
    tint, by which they were disfigured, I employed a sword-cutler to renew their Giohar.

    The operation was performed in my presence, before sunrise, which he said was necessary because two strong a light would prevent his distinguishing whether the blade were equally red hot; on the perfect equality of which depended the success of the process, for it was that failure which had caused the yellow spots above mentioned.

    He prepared a wooden trough the length of the blades, four or five inches broad, with equal quantities of surege or sesamum oil, mutton suet, virgin wax, and Persian Naft (Naptha), or rather the dreags of the latter, it being too costly an article.

    He began by making a charcoal fire in a small earthen vessel, which after being well alight, he strewed on the ground in the form of a blade, and put loose stones all round to keep it together.

    He then fanned it till it was red hot all over, and laid the blade flat on the lighted coals, having first bent the handle for the convenience of holding it, by a pair of pinchers.

    He then completely covered the blade with fresh charcoal unburnt, and continued to fan it with a large Turkish feather fan as equally and as forcibly as possible, until the latter charcoal had become as red as the first. When he judged (what experience alone can teach) that it was now sufficiently hot to be plunged into the trough above described, he seized the proper moment; and on this depends the success of the operation, for if the blade remain a little too long in the fire, the Giohar will be entirely effaced, or if it is not hot enough, or unequally so, it will have the defect that we are endevouring to remove.

    When he plunged the blade into the trough, it seemed to me the color of a soldiers dirty coat, or cherry red. In plunging it he was anxious that no part of the blade should touch the composition but at the same instant the whole was immersed. It lay in the trough a few minutes to cool.

    He then took it out and laid it upon the coals, fanning it an instant to set the grease that stuck on it on fire, and when it smoaked no longer, he let it again grow cool, and then scraped off gently with the back of a knife. that ashes of the stuff that still adhered to it.

    the charcoal employed was in pieces of from half to three quarters of an inch square, more or less; the best sort is made of deal, and it must be fresh or virgin, for it will not do if it has been lighted and extinguished. I observed that he fanned the blade more at the thicker parts than towards the point.

    The composition in the trough serves for a great number of blades, and is better the older it grows, requiring only to be replenished as the quantity diminishes.

    The blade having been a little crooked in the tempering, it was strainghtened, and then gently passed on a circular whetstone. It was then polished. He laid it on a board, with a piece of wood forcibly rubbed emery powder and oil on it, and lastly, burnished it with a bit of iron till it was quite bright, and could not be distinguished from a common English sabre. The operation of polishing took up five or six hours.

    He then made use of lime to take the off the oil, and was extremely careful not to touch it with his hands, as being free from grease is essential to its taking well the Giohar.

    To secure that point further he rubbed tobacco ashes and water on it.

    He then prepared a horse bucket full of clear water, and a small Turkish leaden drinking cup (porcelain or glass would do a swell, but no other metal other than lead). In this cup he dissolved in a few minutes a little zagh* and pure water.

    Then with the ends of his fingers he basted the blade with rapidity up and down, and seeemed anxious that it should be served all equally, and as much as possible at once.

    Every two or three minutes he washed the blade with the water in the bucket, and repeated the operation of the zagh water eight or ten times, that is untill he perceived the Giohar did not become more distinc after fresh tending with zagh.

    He then wiped it dry and oiled it; and when his last operation is performed in the winter, the water in which the zagh is dissolved should have the chill taken off.

    The names of the different sorts of damascus blades are as follow, classed according to their relative value:- 1. Kermani Daban 2. Lahori Kara Khorasan 3. Lahori Neiris 4. Dishi Daban 5. Herek Daban 6. Elif Stambool 7. Eakd Sham 8. Barjaz

    *The zag made use of by the sword-cutlers here is procured from the mountains of Druzez, and from no where else; it is produced by a mineral spring near a place called Ghazir.

    Khorasan 9. Sari hindi 10. Korun Hindi
    There are swords also like Persian gun barrels, only plated or cased with the sort of steel that takes the Giohar; but they are easily distinguished by carefully examining the back of the sword.

    The art of founding the metal of which the Persian blades are made is lost, although it is still met with in lumps, which show from their form that they were cast in moulds.*

    These moulds are worked into blades for swords,daggers and knives, but sometimes not sufficiently malleable for any purpose, probably because the art of properly working them is also lost with that of their original cast or composition, for it appears not to be a simple of uncompounded metal.

    end of article

    Its very iinterested to read that in 1818 the art of making damascus blades was considered a lost art.

    rand

  2. #2
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    - looked for the article on my uni database, but we only have the magazine up to 1778 -
    Last edited by Emanuel Nicolescu; 09-18-2007 at 07:09 PM.
    Always check your assumptions...there are no contradictions.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by rand milam View Post

    Its very iinterested to read that in 1818 the art of making damascus blades was considered a lost art.

    rand
    Rand,

    Thank you very much for providing this excellent article. I think parts of it was also published in Allan and Gilmour book on Persian steel. Iranian manuals from that period all state clearly that the artof making crucible steel blades was lost in 1800, meaning 1818 as you mention. The Qajars carried many inherited Safavid blades, Afsharid blades and Zand blades. When you go to Iranian museums, you see thousands of swords in the basement all military swords from the Qajar period, based on the European models. Early versions of them have a sham pattern blades, but the blade looks like military swords from Europe. You never see those wonderful Safavid period crucible steel patterns on them. Again thank you very much for providing this article Rand.

    Kind regards
    Manouchehr

  4. #4

    Damascus Making Lost in Persia by 1800

    It boggles the mind to grasp that the art of making damascus sword was lost in Persia by the year 1800, at a time when they had so much value.

    The is an account, either in Meyrick or Skelton about an Islamic sword valued at 5,000 (?) pounds during the time of the Napoleonic wars, that sum of funds could pay for a castle and all expenses for life at that time peroid.*

    So the mystery becomes all the more mysterious, why was the ability to make damascus swords lost?

    Where is Indiana Jones when we need him?

    rand

    *no longer have those books to reference to amount is from memory .....

    Believe it is either the 1824 edition of Skeltons Arms and Armor or Meyricks 1854 edition of Arms and Armor

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    Quote Originally Posted by rand milam View Post

    Where is Indiana Jones when we need him?

    rand
    Rand

    As you know there are different theories to this. We are still doing research on this. There are lots of materials in Iranian national archives to be searched. Part of the reasons could also be modernization of the army and the introduction of military swords during the Qajar period. Crucible steel swords were very expensive partly because they could not reproduce old patterns in Iran at that time. Sham pattern yes, but not those marvellous Safavid patterns.

    Kind regards
    Manouchehr

  6. #6

    Swords Developement and Modernization of Army

    Hey Manouchehr,

    Would love to discuss this subject, have definate opinions of the progression after the fall of the Mamelukes in 1516, how that related to Persian sword deveopement, import and trade of wootz from India, types and techniques of watering wootz and pattern welds, importance of trade routes and relationships to geography of battles fought, how control of trade effected manufacture everywhere from India to Syria.

    Unfortunately we cannot disassociate firearms to have a full and open discussion reguarding this on this forum.

    Is there a forum where all aspects of Islamic arms and armor can be discussed?

    rand

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by rand milam View Post
    Hey Manouchehr,

    Would love to discuss this subject, have definate opinions of the progression after the fall of the Mamelukes in 1516, how that related to Persian sword deveopement, import and trade of wootz from India, types and techniques of watering wootz and pattern welds, importance of trade routes and relationships to geography of battles fought, how control of trade effected manufacture everywhere from India to Syria.

    Unfortunately we cannot disassociate firearms to have a full and open discussion reguarding this on this forum.

    Is there a forum where all aspects of Islamic arms and armor can be discussed?

    rand
    Hi Rand,

    I am not aware of any forum that discusses Persian firearms, or any other Middle Eastern firearms. I agree with you that discussing the development of firearms especially welded steel barrels is extremely important. Rand I am making this thread sticky as the information in it is very useful and important. Thank you again for your input Rand.

    Kind regards
    Manouchehr

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    Here's an interesting link

    ...which discusses not only restoration of watering but the problems in working (wootz) damascus. This was written about 1600.
    http://homepages.tscnet.com/omard1/j....html#bkXIIIIX
    Note the use of dilute sulfuric as well as citric acid. Also, note that the problems faced in working wootz at high temperatures is also mentioned, and a possible way of dealing with it is discussed, i.e., using some form of flux coating which would at least be likely to prevent it from oxidising and burning up quickly.

  9. #9
    Show the pattern of code using the traditional methods

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al Massey View Post
    ...which discusses not only restoration of watering but the problems in working (wootz) damascus. This was written about 1600.
    http://homepages.tscnet.com/omard1/j....html#bkXIIIIX
    Note the use of dilute sulfuric as well as citric acid. Also, note that the problems faced in working wootz at high temperatures is also mentioned, and a possible way of dealing with it is discussed, i.e., using some form of flux coating which would at least be likely to prevent it from oxidising and burning up quickly.
    The link is dead, any chance that someone has a copy?

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