Made from Damascus steel, a Damascus knife uses a particular type of metal developed for sword making in about 300 BC. A Damascus blade knife has a distinctive banding and mottling pattern that appears wavy, like flowing water or wood grain. Swords made of Damascus steel had a reputation for being shatter-resistant, strong and capable of maintaining a sharp edge for a long time.
While people no longer use swords as a primary means of defense, a hunting knife made with Damascus steel has the same desirable traits. Even though a Damascus knife is tough, however, you still need to exercise proper care and maintenance.
Sharpening a Damascus Knife
Damascus knives have a reputation for maintaining a sharp edge, but they do need sharpening on occasion, as the mild outer steel will wear away faster than the carbon components. Use a ceramic rod to sharpen a Damascus hunting knife, stroking each side of the blade two times.
Hold the ceramic rod in your non-dominant hand. (If you are right-handed, hold the rod in your left hand.) Place the heel of the Damascus knife blade, close by the guard, onto the ceramic rod at a 20-degree angle. Maintaining this angle, slowly and gently draw the hunting knife blade across the ceramic rod from heel to tip while applying light pressure. Repeat this movement on the other side of the blade, and repeat the entire process on both sides of the Damascus knife again. Ideally, your Damascus knife should have a uniform angle along the length of its blade. If it does not, seek the help of a professional to reset the blade angle on a belt grinder.
If your hunting knife has a serrated edge, you will need to sharpen it using a triangle cross-section set of ceramic rods. Hold the blade vertically and draw it down, from heel to tip, along the ceramic rod. Alternate sides as you sharpen the Damascus knife.
Maintaining a Damascus Knife
A Damascus knife generally costs more than other types of hunting knives. This type of hunting knife is an investment, and as such, its proper care will ensure it has a long life and remains rust-free. Only store a Damascus hunting knife in a leather sheath for short lengths of time, like when you go hunting. Otherwise, since leather easily absorbs moisture, it can cause the Damascus knife blade to rust.
Store your Damascus knife in a box made of cured and sealed wood, which is less likely to emit gases. If you do not have a wooden box made for knife storage, you can store your hunting knife in a china cabinet drawer or a powder-coated metal cabinet. If you do not have a plastic sheath for the Damascus blade, knife protection options include wrapping it in white cotton socks or t-shirts. Alternatively, you can wrap the knife in newsprint as long as the paper is acid-free. One of the most important considerations when storing a hunting knife is to keep it in an environment that has little to no moisture and humidity.
Whenever you clean a Damascus knife, dry it immediately to prevent rust. Use a microfiber cloth, a cotton flour-sack towel or a cotton t-shirt to dry the knife. Every time you use your hunting knife or it gets wet, polish the blade with a soft cloth. When drying your hunting knife, do not neglect the handle, as trapped water can cause oxidation.
After drying and polishing your knife, apply one coat of wax appropriate for knives over the Damascus blade to prevent rust. If you do not have wax, use a coat of petroleum jelly or vegetable oil. However, these substitutes may not be good for long-term care.
A Damascus knife can require a bigger monetary investment when compared to hunting knives made with other types of metal. However, the strength of a Damascus knife and its superior ability to stay sharp are a good tradeoff for the cost and effort of maintaining this elite hunting knife.