What Is A Damascus Chef’s Knife? | Jonas Blade

What Is A Damascus Chef’s Knife?

A damascus chef’s knife has the advantage of an exotic appearance compared to standard counterparts. In modern times, it is also a high quality blade that has the ability to cut most ingredients with ease.


Knowing that, let’s take a look at the following:


The Greatness Of Damascus Chef’s Knife

The Inspiration Of My Craft

The Evolution Of Craft


The Greatness Of A Damascus Chef’s Knife

For starters, there is the performance of the steel itself. When I make a blade I start with a nondescript bar of steel, I heat the bar in a raging forge fire and hammer it to the size and shape I want. Once I have forged the blade, I take it to the grinder to refine the shape, and then it’s back into the fire for hardening and tempering. Throughout this process, I am able to guide the metallurgy of the material so that it will yield the right combination of hardness, sharpness, and toughness for the job at hand (and I do things very differently for an axe than I would for a straight razor). What all of this means is that one of my chef’s knives, damascus or otherwise, will take a sharper edge than what you can buy in a store, and it will hold that edge longer.


The superior performance of my steel is just as true of a chef’s damascus knife as it is of a monosteel chef’s knife, which is the typical steel used. What really sets them apart is the work that goes into the damascus, and the striking appearance that results. In the case of a knife made of monosteel, the nondescript bar of material I start with comes straight from the steel supplier. In the case of the damascus knife made for a chef, I start with bars of two different types of steel and fuse them together into a solid bar—and that’s where the work really begins. From there, I have to fold, bend, twist, carve, and re-forge the steel to produce the pattern I’m aiming for.


Another thing that’s different when working with damascus for a chef’s knife is that I have a visual pattern to work with, or to work against. Rhythm, flow, and contrast are three of the elements one can consider when working on a design, and when I am working with damascus steel, I have to think how the pattern will present within the shape and scale of the piece. How will the pattern relate to the material(s) I use for the handle? In some ways it can be a constraint, but in other ways, it helps to describe the aesthetic space I can allow myself to play within. 


The Inspiration Of My Craft

The first episode of Forged in Fire aired six years ago in 2015. Back then, while there was a vibrant, growing community of custom knife makers, the proper term for us, “bladesmiths,” was known by only a select few higher end collectors. Likewise, outside of certain circles, not many people had ever heard of damascus steel or knew about high end damascus chef’s knives. Then Forged in Fire landed, and awareness of my chosen craft began to explode. These days people don’t respond with a blank stare when I tell them I’m a bladesmith, and now that they have glimpsed the work that goes into it, more and more of them have a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the work that I do.


The Evolution Of My Craft

As awareness and evolution of my craft has broadened, so too has the market for my work. This broadening has in turn helped guide my understanding of what to make, and in retrospect it is no surprise that by the numbers, I make more chef’s knives than anything else. After all, most households use some kind of cooking knife on a daily basis, so it is easier to understand why someone might dive into custom knives in an area they are already familiar with—and will get real value from. Amongst all the culinary knives I make each year, the chef knife made of damascus  is far and away the most popular.


At the end of the day, what makes a damascus chef knife special is the attention that I put into each one. I shape each piece by hand; I choose my materials carefully; each line and the overall flow of the piece is tuned to be just so; the metallurgy is adjusted for the exact work the knife is for. And when all is said and done, it is an exquisite, elegant, useful object for years to come! 


To learn more about damascus knives, check out Jonas Blade’s Culinary Collection!


About The Author

Zack Jonas was born and raised in Massachusetts in the 1980’s and is still a New Englander today. With his growing love for art over the years, he took an introductory bladesmithing class at MASSart. It was there that he learned one of his most valuable lessons, which is that everyone has some insight worth learning. Today, he is a full-time bladesmith and feels incredibly fortunate to have found his calling.