h a l f b a k e r y
I think this would be a great thing to not do.
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Damashqi is the last of his line.
He is fifty two years of age and has thus far been unable to father a son of his own.
With the crippling effects of past injuries wearing on him, and times' voracious appetite for vigour slowly gnawing at the ability to ply his ancestral craft without having it
demand an increasingly massive toll on his aging body, Damashqis' secrets will soon be lost.
Secrets of metallurgy discovered by a revered ancestor whose name he himself has borne in a proud and unbroken line for seven generations, which will perish with him if he does not pass them on to an apprentice weapon-smith not of his own blood.
This decision does not sit well with him or any other weapon-smith of the time, as it has now been royally decreed that every apprentice smith in Syria will be subjected to his scrutiny until one suitable protégée can be found to receive the teaching.
The past king of his far removed ancestor had been presented with the first successful blade crafted and was, to the honor of Damashqis' family, so impressed with the blades' incredible properties that it had been determined at that time that this craft was to remain within his lineage to be passed from father to son only, and thus it had remained until now.
The current liege had overturned this time honored custom and so it had now been decided that he was to pass his skills to whichever one of his contemporaries' apprentices he felt could grasp the technique and the skills were to be then disseminated to as many others as could be taught in order to fuel the ever growing needs of the glorious empire for Damascus steel.
Honour bound to obey his lord and not wishing to unduly deprive his fellow Smiths of their apprentices for overlong, Damashqi finds his replacement very quickly amongst the pack of hopefuls, much to the consternation of the both the ruling class expecting far more pomp and ceremony, and unexpectedly, his fellow members of the Smith guild hoping to recoup on his family legacy when they reclaimed their borrowed apprentice.
It happens though that the requirements for passing on the secrets of Damascus steel are very narrow in nature, and amongst the potential metal-smiths only one single applicant stood out in possessing this seemingly unrelated attribute, thought to be unnecessary by his peers, which set this apprentice apart and endeared him to Damashqi as possessing the skills needed to go beyond the metallurgical alchemy and devotion needed not just to forge a weapon... but to sing a blade to life.
There are only certain times of the year when the sirocco winds from the Khamsin desert can create backdraft enough to keep a forge manned without bellows and to allow a single smith to create a blade alone, and so the secret is plied at these times of year but as a decoy only, to reinforce in the minds of others that maintaining constant temperatures alone are the crux of the craft when the truth is much more intricately subtle.
The quality of Wootz steel is important of course but he demonstrates over the following months to his new apprentice that the true secret is three-fold.
Impurities are fed to the metal at various stages of folding to ensure a flexible core with a denser outer shell to be then annealed or quenched, but the real magic is in the music, and only this one apprentice seemed to have an ear for it.
Almost twice the amount of normal steel is used to create whichever length of blade desired because a substantial portion of the material is first hammered into the shape of a tuning fork and sleeve extending from the pommel with which to resonate the steel at given notes through all steps of the folding/feeding/quenching process.
That it is the viscosity of the annealing fluid, from water to oil, coupled with added impurities of coke and sand-glass from beneath lightning struck trees and then quenching the harmonically resonant tone produced with each hammer blow and the cessation of this vibration which imparts an internal shape to the blade making it strong enough to cut stone or other steel, as though each blade were an individual music symphony captured in metal.
That was the art. That is the secret.
The months spent preparing for the sirocco winds are not squandered in the teaching of blades but in teaching of the crafting of musical hilts to be utilised and the tones needed for each length of blade which are then discarded to be reshaped into the next blade.
The necessary impurities take long to gather and cannot be squandered on practice. It would not be rediscovered for many generations that a form of micro diamond occurs around lightning struck trees and it takes most of a year to acquire enough of this material to make a just a handful of true Damascus blades.
This sword will be the masters last.
It is now time for the final annealing. The massive tuning fork has been removed from the hilt and placed in the coals, the red-hot blade is about to receive its last quenching without any song so as to insure a rigid temper when the door bursts inward and the first Ottoman arrow rips into the torso of his apprentice.
He knows that they will torture him to learn what he knows, that he must not allow the secrets to pass into the hands of the foreign invaders, and has only enough time to bemusedly wonder at how much the teaching of his craft has come to mean to him even as he quenches the still glowing steel of his final masterpiece by plunging it deep into his own abdomen.
This blade will remain behind as testimony to the skill of his ancestors.
The secrets of its construction he takes with him.
[2 fries shy of a happy meal, Jan 02 2013]
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||Uh, category choice? Sounds more like a movie.
||Monsoon winds (and accompanying rain) are a phenomenon of
the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia.
||There is no Monsoon season in Syria. There are seasonal winds,
but not a monsoon.
||Sorry if the information I found is incorrect. From the [link]:
||"Thousands of steel making sites were found in Samanalawewa area in Sri Lanka that made high carbon steel as early as 300BC. (Juleff, 1996). These steel making furnaces were built facing western monsoon winds and wind turbulence and suction was used to create heat in the furnace. Steel making sites in Sri Lanka have been dated to 300BC using carbon dating technology. The technique propagated very slowly through the world, reaching modern-day Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan around 900AD, and then the Middle East circa 1000AD."
||''It would seem obvious that the name Damascus refers to swords forged in Damascus, but there are several other possible sources of the name. One is the name of the swordsmith himself: the author al-Beruni refers to swords made by a man he names Damashqi''
||When I read that last part, this little tale started rattling around in my head.
||Alright, I have changed 'monsoon winds' to sirocco Khamsin desert winds. Nicer ring to it anyhoo.
||No, the idea is that it may have been possible, given the technology of the day, to incorporate harmonic resonance to create standing wave nodes in the the forging of metal to align impurities such as the carbon nano tubes, (which are found around naturally occuring lightning struck trees, glass was also used as an added impurity to act as a flux so I figured that nano-tube containing glass would leave behind this carbon as the galss was burned away if I am right about the use of fulgurites), discovered to be present in true Damascus steel blades.
I find the liquid swirls in the steel remeniscent of Chladni patterns, and since the technique for producing these blades was lost to antiquity, I wondered what method could have been used back in those days to imbue a blade with resonance patterns.
A custom, ballanced, tuning fork with a changable pitch, harmonically resonating the steel by-ear for the entire forging process seemed to fit the bill.
||If the secret had not been jealously guarded it should not have been lost.
I would love to experiment with the effects of vibration on metal of different temperatures, alloys and pressures. I'm betting that there is an entire un-explored branch of the science of mettalurgy dealing with resonance patterns which was lost with the Damascus steel secret.
||...or it may just be an idle flight of fancy. Either way, it bears looking into I figure.
||It turns out he was making a butter knife. But does it turn out a nice English muffin! Equally proficient with jam.