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In this article I would like to describe few problems and difficulties of the wootz making process.

Let's assume that we have a wootz cake that does not have any visible flaws. It is solid and looks good. There are may different strategies to forge it into the billet. Some of them use high temperature annealing, some don't. But in any case there is a moment when the hammer strikes the wootz case first time. This is one of very critical moments because it may ruin the steel in just few blows of the hammer. From my experience I can conclude that the initial temperature should not be higher than 1700F. Depending on steel carbon content this temperature may be as low as 1400F. Generally speaking the more carbon is in the steel the lower the temperature should be. This is quite controversial for the smith that use to work with regular steel. Wootz is very different. It is much less tolerant to the overheating than most of traditional steels. I had several cases when the ingot crumbled after the first blows.

Here I have to say that under heating is bad for wootz as well.

Every time it's bit of a guesswork to determine the proper temperature. The calculated carbon concentration gives some temperature brackets to start from. It can be very wrong though because the ingot may loose or gain quite significant amount of carbon during the melt. In most cases smith does not have any reliable way to control the carbon loss or uptake. However, I think that the 1400F-1700F temperature brackets are quite safe for almost any ingot.

If enough attention is paid on how the steel behaves under the hammer some quick temperature corrections may save the ingot from the disaster. Here I will describe my own ideas and conclusions. They may be wrong and should not mislead you. In any circumstances the smith must

Wootz blade will cut and may self sharpen to some extend. The secret is in the steel structure. Wootz Steel consist of relatively soft and very tough matrix saturated with fine grains of very hard and abrasive particles called cementite ( in some cases carbides). The matrix make the blade very tough. It is hard to break a wootz blade. It will rather bend than snap. During a fight or other use the soft matrix will wear off; exposing new, fresh, hard particles that will cut. The blade will continue to cut until the geometry of the edge will allow.

I think that the wootz era has ended because of two possible reasons. Firstly because steel armor became much better and tougher. It required very hard and massive steel swords to get through. The second reason was the tradition to relocate the best blade smiths from conquered countries. When blade smiths were separated from their local ore supplies they could not adjust the technology at new location fast enough. There could have been many more different reasons that we do not know.

Year by year the secrets of the technology were lost. Nowadays the very few blacksmiths and blade smiths are trying to rebuild it and rediscover those lost secrets. Wootz process is very complex and a lot of small details may have huge impact on the final product. That is the main reason why there is no two equal blades or no fixed recipe. If two different smiths will make the blade using the same ore, the same charcoal and other ingredients they will produce very much different blades.

Every minor detail matters. The clay that was used for the crucible, the weather, the local water quality and even the time of the day. I have to admit that so far I can not guarantee that I can make a wootz blade on demand at any time. It is a challenge and sometimes a torture. I had up to a dozen of failed melts with no ingot at the end. I had dozens of ingots forged to the stage when they broke and no blades were made. But with years of experience I started to understand this technology. Piece by piece, step by step. I am as far from the full understanding as the Moon from the Earth.

But I am on my way. Every wootz blade that I make I test. I can not promise that it will be the toughest and the hardest. It will not last forever, or show you the way home no magic there. But each blade will be full of hard work and my soul. I believe people still are able to appreciate this.

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