Wootz was first made (that we know of) nearly two thousand years ago, predominantely by the steel makers of Central Asia and India.  Some say that it was made earlier still.  It is a high carbon steel (1-3%C) which was made from an ingot that was forged by hand into a bar.  In the bar state wootz will have a distinctive layered pattern which looks similar to light reflecting off water. It was this characteristic pattern which earned it the title of “watered or damascus steel”.  Wootz has only one layer of steel with sheets of carbides that form in the metal as it is forged.  It is very difficult to produce steel with this watered Persian Wootz pattern.  Other patterns are available through different ingredients and processing methods.  This is entirely different from pattern welded damascus steel which is made of different steels forge welded together.

It is almost impossible to define what wootz is.  There is much debate between scholars and smiths (and between smiths themselves) over this subject. Some say it is any carbon steel made in a crucible, others say that it must have a destinct pattern.  Modern wootz steel naturally should have a chemical analysis relatively close to the ancient wootz steels.  It also should contain carbide clusters which form the pattern in the steel.  It also should be produced using techniques similar to (or modern equivalents of) the traditional methods.  Much debate comes from wheather a modern wootz is wootz if it has a different pattern from the most famous persian wootz (Kara Khorassan).  There are many different patterns which occurred in traditional wootz, these are sometimes referred to by the location where they were forged; Persian wootz, Indian wootz, Turkish wootz.  These are basically variations of the same metal which formed differing patterns of carbides, all were wootz (however not all were Persian wootz).  One day, hopefully, wootz will receive a popular definition.  My thought is it will probably occur after we have discovered exactly what the patterning mechanism is (no we are not absolutely sure yet).

What I term patterned crucible steel has the same composition as wootz but has a dendritic (fern-like) pattern of carbides instead of the carbide sheets. When this is forged into a blade the pattern can look quite similar to wootz and will even form a kind of wavy carbide sheet; because of this many people (also myself when I started) make crucible steel and think they have Persian wootz when it is actually dendritic.  Persian wootz will have very close, straight, parallel lines of carbides visible in a cross-section.  Al Pendray is the only person that I know who has been able to consistantly make the true Persian Wootz.

This patterned crucible steel is still a very high quality tool steel and is excellent for making knives.  

wootz ingot 2 dend.JPG
dend damask1.jpg
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Dendritic pattern from crushed dendrites (flattened by forging) and grains
Dendrites in an ingot before forging
Persian Wootz water-like pattern from cluster sheets of carbides.