Improving Damascus cutting performance?

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Dec 31, 2019
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Philly Suburbs
So I don't usually buy damascus clad knives. Performance it most important to me. Most of my knives are simply finished, so I don't have to worry about the inevitable scratches from rags, sharpening, thinning etc. But recently I had the opportunity to buy a Shiro Kama R2 damascus. I have been coveting these for a little while. I like R2 steel, the Shiro Kama version is a bit thicker in the spine coming out of the handle, and the gun-metal gray damascus looks cool as s**t. It arrived in the mail yesterday. The edge was in decent shape, but I gave it a touch up. The grind looked good, nice and thin bte. and some convexity on the right side, so I was looking forward to taking it out for a spin.

It bit into produce very nicely, tackled dicing small handfuls very smoothly, but in some medium sized Spanish onions, I felt some pretty considerable drag, both in horizontaland vertical cuts. When I wiped the blade with a towel the drag was also evident.

My question is this....can I improve performance by polishing along the secondary bevel? Any other suggestion?
I don't have the answers, but I am following this thread with interest. It had not occurred to me that Damascus could interfere with smooth cutting, and I'm curious what people here have to say about it.

I also don't usually buy Damascus, because it costs money, but broke down one day and bought a Toyama on BST, that I found myself unable to resist. The Damascus on that one doesn't really introduce much in the way of texture on the surface.
I have a knife with "Black" damascus cladding and it drug terribly. I used, I think it was 1500 grit automotive sandpaper to polish it some. The pretty contrast was gone but the performance was greatly enhanced.
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Sorry if the pics don't show the differences well but Suncraft Senzo Black.


The contrast in damascus usually comes from an etch. The dark spots are etched more deeply than the light, creating a somewhat geographic blade surface. If you polish it back it should eliminate the drag, but you'll lose the contrast, until it patinas anyways.
I polished the crap out of a Y. Kato R2 a couple of years back for this very reason. I started with 320 grit sandpaper and worked up through 3k grit, wet sanding the entire way. It was a ways from mirror polished by the time I was finished but not too far. It definitely moved through food much better but the near-mirror polish meant food release suffered.

I ended up selling it once I had worked out all the original grind marks and imperfections because I wasn't experienced enough to mess with re-etching it at the time. I wish I hadn't sold it sometimes because now I would re-etch (more subtly than the original) and polish it out with stone powder. It's a LOT of work but could be worth it if you really like the knife otherwise. I don't have an original photo of the knife but the stock photo below is the exact same finish. Red handle is after.


A fine grit micromesh somewhere around 3k used lightly with some stone mud can smooth out a strong etch but also keep some of the detail that you would otherwise remove by aimpky using sandpaper
I have the same knife and didn’t really notice drag on food, but it was pretty obvious when wiping off the wet blade with a towel.

More out of curiosity than anything I gave the whole blade it a few passes with a 4k micro mesh (foam-back sandpaper). It went from a matte to satin finish pretty quickly (like less than 2 mins of light rubbing), and feels noticeably smoother now when drying with a towel. I didn’t lose any contrast with the finish, at least not anything I can detect without comparing before/after photos. I suspect any sandpaper in the 600-2k range would work just as well if not better than the 4k I used.

This Kamo is the oldest knife on my rack and is definitely staying for a while - I grab it whenever I have to slightest doubt about whether I should be using any of my other knives. It’s the rough and ready wrangler vs all the porsches and ferraris on my knife rack.
Thanks all for the insights! Glad to know that I am not crazy and that this is really a thing. I have some 0000 steel wool in the basement. I will give that a try and see where it takes me.

Given your woodworking prowess you likely know this but be mindful not to go in any type of circle as you might get an uneven finish. :)
Given your woodworking prowess you likely know this but be mindful not to go in any type of circle as you might get an uneven finish. :)

Good advice. I did unidirectional passes, heel to tip. I avoided going back and forth mainly because I was still smarting from the last time my wife was teasing me for cutting myself while playing with my knives. That plus, well, not wanting to cut myself again while playing with my knives.
I've not had a Dammy recently to test this on but always wondered if metal polish could do that job in the least invasive way possible. Depends obviously how smoother it needs to become, but it would be my first move nowadays to just remove a bit of the roughness.
0000 steel wool sounds like a good idea, but I have never tried it. I have had good luck polishing stainless damascus cladding with either sandpaper or stones. The result is a little more subtle than an etched finish, but I think that the results were nice use and still nice to look at. I have done two repairs on stainless damascus clad VG10. I know this isn’t exactly the same as your stainless damascus clad R2, but I bet that it is pretty similar. I hope that this post is helpful. I am just trying to show what a rough sandpaper finish and a decent stone finish can look like. You can see better sandpaper polishes in earlier posts in this thread. I would be curious to see how a polish with 0000 steel wool looks.

The first one was a Miyabi Fusion chef knife, and I polished it with sandpaper (I think that I stopped at ~600-800 grit or so). There are still a lot of coarser scratches because I was doing the repair for someone who was paying me for my time, they just wanted a quick polish, and I was doing everything by hand. Here is how it looked (yikes, sorry about the poor lighting in these pictures):

The second knife was a Shigeki Tanaka vg10 nakiri. For this polish, I only used stones. I am really happy with the results. My progression was Nano Hone 200 -> SG500 -> NP1k -> SG2k -> JNS synth red Aoto. Here is how this one looked (the polish looks really nice in the videos):

I am thinking that I will likely start with the 0000 steel wool, and see what it looks like. The etch is pretty deep, too deep I think for Flitz. You can feel the texture with your finger tip. Was also thinking that I might try to just do along the blade road and leave the flat of the blade untouched, theoretically to help with food release. Generally I am not hung up on finish (you should see the recently thinned line knife I am using presently) but this little project might motivate me to learn a little more about polish. I did just recently pick up some uchi finger stones from one of our resident stones gurus.

It is really awesome to have such a knowledgeable community that is so willing to offer insights!
I had the same drag issue with a Yoshimi Kato black Damascus. I used polishing paper from Amazon, and it removed most of the drag without a visual difference. It took a bit of time because I didn't want to move down in grit in case it introduced scratches, but I was happy with the results.
This is an "after" picture: