A new Kickstarter campaign touting the "world's smallest and sharpest Damascus pocket knife" aims to put the strength of a samurai sword in your trousers. Its makers claim Damascus steel makes not only for a more robust blade less prone to bending and breaking, but one that stays sharper than blades made from normal steel.
Unsurprisingly, Damascus steel's name comes from the city of Damascus, capital of Syria. Between the 3rd and 17th centuries, the Near East region imported wootz steel from India and Sri Lanka. The city itself became renowned for its thriving weapon industry – hence Damascus steel, which was notable for both its distinctive mottled patterning and its strength and low risk of shattering.
But the specifics of the supply and manufacturing processes have been lost to history, and though there have been attempts to reverse-engineer Damascus steel, none have been wholly successful. Today, so-called Damascus steel tends to refer to pattern-welded steel, which mimics the appearance of traditional Damascus steel, and is what we guess is in use in the Omni blade.
It gets murkier still. Though Hribarcain cites Japanese katana associated with the samurai of feudal Japan, these were traditionally made from tamahagane – another form of layered steel not renowned for its strength so much as its potential sharpness. The association (or perhaps mis-association) of katana and Damascus steel appears to come from the general conflation of pattern-welding and similar forging techniques used in Japan over the centuries. It's also perfectly possible that a modern-day katana would be made with Damascus steel in its modern (i.e. pattern-welded) sense. But the idea that traditional katana ever used traditional Damascus steel is mistaken.
So there appears to be a degree of creative license in the description of the steel in use (and we've asked Hribarcain for clarification), but today, pattern-welded steel is generally used for aesthetic reasons. To its credit, Hribarcain is backing up the fine words with a lifetime warranty, so clearly it has faith in the quality of its design – which remains a prototype at this stage.
What's clearer is that the Omni blade is clearly compact and, regardless of the qualities of the steel used, it looks robust by virtue of its short (4-cm or 1.6-inch) but thick blade. It's a neat design, with a push-release to unlock the blade, which simply folds back again after use. The blade remains visible at all times, but safely tucked into a recess in the grip.
A pledge of £39 (US$50) will get your name down for one Omni blade with grip finish of either "Slate Grey" or "Arctic Frost." Should all go to plan, Hribarcain hopes to ship worldwide come January 2019. The Kickstarter has surpassed its modest £4,000 goal more than fivefold with 57 days remaining in the campaign. The Omni blade may have little to connect it with the Samurai of yore, but it looks a handy little tool all the same.
You can see a short video on the OMNI blade below.
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