Steel is a material that has fascinated mankind since its discovery. Even today, making and processing steel is still considered the epitome of material skills. Chemically speaking, steel is a combination of iron (Fe) and carbon (C). When brought to a red heat, the iron binds the carbon in its molecular grid. When the material is quenched with oil or water after hardening, the carbon cannot escape the grid structure. This creates steel with its characteristic hardness. However, this high level of hardness would be too brittle for most applications. This is why the next step is to anneal the steel, heating it to several hundred degrees and relaxing the structure in order to give the material the desired toughness and flexibility. For our straight razors, we use three kinds of steel.
Silver steel is a type of carbon steel. Carbon steel is a type of steel that contains no or very little chromium, which means that it can rust if not treated with appropriate care. The advantage of carbon steel is its particularly fine structure. It makes the steel very flexible and allows an extremely fine grind on carbon steel blades. Silver steel, material number 1.2210, is the industry's preferred material for making cutting tools that need to offer high edge retention and great robustness. Since its development in the 19th century, it is the preferred steel for making straight razors. Originally, the steel used to be enriched with a small amount of silver. Thanks to advances in materials science, the addition of silver is no longer necessary.
Stainless straight razors are rather unfairly considered to be second-class by many razor aficionados. According to the German Industrial Standard (DIN), steel can only be called "stainless" if it consists of at least 10.5% chromium. One property of chromium is that it makes the steel structure coarser. Strictly speaking, this is not desirable for pressure cuts as needed for a wet shave, but this is negligible for everyday use. On the other hand, you get the considerable advantage of stainless steel. Even blade steel designated as stainless can oxidize if handled inappropriately – for instance, if fruit acid is left on the blade. Hence, it is highly recommended to give a stainless knife at least a dry wipe after use. Experts consider stainless steel to be "slow-rusting" instead of "rustproof". In order to make a stainless blade, chromium is added to the steel alloy. However, straight razors made from stainless steel are not suitable for beginners. Since stainless steel is somewhat less elastic than carbon steel, it reacts less spontaneously to wear and strain, which means that buffing and grinding takes more practice.
The production method for Damascus steel is almost as old as steel production itself. For traditional Damascus steel, at least two different types of steel with different alloys are forge-welded together. The welding temperature ranges from 1200°C to 1300°C. Keeping the Damascus steel within this small temperature range is an art form. Only within this range, the steel can be cleanly combined without burning. It takes a lot of experience to gauge the temperature by observing the annealing color. When the blade is ground and etched, the layers of different steel alloys are marked by various shades of gray. Originally, forging Damascus steel was just meant to improve the steel quality. Different base materials were used to benefit from their combined properties. Thanks to advances in materials science, forging Damascus steel is no longer a necessity.
Today, Damascus steel is fascinating, much like mechanical clocks, because we respect the refined craftsmanship and aesthetic possibilities of the material. Powder-metallurgical Damascus For our straight razors, we use only powder-metallurgical Damascus steel (Damasteel from Sweden). For the powder-metallurgical process, high-quality base steel is first melted and carbides are added. The powder-metallurgical steel is not quenched with oil or water but atomized in a vacuum and quenched with a cold air jet. The resulting steel powder has a much higher carbide level than regular steel, which is important for the steel's hardness and edge retention. In order to make powder-metallurgical steel, two of the atomized powders are gathered together, compacted with high pressure and sintered below melting temperature. This ensures that the carbides cannot escape the molecular grid and form irregular deposits during this process. Finally, the material is ground and etched just like traditional Damascus steel. This process is more difficult but makes it possible to control the material proper ties with much more accuracy. Edge retention in particular is far superior to most hand-forged Damascus types.