Serguey Lounyov's Wootz Steel
This site contains materials on Crucible True Damasñus Steel/Bulat/Wootz, True Damascus cold steel and tells about work of a group of Masters, headed by Sergey Lounyov.
It is hard to find a collector, a hunter and anyone fond of cold steel, who had never heard anything about this legendary material. Unfortunately, nearly for more than one and half of century the secret of production and treatment of True Damascus Steel was considered to be lost. In 1838 our famous compatriot Pavel Petrovich Anosov recreated this technology of ancient masters. Russia has in fact returned to the world this unique metal, which, by that time, was considered to be lost for about 300 years. But, as it happened many times in the history of our country, brilliant discoveries of Anosov in this field again were lost after his death.
And now, 150 years later, the rumors of discovery of the True Damascus Steel secrets again started in Russia. To be true, today Russia cannot, as before, pretend on the absolute monopoly in production of True Damascus. There are Masters in the USA (Verhoeven, Pendray), as well as in Europe (Roselli), who are engaged in research in this field. But, nevertheless, in our country, several teams started to solve this task simultaneously. Of course, the results of Russian Masters differ greatly one from another, as in the aspect of quality, and in the aspect of quantity, but the fact of returning of True Damascus Steel to Russia is very pleasant by itself.
In 1990, on the basis of training and production center of Physical Metallurgy Department of Moscow Aviation Technological Institute named after Tsiolkovsky, we started numerous experiments, aimed on working out various industrial methods of producing of Damascus (laminated forged or “wrought”) steel. Simultaneously with this process, a small group of specialist of the Institute, under the guidance of Sergey Lounyov (then the head of Physical Metallurgy Department Computer Center), started works on recreation of technology of production of so called True Damascus Steel or Cast Wootz (Bulat). Two years of hard work, conducted in the Institute gave no definite results. It was found out, that in the works of P.P. Anosov, devoted to this technology, there were many preteritions or deliberate inaccuracies. Of course, the great Russian metallurgist did not want to open all his secrets to the wide public. The works of D.K. Tchernov appeared to be more close to practical activity, but, as his followers, this group of enthusiasts from MATI did not succeed in producing Wootz. But we must stress here, that we are talking about production of so called Russian Bulat, which was produced for the first time by P.P. Anosov in 1837 in Zlatoust.
In 1992 when I left from the institute, the works in the Physical Metallurgy Department, aimed on production of the Wootz Steel, were stopped. I’d like to note, that “Wrought Steel” or Damascus Steel are produced in MATI with quite good quality. And, as I know from unofficial sources, Damasteel AB applied these technologies in 1992 in Sweden.
Thanks to possibility to communicate with some of the most authoritative thinkers, scholars, as well as with fencing and martial arts Masters from Japan, India and China (since 1991 till 1994), I was lucky to get acquainted with myths, legends and “superstitions” about Wootz, which were scoffed some time ago by the authors of the Full Soviet Encyclopedia.
These lengthy discussions, which sometimes lasted for several days, accompanied with a cap of good green tea, forced me to reconsider my personal, internal attitude to the Wootz. From ordinary hobby, this investigation slowly transformed into serious, speaking orientally, “Karmic” work.
In 1997, on the basis of one of defense enterprises of Moscow, I managed to produce first ingots of steel, which could be called Wootz Steel, though not of high quality. 1998 was wholly devoted to scrupulous job aimed on perfection of technology. I can proudly note, that my steel was made with completely new technology, different from Anosov’s and Tchenov’s technology, but based on the same main principles and general understanding of Wootz production processes.
In autumn 1998, my team and me, according to recommendation of Olga Kulyasova from Crosna Gallery, started cooperation with Valery Koptev, famous Tula Armourer. Final stage of Wootz production technology elaboration started. Large lots of our metal (5 – 10 kg) were shipped to Tula. Coordination of the Moscow and Tula teams activity was maintained (and is maintained) constantly. Various modes of ingot production were tested and chemical composition was changed. Forging and heat treatment technologies were changed.
Since autumn 1998 and till spring 1999 a large-scale experiment was conducted. 50 kg of selected cast Wootz Steel were “spoiled”. Over 100 of “tactical” experiments were conducted. The most interesting results were produced by “non-standard” forging and heat treatment, as it was supposed from the very beginning.
So, today we can say, that in Tula, patterned cast steel is being produced, with carbon content from 1.5% to 2%. There are samples with 1% and 3% of carbon. The softest Wootz Steel (1% C) has average hardness of 62 – 63 HRC, a blade, made of it easily scratches glass, cuts nails without notches and can be bent more than by 120 degrees without residual deformations. Special brands of our steel possess such high quality parameters, that currently we are undertaking measures to fix officially these properties of our Wootz Steel with the help of famous metallurgical laboratories.
We started to produce first samples of cold arms. Two blades, made by Valery Koptev currently are in the Administration of the President of Russia. 10 more items are being manufactured. In Moscow we are starting organization of an enterprise for production of small folding penknives of cast Wootz under trademark of “Lounyov and Koptev”. Negotiations with armourers from Uzbekistan on joined manufacture of blades in Fergana.
But currently, despite achieved results (quite good ones), my colleagues and me are continuing our quest…