History on Sword of the great Salahuddin Ayyubi.
The Ayyubi army defeated hoards of European Christian invaders called the crusades.
History on sword of Salahuddin Ayyubi, the steel blade used by Salahuddin was technically far advanced than what the Europeans used.
The alloy called it “wootz Damascus“.
The wootz steel was originally forged in South India in 600 BC and exported everywhere.
The steel was ordinary carbon steel but with a 0.1% vanadium content which occurred naturally in the mines from where the ore was extracted.
The South Indian blacksmiths discovered a new way of purifying iron ore. They melted iron in sealed crucibles which kept oxygen away from hot iron and gave better quality purer ingots to work with.
The carbon steel – vanadium mixture came to attention of Arab sword smiths who added further techniques to sword forging.
They forged the blade and cooled it in stages and controlled the crystal formation inside the metal.
Later during Salahuddin Ayyubi times similar iron ore with vanadium content was discovered near Damascus and the need to import wootz steel ingots from South India diminished.
Arab blacksmiths added further refinements to iron ore extraction technology. They melted iron ore mixed with green leaves and with a layer of crushed glass inside an airtight crucible.
Under intense heat of the furnace the green leaves released hydrogen and the glass melted in top and formed an additional layer of seal. The hydrogen lowered melting temperature of iron ore, causing far more refined end product than what South Indians could produce.
Then the skilled sword smiths forged the blade in “thermal cycles” where they repeatedly heated and cooled the forged blade . This caused the reduction in internal stresses of the blade making it durable. The process also caused larger crystals of carbon and non carbon steel inside the blade showing as intricate fractal pattern on the blade which is the hallmark of Damascus steel.
The swords made this way were better, sharper, stronger and more durable than Japanese samurai swords.
The Japanese samurai sword called katana was made with repeatedly folding steel then hammering and folding again. That took time and steel didn’t have the same strength throughout. The Damascus steel swords used by Salahuddin army were single ingots hammered into shape and then heat treated. Far easier and quicker to make while having better characteristics than a samurai katana. A single Japanese katana would take three months to make, while the sword of Salahuddin ayyubi could be made in days and with better ductility and sharpness.
After the crusades the Europeans took back some samples of Salahuddin army swords but after centuries of work the Europeans couldn’t replicate the process. The art of Salahuddin was a closely guarded Muslim secret.
The king of Jordan funds a research project into manufacturing processes of Damascus steel. The project is ongoing.