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Materials Science

The Science of Swords - a History of Bladesmithing at Mines

Mike West, Ph.D., holds the international award winning thirty-four-inch, single-edged blade sword that is based on the Arhus Farm sword from 10th century Norway.

In the summer of 2006 a high school student, Kevin Gray (MetE 11), did something that could have landed him in trouble. He toured the Mines campus with an eight-inch knife in his backpack. Gray had no malicious intent, rather he was excited to show the Damascus steel blade that he had forged in his garage to a professor of metallurgy. Little did Gray know that his actions would spark a series of events that would change the face of the Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering at Mines and earn the program international acclaim.

At the end of the tour for prospective students, Jon Kellar PhD, (MetE 84), who was department head at the time, asked Gray why he was interested in Mines. “He pulled this knife wrapped in cloth out of his backpack,” says Kellar. Damascus steel blades have been around for centuries. They’re easy to identify by the swirled steel patterns that result from a labor-intensive process of repeatedly heating, hammering, and folding the steel. Kellar became intrigued. “We were low on student enrollment at the time,” he says, “We were trying to find a solution, and this seemed like a good way to outreach.” Kellar and professors Dana Medlin, PhD, and Michael West, PhD, developed a plan to integrate more hands-on experiences into the curriculum. Students could make items out of metal, like Damascus steel blades, and study the scientific properties of the steel they were working along the way.

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Last Edited 10/5/2020 07:51:01 PM [Comments (0)]