With its unique and eye-catching appearance and generally top-shelf nature, Damascus steel has long been a popular material for use in everyday carry knives. First appearing in the historical record all the way back to 1,500 BC, the original process for creating Damascus steel has since been lost to the sands of time, though modern iterations of this construction have become widely available, with some of today’s heralded EDC knives now being offered in Damascus-steeled variants — our favorite of which we’ll be highlighting today in this guide to the best Damascus knives for everyday carry.
The Best Damascus Knives Rundown
Best Budget Knife
Best Tactical Knife
SOG Terminus XR
Best Classically-Styled Knife
Best Modern EDC Knife
The James Brand The Carter
Best Gentlemen’s Knife
Best Titanium Knife
Boker Kwaiken Flipper Knife Titanium
Best Collector’s Knife
Benchmade Gold Class 945-221 Mini Osborne
Best Auto Knife
Marfione Custom UTX-70 D/E
- Show more
What Exactly Is Damascus Steel?
Put very simply, Damascus steel is a type of steel construction that’s comprised of two of more different metal alloys that have been repeatedly folded dozens and dozens and dozens of times over. This process begins with creating a series of metal bars of varying constructions (sometimes as many as 5 or 6) and turning them into what’s known as a billet — i.e. a solid block of metal. Said billet is first heated before then being hammered and folded, over and over and over again, dozens and dozens and dozens of times with some Damascus steels getting several hundred folds.
Once cooled, this folded multi-alloy construction is then cleaned, prepped, and acid-etched. Based on the composition of each type of metal in a Damascus steel, these alloys will react differently to the oxidization and etching processes, giving each one a lighter or darker appearance that allows it to better contrast the other metals in the billet. This process of repeatedly folding different alloys many times over is what gives Damascus steel its unique appearance and visual pattern — the latter of which is even more noticeable once the material is honed into a blade, as shaving off portions better reveals the underlying pattern. Over time, some of today’s most eminent makers of Damascus steel have discovered novel sequences or patterns of folding that result in idiosyncratic Damascus patterns or motifs. Titanium can also be used as a base for Damascus steel, resulting in what’s referred to as “Timascus” or “Timascus Steel.”
What Makes Damascus Steel So Special?
The reality is that, aside from its admittedly unique and eye-catching pattern, there isn’t anything inherently special about Damascus steel. What determines the quality or properties of any Damascus steel ultimately boils down to the particular alloys that were utilized to create it in the first place. If you combine multiple high-end blade steels such as RWL34, XHP, M390, or S110V, you’ll get a high-quality top-shelf Damascus steel, however, if you combine more budget steels like 1055, AUS-8, or 8Cr13MoV, the end result will be a cheaper overall Damascus steel. In the same vein, Damascus can also be stainless or non-stainless, again, depending on the alloys that it’s composed of (and if said alloys are stainless or non-stainless).
With its unique, more elaborate appearance, Damascus steel is often reserved for top-shelf variants of knives. Generally speaking, most high-end knives with Damascus-steeled blades will boast top-shelf Damascus compositions — many of which advertise the exact type of Damascus steel being used. Additionally, unlike alloys that have been anodized or cloaked in a coating or finish, a Damascus steel’s pattern can’t be scratched off, as it’s owed to the folds in the metal. This layered/pattern factor also makes Damascus steel an ideal choice for handle inlays, pocket clips, and other hardware elements on super-premium knives.
Which Damascus Steel Is Best For EDC Knives?
While some of this comes down to personal preference, the best Damascus steels are the more high-end layered constructions on that market. Because so many Damascus-steeled knives don’t cite the composition or source of their Damascus blade, a great way to ensure that you’re getting your hands on a genuinely top-shelf Damascus is to purchase a knife with a blade from a reputable producer like Damasteel or Chad Nichols Damascus.
Why Is Damascus Steel So Expensive?
There are several reasons that Damascus steel typically comes at such a high price. Most high-end Damascus steels are comprised of multiple high-end base blade steels, which don’t come cheap. These expensive alloys then have to be reworked into a billet before being repeatedly hammered and folded into their final form — an incredibly laborious process that takes an incredibly long time and can be made all the more difficult by the fact that many ultra-hard high-end blade steels are notoriously difficult to work with. And, just like with other high-end proprietary constructions like Dyneema, GORE-TEX, or CORDURA, it’s not uncommon to pay a premium when getting ultra-top-shelf proprietary/name brand Damascus steel from outfits like Chad Nichols Damascus and Swedish company Damasteel.
Is Damascus Steel Harder To Care For?
Just like its performance or edge-retention properties, a Damascus steel’s maintenance ease and needs are owed to the types of alloys that a particular Damascus steel is comprised of — and how the whole blade is heat-treated. Generally speaking, assuming it’s a high-end Damascus steel, it will be a little more difficult to care for, as it will need to be cleaned and dried more frequently than a regular single-alloy blade, plus will almost certainly be a headache to sharpen, considering ultra-hard high-end blade steels like M390 or CPM 3V require far more time to sharpen compared too steels like 154CM and D2.
- Upgraded version of popular budget EDC blade
- Offers great value
- Has surprisingly high-end build quality
- Features ultra-smooth deployment/action
- Wide range of aftermarket handle, pocket clip, & hardware upgrade options
- Unknown, presumably budget Damascus steel composition
Best Budget Knife: While we’d never be so bold as to call a $90 knife “budget-friendly,” CIVIVI’s Elementum proves that you can get a good-quality Damascus EDC knife without a super-premium price tag. And while its 2.96″ drop point blade is an obvious highlight, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also point out its combination G10-carbon-fiber handle scales, its sleek urban-friendly silhouette, and its reliable liner lock. The quality material selection on the Elementum is made all the more impressive by the fact this knife’s build quality is on par with blades costing two-times as much, plus it punches well above its weight with an ultra-smooth action and deployment that’s also typically reserved for markedly more expensive knives. Weighing in at less than 3oz in total, this knife proves you don’t need to give up an arm and a leg to get a solid Damascus everyday carry knife. Not only does CIVIVI offered a wide range of liner and button-locking Damascus-steeled Elementum models, but each of these different variants can easily be customized and/or personalized via the wealth of available aftermarket scales, hardware sets, pocket clips, and other aftermarket upgrades on the market.
Damascus Type: Unknown
Handle Material: G10 & Carbon Fiber
Blade Length: 2.9″
Total Length: 6.99″
Lock: Liner Lock
SOG Terminus XR
- Tactically-inspired EDC knife
- Offers fantastic value
- Damascus steel has more subtle appearance w/ less contrast
- Has solid 0.12” blade thickness
- Blade can be deployed in 3 different ways
- Lock can withstand 1,500lbs of force/pressure
- Damascus uses 10Cr15CoMoV steel base
Best Tactical Knife: With its tactically-inspired design and overall workhorse capabilities, SOG’s Terminus Series has long been one of our favorite choices for everyday carry, though the company also offers a thoroughly top-shelf variant with a Damascus steel blade crafted from a 10Cr15CoMoV steel base — a Chinese-made equivalent to Japan’s VG-10. Spanning 3.00” and measuring 0.12” thick, this drop point blade can be deployed via a flipper tab, a set of thumb-studs, or via a flick of the wrist when the knife’s XR lock is pressed. Set in a black G-10 and carbon fiber handle, the knife’s XR lock is extremely easy to use and is incredibly sturdy, with this mechanism being capable of withstanding 1,500lbs of force before lockup fails. Also offered by SOG in CPM S35VN and D2 versions, the Terminus XR’s blade on this particular variant sports a Damascus construction with a much more subtle finish.
Damascus Type: 10Cr15CoMoV
Handle Material: G-10 & Carbon Fiber
Blade Length: 3.00”
Total Length: 4.00”
Lock: XR Lock
- Ultra-popular antique-style EDC knife
- Modern reissue of legendary Japanese pocket knife from 1894
- Design inspired by Samurai swords
- Made by hand in Japan
- Has brass handle paired w/ blue paper steel-based Damascus blade
- Also makes for great desk/mail knife
- Lacks performance, utility, & ergonomics of more modern EDC knives
- Blade is non-locking
Best Classically-Styled Knife: One of the most iconic knives of all time, the Japanese Nagao Higonokami is a legendary friction folder that should make its way into every serious EDC enthusiast’s knife collection at some point. And while most are relatively low-budget, there are some ultra-premium options out there, as well. This particular one falls into the latter category, as it boasts a Damascus blue paper steel blade with a magnificently subtle pattern, superb durability, and excellent edge retention. Pair that with its handsome all-brass handle and this is one of the most exceptional non-locking friction folders currently available for purchase. A gentlemen’s knife through and through, this particular model also makes for a fantastic show knife, mail knife, and desk knife. It is, however, worth mentioning that, compared to contemporary everyday carry knives, the Nagao Higonokami is admittedly a bit lacking in performance and ergonomics, though anyone that’s used the knife can tell you that these drawbacks are far outweighed by the Japanese blade’s many pros and strengths.
Damascus Type: Aogami
Handle Material: Brass
Blade Length: 3″
Total Length: 6.75″
Lock: (Non-Locking) Friction Folder
The James Brand The Carter
- Has a beautiful form-meets-function design
- Rugged material selection
- Feels incredible ergonomic in hand
- Fantastic locking mechanism
- Perfect size and weight for EDC
- Can be fitted w/ lanyard insert option (& lanyard)
- Build quality can sometimes be lacking
- Damascus variant only offered in one colrway
- Not available in partially-serrated or XL versions
Best Modern EDC Knife: It’s no big secret that we admire The James Brand and their entire catalog of offerings. But this version of TJB’s Carter knife — the model they’ve said themselves is their “most advanced everyday-carry knife” — is extra special. It still comes with a grippy and handsome Micarta handle, an ambidextrous slide lock, an ambidextrous thumb stud, a deep-carry reversible pocket clip, and more. But it has a major upgrade in its VG-10 Damascus steel blade, which is as beautiful as it is strong and durable. Traditionally, while it’s a fantastic-looking knife, The Carter has sometimes varied in terms of build quality from unit to unit, though this issue has appeared to lessen in recent years. It’s also worth noting that unlike the regular VG-10 version of The Carter, the Damascus variant is only sold in a single colorway and isn’t offered in XL or partially-serrated versions. Even with these minor gripes, The Carter is still a fantastic EDC knife that’s only elevated here by a beautifully-layered VG-10-based Damascus blade.
Damascus Type: VG-10
Handle Material: Micarta
Blade Length: 2.80”
Total Length: 6.5”
- Super premium Sprint Run series SpyOpera knife
- Utilitarian take on gentlemen’s knife
- Born out of collab w/ LionSteel
- Made in Italy from ultra-premium materials
- Has ultra-top-shelf Thor-pattern Damasteel blade
- Uses dated backlock mechanism
- Bent-wire pocket clip feels cheap compared to rest of knife
Best Gentlemen’s Knife: Originally born out of a collaboration with boutique Italian knifemaker LionSteel, the Spyderco SpyOpera was a unique take on a gentlemen-style everyday carry knife, with an elegant appearance backed up by a quality material selection, a still-utilitarian design, and stellar build quality. More recently, the original model’s Micarta and Böhler M390 constructions have been swapped out for an even more premium carbon fiber handle set paired with a Thor-pattern Damascus — a martensitic steel from Damasteel that’s composed of forge welds layers of RWL 34 and PMC 27. Secured via a back-lock mechanism, this Italian-made Sprint Run variant’s blade spans 2.72” and is deployed via a classic Spyderco thumb-hole opening. This knife’s carbon fiber handle also comes outfitted with a bent-wire pocket clip and an integrated lanyard hole.
Damascus Type: RWL 34 & PMC 27
Handle Material: Carbon Fiber
Blade Length: 2.72”
Total Length: 6.90”
Böker Kwaiken Flipper Knife Titanium
- Top-shelf Ti & Damascus version of already legendary EDC knife
- Penned by knife designer legend Lucas Burnley
- Features remarkably smooth action
- Crafted around titanium handle, liner, & back-spacer
- Blade composed of Swedish powdered metal Damasteel
- Made in Taiwan
- Fairly heavy at over 5oz
- Uses liner lock
Best Titanium Knife: Designed by Lucas Burnley, the Böker Kwaiken has long been another one of the all-time most revered everyday carry knife, leading to Böker producing an absolutely enormous number of different Kwaiken models — including this ultra-top-shelf titanium-handled, Damascus-steeled version seen here. Not only does this model feature a blade composed of Swedish powdered metallurgy Damasteel, but that blade is also deployed via a flipper tab and features one of the smoothest factory actions we’ve ever experienced. Interestingly, despite the fact that Böker produces titanium frame-locking versions of the Kwaiken, this ultra-premium version has been outfitted with a liner locking mechanism — which admittedly does make for a cleaner overall appearance without greatly sacrificing on strength or utility as modern liner locks have become incredibly robust. And, while it is made in Taiwan, you’d never know it based on the admittedly stellar build quality present on this blade — which in all fairness, should be the case on a nearly $500 knife.
Damascus Type: Damasteel
Handle Material: Titanium
Blade Length: 3.50”
Total Length: 8.375″
Lock: Liner Lock
Benchmade Gold Class 945-221 Mini Osborne
- Ultra-premium version of one of the all-time best EDC knives
- Made insanely-premium, more spare-no-expense material selection
- Features outstanding build quality & fit & finish
- Made in America & backed by lifetime warranty
- Price includes lifetime of Benchmade’s LifeSharp service
- Can be further customized/personalized via wide range of aftermarket upgrades
- Very expensive price
Best Collector’s Knife: Since first debuting around the turn of the millennium, the Benchmade Osborne has stood as one of the all-time greatest everyday carry knives, rivaled only by the likes of other legendary blades like the Bugout and Spyderco PM2. For the 2023, the Oregon City knife-maker has debuted a new ultra-premium version of its Mini Osborne that’s meticulously crafted from a spare-no-expense material section. Equipped with an AXIS lock, the Gold Class Mini Osborne sports a set of Arctic Storm Fat Carbon Handles complemented via aqua-anodized bolsters and a genuine gold-plated floating back-spacer upgrade. Deployed via a matching set of aqua-anodized thumb-studs, Benchmade’s Gold Class Mini Osborne’s blade consists of a 2.92” reverse tanto item composed of Ægir-pattern Damasteel — a top-shelf amalgamation of RWL34 and RPMC27. Made in America, the admittedly exorbitant price of this knife does include a lifetime warranty, as well as a lifetime of free factory-sharpening courtesy of Benchmade’s LifeSharp service.
Damascus Type: RWL34 & RPMC27
Handle Material: Arctic Storm Fat Carbon
Blade Length: 2.92”
Total Length: 6.76”
Marfione Custom UTX-70 D/E
- EDC-focused 70% scale version of legendary Ultratech OTF knife
- Produced by John Wick’s go-to knife-maker
- Made by hand in America
- Knife has 2.40” hot-blued mosaic Damascus steel dagger
- Outstanding build quality & fit & finish
- Very expensive price
- Produced in very limited numbers
- Would benefit from handle material upgrade
Best Auto Knife: The Microtech Ultratech is unequivocally one of the most popular OTF knives ever made, though in a bid to deliver a more everyday carry-friendly version, John Wick’s go-to knife-maker opted to introduce the UTX-70 — a 70% scale version of the Ultratech that retains the original model’s tactical edge while coming in a smaller and more pocketable package. Produced by Microtech founder Tony Marfione’s bespoke blade division Marfione Custom, this UTX-70 D/E (dagger) model sees its regular material selection tossed out in favor of a black DLC-finished stainless steel handle that deploys a 2.40” double-edged blade that sports a hot-blued mosaic pattern over a Damascus steel construction. Made by hand in America, this knife is rounded out with a DLC-coated hardware set and a matching black ramped double-action thumb-slider.
Damascus Type: Unknown (but no-doubt premium)
Handle Material: Black DLC-Coated Stainless Steel
Blade Length: 2.40”
Total Length: 5.75”
Lock: Double-Action Slider
The Ultimate Guide To Damascus Steel
Want to take an even deeper dive into the world of Damascus steel? Then be sure to head over to our ultimate guide to Damascus steel for an ultra-in-depth look into this multi-layered, multi-alloy mega-steel.