Twist or Damascus

Posted by: RPr

Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 09:13 AM

Never to old to learn .

What is the diffrence between Damascus and Twist Barrels? I have always used the term Damascus for any multi-layered hammer welded barrel.

Eager for more information.
Posted by: Oscar Gaddy

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 09:43 AM

Twist barrels have a helical or spiral pattern of lines like a barber pole or candy cane with no addtional embellishments. Damascus barrels also have a spiral pattern but also have swirls and whorls that some call fingerprint patterns or other patterns that are repeated along the barrel. The following photos of twist and Damascus barrels will illustrate this difference.

Twist Barrels:


Posted by: 2-piper

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 12:20 PM

RPr; Glad you asked. Oscar did a great job in answering. Hope many will see this thread & stop using the terms interchangably. While technically both are "twist", both are not "damascus". They are in reality "Plain Twist" & "Damascus Twist". When the term damascus is used this eliminates plain twist ( or should) & when just "twist" is stated this ordinarily assumes "plain twist" also sometimes called "Wire Twist".
Posted by: RWG

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 12:51 PM

Oscar and Miller:

How would you catagorize "Bernard", "Star" and other distinct patterned hand fabricated barrels? I have always treated each of these as their own catagories of fabricated barrels separate from twist and damascus patterned barrels. I think new-comers (and the rest of us) would love to see finished examples of each if you have them Oscar. ;-) Russ
Posted by: 2-piper

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 01:08 PM

Russ; I do not have the knowledge on this subject that Oscar does. However to make an attempt, I would say that there are hundreds of different patterns that would all be classified as damascus. There are also a few variations in twist but not as many as damascus. In the sense of the broad classification I believe both of the patterns you mentioned are in the damascus category. Damascus is sometimes further defined by the number of strips or bands as 2-iron, 3-iron etc & even within the same no of strips pattern variation occurs according to the exact pileing of the bars before twisting. Am sure Oscar can add more to this.
Posted by: Oscar Gaddy

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 01:42 PM


I agree with Miller that the three patterns (Bernard, Chain and Star) are just variations of crolle Damascus one of which is the four-iron crolle shown in my previous post. The only difference in the crolle and the other fancier patterns is the way the iron and steel are arranged in the bar that is twisted into a rope and then the ropes welded into a ribband and then wound aroung a mandrel to forge the barrels. The crolle bars consist of rectangular strips of alternating iron and steel welded into a square bar, while the Bernard bar cross section looks like a checkerboard of alternating small square bars of iron and steel. Saches book and other references show how the other patterns are made.

I do have photos of the three patterns that you mentioned and I will show them below:



Star (etoile')
Posted by: RWG

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 01:55 PM

Thanks Oscar and Miller. I just love the look of the Black and White Bernard barrels. One day I will find a nice double with them to add to the collection. Great work Oscar. Russ
Posted by: Bob Noble

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 01:56 PM

Thanks for posting Bernard, as there seems to be alot of people mistaking it for twist barrels.
Posted by: Charles Crosby

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 02:30 PM

Very interesting subject,Its amazing the knowledge one can acquire on this site.I only wish That I could retain it.Learning every day.
Posted by: Geno

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 03:43 PM

BTW, Oscar, how to count 2,3,4...-iron or strips or layers of damascus in right way? Thank's.
Posted by: Oscar Gaddy

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 03:55 PM


It's usually very difficult if not impossible to count them directly as you cannot usually distinguish between the welds between the individual ropes and the welds at the edge of the riband. The size of the swirl pattern on crolle Damascus is about the only way to tell. The size runs from about .5 to .6 inch width on two-iron to about 1/8 inch width on 6-iron.

Posted by: King Brown

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 04:25 PM

I'm awed by the knowledge and generosity on this board but this takes the cake! Thanks.
Posted by: RPr

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 04:48 PM

I want to thank Oscar and The rest of you folks.

I find the BBS fasinating. Well worth my meager donation.

You can bet I will be looking at the old barrels a lot closer now.

Posted by: Geno

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 04:53 PM

Oscar, I thout about Crolle too. Fingerprint patterns must be the same within these 2....6-iron damascus. Am I right?
Posted by: Geno

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 04:58 PM

Following the fingerprint patterns there are 3-iron (left) and 6-iron (right) damascus on your second photo from top.
Posted by: Tuomo

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 05:00 PM

The Chain Damascus is amazing. Is in the market maker, which make new doubles with Chain Damascus barrels?

It would be cool to own over/under double with Chain Damascus barrels. It would make friends jealous. :p
Posted by: Oscar Gaddy

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 05:13 PM


Both of those samples came from the same barrel so they both have exactly the same pattern. Your observation just goes to show the difficulty of counting the "irons" in the pattern. Each rope or iron produces the left side of one whorl and the right side of another. You can easily see the boundry of a rope on these samples, but you cannot see and identify with certainty the boundry of the riband and count the number of ropes (irons) in the riband which is by definition the number of "irons" in the pattern.

Posted by: anthony

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 05:56 PM

Thanks,Oscar for the great pictures! After close examination of my G grade Lefever,I think it is a variation of the star damascus instead of twist.

Posted by: Dave Katt

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 06:40 PM

I was extremely surprised when I was told recently that twist was stronger than Damascus. Now he may be wrong, but I always thought it was the other way around. I have often wondered on my two Bakers one an "A" and the other a "B" grade the twist barrels of the "B" are almost 1/16" thicker at the breech than the "A" Damascus. Are they thicker because twist barrels are weaker and to make them stronger they made them thicker?
Posted by: Oscar Gaddy

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 07:40 PM

Dave K.

If twist barrels are stronger than Damascus, why were twist barrels cheaper to make and cost less than Damascus, and why are they always found on the lowest grade guns that manufacturers offered? IMHO, the person who told you that is sadly misinformed.

A common source of this misinformaton is the confusion of Belgian and British Laminated Steel barrels. The top barrels in the famous Birmingham Proof House destructive tests in the 1890s were three-iron British Laminated Steel barrels. British Laminated Steel barrels were made the same way as Damascus barrels but had higher (at least 60% ) high quality steel in the composite.

On the other hand, Belgian made common twist barrels were labeled Laminated Steel in many cases. This has led to confusing these two barrels called by the same name, but which are completely and widely different in quality.

Posted by: eightbore

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 08:08 PM

Anthony, I hope your Lefever is the same as one our shop had to sell last summer. The stars in the damascus pattern were as clear as if someone had drawn them with a pen. Not at all like the beautiful pattern Oscar showed us in his picture. I may still try to relocate that gun; I had a bit of a difference in price opinion with the owner, which I am slowly getting over. Bill Murphy
Posted by: 2-piper

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 09:32 PM

Oscar; Am in agreement with your assesment of twist vs damascus but would like your opinion on one other aspect. Based on Greener's comments & the Birmingham tests you mentioned where the 3-iron laminated steel proved strongest. Greeners assesment was that 4 & 6 iron damascus was "over twisted" & thus weakened. However I believe it was normally higher priced so price is not therefore an absolute guarantee of the best. I believe that Dave's comments about the twist bbls having thicker breeches to make up for the difference in strength may be true. I note also that my H grade Lefevers with twist bbls seem to be thicker than the higher grades with damascus.
Posted by: RWG

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 10:05 PM

Originally posted by Dave Katt:
Are they thicker because twist barrels are weaker and to make them stronger they made them thicker?
IMHO, yes. But I will differ to Oscar. Russ
Posted by: obsessed-with-doubles

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 10:26 PM

Wait...I'm confused.

Aren't all Twist steel bbls and patterned-steel bbls (Crolle, Bernard, etc) made from Damascus steel?

Doesn't Damascus refer to the process used to manufacture the bars of metal that are then used to make the bbls?

Manfred Sachse's book Damscus Steel shows Damascus bbls of various grades, from Rubans (which look like Twist) to the fanciest Bernard and Crolle patterns.

The author refers to all of them as Damascus.

Are the Twist steel bbls shown above something different? Or am I missing something?
Posted by: Oscar Gaddy

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/27/03 10:45 PM

Twist barrels on lower grade guns may have been thicker on some guns----I just don't know for sure. However, Parker Bros. made the PH grade gun on three frame sizes, 1 1 1/2 and 2 along with a few #3 frame guns with twist barrels, and they also made several higher grade guns on the same frame sizes with fluid steel and/or higher grades of Damascus barrels. Since the widths at the breech for a given frame size is fairly constant with Parker guns, the thickness of the barrrels ( in the chamber area where it matters) are about the same on a gun of a given frame size. Until the VH grade was introduced, the PH was the lowest grade Parker gun and most of the time that it was offered, it was available only with twist barrels.

I really doubt if there was or is a huge difference in strength of the twist vs. Damascus but I believe that the Twist barrel is inherently a little weaker because of the gemetry of the way it is fabricated. Any hoop stress at all will tend to pull the welds between individual strips apart in the longitudional direction in the twist barrel whereas the twisting of the bar in Damascus barrels precludes this posssibility. The three-iron barrel on the GH Parker that I donated to Tom Armbrust's destructive test withstood over 30 KPSI before bursting. I really doubt that a twist barrel on a #2 frame PH gun would have done as well.

I have no doubt that the cost and desirability of the fancier Damascus barrels was the difficulty in making them and the pattern rather than the strength, but a slight increase in strength was also a factor IMHO.

With regard to Greener's concern of overtwisting with the finer patterns, I don,t see any evidence of this on barrels that I have refinished, but his concerns may have some validity.
Posted by: 2-piper

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/28/03 12:54 AM

O/W/D; Went back & checked the previous posts & perhaps we didn't exactly cover the difference. Essentionaly the difference between "Plain twist & Damascus twist" is; For plain twist bbls, layers of iron & steel are welded together, rolled out into a flat bar & this bar is then wound around a mandrel after which the edges are welded forming a tube. This gives the candy cane pattern Oscar mentioned in his first post. Damascus is started in a similiar pattern, But, the bar itself is twisted, like it is held by one end & the other end rotated, until it looks something like a threaded rod. This rod is then heated & hammered flat & depending on the grade 2,3 or more are welded together along their edges & then this is wound around the mandrel. Pattern on the damascus is varied by the way the pieces are laid before the first welding as well as the size & no of strips used. This is why the plain twist just has the spiral pattern while the damascus can have any number of patterns & gives what is sometimes referred to as the fingerprint type pattern. One variation of the twist is what was known as stub twist, the originals being made from horse shoe nail stubs & chopped up coach spring steel of about the same size as the stubs. This still has the spiral pattern but appears as small pieces in instead of one continuos strip, but every thing is still just going around the bbl in a spiral. The term wire twist is often used. This comes from the appearence of plain twist. This is hard to explain but if you can imagine the strip used for winding on the mandrel is composed of many pieces laminated together. As this strip is wound the laminations are edge wise so that after winding around the mandrel you are looking at the edges of the laminations with each piece going through to the bore. This gives about the same appearence as if it had been wound with wire, welded & struck smooth, thus the name wire twist. I realize this is not a real good explanation but hope it clears it up a little.
Posted by: Mike Adkins

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/28/03 02:10 AM

If I could interject since the subject is twist and damascus barrels. Could one of you learned Gentleman please advise me as to what was the original color of the Parker twist and damascus barrels. Were they browned, or were the finished in black and white colors?.
Posted by: obsessed-with-doubles

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/28/03 07:55 AM

2-piper -

Thanks for your response. My point is that they are both Damascus, Twist and other patterns.

Damascus refers to the process of layering different types of metals together to create a faggot and then heating up this faggot and hammer forging it into a billet or bar.

From the billet or bar you can then make bbls (or swords, knives, etc).

This is how Manfred Sachse explains it in his authoritative text Damascus Steel.

How you create the original faggot of steel, how many billets/bars you use, and how you treat the billet/bar (twist or not) determines the type of Damascus steel created.

At least that is how I read it.
Posted by: Oscar Gaddy

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/28/03 09:29 AM


Parker Bros. Damascus and Twist barrels were originally finished in a black and white pattern as were welded pattern barrels of most US manufacturers. There has been some debate and disagreement about this in recent years, but I believe that the issue will soon be settled (at least for Parker barrels) with the publication of an article that will appear in the Spring 2003 issue of the Double Gun Journal to be out in Mid-March.

With regard to the designation of twist and Damascus barrels, the point that 2-Piper and I are making is that the definition that we described is the one commonly used by American gun makers in 19th and early 20th century, and is the commonly accepted definitions of twist and Damzscus by most knowledgeable people in the double gun community today. Sachse may have a slightly different definition as his interests include welded Damscus blades as well as gun barrels.

Oscar Gaddy

Posted by: 2-piper

Re: Twist or Damascus - 02/28/03 11:51 AM

The terms for twist & damascus as relates to gun bbls were in effect at least as early as 1834. I quote from "The Gun" by William Greener, Father of W W Greener.
Damascus being a variety or mixture, made from the composition named wire twist iron, I shall describe them both in this chapter.-----When about to be converted into "Damascus", the rod is heated the the whole length, & the square ends put into the heads,----It is then twisted like a rope or, as Colonel Hawker says wrung as wet clothes are, until it has from 12 to 14 complete turns to the inch.
Note that Mr Greener stated that Damascus was made from wire twist. Whether that is technically right or wrong is really immaterial at this point. In order to understand writings or catalog listings etc from the past it is necessary to use the same terminology as they used. This is why I stress the point that Twist is different from Damascus in that damascus was twisted in the bar before being wound on the mandrel, plain or wire twist was not. After the very minimum of 175yrs of this terminology to try to change it now could only result in catastrophy with no-one understanding it. Best is to simply accept the terminology used all these yrs by the gunmakers themselves as applies to gun-bbls.
Posted by: obsessed-with-doubles

Re: Twist or Damascus - 03/01/03 01:34 AM

2-piper -

Thanks for the explanation. I hear what you're saying.
Posted by: TexasGerd

Re: Twist or Damascus - 03/01/03 08:44 PM

Dave Weber.....(and everyone who posted information) is this something that can be placed in the FAQ section for future reference? It would help quickly educate all of us new bees. I'd hate to loose such information and great pictures.

Thanks again to Dr. Gaddy.
Count me in for your first book (when you get around to writing it)

Posted by: Oscar Gaddy

Re: Twist or Damascus - 03/01/03 10:07 PM


I have posted these pictures and others from my Damascus Display Board and Damascus Showroom Model several times on the old BBs and, I believe, on this new one as well. I will be happy to post then again as needed. Also, anyone can print out this string and have a hard copy with fairly decent photos, and better quality photos can be stored on any computer by right clicking on each photo and saving it in any appropriate directory on your C-drive.

I have no objection to placing it in the FAQ area, but I question whether it is necessary.

Oscar Gaddy
Posted by: jeff

Re: Twist or Damascus - 03/01/03 10:33 PM

I'd like a signed copy of that book?
Posted by: Two Triggers

Re: Twist or Damascus - 03/02/03 01:50 PM

Anthony & eightbore: I don't know if this was the standard damascus type used on this grade or if it's a coincidence, but my G Grade Lefever 10-bore has Kearcher-restored barrels which he described as "beautiful star damascus." Frankly, although no more or less beautiful than Oscar's, my barrels have much more discernable "stars" than the examples posted. Obviously, each set of barrels is unique, but I wonder which style of star damascus is more common?
Posted by: Oscar Gaddy

Re: Twist or Damascus - 03/02/03 02:52 PM


If I may hop into the discusssion here, I believe that the distinct star was probably what Bill (Eightbore) was referring to in his post---at least that was the way I read it. This is the star represented by a small white cross or X in a dark field rather than blobs or small squares of white that represent stars as seen on the barrels in my photo. I have seen several examples of both types of star Damascus patterns and it is my observation that the pattern with the more distinct stars or Xes is the rarer of the the two and is typically seen on higher grade guns. On page 498 of the Parker Story, Vol. II, A photo of a selection of Belgian made Damascus samples from the Parker factory are shown that I refinished for Louis Parker a few years ago. Among these samples are both types of Star Damascus that I described above.
Posted by: anthony

Re: Twist or Damascus - 03/02/03 09:07 PM

Two-Triggers and Eightbore,the only other gun I have with damascus barrels to compare my Lefever with is an 1889 Remington. According to Charles Semmers book on Remington doubles, ( page 272 )I would say my barrels are Oxford 2 J, very similar to Oscar's pictures labeled "Damascus". The barrels on my Lefever G are more similar to Oxford 4 J (page 273), finer pattern though not as sharp as the pattern on the Remington. The Remington is a Grade 3. I don't know how this compares to a Lefever G grade in quality. What do you think?

Posted by: Utah Shotgunner

Re: Twist or Damascus - 03/02/03 09:37 PM

How rare are the "one of a kind" damascus types. What I mean are they types like the Remington with the name in the barrel steel. I realize there is only one of this type, but how often do you see damascus types that you have never seen before?

Posted by: Mike Harrell

Re: Twist or Damascus - 03/02/03 10:17 PM

Marksman, back in 1976 or 77 in a small gunshop in Brechin Scotland, I saw a side by side that had the maker's name worked into the damascus. I don't remember the maker. Even though I was not into the damscus guns at that time, I marveled at the work and trial and error that had to go into those barrels. Had to have been made by a master barrel maker. Sure wish that I had bought it.
Posted by: Oscar Gaddy

Re: Twist or Damascus - 03/02/03 10:25 PM


Most of the special names like Boston and Oxford Damascus etc. were merely manufacturers names used to identify specific minor variations of common crolle Damascus such as the one in my photo on this thread labeled Damascus. The ones in Semmer's book are from a specific barrel manufacturer in the LIege area. Sachse's book shows photos and lithographs of barrels from a different Liege maker but with some different names used by this company for similar patterns. I believe that the most useful designation is the generic term crolle for this type of Damascus.

Posted by: 2-piper

Re: Twist or Damascus - 03/02/03 11:04 PM

I have an FE Lefever which has the chain damascus, my G's look more like the star & the H's of course have twist.
Posted by: RPr

Re: Twist or Damascus - 03/06/03 09:08 PM

I think thid would be an excellent addition to the FAQ section.