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Carbon Steel to Functional Art: The Making of a Katana

Oriental Weaponry |  New Sword Sales |  Hanwei (By Paul Chen) Swords |  Hanwei (By Paul Chen) Informational Pages |  Carbon Steel to Functional Art: The Making of a Katana

Carbon Steel to Art

Introduction

Here we have the six main steps detailing the highly-skilled process of forging a high-carbon steel katana blade. Followed by the Katana Forging Process Plaque, which is both aesthetically pleasing and educational.

Following the forging process is the manufacture of the saya, Handle and Sageo and then finally the assembly of the katana, each process is described here.

Finally, we have a diagram detailing each part of a Samurai sword in both English and the correct Japanese equivalent.



Forging

Forging a High-Carbon Steel Katana Blade


1. Rough Forging

1. Rough Forging

The blade is formed by hot forging a billet of high-carbon steel. The repeated hammering provides an even dispersion of carbon throughout the steel for uniform strength of the finished blade.


2. Rough Shaping

2. Rough Shaping

The scale is removed and the blade is shaped roughly to the required dimensions. At this stage, the steel is still in the annealed (soft) state and the blade is straight.


3. Clay Covering

3. Clay Covering

A special clay is applied to the blade by hand, using a thin covering near the edge and a thicker layer over the rest of the blade. This results in a relatively quicker cooling of the edge during quenching, producing a hard edge and softer back.


4. Quenching

4. Quenching

This is a critical part of the operation. The blade, with its clay covering, is heated to a predetermined temperature and quenched in a water bath. The shape and continuity of the hamon, the sori (blade curvature), and blade straightness are all determined by the care and skill exercised in quenching.


5. Sizing

5. Sizing

The sori is adjusted if necessary, to set the point of balance and point of percussion, and de-scaled. Rough polishing is carried out to size the blade accurately. The habaki (blade collar) is fitted.


6. Finishing

6. Finishing

Careful final polishing and fine finish work are carried out on the various surfaces to define ridgelines and bring out the beauty of the hamon.


Manufacturing

Manufacturing the saya, handle and sageo and then assembly


Saya

Saya

The saya is carved f rom two pieces of wood to match the length, width, thickness and c urvature of the finished blade. The two halves are then wrapped in cambric and lacquered numerous times. Final polishing gives the saya finish a high gloss.


Handle

Handle

The handle core is comprised of two pieces of hardwood carved to tightly fit onto the tang. Channels are carved into the sides to facilitate two panels of rayskin. The entire handle is then wrapped with high quality woven cotton while small paper triangles are used to help shape the wrap correctly. The Menuki and Kashira are added during this process.


Sageo

Sageo

The sageo is typically woven of high quality cotton to match the handle wrap. In some cases, the sageo is still woven by hand (see Paper Crane daisho), this process requires many hours of skilled hand labour but allows thematic designs to be carried into the sageo.


Assembly

Assembly

Finally all the pieces can be assembled and the handle securely fastened to the tang. This is accomplished with the addition of two bamboo pegs through the handle and tang.


Parts of a Samurai Sword

Parts of a Samurai Sword


Oriental Weaponry |  New Sword Sales |  Hanwei (By Paul Chen) Swords |  Hanwei (By Paul Chen) Informational Pages |  Carbon Steel to Functional Art: The Making of a Katana