Not a Banana, But a Katana

When a samurai would go into battle, there was always that dilemma of what sword to choose.  Several options were set before him, and among them was the katana.  These swords were most common in feudal Japan, but its development was in the works before that period.  So now, let’s go back to a time, the 8th century to be exact, in which warfare styles were changing.  Instead of fighting on foot, warriors were moving to fighting on horseback.  Until that point, the weapon of the day was called a tachi sword, which was worn on the waist with the cutting edge face down.  With the recent emergence of horseback fighting, it was clear that straight bladed swords were not the best for the job and perhaps, a curved blade would be more functional.

Samurai Katana:

Samuri Katana

The solution to the problem came in the form of the katana sword during the Muromachi period (1392-1573).  The katana had a curved blade and could be worn with the cutting edge facing upwards.  This gave a samurai an easily accessible way to harm their enemy.  The katana was considered to be the deadliest weapon of its time and served as a symbol of warrior honor and pride.  The sword was also revered in its construction.  Only the highest classes of blade smiths and craftsmen were entrusted with the forging, heating, and hammering of the sword.  Because of the prestige, only samurai warriors were allowed to carry them.  It was instant execution for any lower class soldier caught with a katana.

While katanas are rare these days, they can be found.  Martial artists and collectors have managed to keep the market alive.  An authentic Japanese katana is made from a specialized Japanese material called “Tamahagane”, which combines hard, high carbon steel and tough, low carbon steel.  High carbon steel is effective for creating a sharper edge and low carbon steel helps the blade absorb impact without breaking.

Practical Plus Katana:

Practical Plus Katana

In brief, here’s the method of crafting a katana sword.  Pieces of high carbon and low carbon steel are folded and welded together several times to get rid of impurities.  The high carbon steel is then formed into a U shaped blade with soft steel added to its center.  Thus, a rough blank of the sword is formed.  Through a process called “quenching”, the curvature of the katana is made.  In this process, the sword maker coats the blade with layers of wet clay slurry and coats the blade edge with a thinner layer of the slurry.  Next, the sword is heated and quenched in water.  As a result, the blade hardens and curves, due to reduced latticed strain along the spine.  Quenching also produces the katana forger’s signature, known as the hamon, which is the distinct swerving line running down the center of the blade.  The final stage of katana construction is polishing, which usually takes one to three weeks.  The polisher uses very fine polishing stones until the blade has a mirror finish.  Polishing also enhances the sharpness of the blade edge.  Katana sword making is truly an art form of its own and makers take great pride in their work.

Though samurai swords and samurai sword makers are not as “in” today as they were a few centuries ago, their legacy has not died.  They still remain revered and respected and will continue to live on.  Check out our selection of katana swords and other samurai weapons at:

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