Katana Blade What you should know about the soul of this legendary weapon
The Katana Blade: A Deep Insight
Due to its durability and strength, the katana is one of the finest swords in history. It is also well known for its beauty. So, if you are a sword enthusiast, you might want to know more about the Katana blade. This guide will help you in this regard.
The Japanese sword has a unique and glorious history because of its usage as a weapon and aesthetics. Before it became the modern Katana that we recognize today, the Japanese sword underwent a great deal of development. It is the result of several years of refinement.
In this article, I'll discuss the forging process of the Katana blade in ancient Japan, along with some other information you might find helpful.
How Was The Katana Forged In Ancient Japan?
Swordsmiths in ancient Japan carefully selected raw materials from iron sands and then forged them. They constructed each katana sword out of several steel layers to give it durability. Additionally, practically every Katana included themes and emblems representing religious and cultural ideals.
Forging katana swords in the past required a very methodical process. only a selected few swordsmiths could craft katana swords. However, there were several stages to making them. Now, let's discuss each step briefly:
Medieval swordsmiths made the Katana sword's blade using Tamahagane. This unique variety of iron sand was locally accessible. These were also naturally free of common contaminants, such as sulfur and phosphorus that caused the metal to become brittle.
However, steel producers forged the iron sands into steel in a specialized oven. Usually, it took several days to complete this process. But the steel is typically unrefined and distorted at this time. After that, the swordsmiths melt and forge them into tiny steel plates.
The swordsmith first picked a few steel plates. Then, they used to coat them using ash, mud, and wet paper to stop oxidation. After that, they heated the plates to 1300 degrees Celsius and pounded them to combine them into one heated piece of metal. However, the Tamahagane may still include impurities. But swordsmiths remove them during the hammering procedure.
The produced chunk is then heated and vigorously beaten. It is folded, then beaten once more until it becomes elongated. Then, the swordsmith continued the rounding ten to fifteen times. As a result, the carbon within the forged steel is distributed evenly throughout the steel. It's also the reason the katana's distinctive wavy pattern appears.
Generally, swordsmiths used two different kinds of iron pieces to make one Katana. They used more rigid iron to make the pointy end. It is tougher and simpler to sharpen since it has more impurities.
Then, the blade is made durable and flexible by folding this strong iron over a thick, softer iron. After being pounded together, the swordsmiths extended these two portions into the blade's shape.
The sword makers covered the Katana in mud after the sword had cooled to safeguard it as it went through the solidification process. The pointy end is covered in a carbon and mud layer, creating a wavy design that distinguishes it from the flat edge.
Then, the sword, covered with mud, is heated once more till it becomes bright red. And then, it is immediately submerged in chilly water to solidify the blade. At this point, the edge also begins to bend, giving the katana its distinctively curved shape.
Swordsmiths then used to send the blades to expert polishers renowned as Togashi after providing them with a preliminary structure. They enhanced the blade's visual qualities while also improving its form. However, the polisher utilized three different stones throughout the lengthy process.
Decoration & Mounting
Swordmakers used to embellish most katanas with old Japanese cultural motifs. Japanese samurais considered the decorations to be lucky charms.
Finally, the sheath makers began working on the sword once the katana blade was complete. They attached the handguard, scabbard, and other decorative elements to the sword to finish the procedure.
Is The Modern Katana Blade-making Process Distinct From The Ancient Process?
The modern Katana blade-making process is way different from ancient times. Nowadays, one can build their own katana, customizing it to their preferences and needs. However, in ancient Japan, things were not that easy. Only a few licensed swordsmiths could make Katanas for the emperor's samurai troops.
There are many differences between the ancient Katana-making process and the modern one. Currently, manufacturers use more machinery, such as power hammers, to make a Katana blade. So the process is less labor-intensive. However, some procedures, such as clay tempering, are still the same.
Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, swordsmiths used to utilize Tamahagane for making a Katana. Now, manufacturers rarely use these. Instead, they use modern materials, which work better than Tamahagane.
However, the most common modern materials are carbon steel, manganese steel, T10 steel, spring steel, pattern steel, etc. Carbon steel is the most popular among all modern materials due to its low cost and availability. Manganese steel is also cheap and common. Moreover, it is more flexible than carbon steel.
One of the best options for making a Katana blade nowadays is T10 steel. It is tough. So, the process is a bit challenging. But Katanas made of this steel are more sturdy. Nevertheless, spring steel is another flexible and beginner-friendly option many manufacturers use nowadays.
Difference Between Traditional & Modern Katana Blade
Apart from the forging process, there are several other differences between traditional and modern Katana blades. So, now, let's discuss the fundamental differences:
Traditional Katana Swords
The classic Katana appeared during the Kamakura era, when strong warlord families ruled Japan. It was a variation of the Tachi, which had a single-edged, curved blade. But the Katana was different in several ways. It was more potent than the Tachi because, first of all, it was longer.
Secondly, swordsmiths used a different kind of steel to manufacture the conventional Katana. They found that employing Tamahagane steel enabled stronger swords. Thus, they started making classic katanas out of this steel.
Modern Katana Swords
The Katana underwent a decline throughout the Meiju Period. When World War II approached in the twentieth century, the Japanese government started mass-producing katanas. The government mandated all army personnel to carry swords at the time. The Gunto, a unique variety of modern Katana, was often employed for this task.
But the quality was inferior to that of the conventional Katana. It is because there was a lack of supplies and ingredients at that time. So, the bladesmiths could not make swords for military commanders out of Tamahagane steel. Instead, they produced low-quality katanas from a variety of low-quality steel types.
Swordsmiths still produce Katanas today in Japan and other countries. Furthermore, some even construct these blades using the exact Tamahagane steel.
Two Main Kinds Of Katana Blade
Katana blades can be of many kinds. However, there are mainly two kinds of Katana blades based on usage. These are:
Katanas For Aesthetic Purpose
Manufacturers nowadays make many katanas purely for aesthetic purposes. They extensively decorate them in order to make them appealing. Individuals mainly buy these katanas to decorate their homes or offices. Generally, makers use T10 steel and pattern steel to make these blades.
Katanas For Tameshigiri
Several Japanese martial systems include Tameshigiri, also known as "test cutting" in feudal Japan. However, in modern Japanese swordsmanship, students of martial arts utilize shrink or live blades to enhance their sword techniques.
Sharp, practical, battle-ready katana blades are ideal for slashing fixed items like bamboo, tatami mats, and other materials. Usually, manufacturers make these Katanas using spring or T10 steel. These Katana blades are sturdy, sharp, and durable.