Katana Mekugi tiny wooden pegs that hold your samurai sword together
Mekugi: What is It?
When it comes to traditional Japanese swords, the Mekugi is a small but crucial component. It's practically impossible to overstate the significance of the Mekugi in Japanese sword construction. Without it, the handle would be loose, and the Katana would be unusable in battle. Curious to know a bit more about Mekugi? Keep reading to find out.
A "Mekugi" is a small peg or pin craftsmen use to create and maintain traditional Japanese swords. Generally, it goes through a hole in the sword's tang (nakago), securing the Tsuka to the blade. The materials for Mekugi are typically bamboo or wood, and a bit of lacquer keeps it in place. Fortunately, you can easily remove or replace it to replace or repair the handle!
This tiny peg also holds much cultural significance to the Japanese. So why exactly is this small component so significant to constructing a Japanese Katana? Does a sword need only one of them or two? This article will cover everything you need to know about Mekugi. So without further ado, let's jump right into it!
What Is Mekugi?
Mekugi is the name for the little, spherical peg that is inserted horizontally through the Tsuka or handle of a Japanese sword. Usually, there are two Mekugi on a sword. Generally, sword makers insert them laterally into the Tsuka or handle through the Nakago, which is the button part of the blade.
The Mekugi acts as a hinge for a Katana. It allows the swordmaster to wield the blade with great force without the handle coming loose. Thus, without this essential component, the Tsuka or handle would always be loose, making the Katana unusable in battle.
The materials for Mekugi are typically bamboo or wood. Generally, a small amount of lacquer is all you need to hold them in place on the Katana. Using natural materials such as bamboo and wood is in line with the traditional and artisanal approach of sword making. These materials are readily available in Japan, and sword smiths have been using them for centuries to make Mekugi.
One of the unique features of the Mekugi is that you can easily remove or replace it. So whenever necessary, you can replace or repair your handle. Many consider a sword with a removable Mekugi to be of higher quality and value than one without. After all, it's easy to disassemble and reassemble a Katana with a removable Mekugi, making it easier to repair and maintain.
The Mekugi also has a cultural significance to the Japanese. It symbolizes the unique bond between the sword and its owner. It represents the care and attention that goes into the construction and maintenance of the Katana. Of course, it also signifies the respect and reverence of the sword wielder as they hold it.
What Are the Common Materials Of Mekugi?
Most artisans and craftsmen use Susudake or smoked and cured bamboo to make Mekugi. However, some models feature an additional brass Mekugi near the handle. Bamboo is the most excellent choice for this job. It is a strong, durable, and lightweight material that is easy to work with and offers a good balance between strength and flexibility.
Bamboo is strong yet supple enough to withstand pressure when the wielder strikes the Katana. It is also a readily available and sustainable resource that is easy to obtain. However, using higher-quality bamboo is a must because the cheaper the bamboo, the more labor-intensive making Mekugi becomes.
Another traditional material for Mekugi is wood. Like bamboo, wood is a strong, durable, and lightweight material that is also easy to work with. It is also a readily available resource and can be an excellent alternative to bamboo.
Antler is another material that is used to make Mekugi. Antler is a stable and durable yet flexible material. It is a natural material harvested from deer and other animals, and people consider it a more luxurious material than bamboo or wood. In modern times, Mekugi can also be made of brass, copper, and gold. These Mekugi are less traditional, offer a different aesthetic, and can be more durable.
Due to the high risk of destroying them during Katana disassembly, some people opt to construct their own from sturdy bamboo chopsticks. However, when making Mekugi yourself, it's best to avoid using regular wooden chopsticks. If you're going the do-it-yourself route, seek cured bamboo strengthened by heat and humidity.
One Or Two Mekugi: Which Is Better?
When it comes to Japanese swords or katanas, the Mekugi plays a crucial role in holding the handle, or Tsuka, in place. One of the most critical decisions in constructing a katana is choosing how many Mekugi to use. Some swords use one Mekugi, while others use two or even more. So you might wonder, which is better?
There is no correct answer to that questions. When deciding whether to go for one or two Mekugi, the choice boils down to whether you want to follow the custom or personal preference. One of the main arguments for using a single Mekugi is that it is a traditional method used for centuries.
People believe using one Mekugi is the original method of constructing katanas, and many sword makers still abide by it. Using one Mekugi is considered a more straightforward method, and it is often preferred by sword makers trying to achieve a traditional look and feel.
On the other hand, using two Mekugi is considered a more modern method with several advantages. One of the main advantages of using two is that it provides added stability and security for the handle. When using two Mekugi, the handle is held in place by two points of contact. Thus having two of them makes the blade less likely to move or shift.
Our custom katana used 2 Mekugi, to maximize the sword safety.
This stability is significant for swords people use in combative or other high-stress situations. Another advantage of using two Mekugi is that it allows for more flexibility in the design of the handle. When using two Mekugi, you can design the handle with different shapes and sizes, making it more comfortable to hold and use.
Such Katana, with a unique design on the Mekugi, holds the most significance for swords used in long-term training or competitions. However, no matter the advantages, collectors and practitioners who value authenticity often have little choice but to settle for Katanas with a single Mekugi. So the better option will depend on whether you want durability or authenticity.