Katana Tsuba Definite guide to understand this sword part
The Definite Guide On The Japanese Sword Tsuba(鍔)
When you look at a katana, you'll see a circular or triangular plate right where the handle meets the blade. This circular or triangular piece is called the tsuba. The tsuba is the handguard for the katana. It protects the wielder's hands from slipping onto the blade and harming themselves. It is therefore a crucial component of the sword.
Tsuba, however, also evolved into an ornament over time. You can see tsubas with intricate designs made from precious metals like gold. In fact, some designs were so elaborate that they became unusable in battle.
You can choose your tsuba in our custom katana section
Purpose Of The Tsuba
Its primary purpose is protecting your hands. The tsuba sits right at the end of the handle. As a result, it prevents the swordsman’s hands from slipping onto the blade.
Not only that. The tsuba also helps in counterbalancing the blade. This helps to make the sword more stable. Therefore, the wielder will have more control over it. The tsuba also evolved to become an ornamental piece.
The Edo period was relatively peaceful. As a result, warfare was rare. So during this time, many sword artisans started making tsuba with more premium materials and precious metals.
The design can also be very intricate. The tsuba also acts as a family heirloom that’s passed down from generation to generation.
Common Tsuba Styles And Materials
The tsuba is made from different materials. But materials like brass, iron, and copper are pretty standard. Many entry level Tsuba are made from zinc alloy as well.
Materials like gold or silver are great options if you want something exquisite. On the other hand, hardened leather tsubas are very beautiful. Not to mention, it’s a pretty unique material for a tsuba.
Tsubas are classified into two categories based on the metal used. Hard metal tsubas made from iron are called Tetsu. And soft metal tsubas are called Kinko.
There is no formal design for the tsuba. It can be very simple or very elaborate with complex, intricate designs. Master artisans dedicate their entire lives to perfecting the making of the tsuba for Japanese katanas.
However, over the centuries, common shapes have emerged. Here are some common tsuba shape names:
- Maru Gata
- Mokko Gata
- Aoi Gata
- Aori Gata
- Juji Gata
- Kobushi Gata
- Kiku Gata
- Tate Ito Gata
- Yuko Ito Gata
Some Interesting Tsuba Facts
The tsuba is one of the earliest fittings used for swords in Japan. The early designs were pretty straightforward. However, the design and materials became more complex and elaborate.
This change or trend became a problem when some designs became pretty much unusable. They were way too delicate or elaborate for practical use on the battlefield. The tsuba has a long history and is an art form.
Ans. No, Japanese sword blades are detachable. And the tsuba, along with the mounting mechanism, can be replaced.
- Q. What’s the best tsuba material?
Ans. Brass, copper, silver, and bronze work great for the tsuba. These are solid metals and don't cost that much, either. But you can use gold as well. However, they can get pretty expensive.
- Q. How thick is the tsuba?
Ans. Tsubas are generally 0.5cm thick. They weigh about 95g. Most katana tsuba are similar in weight and size.
The tsuba is a fascinating piece of the katana sword. It serves as an essential functional aspect of protecting your hands. However, they can be used as an ornamental or decorative piece as well. Perhaps it’s the part of the katana with the most history behind it. If you are interested, don't forget to check our katana anatomy to learn more.