When you hear the word “Samurai”, what’s the first thing that pops in your head? Whether it’s a vague image of Japanese warriors or silver screen scenes of Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe fighting side by side, one thing is clear. You know that being a Samurai isn’t for the faint of heart.
Before we get into the history and a few FAQs regarding Samurais and their ultimate weapon, Samurai swords, be one with your inner warrior and take your weapon of choice in an authentic Samurai swords store.
A Brief History Of Samurai Swords
The Samurai were the highest-ranking in the ruling military order during the Edo Period. Between the 1600s to the 1860s, they were revered for their lethal skill in fighting, so much so that warring wealthy clans at the time hired them to protect themselves or to overthrow other powerful families.
Though for a time, the Samurai became more involved in government politics that the art of martial skills, they were continually heralded as the fiercest of the fierce nonetheless. And a fierce Samurai with a Samurai sword in hand is to be feared all the more.
We’ll be focusing on that in this post— Samurai swords, or known by its original Japanese name, the Katana. When they were first invented, katakanas didn’t have that precise curve they have now. Before the artful practice of crafting Samurai swords was perfected, it started out as a double-edged sword. And its first maker, Amakuni.
Although it’s uncertain when the first Samurai sword was fashioned in the familiar appearance we now know it as, the legendary swordsmith Amakuni is said to have created one somewhere around 700 A.D.
With villages defending themselves against the invading Mongolians, Amakuni saw how damaged soldiers’ swords were after each encounter. Because of this, he was inspired to use durable materials in forging a single-edged sword that would be more formidable than other similar weapons.
At the same time, he came up with its curved structure as this was less breakable that the non-curved kind. And he was right. This then “new” sword make was almost invulnerable to the strikes of other blades. It was almost indestructible.
Since then, swordsmen have followed his style of blade and handle forging, and that is what you and I witness with the Samurai swords of today.
Beyond The Lethal Weapon
Besides being resilient, the Samurai sword was believed to be the Samurai soul’s extension. It was a part of them. This is because the sword truly becomes one with the wielder. When the Samurai-to-be was in his childhood years, he was already being trained in the disciplines of “Bushido”.Bushido, meaning the “warrior’s way.” More than fighting skills, young Samurais are taught about courage, loyalty, respect, etc.
The Process Of Making A Samurai Sword
1. Steel Smelting
The first step in this process is to smelt steel is a clay furnace. It is from this point onward that the swordsmith is alert in ensuring that the heat of the furnace doesn’t die out. He or she constantly feeds it with charcoal and iron sand, simultaneously. And this is done for about 72 hours non-stop.
2. Opening The Furnace
On the fourth day, the furnace is broken open to reveal a mass of carbon which is what will be used for the blade. Now, it’s important to note that in order for the blade to have unparalleled durability, it should consist of both high and low-carbon steel. If only one type of steel is utilized, the outcome will be weak.
Thirdly, the ore goes through a purification method in which it is folded and hammered repeatedly. Some experts say that the number of times this is accomplished is 16, and a little over. The purpose of this is to continue to merge the iron and carbon so that they are blended seamlessly. This repetitive cycle is to be done for both the high and low-carbon steel.
Now comes blade forging. Once the impurities are taken out through step 3, the high-carbon steel is moulded into a U-shaped channel and the low-carbon steel is moulded to fit the channel with preciseness. The first is what will later be the thicker outer shell while the second will be its strong core.
At this point, the blade is already considered congregated or assembled. Here is where detailing comes in. Clay and charcoal are carefully mixed and spread over the back edge and upper portion. This is what forms what is popularly known as the “Hamon”. It’s that wave-like pattern on the blunt side of the sword that serves as additional protection.
This, then, leaves the opposite side thin but sharp and sturdy. By the way, it’s a must that the coating process is achieved by utilizing fire with a maximum temperature of 815 degrees-Celsius. Any more than that and you’ll risk cracking the blade.
6. Curving And Polishing
Once the coating technique is finished, the blade is soaked in water to cool. This doesn’t only help in hardening the sword but it’s what allows the blade to have a naturally curved shape. The sudden change in temperature from extreme heat to cool provides this as a result.
Once this curved shaped appears, a sword polisher takes over. Through polishing stones and grinders, the razor edge becomes even sharper. And this doesn’t take only a day or two. Weeks come to pass before the perfect sharpness is revealed.
Here enters the wooden hilt or the handle of the sword. To be more specific, a lacquered scabbard. The blade goes through the scabbard itself and isn’t merely attached to it, unlike knives and other cutting materials. Soon after, artisans provide it with their creative prowess through intricate designs.
Furthermore, these designs are wrapped very tightly around the hilt so that they don’t fall off or become loose even after repeated usage.
8. Final Inspection
Finally, the fully-forged sword is completed and it’s inspected for imperfections and weak points. It takes a trained eye to spot these simply by looking at the colour and shape of the blade.