February 22, 2024

Before firearms dominated warfare, the katana was the weapon of choice for feudal Japan. Its lethal sharpness was a symbol of the warrior’s courage, while its flexible body embodied resilience. Today, swordsmiths perform elaborate purification rituals before hammering metal to create the iconic blade. Each stroke becomes a spiritual journey, encapsulating the essence of the samurai.

The katana’s origin dates back to the Heian period (794 to 1185 AD), during which time Japanese culture flourished. The predecessor to the katana, the tachi, was the sword of the military nobility during this period, but when warfare moved from open field combat to close-quarters duels, smiths began producing the curved and slender katana for use by samurai.

When making a katana, the swordsmith layers two pieces of Gawagane (core metal) onto each other. They are then heated, forged, and welded into one piece of steel. After this process, they use a hammer to reshape and straighten the resulting metal into a 15mm thick and 30mm wide blade. This is known as teko, which gives the sword its distinctive shape.

After teko, the blade is cooled in water for ‘Yaki-ire’ (quenching), which hardens the steel and enables it to resist cracking. This creates the wavy line, called Hamon, found along the blade, which sword connoisseurs consider to be a mark of quality.

The smith then uses a file to cut the katana into its final form. They then modify its curvature and reshape the tang, and drill a Mekugi hole for securing the tsuka (handle grip). The katana is then polished with several stones until it is shiny. The keywords I will use are

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