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A real Japanese steel katana is a work of art, a practical fighting tool and an investment. It is therefore not cheap. In order to preserve the wonderful qualities of your katana, you must learn how to maintain it. If you have a less expensive katana then all of this information still applies, but for the Japanese steel katana, the utmost care must be used.


The first part of maintaining your katana is to handle it properly. You will notice that when a katana is displayed, generally it is displayed laying horizontal, with its blade facing up in the scabbard. This is not purely for aesthetic reasons. One of the key rules of katana maintenance is that you should handle your katana as little as possible. The less contact, the less maintenance. When you lay the katana with the edge up, the edge does not come in contact with the scabbard. This saves the blade and the scabbard from wear.

Now if you are going to remove the sword from its scabbard you need to do it in a way that won’t wear on the blade or scabbard. You will notice that the sword fits snuggly in the scabbard. That is because there is a piece of copper where the blade starts that keeps the sword snug.

In order to remove the sword from the scabbard you want to hold them so that the blade is facing upwards. That way, when you remove the sword, the back of the blade will slide on the scabbard and the blade won’t be slicing into it. Hold the handle of the sword with one hand and the scabbard with the other. The scabbard hand should be close to the blade guard.

Now, using the thumb of your scabbard hand (traditionally the left hand), push against the blade guard with enough force so that the blade begins to come out of the scabbard. Do not use your thumb to push any farther than the copper. When the blade is loose, replace your thumb around the scabbard and slowly begin to remove the sword using your sword hand. Keep the back of the blade touching the scabbard so that the tip of the blade should not scrape on the scabbard, and you want to remove the blade in a way so that the tip is always raised upwards slightly.

In order to sheath the blade you should do the same thing in reverse. Do not try to be cool and slam the katana back into the scabbard or you will wind up with a damaged katana. A samurai wouldn’t do it, why would you?

The best way to keep the katana maintained is not to touch or use it. However, oftentimes an owner of a katana is overcome by the need to make physical contact with it. If you must touch your katana, you should realize that you are dirty and the katana is clean. Further, a katana can corrode and rust. A real katana is not made out of stainless steel but rather carbon steel. Therefore, if you were to get fingerprints all over the blade of your katana, those fingerprints could rust into the metal. You are a dirty, oily creature. Therefore, if you are going to touch your blade, you must then clean your blade. Not tomorrow or a week from now, but right after you handle it. More on cleaning later.

Please, do not go outside and swing your katana around like a baseball bat. First off, as you should know already, a katana is extremely sharp. This isn’t a kitchen knife we are talking about here. You could shave with a katana. You could also kill your dog. A katana is not a toy.

Second, if you do not use a katana properly you could easily ruin it. Yes, it is a strong weapon, and yes, it was made to absorb shock, but it only acts as it should when used in the proper manner. If you attempt to slice something and you are not trained to do so you could easily bend, chip or even destroy your katana. Therefore, if you absolutely must use your katana, go and get trained on how to do so.

You may not want to hear this, but you must clean your blade every time it comes into contact with something. There are traditional materials that are used to clean a katana: rice paper and choji oil for example. However, most of these materials can be substituted with more common materials. One thing that you should obtain though that you will not find in your house is an uchiko ball. This is a ball made out of silk that has a type of finely powdered stone inside of it.

Basically, for a quick clean, you need some paper towels and some mineral oil. You can use soft cloth instead if you would like. For a more in depth cleaning you need the uchiko ball as well. Keep in mind that if you really want to get into the traditions of the katana you should purchase a katana cleaning kit, but for general purposes this will work.

First, you want to make sure everything is ready before you remove the katana from its scabbard. This is because you should never lay the katana down when it is not sheathed. If the blade is out, the katana should be in your hand.

You should have a clean cloth and an oiled cloth ready to go. If you are doing the full cleaning, have the uchiko ball ready as well. Draw the blade from the scabbard as described above. Now, turn the scabbard upside down and give it a little shake so that if there is any debris, it will fall out. If, for some reason, you believe that you didn’t get all of the debris out of the scabbard you can tap it on a surface. Do not tap it on a very hard surface or you could damage it. When you are done you can put the scabbard down, as you will need your hand.

To clean your blade, hold the sword so that the edge is facing out. Now, you are going to take the clean cloth and put it on top of the blade at the blade’s base. You are going to slide the cloth down the blade all the way to the point using your fingers. When you do this however, you are going to keep your thumb pressed against the back of the blade. By keeping your thumb pressed against the back of the blade as you swipe down to the point you will prevent your hand from slipping and getting cut. Do this one, maybe two, times.

Now, to wipe the other side of the blade you do not turn the blade over. Instead, you lay the cloth down on your hand and wipe from underneath. This keeps the edge from pointing at you and allows you to continue to use your thumb for protection.

If you are just doing a quick clean you can go ahead and repeat this process using the oiled cloth. You only need to do one swipe this time, but make sure you cover the blade. Also, keep in mind that you are only going for a thin coat here. If there is a lot of excess, you should probably wipe it off.

If you are doing a full cleaning, then between the wiping step and the oiling step you need to make use of the uchiko ball. If you are doing this step you have to be sure that in the wiping step you were thorough. Since you are cleaning the blade every time you use it, and since the last step in the cleaning process is oiling the blade, it makes sense that when you go to clean the blade this time there will be oil residue on the blade from the last cleaning. Unfortunately, oil clogs uchikos. Therefore, you need to make sure there is no oil on the blade.

Take the uchiko ball and tap the blade with it so that some of the powder comes out. Do this every few inches or so. Once this has been done, repeat the wiping process again. Once the powder has been removed, stop.

Before you go ahead and oil the blade take a look at it. After the powdering, the blade is at its most pristine. If you were going to go and show it off, now would be the time. However, if you do go and show it off, remember that you will have to clean it again! When you are finally done reveling in your swords glory you can then oil it up and put it away.

Be diligent in your cleaning, and you will have a long happy relationship with your katana.

If you are actually using your katana it will eventually become dull. There are many ways for it to become dull and not all dullness is the same. The edge could have folded over, flattened, corroded, etc. Since there are multiple ways in which a katana can be dulled, there are different tests you would have to use in order to determine the way in which it is dulled. One test that you should never try, however, is running your finger down the edge. Blood will not polish a katana.

When your blade becomes dull, you will want to sharpen it. Don’t. Seriously, don’t try it. If you have never sharpened a sword before, and you are working with a real katana, put the katana back in its scabbard and send it to a professional. But wait, you have sharpened knives before? Well that is just wonderful for you. Unfortunately, sharpening a sword is much different.

A katana has a specific shape that is optimized for attacking a particular type of target. Generally, the katana is sharpened by the maker so that it will slice through hard types of targets such as hardwood or bamboo. It can also be made even sharper so that it is optimized to slice flesh. However, regardless of how it comes, if you were to look at its cross section you would see a distinct, almost roundness to the whole affair. From the back of the blade, the sides curve outward and then back inward, finally joining at the edge.

When you sharpen a katana, you must alter the inherent shape of the whole blade so that the curves maintain a continuous flow. Further, both sides of the blade must remain symmetrical. With a knife, the surfaces on either side of the blade are flat; they are not rounded planes like on a katana. Sharpening a knife is much easier because you are only sharpening the edge. When you sharpen a katana the edge is the edge of two cutting planes.

Think about it like two airplane wings that are connected by their flat surface. Think about this cross section. Now, in order to maintain the curve of the wings and sharpen the thin edge, what would you have to do? You would have to alter the whole shape. It is the same thing with a katana.

Beyond this, you must use multiple stones of varying grits from coarse to fine. Unfortunately, if you make a mistake at one step, you will not be able to fix it in the next step. With all of this in mind, hopefully you will reconsider sharpening your katana.

If you really, really want to sharpen your katana, then you should go out and buy a cheap sword that you can destroy without heartache. Then, after you have destroyed it, thank this article for saving your katana, go out and buy another destroyable sword, and repeat the process. Continue doing this until you are confident that you have the skills to sharpen your katana. Finally, you are hopefully bored with sharpening swords and you will send out your katana to a professional for sharpening.

In the end, what it comes down to is respect. You need to show respect to your katana. Respect the thousands of years of tradition that has enabled you to own it. Respect the makers. Respect those that could be injured around you. Respect yourself and the hard earned money you paid for your katana. Remember, you probably do not deserve it in the first place, yet you own it. At least try to pretend like you deserve it.