The katana, the weapon of choice for a samurai, is believed to be the most perfect sword ever designed. Combining the finest steel in the world with the absolute perfectionism of Japanese swordsmiths, each one was a work of art, reflecting the samurai himself - strong, flexible, lightning fast, and deadly. Below is a step by step guide describing how to forge one of these masterpieces.
Authentic Japanese swords are forged from two pieces of "tamahagane" steel. This steel it created from Japanese black sand, and has a naturally ideal carbon content.
Forming the blades
Each blade needs to be heated and folded thousands of times. This not only pounds out the impurities but evenly distributes the carbon throughout the blade and properly aligns the blades molecular structure. One blade needs to be folded several times more than the other, creating one hard and one soft blade. This is the secret of the katana's legendary strength and flexibility.
Combine the blades
The harder blade needs to be bent in a u shape around the softer blade. Pounded into a single blade, it will now have one hard and one soft side. Give the blade its rough shape by sharpening hard edge and the point, then narrowing the opposite end in preparation for combining it with the hilt.
Tempering the blade
The blade is now covered in clay with the bladed edge receiving a thin layer and the opposite edge a thinker one. This causes the edges to cool at different rates after it is reheated. The patterning of the clay not only makes the blade harder, but gives it a katana's distinctive curve and pattern.
Polish the blade
The mud is now removed and the blade polished. Special Japanese polishing stones are used for this step.
The hand guard and hilt
A metal clasp, called a habaki, is now used to attach the hand guard to the base of the blade and the wrapped handle.
Forge any other blades that are to be a part of the set.
The katana was one of only several lengths of blades used by a samurai.
It was important that all the blades be forged from the same steel, giving them all the same strength,shape, weight, and temperament.
Each katana's sheath is custom made because each is a distinct blade. No two are alike. Sheaths traditionally come in a plain, storage variety and the more ornate buke zukuri, bearing its owner's crest. This was the sheath used for "dress" occasions or battle.