Whether you’re a collector of Japanese swords, or a budo practitioner, proper maintenance of your swords is paramount to keeping them in good shape. It would be a shame to have that new katana, which cost you $1000, to become useless because of rust or a cracking handle. Fortunately proper sword care is not difficult, and it needn’t take hours of your time.
If you use your sword, you should clean the blade after every use. Every time you touch the blade of your samurai sword, your fingers leave behind salts and oils that can promote rust. If you are a collector, you should clean your katana ever 3 weeks, or anytime you handle the blade of the sword. Cleaning your blade will only take you a few minutes, but the time spent will add years to the life of your blade.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Before we talk about how to clean your blade, let’s talk about some things you shouldn’t do.
- Never attempt to sharpen your blade. The use of abrasive sharpeners or grinding wheels can utterly destroy your blade. It takes special tools and training to sharpen a samurai sword.
- Do not use abrasive cleaner or chemical cleaners on your blade. They will damage the blade. This includes metal cleaners, polishes, and chemical based cleaners. Really you should only use the tools provided in a proper maintenance kit.
- Do not directly handle the blade of your sword when cleaning (especially when reapplying the oil). Use a cloth to hold the blade instead. Care should be taken since this can make the blade slippery.
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR BLADE
To begin with you should purchase a sword maintenance kit. A traditional kit includes blade oil, rice papers, an oiling cloth, a powder ball, and a brass awl and hammer. For blade cleaning we will be using the oil, papers, cloth and powder ball.
With your maintenance kit in hand, it is time to get started:
- Remove the old oil from your blade with a sheet of rice paper.
- Tap the powder ball against the blade every two inches or so. This will lightly coat the blade with power. You may need to tap the ball a few times to get the powder flowing through the fabric.
- Use a clean piece of rice paper or a cotton cloth to rub over the powder. Repeat this until both sides of the blade are clean and polished.
- Apply a few drops of oil to each side of the blade. Use a clean rice paper or a cotton cloth to spread the oil evenly over the blade.
With your blade clean re-sheath your sword and rest assured that that beautiful katana will stay free of rust until the next time cleaning is required. Proper sword maintenance really is important to extend the life of your katana.
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