Why a handmade katana isn't always a hand forged one !

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Lot of folks out there seems to confuse a hand forged katana with a handmade katana. WWhen only looking at the price of a sword you will pay much more for a handforged piece than a hand made one.

If we talk about a hand forged katana, there is a smith involved to make the actual blade. He will start out with small steel bars. Which can be a single bar of monosteel (10xx series are the most common) or a combination of 2-3 different types of steel. In the later case the smith will need to forge and fold the bars into 1 billet. That’s is the ‘modern way’ of making a katana. In the traditional way, the Japanese smiths will create their own kind of steel to work with by using/creating tamahagane steel.

Whatever solution is used, a forge is needed in order to make and shape the katana’s blade. By heating and hammering the steel repeatedly , they ultimately will create a nice looking blade. Once the blade is shaped there are several other processes involved to finish the whole sword such as differentially hardening (by using clay), polishing, making the handle (tsuka) and saya (scabbard), habaki, koshirae (fuchi, kashira,tsuba,manuki),etc. Several craftsmen are needed in order to make just 1 katana !

So when we speak about a handmade katana, the blade of the katana doesn’t need to be forged by definition. With the functional katanas, there is also something called ‘stock removal’. When going this way, they start with a steel bar that has already the full length of a katana and they are ‘shaping ‘the sword by using a sand grinder or some other tools. There are even companies that are using CNC (computer numerical control) machines to shape their swords. So these processes doesn’t need a forge and a smith to make an actual blade.

They are still handmade and there’s no doubt that they can become a very nice functional katana .On the other hand, there are also the wallhanger types of swords  (still belonging to the handmade category) that are compeltely junk but let’s keep that for another article where we can take a closer look at both of them.

So to recapitulate :
A hand forged katana need a forge and a smith in order to create a blade while a handmade katana doesn’t 😮