ADDED - Video
of our forging process (6:30) 20mb
is in WMV Format. It details the process in our forge used
to make our most basic katana (1045 Carbon Steel). Methods
vary (more complex) for our other swords. Windows media player
will stream the segment as you download so you won't have
to wait as with our MOV files.
seletion of our videos can be found HERE.
have an idea of how a katana is made traditionally in Japan. However,
few has an understanding of how a production sword is made. The
making of a quality production katana is still a labor intensive
process. This is not an automated deal with a big machine stamping
out blades as some would think. The production of swords are only
made more efficient here with use of shared labor production...
When you consider how much work, sweat, and muscles that goes into
each individual blade at the end of the day, you will realize what
a bargain these swords are.
UPDATED - You can now click on them to see a larger image.)
simplified, is to transform the billet (image to the left), through
the various stages as pictured (image to the right), then finally
into a finished blade (on far right)... (sorry about the newspaper...
but I didn't want to get the finished blade dirty).
starts with heating the billet of a specific metal, then forging
to the approximate shape of the blade, followed by a water or oil
quench (picture on far right -- quenching in the yellow barrel).
Carbon monosteel billets are generally not folded as carbon distribution
are already consistent throughout to began with, plus the level
of impurities is extremely low in modern steel. (Historically,
the main purpose of folding is to add and distribute the carbon
contents evenly and to remove impurities in the steel.. which is
generally of poor quality when compared to modern steel). Extended
heat forging/folding will also oxidize the carbon content and promote
carbon loss so the process needs to be monitored carefully. This
is, perhaps, the most critical step in determining the quality of
the blade material and is managed through the experience of the
then adjusts the blade and remove excess material by hand. The details
on various areas starts to take shape and the blade is tempered
again to relieve the stress in the metal followed by another quench.
On our hand clayed and tempered blades, clay is applied by hand
on the blade at this stage, immediately before the second temper
to critical temp.
At this point,
the polishers add their final touch on the blade... This is also
where the traits of the individual polisher shows through in the
final product. As each sword is hand finished by one person, batches
from one polisher will have different traits from batches of a different
polisher. Additionally, no two blades will be exactly identical
even from the same polisher. Here, you can see our "assembly
line" of 4 polishers working side by side. (This is our
most time consuming process with a time ratio of 4:1 relative to
the forging). (This is also the main reason why our different blades
are priced differently... the harder (higher the carbon content
in through hardened blades), the more difficult it is to polish,
and will takes much longer to do -- it is why the 1060 mono costs
more than 1045 or laminated steel).
to the blade, the tsuka is also completely hand made. The image
on the far left are the same skin (ray/shark skin) sheets. These
are cut into panel wraps to fit the shape of the ho (wood handle).
Fittings (either produced by our forge or purchased elsewhere) are
prepared. Our "tsuka girl" then assembles the components
and ties each individual tsuka-ito by hand to come up with the finished
item on the far right.
The final assembler
then takes over and puts together the blade with an appropriate
tsuka, habaki, seppas, tsubas, and mekugi with some fine tuning
adjustments. Several sayas are then tested with the blade for fit
and one with the best fit is selected.
And there you
have it.... the final product!
I have simplified
the process by alot, but you can get an idea of how much of the
production swords are hand made and how much machinery are involved.
As you can see, human labor involvement is tremendous and it will
only be a matter of time before labor costs in China starts to climb
and prices of these productions will be driven far beyond what they
Take a minute
and consider what prices these production blades are selling at...
the retail price would probably not cover even a fraction of the
production labor if they were made in the US or other similar countries.
Even as they are from China, you can see that we are providing a
great bargain at the cost of our own profit margins.