Unless you buy a stainless steel katana, you should expect to do some katana care from time to time. A quality carbon steel blade needs to occasionally be oiled and cleaned it to make sure it doesn’t deteriorate. Even bamboo practice swords like Shinai need to be maintained from time to time, so make sure you read my tips below and learn how to keep your samurai sword in shape.
I recommend you read my tips below and learn how you can keep your katana sword in pristine shape. Note that some contents are contributed by katanaswords. You’re welcome to visit the website for more tips, tricks and articles about Japanese swords.
1. Never touch the blade with your hands
Usually when I show my katana to my friends the first thing they do is touch the blade with their hands. After my initial annoyance I always explain to them that the acids from their fingers can cause the blade to rust. In order to prevent that you need to wipe and oil the blade using a maintenance kit. Don’t forget to do it each and every time the sword’s blade comes in direct contact with your skin as it will eventually cause the carbon steel blade to rust.
If you prefer having a sword you can show off to your friends and not worry about improper handling simply get a cheap stainless steel one. That one requires absolutely no maintenance, so if you don’t want to worry about caring for a katana make sure to keep this in mind.
2. Remove oil from factory-made brand new swords
Factory made swords usually come with a thick layer of oil or grease making sure the blade doesn’t get damaged in shipping or other transport. The first thing you should do after buying a brand new sword is to remove the oil from the blade by using a lacquer thinner, mineral spirits or similar solvents.
When you’re finished removing the protective oil use choji (mineral oil), camellia or clove oil to re-oil the blade. You can even use synthetic silicone oil for similar purposes which usually come in a spray can. When you buy a sword a maintenance kit containing the oil may come with it, but if it didn’t simply buy one on Amazon or somewhere else. They typically cost $15 or so and you will be able to use them multiple times. You can watch a 4-minute video tutorial on sword cleaning here.
3. Oil the blade even when not used
The high-quality carbon steel that katana blades are made from can rust over time duo to environmental effects. Even if your sword is continuously kept in the scabbard it still needs to be oiled every 3-4 months so be sure to remember that. If you used the sword for any kind of cutting always make sure to oil and clean it before you put it away.
4. Store the sword in scabbard
Whenever you’re not using your samurai sword make sure it’s in the scabbard (called saya). Not only can it prevent accidents, but it will also make sure dust doesn’t come into contact with the blade which can cause it to further deteriorate.
Additionally, the saya can lose its shape if it’s without a sword for a prolonged time. As you may know wood can bend, twist or otherwise distort due to heating or dampness so make sure your sword is always in the scabbard.
The wooden parts of the sword also need to be cared for, which include the saya and tsuka (sword handle). Typical furniture or wood oil can be used for lacquering, varnishing or waxing the wooden parts.
5. Don’t fight with quality katana
Hitting one katana with another is probably the quickest way to damage it. Parrying another sword can cause small notches on the blade which make cutting harder, not to mention you could hurt yourself or someone else by trying to fight with a steel sword. Not even the most experienced swordsmen engage in combat with a sharpened sword and neither should you.
The blade of the katana is in fact very fragile despite appearances. If your sword is a battle-ready one made for cutting, make sure your targets are bamboo mats or water bottles. If you want to fight with someone do it with a wooden or bamboo sword, preferably wearing protective gear.
A true katana sword is a work of art and shouldn’t be neglected and left to rust somewhere in your closet. It needs to be properly cared for in order to prevent the blade from rusting or losing its sharpness, so make sure you follow my katana caring tips and I promise these swords will last you a lifetime.