Maintaining a katana can seem like a massive challenge to someone just getting started with sword collecting. All swords are usually constructed from carbon steel, which rust quickly. Thus, it’s natural to be concerned that improper care would result in the dreaded black or red spots appearing on your Katana the next time you remove it from its sheath. And yet, maintaining a katana in pristine condition is surprisingly easy.
A Samurai’s sword is like an arm to him, and this profound connection can be traced back to the warrior’s code of Bushido. The samurai’s sword is an extension of his “soul.”
One of the significant moments in a samurai’s life was when his sword was carried into the bedroom.
To “cross over” into the White Jade Pavilion of the Afterlife, the ancient samurai must have their sword with them when they die. An aristocratic warrior believes that his Katana will protect him from evil spirits even in the afterlife.
In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know to keep your katana in tip-top shape and ensure that it lasts you a lifetime, and even further – would you like to act like a true Samurai. Our main recommendation is that you clean and oil your katana with oil and a cloth after each use. Moreover, you should perform a full-on deep clean from time to time… the frequency of which should be determined by the local climate.
Tips for Deep Cleaning for Your Sword
Here are the main things you need:
- Nuguigami, a type of soft cotton material, or you can also use some simple cotton cloth. Towels and flannel work well here. For a quick clean in-between uses, you can also get by with paper towels.
- Mineral or Choji Oil. Oils from other weapons or a sewing machine can also be used if the oils we need are unavailable.
- (Optional) Uchiko Ball – This ball’s fine stone powder can be used to buff the blade and get rid of any scratches.
The blade should be cleaned immediately upon completion of tameshigiri (test cutting) or following practice. The sword should be cleaned as soon as the blade is touched.
The blade can be easily ruined if the saya, or scabbard, becomes clogged with grime, grease, or even water. It is always necessary to replace a worn-out wooden saya, as the oil film from the katana almost always seeps into the wood of the saya while it is stored. A katana needs to be cleaned and oiled after each usage in addition to the routine deep clean and maintenance it receives.
Always keep the blade’s edge facing away while you hold the tsuka (handle) with your left hand. To avoid cutting your hand, keep your thumb against the blade’s back as you swipe down to the point.
When oiling the blade, avoid grasping the blade with your finger. Keep the blade wrapped in a clean towel. This prevents accidental contact with the blade and is safer. These markings increase the likelihood of rust developing on the blade after prolonged storage.
You should never clean a katana if you’re multitasking. Even tiny cuts and wounds from a sharp blade can be dangerous.
How to do it
- The Katana must be removed from its scabbard first. The knife’s edge is exceptionally sharp and might inflict significant harm. Never leave the blade edge where it could cause damage to you or someone else. Make sure the edge is always facing away from you when cleaning or oiling the blade.
- Pass the wiping cloth without any oil on it. The wiping cloth can remove dust and other residues from your blade.
- Pass the wiping cloth dampened with oil all over the blade. You should repeat this process once or twice at most. It’s essential to wipe your Katana’s bo-hi (blood grooves) by compressing the wiping cloth between your fingers.
- (Optional) Prepare the uchiko ball in advance if you intend to undertake a thorough cleaning. After the oil has been cleaned from the blade, use the uchiko ball (cleaning powder). Tap the blade with the uchiko ball to release part of the powder. Repeat this process every several inches. When you’re done, give it another wipe-down. Take a break once you’ve finished emptying the powder. The blade is at its most gleaming after being powdered, and now would be a perfect moment to go out and brag about it or take an Instagram-worthy picture.
- Finally, use the oiled towel to lubricate the blade one last time. It’s the same procedure as before. Unlike other tools, the blade requires a single wipe. Everything on the cutting edge must be protected. Oiling the habaki or the area under it is not recommended.
Important Considerations for Perfect Sword Maintenance and Cleaning
Keeping your Katana in good condition is as simple as giving the blade a fine protective coating to prevent rust
- If the is too high in concentration, it can be seen with the naked eye, and can cause damage to the saya. Reduce the oil until you have enough to keep the dampness at bay.
- Several different oils can be used to preserve a blade, but they all share one essential quality: they contain no living organisms. That means no olive oil, canola oil, baby oil, etc.
- A sudden loss of oil is the first thing you’ll want to prevent, but how quickly that happens may vary depending on the weather where you live. To get a feel for how often you need to oil your Katana and perform essential maintenance for your area, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for hot and humid weather and check the oil consistently (as a rule of thumb, once every 1-3 months is pretty typical).
- Exposing the blade might cause issues since dust can become trapped in the oil and cause rust spots. The British Museum uses Renaissance Wax, a micro-crystalline wax polish, to preserve and maintain its sword collection for the long haul.
- Finally, be wary of what you use to oil your katana; as mentioned before, acids from foods like fruits and vegetables can permanently discolour a blade if allowed to sink into the steel, making it difficult to clean later.
- Similarly, some objects can cause more harm to a blade than you’d expect. In the case of cardboard, for instance, the recycling process often leaves behind microscopic particles of powdered glass and other contaminants that can seriously harm a blade.
- Never use abrasive cleaners or polishes on your blade, as they could ruin the edge. Chemicals can bring on corrosion and rust.
- Sharpening tools and grinding wheels that can cause damage to your tools should be avoided. An untrained or inexperienced user can quickly ruin a katana in the absence of Japanese water stones for honing.
- How frequently should I grease and maintain my Katana?
It is necessary to oil the katana over time because it naturally depletes. The saya might get damp due to trapped moisture. Due to this, the likelihood of the blade rusting is increased.
The sword needs to be stored in a dry area. Many people are concerned that it will rust or become stained if left in its sheath for an extended period of time.
It is recommended that the blades be oiled every two to three months, regardless of how often you use the fan. Where you reside, the weather, and how you keep your swords play a role in this. Oiling and other maintenance tasks will be more frequent in some moist areas. Humid climates necessitate more frequent cleanings.
- What kind of oil should I use?
An anti-rust oil, such as mineral oil, would work just fine. Remember that you should never use pure clove oil on a sword and that traditional choji oil is always the best to use, perhaps with a drop of clove oil to give it a distinct smell.
The mineral oil used in sewing machines is readily available and inexpensive. This is the cheapest choice for keeping your swords in good condition.
- Should I remove the old oil before replacing it with fresh oil?
You can get away with merely wiping off the old oil and re oiling with choji or mineral oil once in a while if you never actually use your sword and the blade never touches skin or anything other than what is on display.