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Japanese Swords - Replica and Care

What's Real?
Japanese swords represent one of the main symbols of Japanese culture and history. However very often nowadays these are made by various machines and not by hand like the traditional swords.

There is not one indicator that is able to determine if a certain sword is antique or it was made in recent years serving as a vintage weapon. The whole blade of the sword should be analyzed and examined in order to determine its authenticity. One must not disassemble a Japanese sword if he or she does not possess special knowledge, skills and experience.

When having a Japanese sword it is important to ask yourself the question if it is genuine or it's a modern fake. Many swords made today have a blade which is made from aluminum. The real swords are made of steel. In order to check this out you just need to use a magnet.

However there are a lot of replica swords that are made from steel, which is why it is getting more difficult to spot one. The modern market is filled with fake swords. Most of them are produced in China. Very often some military swords made in China are confused with the real Japanese ones.

In order to check if the sword is genuine it is important to pay attention on the blade. The real swords have a visible grain in the steel. Such hand made swords appear due to a special way of forging. This method includes the process of using multiple folds. The starting collectors will not always be able to spot the grains.

Recent fake swords comprise an etched temper line. The real ones, however, have a true temper line. Note to analyze the true temper line with a magnifying glass. Thus you will be able to notice dots and/or specks. These are situated along and between the border of the temper line as well as the rest of the sword's blade.

If a certain Japanese sword is signed then it doesn't always mean it is genuine. This is because during WWII there were some swords made by machines that included signatures so they would look more prestigious. At the same time if a certain sword is not signed then it is not always a fake. Some genuine Japanese blades were not signed or may have lost their signatures. Today replica swords look like genuine antiques whether it is tachi or katana.

Some Japanese terms:
grain (hada)
true temper line (hamon)
tiny dots/specks (nioi and/or nie)
signatures (mei)

Maintaining a Japanese Sword

Having in possession a real Japanese sword means more than just a work of art. Every sword needs a special treatment so it would serve for a longer period of time.

The main thing that requires special treatment is the steel surface of the blade. Make sure that it is not oxidized and it is safe from rust. This is why it's crucial that you remove the stale oil and replace it with a new film of oil.

To take care of your Japanese sword you need to have some special tools. First of all you should have mekugi-nuki. This is a tool used to remove the thing that holds the blade of the sword in a kit. This thing is called bamboo peg (mekugi) and it is very often made of brass or bamboo.

Then there should be an uchiko, which is a ground whetstone powder. Its purpose is to clean the surface of the blade. Nugui-gami is a very qualitative thick Japanese paper. It is the one to be wrinkled in order to soften and then remove some elements that are both coarse and dusty. Thus the surface of the blade is wiped.

The function of wiping is useful for several reasons. One reason is that it removes the old oil and another reason is powder removal. There is special rust-preventing oil that should be applied on the blade. The name of this type of oil is abura. When you apply oil on the blade you may use a special paper to spread oil over the sword's blade. Japanese call this type of paper abure-nuguishi.

To wipe the blade you should use two pieces of paper. The first piece of paper is used to remove the old oil and dust. This process is called preliminary cleaning. The primary step is placing the paper that you use for cleaning on the back of the sword. Then you should fold the paper into halves so it would be toward the edge.

The next thing you need to do is to hold the blade, which you have just covered with paper, from above the back. Thus your thumb and forefinger will be able to grip each side of the cutting section. Then wipe the blade in the upward direction. Be very careful because the blade is very sharp and it can easily cut the paper, reaching your fingers.

Then you should remove the old oil. This may seem not an easy thing to do. You may consider using cotton or soaked in benzene. Pure alcohol can also be applied. Then when you finally cleaned the blade from the old oil you should take the next step and that includes powdering.

This process must be started from the base of the sword. Afterwards you should turn the blade over and begin patting in the opposite direction. The second sheet of paper is used to clean the blade from the powder. After cleaning it is important to check the blade for rust. Applying fresh film of oil ends the procedure.

References

 

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