Folded Steel Katana
The Japanese katana is known for its exquisite beauty and deadly sharpness. One of the secrets to its strength and durability is the technique of folded steel. Today's modern forges like Hanwei and Dragon King have the advantage of starting with 99% pure steel unlike the impure iron sands found in early Japan which necessitated the practice of folding steel.
How did the samurais make swords?
The samurais were skilled blacksmiths who used a combination of traditional techniques and advanced metallurgy to create their weapons. They used a type of iron sand called tamahagane, which was smelted in a tatara furnace. The tamahagane was then hammered and folded repeatedly until the desired shape was achieved.
The folding process allowed impurities to be removed from the steel and made the final product much stronger. It was a time-consuming process, and the samurais believed that the number of folds in the steel would determine the quality of the sword.
How many times is a samurai sword folded?
The number of times a samurai sword is folded can vary depending on the swordsmith's preference and the quality of the steel being used. However, the average number of folds is around 13, which results in over 8,000 layers of steel.The folding process not only removes impurities from the steel but also creates a distinctive pattern known as the hada. The hada is a unique, wavy pattern that is visible on the surface of the blade and adds to the sword's beauty and value.
How long does it take to make a samurai sword?
The process of making a samurai sword was a labor-intensive one and could take several weeks or even months to complete. The blacksmith would begin by heating and hammering the tamahagane until it was a long, flat bar. This bar was then folded and welded together multiple times, creating layers in the steel.
The swordsmith would then shape the blade, quench it in water, and polish it using a series of abrasive stones. This was a critical step in the process, as it determined the sharpness and quality of the sword. The entire process required a high level of skill and attention to detail.
Today's swordsmiths benefit from electric, mechanical and steam power hammers to reduce time however the process and skill required remains the same.