Samurai Sword Slice
Samurai Sword Slice
This is a complete slice of a 16th-century Samurai sword. Each slice comes in a small glass display case and is intended only for educational and display purposes. Slices are hand polished, but it should be noted that every slice will display some variation. Imperfections in the material have also been preserved and highlight the nature of this ancient blade's manufacture.
📸 A close-up of the katana (Mini Museum)
The current specimen comes from a katana attributed to the Osafune school in the Bizen tradition. Crafted in the mid-1500s near the end of the Muromachi Era, the blade is accompanied by a fragment of late Edo Period kamishino, the formal court garments of a Samurai.
The blade slices are cut using high energy electric discharge machining. This process is very accurate and ensures a uniform width across all specimens with minimal loss. While an expensive process, we use this method to share this item with as many people as possible.
To create the specimen, the blade is cut using high energy electric discharge machining. This process is very accurate and ensures a uniform width across all specimens with minimal loss. While an expensive process, we use this method to share this item with as many people as possible.
Once cut, each slice is hand-polished in our shop to reveal the beauty and imperfections in the metal.
The specimen is enclosed in a handsome, glass-topped riker box case measuring 4 1/2" x 3 1/2". A small information card is also included.
ℹ️ Please Note: This item is very sharp and should be handled with the utmost care. It is not a toy and should not be handled by children without extreme supervision.
In addition, we previously offered slices of a 14th-century, Ko-tō Period katana used in the Third Edition of the Mini Museum. But as we say, the sword is only so long and that item has completely sold out.
As you can see in this closeup, these blades had numerous micro-fractures that made them unsuitable, and potentially dangerous. The purchase and use of both swords was reviewed and sanctioned by an ethics committee in Japan. The conclusion was that this would be a beautiful way to share the history of this magnificent tradition with people all over the world.
all that remains
of warrior dreams.
夏草や 兵どもが 夢の跡
~ Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694)
📸 "Having Achieved Their Goal, the Faithful Samurai Withdraw to Sengoku-ji Temple and Assemble There" 義士本望を達して仙国寺へ引取固の図 by Utagawa Kuniyosh (1797-1861) (Source: Museum of Fine Arts - Boston)
The Japanese sword is a symbol of unparalleled beauty and quality. Bound closely to the image of the samurai class, the blades are highly prized and honored by collectors all over the world. The history of these incredible weapons and the warriors who wielded them are intimately connected to the development of the Japanese nation and the culture of modern Japan.
📸 Tatara illustration from Saki no Ohtsu Agawa-mura yama-satetsu arai-tori no zu (先大津阿川村山砂鉄洗取之図) - University of Tokyo Engineering, Information Science and Technology Library
Forging a traditional Japanese sword is an intense process. It begins with smelting iron sands in a massive, purpose-built clay furnace known as a tatara. By means of the massive bellows, layers of charcoal and iron sands were kept under constant heat for days, eventually yielding a porous mass of iron, slag, and steel known as a bloom.
When complete, the bloom is removed and different grades of steel are separated based on their carbon content - the most famous being tamahagane, a high-carbon, hardened steel with an almost jewel-like appearance.
📸 The jewel-like colors of Tamahagne (Mini Museum)
The oldest blades, known as Ko-tō (Old Sword) were created by combining tamahagane with steel containing both higher and lower amounts of carbon. Kneading or folding this mixture created a material that could be both strong and flexible, provided the blade survived the creation of the ultra hard edge known as the ha.
To create the ha, the swordsmith would coat the blade with a combination of clay, charcoal, and crushed stone. This mixture was applied in two steps. First a light coat for the entire blade and then a second, thicker coat for the body. Returning to the forge, the blade would be thermal cycled several times. This process of heating and cooling causes the metal to expand and contract, forcing a molecular reorganization which makes the material denser.
The varied application of the clay controls the heat, allowing the edge to become harder while the spine remains flexible. It also results in a beautiful and natural outline of the hardened area, known as the hamon. This way of manufacturing continued for nearly 400 years until the Edo era at the start of the 17th century.
📸 Internal structure of Samurai sword blades over time
The Edo era represented a major change for Japanese society. The previous century was a time of continuous internal conflict. War, famine, and political intrigue among hundreds of local rulers and warlords kept the entire country on edge. Reunified under the Tokugawa clan in 1603, the new shogunate ruled the country from the city of Edo for 265 years, and "the way of the warrior" was transformed into a far reaching philosophy on how to live a moral life.
The strict set of laws which governed the military rule of the Tokugawa shogunate reached into nearly every aspect of public and private life. The rules even dictated the maximum size for both the Katana and Wakizashi swords and the method of manufacture.
Tamahagane during this era was mass produced using new methods, which resulted in a steel with much higher carbon content. This made the tamahagane stronger but also made it difficult to combine with other grades of steel. As a result, the new swords or Shin-tō were created using a laminating process which wrapped the harder steel around a softer core.
According to polishing experts, older swords were superior in strength and flexibility. This belief led to the cutting down of many longer Ko-tōto fit the blades to the new standard.
Musashi, Miyamoto. The Book of Five Rings. Shambhala Publications, 2005.
Nagayama, Kōkan. The Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords. Kodansha International, 1997.
Yoshikawa, Eiji. Musashi. Kodansha International, 1995.
Front of the Specimen Card
Back of the Specimen Card
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