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Sword Care

 

 

 

1. Place the mounted blade on a secure area and push the peg out in preparation for removing the hilt.
2. Pull the blade out of the saya.
3. To remove the hilt, hold the hilt at the kashira end with the left hand so that the mune is resting in the palm of your hand. Keep the blade in a slightly angled upright position. Use the right fist to hit the left wrist lightly a few times. When the nakago (tang) becomes slightly loosened in the hilt, repeat until the nakago comes out of the hilt by itself. When there is enough room to grasp the tang, the blade may be pulled out of the hilt with the right hand. Be careful not to hit the left wrist too hard with the right hand as there is a danger that blades with short tangs like tanto might bounce out of the hilt entirely. Therefore, the initial impact must be light, just to check how tightly the tang is fixed in the hilt. Then, the force of subsequent blows must be adjusted accordingly. When the blade is taken out of the hilt, the peg removed from the hilt should be replaced in the tsuka to avoid accidental loss.
4. If the blade is mounted in a full koshirae, other attachments such as tsuba (sword hand guard) and seppa (spacers) on both sides of the tsuba in addition to the habaki (collar) must be removed. When the habaki is fit too tightly to remove, it can be loosened by hitting it lightly with a wooden hammer on the mune (back) of the habaki after covering the habaki with a cloth for protection.
5. The wiping process requires two pieces of paper. The initial one removes the old oil and dust, which is called preliminary cleaning. First place the cleaning paper on the mune (back) and fold it into halves toward the ha (edge). Then, hold the paper covered blade from above the back so that the thumb and the forefinger grip each side of the cutting section from above the paper. Hardly any force is needed to wipe the blade upward, one way, starting from the base. When the cleaning paper reaches the point, be particularly careful in wiping lightly. No pressure or friction must be put on the point. When expertise is attained, the wiping action can also be both ways, up and down. Lack of experience could cause the cutting of paper or even fingers and thus it must be strictly avoided.
6. In case the oil cannot be removed with ease, cotton or gauze soaked in benzene (finger nail polish remover) or pure alcohol (like Everclear) may be used in the same wiping manner as described above.
7. The powdering starts from the base toward the tip on the obverse in a light, uniform patting motion to cover the blade surface. Then turn the blade over and start patting from the point downward toward the base.
8. Then, use the other sheet of paper to wipe the powder off the blade surface in the same manner as described in (5) in this section. If oil remains, some more powdering and wiping is necessary.
9. When the surface is thoroughly clean, check for the presence of rust, flaws and other damages. Then without putting back the tsuka, habaki and other attachments, the blade alone must be placed back in the saya. It should be noted that the two kinds of wiping paper used in this process must not be interchanged and should have distinct purposes preliminary and final.
10. The re-oiling with a piece of paper, or destarched flannel, folded in size 3cm x 6cm and soaked in fresh oil completes a round of sword care. When the paper is ready, the sword is to be drawn out of the saya again. After placing it in the left hand, put the oiling paper on the mune (back) to do the same movement as described in the wiping process. To make sure the blade surface is thoroughly covered with oil, repeat the same procedure a few times. Just as in the wiping, the handling of the sword as well as the oiling paper must be most carefully done. The paper should contain the right amount of oil so that no excess oil will over flow and harm the inside of the saya. The oil must be spread thinly and evenly.
11. It is a good idea to apply a very small amount of oil to the surface of the nakago (tang) with the fingers and then wipe it off. This might be done once a year. However an excessive amount of oil must also be avoided here. The black iron oxide (rust) needs to stay black. It is used to determine the age of the blade.
12. Put the habaki back and encase the blade tentatively in the saya. Remove the peg from the hilt, draw the blade out of the saya, hold it in the right hand in an almost upright position, pick up the hilt with the left hand, and put the tang back in the hilt. Keep holding the blade in the hilt lightly with the palm of the right hand so that the tang settles firmly in the hilt. When the tang is fixed in its perfect position, replace the peg. Pass the blade to the right hand, pick up the saya and slide the blade into it observing the manner described in Section II. Needless to say, the other parts like seppa and tsuba of fully mounted swords must also be returned to their respective places before the hilt is put on the tang, noting that the seppa and tsuba normally only go on one way.
13. The methods for handling and caring for other forms of blades such as yari (spears) and naginata (halberds) are the same. Yari must be handled especially carefully; otherwise injury may occur. Also, the ken (a daggers of double edged type) are very dangerous. Sword care tools musts be kept perfectly clean, for dust stuck on the wiping cloth or oiling paper could cause scratches on the steel surface. Protecting these surfaces which have been most finely polished through the graded processes involving more than ten kinds of claystones of different fineness and hardness is critical.

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