Authentic samurai sword

How to determine the authenticity of a samurai sword?

An authentic Samurai sword is quite hard to find nowadays, and when you would happen to find one, it could be quite expensive. Battle-ready Samurai swords could cost about $200-300 but may reach $1000 for better quality swords.

Custom-made functional Samurai swords are priced at $15000-$50000. You may be willing to pay the price, but how can you be sure that you are buying a genuine sword?

In this article, you will learn the characteristics of a real Samurai sword so that you can distinguish which is an original piece and which is a fake Samurai sword.

full tang samurai swordsQualities of an authentic Samurai sword

1. Carbon steel for the blade

The samurai sword is renowned for its unique quality of sword blade. It has extremely hard cutting edge (which is why it could be sharpened well to reach maximum cutting ability) ,has a body that is flexible enough to resist shock from contact with other harder objects. This is primarily because of the distinct characteristics of the raw steel used for the blade.

Some people believe that samurai sword blade should only be made from high carbon steel. This is not entirely the truth. In the traditional samurai sword making process, Japanese sword makers would use steel made from black sand and charcoal (tamahagane). This type of steel can be categorized into low carbon steel (shingane) and high carbon steel (kawagane). The type with lower carbon is the more malleable steel which gives the flexibility of the blade while the higher carbon steel is harder which makes it perfect for a tough and strong cutting edge.

There are Samurai swords that are made from stainless steel. Stainless steel may be best for knives but it never makes a good quality of a battle-ready Samurai sword because it is brittle.

handmade samurai swords katana2. Full tang blade

The tang is that part of the sword blade that is hidden within the handle. A functional Samurai sword should have a full tang blade (the handle of the sword conforms to the shape and outline of the tang). Why? Because a full tang Samurai sword is the most stable and secure sword. Non full tang swords are very dangerous to use. Because it is not stable, the blade might fall off from the handle once you make a strong swing or strike.

3. It must be a forged Samurai sword

Real Samurai swords must have undergone the forging process - the blade must be repeatedly heated, hammered, and folded. This is a long and intricate process that would take days or weeks to be completed but could only produce one sword. It is also through forging that a Samurai sword blade attains its extraordinary cutting ability because hammering and heating eliminate the impurities that deteriorate the blade quality.

Forging is not a very common practice anymore as it was during the ancient times of Japan. Traditional Samurai swords can still be made occasionally by licensed sword smiths. Modern and cheap samurai swords are machine-made, machine-sharpened, and mass produced.

4. Blade tempered with wavy line patterns

To attain the hardness of the sharp edge of the Samurai sword, it must be tempered – rapid heat and quench method. First, before the blade is put inside the forge, it must be coated with a mixture of clay, water, and straw ash. The blunt edge and body will be applied with thick coating while the cutting edge will be thinly coated with the clay mixture. The coating will prevent the back edge to harden which is the effect of rapid change in temperature from heating to quenching.

An evidence of a tempered blade is the wavy line patterns on the blade called hamon which will be more visible once the sword is polished. The pattern may also be faked, so you have to watch out. Some sword makers may draw or etch the hamon on the blade instead of creating it through heat tempering.

5. Sharp blade

It is most important of all that the blade of a genuine samurai sword is well polished and is very sharp. In traditional sword making, samurai sword sharpening is done only by an expert.

Some modern swords of higher quality could damage other metal without scratching the blade; that is how sharp a true samurai sword is.

6. Aesthetics

Authentic samurai swords do not only have the best quality in terms of sharpness, rigidity, and durability; they are also known for their beauty. A real samurai sword is well polished and furnished to perfection (just like the antique samurai swords). In addition, a samurai sword must be historically correct. You have to know that ancient samurai swords were a curve sword, were well ornamented, and were carefully crafted by different master sword smiths. All samurai sword parts are pieces of art that are made by professional craftsmen. Learn more about what is a Japanese samurai sword.

Hints to consider before purchasing a Samurai sword:

1. Knowledge

The seller must be very knowledgeable about the quality of the Samurai sword, its cutting ability, and how much tension could it take with frequent use (for sword fighting practitioners). As much as possible, he should know the answers to all your questions about the piece that you want to buy or about the sword industry as a whole:

a) The sellers have thorough experience with their swords through testing the items themselves
b) The sellers have strong communication with the sword smith who basically knows the capability of their works.

2. Quality Control

The sellers themselves should be perfectionists when it comes to the quality of the Samurai swords since they are somehow expected to be experts. They must have minimal or no record of selling products with “factory” defects Authentic samurai swords are a supreme work of art, that is why it is very unlikely to find an original Samurai sword with scratched blades, loose hilts, or rattling collars and fittings.

3. Samurai sword warranty

If the sellers are confident with what they sell to you, they would not hesitate to give you guarantees like money-back warranty, return-exchange policies, and the likes. This is even more needed with online sword shops since buyers only get to see photos of the item they want to purchase.

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Directory & guide for Sword collecting