Tag Archives: katana

You’ve talked before about how katana’s weren’t that great due to the low quality of the metal used way back when. But what if someone made one today? If you primarily used titanium instead of low-quality steel, plus modern forging techniques, could you develop a much better sword that a real person could use in a fight?

The poor quality iron that Japanese smiths had access to is
part of the problem, but it’s not the only issue. The design was (in part) a
result of that limitation. You can work around those, using high quality steel
forged directly from a billet, with a grip you can actually use in a variety of
situations, but you wouldn’t have a katana, you’d have a saber.

Those design flaws are intrinsically what defines the katana.
Folding the blade is extremely fetishized in defining the quality of a katana.
It’s not just a defining characteristic, you will see people using the number
of folds as an indicator of how skilled the sword smith was. This is probably a large part of why they continued using the technique, while other cultures, like the Vikings, abandoned folded blades once they had access to better smelting technologies.

In fact, a lot of modern, “katanas,” you can buy, aren’t.
They’re not produced with the proper metal, and they’re using machine forged
blades. They’re just sabers. Ironically, even the junk ones are superior weapons
to traditional katanas. (For one thing, you can actually parry with the blade.)

Using titanium as your base material for a sword isn’t a
good option. It’s light weight, strong, and won’t hold an edge without becoming
incredibly brittle. Heat treating it is either functionally impossible or prohibitively
expensive (maybe a little of both). It’s a fantastic option for a lot of
applications, but combat blades don’t make that list.

I don’t really have a lot to say on the subject of titanium,
because I don’t do metalworking directly, but (nearly) everything I’ve read on
the subject says, “don’t.”

There
are titanium alloys you use, but the metal, in general, just doesn’t have the
characteristics you’d want in a sword (or machete).

It is an
excellent choice for items that need to survive excessive thermal shock and
constant wear, which is probably why you will find aftermarket titanium parts
for firearms, it just doesn’t work well for swords.

If you’re really dead set on getting a titanium blade, you
can buy titanium kitchen knives. Though, holding an edge while slicing carrots
and slabs of meat isn’t quite the same as doing so while slicing through
screaming slabs of meat who are trying to return the favor.

You can make excellent blades from high quality steel. No
folding required. Actually, please, don’t fold high quality steel. The entire
folding process was originally an act of necessity, to get functional steel out
of the iron the Japanese had access to.

You’d also probably want to add a functional hand guard to
the thing, and contour the hilt. These aren’t mandatory, but
they would help. The thing is, none of this is really necessary.

Real people did use actual katanas forged from tamahagane
(pig iron), and killed each other in the real world. Humans are very inventive
about making sure they have a way to kill each other, and the katana is an
excellent example of this.

Limited by their available resources, Japanese swordsmiths
found a way to turn the iron they had into something they could use in weapons.
Japanese swordsmen developed and refined techniques that allowed them to take
the resulting blades into combat while working around their inherent fragility,
and they used the things for centuries. They turned the blade into a symbol of
their identity.

To be honest, I don’t even hold this against the Japanese, the
katana is a symbol of their ingenuity. It’s not a particularly good sword, but
that’s kind of missing the point. It is, their
sword. It is a symbol. Hell, it is literally a holy icon.

What you can’t do is take a katana out of its natural
environment and expect it to flourish. Weapons are designed and adapted to deal
with the environment they’re used in. On the global scale, the katana was about
four centuries obsolete when it was first developed. Which, really doesn’t
matter, because the Japanese weren’t using them against anyone who had a
decisive technological advantage.

The problem is, a lot of people, look at how the katana
functioned in its native environment, and how the people from that culture
regarded it, and then assume that a civilization which had never engaged in
long range exploration and had no frame of reference, were able to accurately
assess that they had created, “the best swords,” in the world.

It’s a sword. You can make vastly superior ones by changing
the design, at which point it’s still a sword, but it’s not the same sword. The
katana was an excellent weapon for Feudal Japan, not because it was somehow the
best blade design ever envisioned, or because it had some superlative quality,
but because it was a symbol of who they were as a people.

Take it out of that environment, drop it into a world that
has moved beyond swords entirely, and you’re left with an object that can still
have cultural meaning, and personal importance, but trying to cling to it is to
deny the changing world.

Icons like that are still important to point to and say, “this
is where we came from; this is a part of who we are,” but, that’s not the same
as saying, “progress is irrelevant, this will always be the best solution.” And, yes, that second part is an element when discussing the katana. Folded steel was not, strictly, a Japanese invention, other civilizations did use that method to produce early steel weapons. They faced the same issues with fragile blades, and continued searching for better smelting methods and higher quality materials. The Japanese didn’t, and instead fetishized the blades. Make of that what you will.

I’ll still say, actual katanas are beautiful pieces of art. It’s
the entelechy of how a civilization viewed conflict. They’re an example of
serious ingenuity and craftsmanship. If you take it out of context, it’s not a
particularly good weapon, but that’s missing the point.

-Starke

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Hey there love your blog. Quick question I’m trying to write a fanasty book where one of the main characters use both swords & guns. A katana on his left hip & a short katana on his right aswell as carrying a desert eagle on his person but he lives in a world where technology & magic exist except firearms are illegal. Is it possible to write scene’s where this combintaion works?

The “short katana” would be a wakizashi. It’s a distinct
weapon in its own right and was traditionally part of a samurai’s accoutrements,
though this is probably the least significant issue here.

The combination works in so far as you remember that real
people make really horrible decisions in an attempt to seem cool. The Desert
Eagle is a very flashy, somewhat terrible, gun. You carry one as an aesthetic
choice, not because you want to actually kill someone with it. It’s big, bulky,
unreasonably heavy, and stupidly expensive. The only point to owning one is to
say, “look at what a badass I could be.”

The katana is a very flashy, somewhat terrible, sword. Stop
me if this one sounds familiar; this is a sword you carry as an aesthetic
choice, not because you actually want to kill someone with it, but because you
want to say, “look at what a badass I could be.”

In both cases you’re talking about items that present the
concept of a weapon far more valuable, lethal, and cool, than the real articles
offer. With the katana, there’s also all of the associated cultural baggage. The
katana is, literally, a holy symbol in Shinto. If your character is carrying
one for religious reasons, that’s one thing; but, if they’re looking for “the
best sword,” then, it’s a terrible choice.

It’s also probably worth pointing out that both the Desert
Eagle and the katana require two hands to wield properly. Desert Eagles have a “floating
mag,” meaning the magazine remains somewhat loose in the grip, while locked. If
the operator fails to properly stabilize the pistol, this can result in the
pistol failing to feed, meaning it won’t properly load the next round into the
chamber, and forcing the user to cycle the slide manually. This isn’t an issue
if you’re using the pistol as designed, but if you’re trying to fire it one
handed, because your other hand is occupied with a katana, it could easily
result in a dead man’s click long before the magazine is empty.

There’s a similar issue with the katana, the design works
with the idea that the wielder will be using it with both hands. Specifically
you use your index and middle ring and pinky finger on your off-hand to control the blade,
while using your main hand for power. The problem with wielding one single
handed should be immediately obvious; you can flail around with it, but you can’t
really get much value from it that way. At that point, you’d almost be better
off with a machete, simply because it would offer a more comfortable grip, and would
be easier to swing.

While wakizashi are frequently matched with a katana and sold
together, they’re not intended for simultaneous
use. The wakizashi had distinct uses, mostly so the samurai would have a blade
they could actually use in doors, but it wasn’t supposed to be dual wielded
with a katana. Think of it like buying a kitchen knife set, sure there’s eight
knives in there, but you’re not going to be using all of them together at once.

I’ll add, I’ve got nothing against a character that has a
reason to use a katana. If it’s a badge of office, a family heirloom, a sign of
their order or training, that’s fine. It’s the idea that “this is the best
possible sword ever,” which I object to. It’s a two-handed sword. It’s not
particularly great. It has a dedicated martial style, predicated on using very
fragile blades, (and historical katanas are exceedingly fragile).

Finally, if you’ve got a setting where firearms are outlawed,
there’s a few problems specific to the Desert Eagle. I mentioned that they were
large and expensive, so let’s break those down a little. First, these are
massive pistols. A Mark XIX Desert Eagle weighs just under four and a half
pounds. For a pistol that is comically heavy. This is also a gun that is over a
foot long. These are large handguns.
They are difficult to conceal. If you’re living in a setting where owning a gun
is illegal, this is the last thing you want to be carrying on the street. (They’re
pretty terrible carry weapons in the real world as well.)

On the current market, with firearms that are legal to buy, a
used Desert Eagle will set you back at least $1,200 ($1,400 to $1,700 is more
likely, for a gun in decent shape). In contrast, if you’re shopping for a solid
conceal carry pistol you can expect to spend somewhere between $400 and $500.
Even high grade “tactical” pistols rarely break $1k, unless they’re collector’s
items (or SIGs). Most “cool” pistols you see on TV probably cost between $600
and $1k.

If you’re wondering why SIGs manage to command higher prices,
it’s because (in most cases) they’re remarkably high quality. I’ve had issues
with the American produced SIG Sauer P226s, but in general SIGs are worth the
money.

The Desert Eagle really isn’t worth the money. As I said
earlier, these are guns you buy to show off, not because you’re looking for a
carry weapon.

And, all of this is before you step back and apply the
economics for a setting where getting a handgun is illegal. At that point, you’re
talking about a gun that could easily cost more than an older model car. Those
economics skew against you even harder every time your character pulls the
trigger.

Desert Eagles come chambered in a couple different rounds.
There’s .357 magnum, .44 magnum, and .50AE. (Technically, there’s also .41
magnum and .440 variants as well.) Gun stores aren’t going to stock a lot, but
you can buy them if you’re using something chambered for it. Also worth noting,
if you’re dropping the hammer on a .50AE Desert Eagle, it will set you back
more than a dollar per bullet. (The current, actual cost in the US is ~$1.35
per round.) But, if you’re in a setting where firearms aren’t easily available,
your black market’s going to need to focus on rounds they can actually sell.
They may keep a little bit around
(and would charge way more than the
price I just quoted), but once it’s gone, getting your hands on more could be
very difficult. In this sense, it would be much safer if your character was
using a firearm that matched to the common calibers in their setting. The
reasoning is, that your black market may not keep much .50AE around (if they
keep any at all), but they probably will stock 9mm, .45, or whatever your
setting’s cops use. It’ll cost substantially more than it would in the real
world, but it will be something your character can buy. It also won’t leave
behind freakishly expensive shell casings every time they open fire. A string
of killings involving a .50AE pistol? That will bring the cops down on their
contacts looking for someone who’s been scavenging around the black market for
those 12.7mm rounds far faster than a few people who got plugged with a black
market .45.

To a lesser extent, the katana and wakizashi have a similar
issue. Yeah, sure, they’re cool, I guess, but they’re also memorable. If your
character is using a sword (and that’s common in the setting), having the cops
looking for someone using a guy with a katana will result in a much shorter
search ending at their doorstep than someone with a random non-descript sword
or even something like a machete.

If the katana is enchanted, then sure, your character is kind
of stuck with it (up to a point), but it’s still a weapon they’d need to be
somewhat careful about hiding, and more careful about using.

So, yeah, it’s entirely plausible that you’d have a character
who thought all of these were a good idea. If you have a setting where they
could actually get their hands on them is a different question.

If you’re thinking they could use the weapons together, then
no. They could switch between them, but trying to use them all at once would
result in wild flailing, and a malfunctioning pistol.

I can think of, at least, one legitimate reason why your
character might carry around a Desert Eagle (or a katana) in a setting like you’re
describing, and that’s to scare people. If you’re an enforcer for some shadowy
criminal organization, then being able to shove a 14 inch, chrome, monster gun
up someone’s nose is an effective option (and yes, the Desert Eagle is a model of handgun you can press
into someone without disabling it). But, even then, they’d probably carry
something far more practical for times when they were there to kill someone,
and not just put the fear of Elmer Keith into them.

Depending on the setting (or the organization they work for),
then they might carry and use a katana for that kind of intimidation instead.
For instance: If they were Yakuza, it would make some sense. At that point, you
might reasonably get a character who
used that exact set of weapons for intimidation, and would actually use the
katana or wakizashi when provoked.

In general, though, there’s nothing wrong with a character
thinking this is all a good idea. It’s not. But, if they could afford it, they
might go chasing after that concept anyway.

-Starke

EDIT: As @fox-bright kindly reminded me, it’s the third and fourth fingers on your off hand that you use to control a katana, rather than the first and second. Sorry about that.

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Which is more unbelievable masamune or the buster sword?

Well, given that Gorō Masamune was a 13th century Japanese sword smith, who’s name has become semi-synonymous with superlatively crafted blades?

I’m going with the historical figure. There’s some elements about his life that are, probably, hyperbolic, but I’m inclined to believe he did exist, and was an excellent smith. Otherwise his name wouldn’t have kept coming up among the best sword smiths Japan ever produced.

I don’t often say this, but he is literally legendary, as in actual legends have been written, and probably embellished, about him.

Incidentally, the swords he created carry his name, which creates a situation where there are (or were) real Masamune katanas. They have no direct relation to any of the fictional blades that also carry his name. But, it’s not a single weapon. It’s also probably worth stressing, the real blades were simply very well forged Katanas. The only unusual trait I’ve heard attributed to them is they had a singular reflective pattern.

In contrast the Buster Sword, and other comically oversized swords you’ll see in media would be basically unusable. I know Man-At-Arms Reforged made the Berserk Dragon-Slayer Greatsword recently. I want to say they also made a Buster Sword at one point, but I can’t find the video at the moment.

-Starke

EDIT: I couldn’t find it, because it was before they added the Reforged to their name. The Buster Sword is here.

Also, if you’re curious, they did do Sepheroth’s Masamune, around the same time.

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What is the difference between a wakizashi and a katana (physically I know that the wakizashi is smaller) but what are the differences in advantages and the like?

The wakizashi is smaller. I mean, that is the difference. The wakizashi was carried by samurai as a backup in case they broke their katana.

As I recall, the wakazashi was sometimes used to commit seppuku, normally a tanto would have been used. It was carried by female members of the samurai class (they weren’t allowed to carry katanas). It may have been used in some other ceremonial functions, in place of a katana, or other blade.

Also, you could use the wakizashi indoors. Which says less about the wakizashi, and more about the techniques used to protect the katana’s (surprisingly fragile) blade. Katanas do not work well in tight spaces. Including ones that will easily accommodate other varieties of swords. So, that’s more of an inherent disadvantage for the katana, not really an advantage for the wakizashi.

You might want to read this article about the implications for reach. What I said there applies as much with this as it did when I was talking about European longswords.

-Starke

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I have this friend who’s into swords in general. She’s far more knowledgeable on it than I am, but lately she’s been all like “katanas are the best swords, they’re superior to anything else” and… I’m a bit doubtful, but as I said, she knows more than I do and I can’t really argue… is that actually true?

Nope.

I did a longer post on this awhile back, but the bullet points are that the katana is a substandard iron age weapon designed to utilize a very rigid and limited martial style. You can also check the tag, if you want.

There’s also this playlist from Schola Gladiatoria’s Matt Easton, if you want an in depth, visual breakdown; and the ability to refute all of your friend’s points, then Easton should have you covered.

The key thing to understand is, still, that the katana exists in two states: the real sword, and the entelechy of the blade embodied in Shinto. The sword that can cut a silk ribbon seven times on the wind, or, whatever other act of supernatural prowess, is (sort of like) a spiritual affirmation, rather than an objective statement.

So, it would be a little like someone saying that all European longswords are Excalibur, Durendal, or some other legendary blade, and then ascribing their traits back onto normal blades.

The real weapon is a rather fragile longsword that is awkward to fight with. But, it’s also a religious icon. It’s just important to keep those two things separate.

-Starke

I just found this blog and I absolutely love it. Here’s my writing question. Through an alternate universe / time travel situation, I’ve got a man trained in kendo (and experienced in modern American combat) going up against a Rennaisance Italian Duke in the Duke’s home turf. A terrified Victorian lady is standing by with a pistol that she more or less knows how to use, to help out our modern man. Any opinions on how you think that might go?

Not well for him. Kendo will teach you how to handle a katana. It won’t teach you how to use a sabre, rapier, or whatever stray implement of death and dismemberment was convenient.

It would be like asking, “my character has spent the last 25 years mastering Blackjack. How would they fare in a Texas Hold ‘Em tournament?” Yeah, they both involve cards, but it’s the wrong skill set, with an entirely different set of considerations.

So, if he’s not using a katana, all of his training is worthless. He’s literally trained in the wrong weapon.

If he is using a katana, he’s still screwed, both because of the weapon itself and because of his training. The katana is not designed to deal with the kind of combat Italian school fencing delivers. It simply isn’t agile enough. Generally speaking, the katana isn’t a particularly adaptable weapon. Take it out of its native environment, and it suffers.

His training is a problem because, well, he’s trained in Kendo. Kendo is not, and never has been a practical combat form. It’s the modern descendant of Kenjitsu, which was the art of murdering people with a katana. The problem is, as with a lot of European sword schools, Kenjitsu basically died out with the sword on battlefields. (Specifically in the mid 19th century for Kenjitsu.) Modern Kendo and Iaido salvage some techniques and katas from Kenjitu, but the result is similar to modern reconstructionist European techniques; potentially lethal, but nothing that compares practitioners from when they were living combat forms.

There’s an added wrinkle here: because of the social structures at work in Japan, particularly the insular nature of the class system, it would be literally impossible for your character to obtain training in Kenjitsu.

You know the cliche: “the right tool for the right job”? In this case a katana, and Kendo in general, is the wrong tool.

There’s also a pretty strong whiff of orientalism coming off this post. Best to kill that now.

There’s nothing particularly special about the katana. I know, this flies in the face of all the anime you’ve ever watched, but
when we’re talking about the sword itself? Technologically? It’s a
fairly standard early iron age longsword.

There’s nothing particularly special about Kendo. It’s a sword form. You can kill people with it, but that’s not saying much. The biggest problem with Kenjitsu is that it was an insular style. It evolved to deal with other people who were using similar weapons, held similar combat doctrines, and had similar training.

European sword forms evolved in an environment with far more diversity, and the result were far more adaptive combat styles. They expected people to pull weapons and techniques they weren’t familiar with. For your Duke, the question wouldn’t be, “what is this sword? It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.” Because he’d certainly seen curved single edge blades. It would be, “why is this guy so terrible at using it?” Assuming he didn’t simply think, “filthy peasant” before running him through and going on with his day.

-Starke

Hi! This is the first time ever I’m sending an ask but I found your blog today and it was amazing. I started to read everything you have about katanas because one of my characters is a katana fighter and aikidoka in a dystopian future (I’m quite sure he won’t be able to come far with that so he’ll have a gun as well). I chose him to fight like that because he’s very deep into stories and thinking about honor much. Now I read katanas aren’t that effective. Can I make his one, like, modern/better?

Sort of, but not really. There’s basically two problems with the katana. The metallurgy and the design. You can’t really fix either one without making it no longer a katana.

The design issue is just that the grip and use of the blade is awkward in comparison to most swords. (Not just European ones.) Now, Kendo is (and other Japanese forms are) built around minimizing the design’s weaknesses, but there’s only so much it can do.

You could theoretically fix the design in any number of ways, but in the process it would stop being a katana, and become another variant of the sword.

The same thing applies to the metallurgy. The folding technique was required to deal with the pig iron that Japan had access to. For their resources, and the technology they had, it was the best way they could make a functional weapon. But it doesn’t actually improve the weapon in any way when you’re dealing with modern, high quality steel.

Something I hadn’t learned until recently is, there’s actually some criticism of the WWII era Imperial swords, claiming that, because they were made from other forms of steel, and because they were (in some cases) machined, they’re not true katanas. They fit the design, but, again, some people contend they’re no longer really katanas, just swords designed to look like them.

You can mill a high quality steel blade with carbon nano tube reinforcements, and tempered in liquid nitrogen, but it’s no longer a katana.

The most important thing to understand about the katana is, it’s not just a sword. It’s a very important icon to the Japanese. It’s a part of their cultural identity. So there’s an identity attributed to them that goes way beyond the physical weapon. Much like a bald eagle is incredibly evocative to Americans.

As a weapon, the sword itself is just another (now fairly outdated) chunk of steel. The implication of what it means is where you get the myth of The Katana. The singular perfect sword that all other katanas are pale reflections of.

-Starke

What kind of blades are best for slicing through different types of metal?

Fantasy/sci-fi ones, like Warhammer 40k’s Power weapons or a lightsaber.

Using a blade on metal is usually a bad idea. The reason is fairly simple, you’re going to damage the weapon. It doesn’t matter how sharp the blade is; in fact, sharper blades will actually suffer more damage. The edge itself will chip and deform.

Actually using a sword or dagger against someone in plate armor isn’t about cutting through the armor itself, it’s about finding the points of articulation, where plates meet, and stabbing through that gap.

The only time you’d want to be striking the plate directly is with a weapon designed to pierce armor, or just confer massive amounts of force through the armor. That’s maces, flails, war hammers (the actual weapon, not the game), mauls, and some polearms. Basically anything that’s either a glorified beatin’ people stick, or a beatin’ people stick with a spike or two on it.

I say “some polearms” because, there is a lot of variety in polearm styles, each with a different role in mind. Some were designed to pierce armor, while others are knives tied to the end of a really long stick. In a few cases, like the halberd, it’s a combination of both.

Now, if your character has an enchanted weapon that’s resistant to damage, or it’s some kind of very high tech weapon, again, like a 40k Power Sword or a lightsaber, then any conventional armor isn’t going to be much of a threat to your weapon, or even much of an obstacle.

If you’re wondering, the worst kind would probably be historical katanas. They were just not designed for contact with metal, and trying to use one against someone wearing plate or chain would quickly slag the blade.

-Starke

My character is someone who is skilled in the German School of Fencing aka German Longsword and she is in environment where most of the people she would fight wield katanas. Besides the general differences in structure and construction of the longsword and the katana, what should I take into account when I write fight scenes where her opponent is wielding a katana? Would the curved, single-edged blade of the katana be a disadvantage against the longsword?

Assuming the setting is historical Japan, a European longsword will shred katanas in combat.

I know I’m going to irk the Kendo practitioners with this, but when you compare Kendo and German School Fencing, Kendo is a much slower form.

(And, before someone chews me out for this, I’ll say again, what I said six months ago, “a katana isn’t slow for a katana, it’s slow for a sword.”)

The katana needs to be wielded with finesse to protect the blade. In theory this is true of a European sword, but non-Japanese blades are (generally) a lot more durable. European fencing will call for you to do things with the blade that a katana just can’t survive.

The reason for this is usually simple metallurgy. Historically Japan, never had access to large supplies of high quality iron, the iron they forged the katana from would have been discarded as scrap in most of the world after the eleventh century. The blade was folded to bring the carbon content down into a manageable range, but the result was (in comparison to sword technology elsewhere) fragile.

If your setting is fantasy, then they might have access to the same metallurgical resources as your fencer, meaning they could produce weapons that would not shatter in combat. But, if that’s the case, the katana design isn’t likely to emerge.

It’s possible the original katanas were copies of the Chinese zhanmadao. Both date to the 12th century, and share an obvious visual similarity. The difference was the zhanmadao was intended as an anti-cavalry sword, and was roughly twice the size. If you want to run with that, then you’d be looking at a setting where katanas were wielded against mounted combatants.

The other possibility is, if your fantasy Japan doesn’t suffer from the metallurgical problems the real one did, that their martial style would change drastically.

I’ve seen non-Japanese alloy katanas used in an approximation of saber and cutlass styles. It isn’t ideal, but it does make the katana into a much more effective weapon, when dealing with a German School combatant. Depending on your setting, you might want to push that approach over traditional Kendo.

The other major option is jumping straight over to Chinese weapons like the Jian and Dao. Youtube has some fantastic Dao forms from modern Wushu. This can help keep the intended exotic tone of the setting, without devolving into orientalism. (And as always, take a look at Edward Said’s book, Orientalism, for a long list of things you probably want to avoid.)

-Starke

As a professional bladesmith/archeometallurgy dork prone to pedantic lectures on the pointlessness of “folded steel” in a world of modern tool steels it was nice to see someone taking the piss out of Katana As Best Ever, but then I read close and–Well. The way you gloss technical details suggests someone that doesn’t really know about basic metallurgy re: the refinement and heat-treatment of steels? In your eagerness to bash the ur-sword katana of myth you see to have lurched to another (cont.)

Yeah, metallurgy is not my strong suit, and I’m sorry but we never got the rest of your response. Also, apologies for the delay, we’ve got a few left over in our backlog from during the trip, and I’m going to try to knock those out over the next couple days.

The short version is that the katana was forged out of pig iron. The Japanese gave it a fancy name, but it was still the same low quality stuff Europe and China were using to make plows and cookware. It was forged using the same techniques Europe had used in the 800s, and abandoned before Japan was ever founded.

My understanding is that you beat the blade out and fold it, in an effort to remove excess carbon, making the blade less brittle, but also softer.

I’ve heard (and read) that Katanas should be refereed to as either iron or cold steel, and, as with a lot of the Katana, there’s a lot of parsing of myth from reality, because of the blade’s cultural history and status. I erred with cold steel, which, given everything else, might be technically wrong.

Anyway, if you want to dig in more, I’d be glad to post it together into a coherent post. The easiest format would be if you’d actually register an account, and write the whole thing up in one shot, but I can use the quote system in here to stitch it together.

-Starke