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A Guide to Sword Maintenance

When handing and maintaining Japanese swords, it is imperative that certain rules and guidelines are followed—not only for the preservation of the sword, but also for your own safety. First you will need to prepare an environment that is safe and conducive for maintaining and viewing Japanese swords. Additionally, before handing any blade it is essential that you remove your watch and any pieces of jewelry, as it is possible that these may come into contact with the blade and scratch it.

[Required tools]

1. Peg remover (mekugi-nuki)
(often comes in the form of a small brass hammer)
2. Food quality Uchiko powder
3. Color coded lens cloths
4. Good quality Sword Oil
5. Oil applicator (clean tissue or soft cotton)

Step 1.

As an act of respect to the blade, and appreciation to the previous generations of owners who have cared for and maintained the swords for us to enjoy today, bow to the blade.

Step 2.

Remove the sword partially from the bag, just enough to be able to draw the blade from the scabbard. Tie the bag, so that it does not get in the way.

Step 3.

Remove the mekugi (bamboo retaining peg).
First, loosen the mekugi by pushing it with the flat surface of the peg remover.

Hint #2.
Use the arc of your thumb as a guide to push out the peg.

Step 4.

Place the thumb of your right hand on the base of your left hand and apply pressure to breach the saya. Slowly draw the sword out of the scabbard, while taking care not to let the blade touch the sides of the scabbard. Take the sword in your left hand and tilt at about 45 degrees over your left shoulder.

Strike the base of your left hand with your right fist and the blade should slightly pop out of the handle (tsuka). Next, remove the blade by gripping under the habaki (collar). *Best done from the spine side of the blade.

Remove the habaki and put in a safe place.

Step 5.

Take your dedicated oil removal color coded lens cloth and wiping from the spine side of the blade, remove the majority of the old oil. First, wipe towards the tang, while taking care not to transfer rust from the tang onto the polished blade before wiping along the length of the blade

Hint #3.
Make sure to only wipe ‘away’ from the point section.

Step 6.

Uchiko application.
Very gently, tap the uchiko ball along the blade, only striking from the back edge and flat surface to disperse uchiko powder across the surface of the blade.

Hint #4.
Don’t forget the mune!

Step 7.

Uchiko removal.
First, fan the blade with the color coded lens cloth dedicated for uchiko removal, to remove any possible larger uchiko paricles. As done previously, first wipe towards the tang, taking care not to transfer rust from the tang onto the polished blade.

Hint #5.
In between wipes, remember to remove collated uchiko particles from the cloth.
Inspect and appreciate your blade.

Hint #6.
If your blade has been out for appreciation for a while, it is recommended to repeat steps 6 & 7, before applying oil and storing away.

Step 8.

Oil Application.
Using either a soft clean tissue, or a brushed cotton cloth, coat the blade in a thin layer of a recommended sword oil. Again, take care to not transfer rust particles from the tang onto the blade, and don’t forget the mune!

Check to see that the blade has a sufficient coating of oil. Too much oil is not good for the life of the scabbard.

Hint #7.
Excess oil can be remedied by a single wipe of the blade with a clean soft tissue.

 

Replace the habaki. Carefully place the blade into the handle. Lightly strike the base of the handle with your palm. It should make a small ‘click’ that indicates that it is properly in place. Return the sword to its scabbard. Return it to the bag.

Final bow and finish.

 

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