Should you look carefully enough, you’ll likely find dozens of different sword types from all over the world, but not one of them compare to the popularity of Japanese katana swords: the unique curved design and overall aesthetics as well as the smithing methods used to make them are breathtaking. They’re a particular form of art, one that’s recognized.
The uniqueness of the katana sword lies in many technical innovations devised by the Japanese swordsmiths to fix the three conflicting practical requirements of a sword: rigidity, unbreakable, and cutting power. While rigidity and cutting power are achieved by the use of hard steel unbreakable implies a soft but sturdy metal, like iron, which Won’t snap with a sudden blow. The Japanese sword smiths have combined all these features in several ways that have given their swords a distinctive character.
- First of all Japanese blades comprise of two different metals: a durable and soft iron core is wrapped in a hard outer skin of steel that has been forged and reforged often to be able to generate a complex and close-knit crystalline structure.
- The cross-section, widening to a ridge on either side of the back, then narrowing to an extremely acute angle to the edge, combines the virtues of thickness for thinness and strength for cutting power.
- Most important of all and Third, a tempered edge is made by covering the rest of the blade with a unique heat-resistant clay and heating and quenching the part left exposed.
The result is a steel that is harder about the rest of the outer skin and has a razor-sharp edge. The characteristic curve away from the edge, a fourth feature, owes its origin to a different demand that is practical: the need to draw the sword and strike in a continuous motion and as quickly as possible.
Where the sword itself forms a portion of the estimated circumference of a circle with its center at the wearer’s right arm and its radius the length of his arm, drawing from a close case is naturally easier and faster than with a straight weapon. But to the Japanese specialist, the beauty of a sword lies in its mechanical perfection of finish and cleanness of profile or more than just its fulfillment of practical requirements.
The Japanese swordsmiths have given katana swords many features which, although they may have a possible origin, have been elaborated far past the easy condition of hard-wearing performance in combat. One example of this is the forging of the outer skin, a process required to produce steel of adequate purity and hardness. This has been done in an aggregation of different ways to obtain a full number of distinct grains on the surface of the blade.
But it’s the tempering process that has got the most particular attention. The heat-resistant till is entirely rubbed away from the area of the edge in an apparently inexhaustible range of outlines resulting in a huge number of patterns of hard crystalline steel. Which guarantee that no two Swords will ever be the same: and yet these outlines have no practical function past the essential requirement the edge should be tempered in one way or another.
The thoroughly effective methods (even when compared to today’s knowledge and technology) used to forge the steel, the sword’s unique design, along with the way of life these weapons represent makes them something worthy of our respect.