Introduction: How to Make a Japanese Bokken

Picture of How to Make a Japanese Bokken

Here I describe the method for making a bokken, which is a Japanese wooden sword.

The skill level required using this method is relatively low. A more challenging option would be to do this only using hand-tools.

Take nothing for granted and keep safety as the most important aspect of the project. Make sure you are comfortable with the use of all the tools you use.

My Website: TF Workshop

Step 1: Overview

Basic dimensions
Making the Boken
Notes & Cautions

I suggest that you borrow or buy a boken before you start, so you can get the feel and see the details of what you are making. It will also help you set up the curvature of the one you create. Hopefully you are already training with one at some level, so you have an understanding of the balance it should have.

Ganbate kudasai (Japanese for good luck)

Step 2: Basic Dimensions

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Note that the blade is the side with the radius

Make the bowed shape by gluing two pieces of wood together, clamped in position.

Step 3: Ripping the Wood

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Rip two pieces of hardwood to ¾ inch x 1-1/2 inch, at least 42 inches long.

Joint one of the 1-1/2 inch sides of each for to make a smooth gluing surface.

The two pieces used here are white oak and Brazilian cherry. Both are very hard woods, which will take strikes well in practice.

Step 4: Gluing It Up

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Use an existing boken to establish the shape that you will bend the two pieces of wood over. You want to get a reasonably close match on the inside curves.

Clamp the center first, then work your way outwards. Clamp directly over all the support sticks, and then at the ends. Fill in clamps afterwards. Let the set-up dry for about 4 hours. Wipe off what glue you can. Once dry, scrape off the glue that has pushed out.

Step 5: Planing

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Use a planer or jointer to straighten one side of the boken. This one had a 1/8 inch bow in the center.

After one side is fairly straight, rip it down to about 1-1/4 inch, cutting off the rough side. Turn it around and rip the other side, down to 1-1/8 inch.

Plane or sand the boken down to 1 inch to get the sides smooth. I use a planer instead of sanding whenever possible (saves work and doesn’t make a lot of dust)

Step 6: Routing

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Route the boken on all four corners with a 1/2 inch round-over bit.

Cross-cut the handle end to clean it up. Mark where the tsuba will sit (10 inches).

Route the 45 degree chamfers, which become the backside of the blade. Route close to where the tsuba is marked, but not into it, you need to complete it with a chisel (sharpen it beforehand).

Cross-cut the blade end to length (40 inches)

Step 7: Form the Blade Tip

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Rough-cut the blade tip shape. I used a miter saw, but a band-saw would be best. Sand or grind the shape to the basic curve.

Sand or grind the sides of the tip to shape, blending them back. I used a simple drum sander mounted to a drill press, with a small support block to hold the tip. Take your time with this, since the boken is almost done, and this is the easiest part to make a mistake with. Finish up by hand sanding the tip to remove any marks.

Step 8: Apply Finsh

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Sand the entire boken with 180 grit. If you used sharp planer and router blades, this should go fast.

Seal the boken with three coats of Acrylic sealer. Sand with 180 after the first coat, 220 after the second. The third coat should not require sanding. If it is still rough at that point, re-sand with 220 and do a fourth.

Step 9: Boken Terminology (Nihon-go)

Kissaki: the tip.
Mune: the back of the blade.
Monouchi: the cutting portion of the edge, the 1/3 closest to the kissaki.
Chu-o: the middle third of the blade.
Tsuba moto: the third of the blade closest the handle.
Tsuba: the guard, not present on most Aikido bokuto.
Tsuka: the handle.
Shinogi: the ridge between the mune and the edge.
Shinogi-ji: the flat plane between the mune and the shinogi
Jigane: the flat plane between the shinogi and the temper line (edge).
Ha: the edge
Tsuka gashira: butt end of the bokuto.

Step 10: Notes & Cautions

The boken made here is for actual practice, so I chose the hardest wood I had. It is very satisfying to use weapons in practice that I have made myself.
Two colors of wood make the boken look unique. I have not found anywhere you can buy one like this.
Use only sharp bits, blades and chisels. Burn marks and gouges will show.
I suggest you make two and keep the best one. There is very little wood used in a boken, and it saves you a lot of pain if you make a mistake. Making two is almost the same effort as making one. If they both turn out, give one away.
Use safety equipment: eye protection, ear protection, guards, push-sticks, brain. Do not do anything you think may be hazardous – its not worth it.
Disclaimer: I assume no liability if you purse this project. No information here is intended to override the safety instructions for your equipment or your common sense.

Step 11: Dedication

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I dedicate this to Master Eric Johnson, who has taught me the beginning steps of the bokken. He is the founder of the Tien Tae Jitsu martial arts system (


Ikkalebob (author)2011-07-25

Great instructable! I made mine out of one plank of oak. Here it is:

Arkanies (author)Ikkalebob2017-04-05

i was thinking thee same thing why would you glue 2 pieces tougether this would mess with durability

TTF (author)Ikkalebob2011-12-03

Nice job!

Jeremy 117 (author)2017-01-24

Can you use ply wood

AceC12 (author)Jeremy 1172017-01-29

You can but i wouldent recomended to use in any kind of practice because it will break easily.

MarienK (author)2016-07-06

do you use regular wood glue or some type of 2 component glue?

metdrummer (author)2009-05-04

Excellent article! I'm building two bokken right now out of ebony, blood wood, and american holly. I don't practice any sort of kendo, so I plan on these being ornamental. Thanks for the instructions!

TTF (author)metdrummer2009-10-03

Post a picture. I'd love to see them.

metdrummer (author)TTF2009-10-03

Here are my finished bokken based on your instructable. Like I said earlier, they're made of ebony, bloodwood, and american holly. I wasn't entirely sure if I wanted to make the tsubas, but I had a lot of bloodwood left, so I thought "what the hell." Handles are wrapped in white and black suede. I'm more than happy with the way they turned out, and it's all thanks to you!

afrancisco11 (author)metdrummer2016-05-26

Just gotta say you should sell those Bokken are quite gorgeous, how are they in practice? Can they sustain repeated trauma? Sorry lol I'm not all too familiar with properties of wood but if my gut is correct, Ebony is quite dense right? I've used White Oak Bokken for quite a while now and it's held up beautifully, ebony seems... GORGEOUS and far more durable! How would an entire bokken made of Ebony hold up? BUT FOR REAL you have awesome skill! Looks gorgeous and looks incredibly well built!

liLightaura (author)metdrummer2012-02-11

OMG I WANT GIVE ME please :) oh wait i mean PLZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ cause extra z's r better :) lol but seriously i want

Keira_Yagami (author)metdrummer2010-04-20

Wow.... O_O that is beautiful! I'm so going to have to make one for my boyfriend, well another bokken that is. Seeing as I've already made him 3 ^-^'

metdrummer (author)Keira_Yagami2010-04-20

Thank you so much :D

TTF (author)metdrummer2010-01-03

 Nice job! 

mae (author)2007-07-26

hiya, im just starting with kendo, so as i dont see any information about shinais, could you tell me if its possible to make one bokken lighter than normal?? (problably with another kind of wood of something?) i just want it for training at home (i borrow one for class) so i dont mind if it doesnt look real enough (just b safe). Thanks for your advices, you did a great job. x x

TTF (author)mae2008-12-09

For light weight wood, I suggest using pine. It will get dented up, but still be useful. You could also cut away the center wood on this design. It would be a bit tricky, but possible. A good medium weight wood is alder - strong, but lighter. Best of luck!

NR8 (author)TTF2015-08-24

Purchase four large bottles of vinegar and soak it in you bath tub while at work. When you get home wipe it down and allow pine wood to absorb dry and wait to be amazed! This can only be done after all wood shaping,cutting, sanding are complete so that when it dries all it needs is the finish of your choice

Bodygard1117 (author)mae2010-08-02

you can rout out some of the hardwood from the middle of the blade before you put it together and fill it with pine or even balsa. Ive seen it done on pool sticks and they take a pretty hefty beating.

TTF (author)mae2007-07-30

Yes, you can make a lighter one from a wood such as pine. It will get dented a bit, but should work well for practice. Also, pine is very easy to work with if you are new to woodworking. Best of luck / ganbate kudasai

WurdBendur (author)TTF2007-10-31

Do you think drilling holes into or through the blade and handle would reduce the weight enough and not make it too weak?

finfan7 (author)WurdBendur2008-02-03

first of all; light enough for what? and secondly, that depends on wood type, grain direction, whether it is made from two pieces like the one in this instructable or one piece like a normal one, and also on its intended use.

WurdBendur (author)finfan72008-02-07

I was referring to the post above about making it lighter for kendo. I don't know how light it would need to be or what kind of construction would make it work. I was just trying to suggest that putting some holes in it could make it lighter while noting that it would weaken the blade.

finfan7 (author)WurdBendur2008-02-12

I see your intent now. It is an interesting idea but kind of counterproductive. If it is for single training then heavier is better because you get more exercise and it would be closer to the weight of a real sword. If it is for sparring then the last thing you want is a bokken more likely to break . (splinter+eye=very very bad) And although lighter can be a good thing, if it is too light relative to that of your partner then you will be able to move faster but it will be harder to block anything you cannot sidestep.

just to sum up this whole sequence:
you can (faster, looks kooler)
you shouldn't (breaks, breach in tradition, and not enough excercise)

Clodester (author)finfan72009-12-16

Just a note, a bokken are made intensionally heavy, or at least heavier than a true katana in order to train the individual to be over qualified so to speak. The idea being that if you are skilled with a weighty piece of wood, you'll be more than proficient with a light strip of carbon steel.

Lighter alternative would be bamboo which is often used for practice swords

Camisado (author)finfan72008-10-01

To quote you:

just to sum up this whole sequence:
you can (faster, looks kooler)
you shouldn't (breaks, breach in tradition, and not enough excercise)

I agree on most of it, but I don't think drilling holes to a Bokken makes it look " kooler ", to me it looks more like " garbage " :P

finfan7 (author)Camisado2009-01-18

You are allowed your opinion. I made no claim that everyone would think it is cooler, only that I thought it might look cooler. I wouldn't do it because I am a stickler for tradition in the martial arts. If you don't think it looks cooler don't do it. There is no need to make a comment with the specific intent of insulting me. We on instructables encourage constructive criticism among Makers and proffesionals, not baseless insipid conjecture from children who don't like others' opinions.

Camisado (author)finfan72009-01-19

Heyheyhey, I'm not insulting you in any way, I'm just voicing my opinion. If you like your Bokuto drilled, then you can do it for all I care, I'm not insulting your opinion, I'm just voicing mine.

finfan7 (author)Camisado2009-01-19

Your word choice displays a disdain for my opinion, which would be why I took offense. But it's okay.

Camisado (author)finfan72009-01-20

Good. I'm glad we both understand.

ryanator (author)WurdBendur2008-09-14

nice pic (wissle)

WurdBendur (author)ryanator2009-01-18


NR8 (author)2015-08-24

kaguya.kenji (author)2015-01-31

Kinda new to this, did try wood carving before, but a few questions:

1) I'll be hand-carving this out of "Poplar Hobby Board" from Home Depot w/ a knife (probably Ontario Rat 1), about how long will the whole project take?

2)Mine won't be as nice & I'd probably skip a few steps but I just want to know what will be the dimensions if I want to carve one to something like a wakazashi.



Mr. tony stark (author)2012-10-05

how would you make this by hand? i don't have practically any of the tools. nice bokken though i really want to make it.

I guess you could use just a planer, some files and lots of sandpaper as well as even more patience.

sk8r x (author)2013-02-10

whats the maximum size that you would recommend building?

Tethera (author)2011-02-17

hi, hmmm i don't know quite how to ask but, is it possible could i make a sheath for my bokken? because i really would like to train seriously but all the trianing swords i have made were crummy and way to light weight to get some serious training in. what kinds of wood could i use that would be best for making a bokken. and also what would be the bokken's length? or could it be just made longer with the same steps?
but how hard would it be to make one without the actual thing with you? cause i can't buy one or barrow one ^_^;;

Jislizard (author)Tethera2012-06-25

You probably need two bokken!

One thin one with a saya (scabbard / sheath) to practice drawing your sword and one solid one for hitting things with.

If you try to build a saya around a normal bokken it will be far too thick and round, it will be too heavy and cumbersome.

If you try and hit things with a thin bokken the thicker things will win.

Jislizard (author)2012-06-25

I just bought a bokken but I was thinking of making one that looks a bit nicer.

I was thinking, if you had two planks of wood of different colours and you put one on top of the other and did a wavy line cut down the middle of both of them, could you reassemble the two parts to make two bokken(s)(?) with a hamon?

I understand there will be some wastage caused by the blade of the saw.

I don't have any tools so I am going to head to the wood working club and I don't want to be laughed out of town if the idea is completely stupid.

Would you laminate two woods with different properties, e.g. a hard wood to take the knocks without denting and a soft wood for flexibility or is it just a colour aesthetic thing?

Dynames4 (author)2011-09-07

I'm trying to find a way to successfully use bamboo to make a bokken... So far, no success. Do you have any techniques that might make this possible? Thanks

zjohnson6 (author)Dynames42011-10-17

what you want to do is make something else entirely its called a kendo shinai stick and they're made by taking strips of bamboo and binding them at the base middle and with a rubber or synthetic ferrule at the tip they're easy to make and very durable

hottamaleindustries (author)2011-06-21

I don't know why I didn't look this up first... I tried making some before and I put in so much more effort to model it after my katana... This is so much simpler and more elegant looking

Riptide100 (author)2011-05-18

Could someone please explain to me how to mount the Tsuba on this bokken? I dont undestand the instructions given here. I also looked on another instructable specifically for a Tsuba, but he just glues it directly to the bokken. PLease help, thx :)

commanderzhao (author)Riptide1002011-06-01

take the tsuba, and gasket maker (you can get it from a do it best store)
then slide on the tsuba, and apply the gasket maker, and smooth it out with a
popsicle stick, and..... voila!! you mounted it!!!

Foo Ninja (author)2011-05-08

I'm about to try making one
for exercise out of summer boredom
what's the different between:
If you cut a wider piece into a bokken
you bend it with clamps/ heated watter?
will it affect the hardness?
I want to make the easy one since i never did any works with woods and any tools like that (including the saw or routing)

meburnfire (author)2011-04-18

How would you do this using only 1 piece of wood?

Riptide100 (author)2011-02-23

This instructable is amazing!! Im busy following this and making 3 bokkens for cosplay/display purposes. i will post pictures of the process and upon completion :)

TTF (author)2010-10-19

I see your point. The glue up was for the look, not so much for strength. However, with poly glues that are now available - strength would not be an issue, regardless of orientation.

ninjakoi (author)2010-09-28

what are the measurements in?

Trogdayton (author)2009-12-03

If you were to use just one length of wood instead of two... that'd be pretty much the same right? You'd just have to bend, not glue? Or am I totally wrong?

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