Introduction: Soul of the Sword

The sword has been revered for many centuries. It symbolizes chivalry, faith, bravery, and strength, all attributes of a good warrior. This Collaboration will attempt to do the sword justice, and provide a guide for starting on the journey to become a swordsman/woman.

Step 1: Getting Started and Practice Weapons, & How to Make Boffer Swords

First, some terminology:

Fencing: Is the art of armed combat involving cutting, stabbing, or bludgeoning weapons directly manipulated by hand, rather than shot or thrown. Example weapons include swords,knives, pikes, bayonets, batons, clubs, and similar. It also refers to the modern sport fencing, which is the most developed of western swordsmanship to be seen. For the purpose of this Instructable, unless otherwise noted, it will refer to the first explanation.

Sword: Good grief, if you don't know that one, go find something else to do.

Swordsman: One who wields a sword.

Practice Weapons (or waster): A weapon that has been modified, or made outright, to be safe enough for
use for practicing.

Many people seem to believe that they can buy a sword online for $50 bucks, go beat up some cardboard boxes, and boom, there a swordsmen. That is a good way to get started fast, and experience the sound of ringing steel and massive, bleeding wounds.We don't want to do that.
The best place to start is with either with wood swords, or my preference boffer weapons. A boffer weapon is a combat arts practice weapon, which consists of a core (usually pvc pipe) covered in foam (pvc pipe insulation), with some sort of coating (duct tape,fiberglass tape, latex, etc). They are extremely safe, for example, whack someone in the head with a real sword, they'd be dead, with a wood sword, there unconcious, with a boffer sword,they get really mad, but there still alive and healthy. Boffer weapons are versatile (fight with them anytime,anywhere), durable, safe (you're hitting people with foam, whats safer than that?), fun, cheap and easy to make. For these reasons they are great for
all swordsmen, regardless of skill level.
Wood swords are also a good starting point, but as mentioned, they can still inflict some damage. There are many good Instructables on making wooden swords (go to the group Soul of the Sword, it has the best sword Instructables, we made it) so I'll just show you some pictures of mine (with notations on how to make them).

Notes on the pictures describe how to make them.

Step 2: Introduction

The sword is an edged cutting and thrusting weapon. Most civilizations have or had one form of it or another.
But what exactly is a sword? Simply a long, sharp piece of metal, a tool, to be used like any other?
We believe not.
Bushido, the Way of the Warrior (feudal japan) taught that the Katana was as important to the samurai as his very soul, and that it should be treasured. As such, the swords were given names and passed down from generation to generation. Though this is a rather extreme example, this is typical of the respect paid to swords all over the world.
What of other swords?
Scimitars, synonymous with the middle east have permeated popular culture, making appearances in a number of Games
Broadswords are common at historical re-enactments, any viking worth his weight in pillage would never be seen without his sword. The better viking broadswords were often pattern-welded, with twisted steel rods in the core, to provide flexibility, with a solid steel strip on the cutting edge.
But what exactly is a sword? Is it simply, as before, a tool? or is there more to the matter?
It could be argued that a sword is the culmination of all the effort it has taken to create: from mining the ore to smelting it, to forging it to shape to the final process of testing, but that leaves out the user's input.
Personally, I believe a sword is a record, a tangible record of all the input it has recieved.
A well-made sword is a pleasure to look at and to use. When used correctly and cared for well, it can continue to be functional and beautiful for centuries.
by Vendigroth, and the first 2 sentences by Rocketscientist2015

Step 3: How to Tell a Good Sword From a Bad One, Or, How Not to Buy a Bad Sword

There's a lot of swords for sale on the internet, where ever there's communication, there's commerce, but how many of them actually deserve to be called Swords?
Recently, when mooching about Ebay, I've noticed seriously LOADS of swords (i only searched for Katana, i didn't look for anything else) that look like seriously cheap, nasty, DANGEROUS stuff.
So, on to the instruction-bit.
The first thing you need to look out for is price. In this matter, money is everything.
If a site (or person) is offering you a "REAL Japanese samurai sword" for $20 or something, i can guarantee, it's probably never SEEN a samurai. I can guarantee, it's not been hand made, the steel's probably stainless (no good for swords, it's too brittle)
So if someone's trying to sell you a sword you KNOW is too cheap for what it claims to be, it's almost certainly worthless.
If someone's trying to sell you an "Authentic samurai sword, captured in WW2" or similar, it's probably crap. Samurai did not fight in WW2. Japanese officers DID use swords, but they were mass-produced and through-hardened, not really a samurai's sword.
If the seller has an address in mainland china, the sword is probably of....dubious quality.
"Authentic Old Samurai Swords" roughly translates from internet-ripoff-speak to normal English as "acid-etched and buried in the ground for 2 weeks". Anything that goes out of its way to convince you of its authenticity is probably fake.
So basically, if someone's claiming the sword's authentic, chances are: it isn't.
On to more physical matters: If the sword looks wrong, like if the Hamon (the wavy line down the blade edge) is too regular, or is made of regular scratches from a buffing machine, or has been etched, the sword's no good.
If the bevels in the sword are wavy, washed-out or taper incorrectly, this is a sign that the sword's been ground in a hurry, and hasn't had any care or attention paid while it's been made.
There's a video on youtube, wherein some guy bangs a katana on the table
"they're so durable!"
*smack*
"AAAAARGH!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzV6J3SQ8Qs

He was an idiot.
(Actually, it wasn't a Katana he banged on the table. They're curved.)
Note also, the use of "probably" in this article. i really can't say for certain what's good and what's not without seeing it, and it'd be wrong to make generalisations, but 9 times out of 10, if you see a sword for sale that matches what i've said in this article, it's to be avoided.

Step 4: NEVER FEAR!

After the last step, i wouldn't blame you for thinking that there were no good swords about.
Not to Worry, there are.
Some are made in a single steel, selectively hardened and then polished to bring out the Hamon, others are forge-welded.
The one thing these swords have in common is the fact that they were made by hand, by a skilled craftsman.
These swords don't claim to be real, anyone can see that. They are real, and anyone with a tiny bit of sense can see that.

http://www.waltersorrells.com/blades/

On that site, there are pictures of real swords, made by mister Sorrells himself, and a guide to how to spot bad swords that was the inspiration for this.

Step 5: True or Fake Sword

This is another good way to tell if a sword has been hand made. If you look at the tip of the sword it should be long and well defined. But a fake sword has a machine cut tip that is shorter and not defined at all. Not all swords that have short tips are crap because the tip could be ether or. Long is good for a stab but a short tip gives you a longer cutting edge. (This allows the blade to stay in the cut longer doing a deeper cut and causing more damage.) Look at the pictures for help. The first one will show what a good sword looks like and the second of a nock off.

Comments

author
jompon2547 (author)2017-01-06

Thank you very much this is very good information

author
khauser1 (author)2011-08-22

Your commentary is insulting to those who do have actual, pre-1870's samurai sword that were captured during WW2. I personally have one that , with research, I found was made in 1865 (year of the ox on a lucky day by Sadatoshi and was passed down in the family of Lt. Suhuki (killed May 14, 1943 at the battle of Attu). So, not only is it a true samurai sword, but was captured ON American soil with provenance. Please, in the future, refrain from making blanket statements that tend to devalue high end historical pieces. Thank you.

author

For the most part the samurai swords captured in ww2 were mass produced, that is not to say that there were not authentic ones captured, but the majority were not.

author
electridanger (author)khauser12012-01-09

How did you get it? I want one...

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KentsOkay (author)khauser12011-08-30

Cool story, brah!

author
robinhood2605 (author)2011-04-02

Good tips, but just to add some things, i partially disagree with the hamon part, i know that traditional hamons are irregular because of the hardening process, but having a regular hamon doesnt mean its a crappy sword, it just means it wasn't hardened the traditional way, so it may not be what collectors or enthusiasts are looking for, but it can still be a good chioce beacause today there are newer techniques to harden steel, just look at modern japanese knives, they do not have the hamon, but are as good as if they had. However a irregular hamon can sometimes be fake, as some makers use acid to draw it, and acid is no regular. For instance, the hamon may not be the guarantee of a good sword, but can be used to determine if the seller is lying when offering a traditionally handmade sword with a regular hamon.

author
khauser1 (author)robinhood26052011-08-22

Actually, a well made sword will have a true harmon. The art of Samurai was such that if it was not true, it was passed on to training. The best samurai swords were absolutely true. Only the best were considered worthy of use by a warrior.

author
badideasrus (author)khauser12015-10-14

no.... a true hamon /just/ means that it was differentially hardened.

people really need to stop glorifying samurai and katana as the pinnacle of swordsmanship...the katana is a wonderful weapon, and excelent at what it did, but the japanese didnt have some secret trick to making their blades god-like.

differential hardening creates a steel with a soft core/back, and a hard edge. this is because steel (and nearly everything else, for that matter) becomes very brittle when it is hard. like glass... it will shatter if you make it hard enough and strike it on a solid surface. the soft core will bend instead of snapping, and steel with such treatment is springlike, and will bend back. however a soft steel cannot hold an edge for long, nor can it be made near as sharp. the differential hardening creates a compromise between the two, and draws as much of the best of both.

that's not the whole of it, and in fact a far more important piece of the puzzle is how the swordsmith would seperate his iron into low and high carbon by testing the ingots for hardness and rust, and other variables which are hard to describe. the smith just knows with practice. mild carbon steel was used for the center, and high carbon for the edge. again because of hardness and tempering qualities.

but here's the thing. it doesnt matter anymore. Modern steel and modern forges are capable of making a classic katana look like a toy in terms of edge retention, durability, and strength. even if the blade was made by stamping out a blank and sharpening it. (which is a terrible idea, but, it works...) a sword without a hamon may not be traditional, nor near as pretty, but it can certainly be as, if not more, functional. the quality of the maker is really the only way to tell...

author
badideasrus (author)badideasrus2015-10-14

(we STILL dont have an edit button?)

yeah, i know, this is a serious necro post. but if i can find it now in 2015, so can someone else.

author
DhylonS (author)2015-08-16

Hi my friends,

Really swords samurais, are the best weapons.

I watched a video very good about katana.

Dou you know how much the best sword?

Around 15.000,00 dolares!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLnaOSNEiEE

author
Subdood (author)2015-07-16

Wow... you did your research!

I love the tanto/wakizashi you made. I can't tell which one it is, because I can't tell how long it is. Tantos are about 21 inches long, and wakizashis are 31 inches, so it looks like it is a wakizashi.

Great job! Fantabulous!

author
cjs1298 (author)2013-07-21

My Grandfather found a soilders helmet and a katana off a dead soilder during the war. He gave eveything away, most likely due to it associating bad memories.

author
popscott3 (author)2010-08-03

Just buy a brokken...they are just 10 dollers!

author
weaponkid (author)popscott32012-04-12

a brokken don't you mean bokken

author

another key thing to look for would be a production stamp such as "made in China" of "made in Afghanistan" those are obvious proof that it isn't authentic.
sadly to point out though, replicas are getting better.... i saw one in a pawn shop awhile back with a plastic hilt and the crappiest acid job i've ever seen with a Marumasa blacksmith stamp.

author
TheInventor1997 (author)2010-07-23

why not use those n-force swords, they're safe and the look cool!

author

and painful! :D

author

when I wrote this, they werent sellign those yet. PLus they are expensive for the big ones.

author
DannytheGreat (author)2011-06-17

in a documentary on katana makers, the master swordmaker tried to get a regular hamon and he was pretty close

author
Turpis (author)2010-09-25

LOL @ the people who think 7ft. swords are capable of the same performance as a dueling sword such as a rapier or katana. Dood it'll be just like FF7!!!!!!!1111

author
Evidenceremoved (author)2010-04-15

And you can hold massive 6-foot swords at 11?

author

im 11 and i have a massive 7ft sword i think (eh 61/2/7ft) and its easy to lift and swing (well technicily its a stick but its big enough) but after you swing and hit something 20 times or so it hurts now think about this a 35 year old who benches eh 220 idk its been 2/3 years (at the time i benched 30 :() and has a stick twice as strong after three days in a row of fighting he swung his hardest and so did i (rember f=mxa force equals mass times acceleration) bang his stick is in two and mine in one (in that same year i took a stick/log sorta thing and cracked it in three while hitting a baseball

author

i doubt you're 11

author
hifatpeople (author)2010-08-26

lol at the ww2 part

author
N3v3rm0r3 (author)2010-05-07

i have found a nice katana while searching two years ago and it costed only 69$ (without shipping) and it was GREAT!!(altough the handle was pretty crappy). performed excellent to all test i put it. it's bad to know that this is an exception :( another thing: this sword is out of stock right now, so posting a link would be useless

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trevor3693 (author)2010-04-16

i was thinking u were making actual swords out of metal.

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trevor3693 (author)2010-04-10

omg ur parents let u make swords?!?!?!

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fluffy the craftster (author)2010-02-17

 I fence and its not really bludgeoning unless you use saber but if you want gentleman you should do foil.

author
Attamet (author)2009-11-21

 i would suggest you use a fiberglass rod as a core.
it's much thinner, and more flexible. using that i have seen some really well balanced swords. also a good idea is to make a lead weight as a pommel- it really gives a good feel to the sword.

author
liny (author)2008-01-11

a good katana which is hand made will be able to pass many tests. The first thing you should note is end polish given to the katana. (some katanas take years to get a perfect polish). A true Katana has a good weight and will cut as if it was butter. Real hand made katanas can easily cut bullets without receiving damage.

author
andrew012 (author)liny2009-10-07

It depends on what you mean by cut.  Lead is a soft metal and a katana may be able to cut it if it's not moving, but if you mean cut as in slice the bullet as it comes out of a gun? You need to watch this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY7li8Lb1eg

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Will Knot (author)liny2008-02-10

"a good katana which is hand made will be able to pass many tests." Let make note there is Americn Blacksmith who make Katanas styled after the Japanese Blade but are not true Katana's. "The first thing you should note is end polish given to the katana. (some katanas take years to get a perfect polish)." Not true on the average its 3 to 12 months. Most of wich is spent by the Master conteplating the line wich is applied and heated. A true Katana has a good weight and will cut as if it was butter. Real hand made katanas can easily cut bullets without receiving damage." This is the biggest misconception by Americans caused by Hollywood. You are Taking a soft metal (lead) and slamming it into a brittle hard metal there will be at least scratches and in most cases large part broken out of the edge if not compleate breakage of the blade.

author
PyroManiac96 (author)Will Knot2009-02-14

The "ultimate test" for a blade, in feudal Japan, was to take an actual human, either a bandit or a condemned prisoner, and give them thousands of small cuts up and down the arms, legs, and torso. If the blade went through this easy and came out sharp, it was a good blade. The last and final cut, however, was often through the mid section of the body. The legs would stay attached anywhere from 30 seconds to a full minute, because the sword would pass through so fast and easy that the entire body would not realize it and would continue working normally as if it was not cut in half, allowing the legs to stay attached for a long period of time. In a more modern demonstration, straw mats are placed upright on stakes and are cut rapidly into chunks to show off the swordsmen's ability. Another common show is to hold a piece of rice paper up, and let it drop onto the blade. the rice paper would contact the blade and would fall right through, cutting it in half.

author
rickysio (author)Will Knot2008-06-27

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypG4KQAvqWU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJZ5J7h_L1w&feature=related
Bullet split by Katana.

In the second video, you can see that the Hamon is irregular. But these two are just handguns.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TFIQ-7TxMw&feature=related
The Katana faces off a howitzer.

author
uglymike (author)rickysio2008-06-29

Actually any decent, heavy knife will cut a bullet fired at it. A popular western shooting trick is to shoot at a bowie knife pounded into a stump and hit 2 targets behind the knife with the bullet fragments. The You-tube video is cool, but not unique or original. American marksmen were doing it back in the 1800's.

author
rickysio (author)uglymike2008-06-29

I was refuting the statement that "This is the biggest misconception by Americans caused by Hollywood. You are Taking a soft metal (lead) and slamming it into a brittle hard metal there will be at least scratches and in most cases large part broken out of the edge if not compleate breakage of the blade." In the Katana versus handgun video, you can see that there was no large part, if not no part broken off.

author
liny (author)rickysio2008-07-07

First, i said i have been exagerating. I know the physics of the bullet being cut. In addition, the katanas are very strong in coparison the soft lead. The thing that surprised me was the howitzer though. I thought the howitzer would destroy the katana right away (from a previous reply). And by the way, i am not from USA (if American is meant by USA).

author
liny (author)Will Knot2008-04-09

I exagerated by ¨years being polished¨. It is true, a katana will get scratched if they get shot by a bullet but the bullet will get cut. In most cases the blade will break if it is too brittle. Even so, a good katana will be able to cut through a bullet being shot dirrectly on to it with some minimal scratches. (when i mean good is perfect katana, very rare because most are not perfect)

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warsoldier94 (author)2009-06-22

heres something easier...buy a plastic sword and cover it in black and/or red electric tape T__T

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UltraMagnus (author)2009-04-29

surely something like a "boffer" will feel completely different from a real sword, less weight, more air resistance, etc. and, for a beginner, any sword that is made from carbon steel with a full tang should be fine. it won't be the greatest fighting weapon, but it won't shatter like a stainless wall hanger, or have the blade come flying out and decapitating your neighbours dog...

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KentsOkay (author)UltraMagnus2009-04-30

The idea of a boffer is for a completely safe way of doing combat.

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lukkbox (author)2009-03-16

When swords are mentioned in mythology, legends or folklore, it is a veiled allegory to the sword of truth The tongue How do i know? i'm the beardless boy with a god given sword ... it cuts both ways

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The Jamalam (author)2008-12-22

what do you think of my sword? Its on my homepage if you want to look

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The Jamalam (author)2008-12-22

what you called a handle is called a grip in the 4th picture

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shadowg (author)2008-11-04

whos that kid flicking me off

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$ NAB $ (author)2008-11-01

From where did you get the picture in the intro?

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KentsOkay (author)$ NAB $2008-11-01

Google image search

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King Crab (author)2008-09-14

Nice title.

author
KentsOkay (author)King Crab2008-09-14

TYVM

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Bio: Holy cow, celebrating over seven years with this website. Formerly known as RocketScientist2015.
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