Katana Letter Opener




Awesome Gear I've designed myself.
I made this half scale Katana from steel, brass, paracord, and wood. I worked on it through out the course of two weeks with a cost of about $12 dollars. It's a Christmas gift for my son. I'm sure one day he'll use it to strike fear in his bills but for now it will be a cool display on his bookshelf. The blade is about 11" long. Overall length is 16".

It was the most fun I've had creating something. I'm the guy who has to read every plaque at every historical site. Throughout this build, while referencing several pictures and videos, I got to read something interesting about nearly every part of a Katana. It was also fun to pull metal working, wood working, and knot tying all into one project.  

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Step 1: Project Planning

How big is a Katana anyway? Apparently it varies by the height of the samurai. I knew I was going to use 1/2" flat bar so there was one dimension. With the help of ratios I figured out how long the blade should be if it's 1/2" wide. 

From there I got together some other materials. I wasn't sure what all I would end up using but I had this to start. 

Step 2: Setting the Curve

Again, using ratios from measurements off of photos, I figured how much of a curve the blade should have. I started by over-bending in a curve. Then, I progressively closed the jaws of my vise as I feed the bar through. When the bar hit a spot where it would not freely move through, I slightly straighten the curve. I did this until the curve matched a measurement I drew on a plank of wood.  

Step 3: Cutting the Blade Length

After settling on a length of 16" I used a chisel to part the bar. I then rough sketched the tip of the blade and parted that off too. 

Step 4: Cutting the Groove

I placed a ball diamond bit in my lathe and ran it up and down the blade. To refine the groove I rolled up sand paper and sanded it out.  

Step 5: Shaping the Blade

A flap wheel was a huge help in shaping the blade. I used that and files to create the edge. I realize now I didn't take photos of the back of the blade but this is where I would have sanded out the marks left by the vise. I purposely left the marks in. The back of the blade is used for guarding and would be scarred up from battle. I thought it added character. 

Step 6: Fitting the Handle

To mark where I needed to route out the handle I pressed the bar into the wood using the vise. I then used a fluting bit to route out the wood until the bar fit. I used a scroll saw to remove the excess wood. Now is also when I drilled a hole for the holding pin. 

Step 7: Shaping the Handle

To further refine the handle I used a block plane and sand paper. For the holding pin, I straitened out some wire by twisting it in a vise and cut it to size. 

Step 8: Upper Guard

To start the upper guard I wrapped a strip of brass around the blade and cut it short. I soldered it on and filed it flush. Since the brass was so much thinner than the blade I made sure to put more heat on the blade while soldering. 

Step 9: Lower Guard

The lower part of the guard is made from a section of electrical conduit. I cut a piece open and hammered it flat. I spun it round on my lathe and cut a hole in it to fit the blade. 

Step 10: Adding to the Guard

To make the appearance more believable I had to thicken the guard. My solution was to hammer a piece of wire flat and solder it around the edge. Once in place I removed the excess solder with a diamond bit. 

Step 11: Creating the Sheath

This part is nearly the same method as the handle. You get the idea through the pictures. The only add on is the knob that protrudes from the side. 

Step 12: Adding Detail

Sting ray skin is what is supposed to go along the handle but I was fresh out. I modified a nail set to stamp out circles in the wood. Afterwards it got a coat of black paint. 

Step 13: Wrapping the Handle

Another good use for paracord. To help out with this step I first wrapped gutted paracord over a pipe and let it set overnight. When I unwound it was nice and flat. I then wrapped X's back and forth down the handle. This is not the traditional wrap but it still works well. To hold it in place I used supper glue. 

Around this point I cut a hole in the guard and used gun bluing to blacken the metal.

Step 14: Tying the Sheath

I was lucky enough to find a video on the internet on how to do this. Here are some pictures while I was doing it. 

Step 15: The Stand

This was the easy part. I found a silhouette on the internet and traced it onto wood. I cut it out, glued it together, and put some wood oil on it. 

Step 16: Finishing Touches

To polish the blade I used sand paper and a buffing wheel. I had to wrap up my drill press to protect the blade when I slipped off. Lastly I used my rotary tool and polishing compound. 

Thanks for reading. 

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    26 Discussions


    "I'm sure one day he'll use it to strike fear in his bills but for now it will be a cool display on his bookshelf." Well said my friend. Great project and by far the coolest letter opener I have seen Lol.

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great project and write up! I always backed out of making swords because the steps would be too time consuming and the material and process costs would be high but this is a nice way to get into it in miniature and just learn the major steps and components.. A+


    5 years ago on Introduction

    As I said before :" Your Kung Fu is waaaay better than mine . Ready in my to do List.Thnks for share.


    5 years ago

    I agree. Dad of the year...


    5 years ago

    Very nice, but I guess you didn't fancy forging one the traditional way. It would take forever:-)


    5 years ago

    Amazing, Your son is going to be ecstatic over this piece of Genuine Artistic Creation. What a replica! Can hardly tell the difference between a Picture of a Real Katana and this ... Actually what you have made here is a mimiture Katana ... it is so good and your skill level is extreamly high I consider this to be the real deal! Good Job!

    1 reply

    5 years ago

    Amazing! Your son will treasure it!