The Katana is well-known for its use with Samurai, and its shorter cousin, the wakizashi and it's even shorter cousin, the tanto. Ninja also use it quite often as well. It is about the length of a Western longsword, but only sharp on one side. Katanas are made by folding iron (or steel) over and over again, making a very strong sword able to withstand much punishment.
Katanas are infamously known to be able to cut through anything due to the amazing razor sharpness of its blade. In legends and myths, these blades could cut through stone, tree trunks, anything in one slash. In real life, while not quite as great, are still very dangerous weapons, and can seriously harm the user if they are not careful or inexperienced.
When sheathing the sword, the blood on the sword is wrung out by a quick slash to the side before being guided back into the scabbard. When using this weapon, left handed users are taught to be right handed. There are no exceptions. Traditional etiquette suggests that placing the katana on the left side of the body, the side you could draw your sword on suggested that you were ready to fight.
- A Katana is actually a Bi-metallic blade. Its edge is made with a hard steel, so as to stay sharp, and its core is a softer iron, to give it flexibility.
- Traditional Katana are produced using a special steel called Tamahagane. Tamahagane takes three days to produce in a special furnace known as a tatara.
- In ancient Japan, Katana were tested using criminals and prisoners of war. Depending on the crime, the prisoner could be sentenced to lose an arm, a leg or to be executed using the new blade.
- A well made Katana would be capable of slicing clean through a human body in a single strike. If a sword could cut through a single person it was referred to as a "One Body Blade". However there are Katana in existence that are marked as two and even three body blades.
- In 16th century Japan there were 5 sword-smithing schools that taught the skills to make a Katana. Those 5 schools still exist today.
- The Katana's iconic shape is a result of the hardening process. Before hardening, the sword maker coats the blade in a layer of clay and charcoal powder. This clay layer is known as the Hamon. A thin layer on the cutting edge and a thick layer on the back edge. The sword is heated to red hot ( the sword-smith determines the temperature by the color of the metal) and then quenched in water. The area covered in a thin layer of clay cools rapidly followed by the thicker covered layer. The slower cooling back edge then pulls the Katana into its famous curved shape.
- Using traditional methods, it takes 6 months to produce a single Katana, three months to forge and roughly polish the sword and a further three months for the sword to be finely polished by a master polisher. After the fine polishing the sword it then returned to the sword-smith to be finished with its handle and scabbard.
- Through repeated folding and hammering, the carbon content of the steel is driven down. As a result the final sword weighs roughly 50% less than the raw materials used to make it.