The world is made of steel. We live in a world of hardened metal. Cars are constructed out of steel. We work in steel buildings, ride steel elevators, hide our valuables behind a steel roll up door, or in a steel safe. Our armies use steel weapons and ammunition. Tanks, ships, and planes all have steel components. We cook with steel pots and steel knives. Steel and its uses have helped make us a civilization. There are many great traditions in the manufacturing of steel. One ancient art is the art of the Samurai sword.
The ancient art of making the infamous slightly curved sword is ancient and a beloved craft for many of the practitioners. The Samurai sword was a warrior’s signature. A warrior treated his sword like a lover, taking great care, keeping it safe and depending on it in times of crisis. A warrior didn’t take a samurai sword lightly. He would find a Master Alloy Supplier and hope the craftsman would honor him with his finest sword.
The sword needed to be many things. It needed to be light and strong, sharp and durable. It need to be balanced and move through the air with the grace of a lethal dancer. The craftsman would know that he needed to combine several types of alloys to create the perfect mix. He would fold the light steel over the heavier steel to give it strength and the finest edge. Using to much of one could make the sword brittle and prone to fracture in battle. Using to much of the other could make the sword heavy and dull.
The steel would be folded over many times, a number each craftsman would determine as part of their style. The sword would be heated, cooled and finessed into the sharp weapon of legend. The fine curve of the blade was created has the different alloys cooled, contracting and bending the sword. The fine ridge down the blade was like the signature of the craftsman. A connoisseur of ancient weapons would be able to tell the artist by the bend and ridge of the blade.
Legends abound about warriors and their blades. Like stories from the west, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Bonnie and Clyde, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, many of the legends of the east had pairs with names. One name would be for the warrior, the other for his sword. These swords were often like Stradivarius violins, cherished and passed down from generation to generation to those shown worthy of the instrument. Make no mistake, these swords were instruments that could sing through the air and slice through flesh and bone like a razor through butter.
The art and craft of making a samurai sword from steel is a national treasure of Japan. The best are considered artists and are sought out for their work. To ask a craftsman of such skill to make a sword is like asking Picasso to paint your portrait. It can be done, but only with the proper respect, honor and compensation.