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Christopher Price

Touch-up Sharpening a Katana

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So I have this guy, who asked me to sharpen his swords. 1 nice Angus Trim broadsword, a Katana, and a Wak. The Wak was beat all to hell, I put it on the grinder at 400 and 800, then buffed it to shaving sharp with a nice solid edge geometry. Ought to do just fine.

 

The Katana, however, is a different story. No idea on the maker, but he says it's a 1095 blade, and I see a nice simple "hamon", more like a quench line, in a wavy pattern not too far from the edge - 1/4 to 1/2 inch up. It's slightly irregular, and non-repeating, and the fuzzy transition is right, so I'm thinking it's not a mechanical etched fake hamon, but a real transition line from hard to soft steel. Thus, I don't want to just throw it on the grinder, even at 800, for fear of screwing it up.

 

If I go for stones, somewhere north of 4000 grit, and simply polish the edge back to sharp, it should work, right? Just take a lot longer and burn more calories... but is there a better way, more efficient, yet safe to the current look of the blade? Oh, and the kissaki is just shot to hell - looks like someone did it with a clogged bastard file. Scratches aren't all that deep, but there's no reflection at all in that part of the steel, and I can see myself with gentle scratches in the rest of the blade... they look like 1000-grit stone marks to me, nice and horozonal across the entire length.

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Chris,

 

I want to confirm before I post my opinion. Are you needing to just sharpen a decently shaped edge, or re-shape and sharpen a damaged edge? Also, you seem to want to try to preserve the current state of finish of the blade and not have to completely re-polish. Is this correct. My answer pending those confirmations / explanations.

 

Thanks,

 

Shannon

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Yep, pretty much it - the sword as-is will cut you if you're not careful, but it's not skeery sharp as it would have been new, and how my customer wants it. The tip is rubbish, but that's a seperate issue right now.

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OK. Got it. Something most JSA guys, myself, and many others (I have read W. Sorrells state he does the same) is to take a FINE diamond hone and carefully caress the edge the length of the blade until it is as sharp as you want. With this method, you get a very narrow, bright silver line right at the edge down the length of the blade, but the hamon is still visible and mostly untouched. I will usually put the blade in a vice and use the small-sized hone (its approx. 1" X 4" and made by DMT) in my hand, moving my hand over the blade vs. the blade over the stone. The only real trick is to keep the angle of the hand steady, but I am confident that you will be able to do that easily. At JSA Token Kai and JSA cutting competitions, you will often see guys pull their hones out after several cuts and run it over the blade to touch it up before their next series of cuts. It is a good method of touch-up without having to do a full polish and still having an aesthetically pleasing polish / hamon.

 

Sounds like the kissaki will need to be re-worked from the foundation up. If this guy is only using this as a beater, it only matters if the kissaki will cut (and if he isn't a JSA guy, he likely isn't tip-cutting with a katana).

 

Good luck on that one. Kissaki is probably the single most difficult part to shape properly on Japanese-style blades. I have found that, with kissaki, it is often just a case of starting at the beginning to see what is really there and going up from there. The kissaki forms from proper forging and proper methods with the stones. In other words, it is hard to make a poorly shaped kissaki "correct", even with proper polishing methods. Good thing about kissaki is that you technically can polish it without foundation-polishing the entire blade. If it isn't finish-polished, you won't have to go there just to get it back into shape and sharp enough to cut.

 

Good luck! Hope that helps.

 

Shannon

 

BTW, most custom katana worth their salt aren't what most people consider "scary sharp", because they have appropriate traditional shaping. And most production katana don't have proper shaping, so the sharpness is gained at the sacrifice of a more durable edge. FWIW.

Edited by J.S. Hill

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Thanks. I have one of those hones, and will get to it this evening. Sounds straightforward enough. I was thinking of going with my 900-grit EDM stones, but those abrade and get weird shapes after a while - this will be much more constistant.

 

And the Kissaki's shape isn't the problem, it just is seriously out of whack for the condition of the rest of the blade, which isn't bad for a production beater. And I don't think this guy is in any organization, just hacks at stuff on his own. I may tape off the tip and see what I can do about it, if I have the time and inclination.

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I have a little leather case that holds a variety of ceramic rods...triangular, round, square, etc and they are all about 5 inches long or so. I always used them to dress the edges on my swords and they work exceptionally well.

 

The key is to not alter the shape of the cutting edge or establish a bevel trying to make the blade "razor sharp". I always found the diamond sharpeners to be a little coarse for me. Wish I could remember where I got the ceramic rod set...probably at The Woodcraft Shop.

 

Anyway, I recommend the white ceramic rods for edge dressing.

 

Brian

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I have a little leather case that holds a variety of ceramic rods...triangular, round, square, etc and they are all about 5 inches long or so. I always used them to dress the edges on my swords and they work exceptionally well.

 

The key is to not alter the shape of the cutting edge or establish a bevel trying to make the blade "razor sharp". I always found the diamond sharpeners to be a little coarse for me. Wish I could remember where I got the ceramic rod set...probably at The Woodcraft Shop.

 

Anyway, I recommend the white ceramic rods for edge dressing.

 

Brian

 

Excellent point, and I've used them before - just don't have any at the moment.

 

In this case, there are a couple small but distinct flat spots from heavy (and imho careless) use. Some abrasion is unavoidable here, but at least I'm not going for the grinder.

 

I do appreciate all the suggestions.

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