Japanese Samurai Sword (Katana) – Proper Disassembly and Reassembly

Handmade Katanas (Japanese samurai swords) are becoming very popular for martial arts enthusiasts and collectors alike. They have value for collectors from an investment standpoint as well value for martial arts students as a training tool. Many handmade swords are also displayed in homes and businesses as decoration. Regardless of the reason you purchased a handmade sword one fact remains the same: if you want your sword to last you need to perform the proper maintenance to prevent rust and oxidation. This article will cover the proper way to disassemble and reassemble your Katana for cleaning and maintenance.

It is important to note that most handmade swords or any sword with a hand forged blade is most likely very sharp. Make sure that the blade edge is never in a position where it could cause injury to you or anyone else. If you need to handle the blade use extreme caution and protective gloves at all times.

Disassembly of the Sword:

Use the mekugi-nuki (brass hammer) to remove the mekugi (pegs) from the handle. The mekugi are traditionally made from bamboo and are tapered to one end. Make sure you examine the pegs to determine which end is tapered and remove accordingly. You want to push the peg from the tapered (smallest) side out through the larger end. You may need to use a rubber mallet or hammer to tap out the pegs.

Once you have removed both of the pegs, firmly grasp the handle with your left hand and hold the sword in an upright position with the blade facing up and the sharp edge away from your body. Next use your right hand to hit downward on your left wrist lightly to loosen the hilt. Be cautious not to hit your wrist too hard as there is a chance that a blade with a short tang could bounce out of the hilt completely and cause injury to you or damage to the blade.

You may need to utilize a rubber mallet and tap lightly on the tsuba (guard) if the handle is tight or appears to be seized to the tang. Be sure to wrap the tsuba with a soft cloth or towel to protect it from damage.

Once the blade is removed from the handle you can also remove the tsuba (guard) and the seppa (spacers). You are now ready to clean your sword.

Once your Katana has been properly cleaned and oiled you can reassemble the sword by following the steps below.

Re-Assembly of the Sword:

With the bare blade in a horizontal position in your left hand or on a table, carefully slide the habaki (blade collar) onto the tang until it fits tightly against the mune-machi and ha-machi notches.

Next, slide the first seppa (washer), then the tsuba (guard), then the second seppa (washer), and finally the tsuka (handle) back onto the tang.

Grasp the handle with your left hand and hold the sword upright making sure the sharp edge is facing away from your body. Tap the end of the handle in an upward motion with your right palm until it fits firmly together. You may need to use a rubber mallet to achieve a tight fit but be sure to wrap the handle with a cloth to prevent damage to the kashira (buttcap).

Finally, insert the two mekugi (pegs) into the handle to secure the tsuka to the blade. It is important to note that the pegs are typically made of bamboo and can wear easily, therefore, to ensure a safe and secure fit it is recommended to install new pegs rather than reusing the old ones.

Now that you know the proper way to disassemble and reassemble your handmade samurai sword please look at our other articles on Samurai Sword Terminology and Proper Sword Care and Maintenance.