The katana is one of the most fascinating swords in history. It is an elegant weapon with a rich Bushido heritage, and it has risen to iconic status in modern culture. From Beatrix Kiddo cutting through Crazy 88 in Kill Bill Vol 1 to Samurai Shinzaemon slicing the undead away in 13 Assassins to Deadpool turning goons into shish kebabs, the katana has become a symbol of power and elegance. But how does this unique blade work, exactly? And what makes it so effective as a fighting tool and as an art piece?
The blade of a katana is made of a high-quality steel known as Tamahagane. To create it, the swordsmith heated iron sand and charcoal in a clay furnace to generate crude steel. The smith then hammered and folded the crude metal repeatedly, which created a layered structure. This process also gave the blade its famous curve. Once the smith reached the right temperature, he or she quenched the blade in a stream of water to cool it quickly. This process gave the blade its durability and sturdiness.
To further improve the quality of a katana, a professional sword polisher would rub it with a special stone to create a mirror-like finish. This was not just for aesthetics but to make the blade unbreakable in duels. It was also done to prevent a blade from becoming dull by abrasion during use. The katana was even used as a mercy tool in a Japanese ritual suicide called seppuku, in which the samurai would behead himself or herself after bringing shame upon themselves. The keywords I will use are