Tips and Fixes

These practical solutions to common problems have come from swordsmiths and students. If you have a helpful tip please email us and contribute to the list.

Cleaning Blades:
•Many types of polar fleece work well to clean off the residue left when cutting tatami.

•A rag that is coated with Breakfree-CLP® also works very well to clean cutting residue.

•Wiping your blade down with a piece of cloth immediately after cutting will make cleaning at the end of the session much easier.


Safe Polishes:
These metal polishes are highly regarded and regularly recommended for use on a Japanese Sword for cleaning and cutting residue removal. The first two are "non-abrasive", the last three should be used gently.

In order of preference: Noxon, NevRdull, Pikal, Flitz, Semichrome


Make Your own Sword Oil:
Choji and Camelia oil are the most commonly used oils to protect Japanese Swords from the dreaded "RUST". A much less expensive, and equally effective, alternative is Mineral Oil. You can find it in the "Health Care Products" section of Pharmacies, Drug Stores, and Markets. If you like the traditional smell of Choji Oil then stop off at the market and get a small bottle of "Oil of Clove" and put several drops in the Mineral Oil.


Cleaning the Handle Wrap (Courtesy of Paul Smith):
Take some woolite in a dish and a soft toothbrush. Wet the toothbrush and touch it to the woolite. Gently scrub the ito until it's clean. You'll have to get more water on the toothbrush and more woolite periodically. Once you are done scrubbing, take a wet cloth and wipe down the ito several times, then take a dry cloth and wrap around the handle and squeeze it to get excess moisture out of the ito. Let dry for at least 24 hours before using. Don't scrub too hard because that will roughen the silk. You do want to work quickly, but as long as the water doesn't sit on the tsuka for hours, it won't hurt anything. Do not get any water down inside the tsuka. It is obviously much easier to do this with the tsuka off of the nakago if you can remove it.


Loose Fuchi:
If your fuchi is loose then the tsuka is taking more strain than intended and you should have it looked at ASAP to make sure the tsuka is still safe. A good temporary fix is to glue a thin wood shaving around the tsuka and file down the patch until the Fuchi pushes on tightly. If you do not have a wood plane to make the wood shaving then a strong non-stretching tape will work.


Loose Tsuba:
If your tsuba is loose then your habaki, tsuka, etc. are all taking more strain than intended. Sometimes this is caused by wood shrinkage due to seasonal changes in the weather. You can correct this problem by buying additional thin seppa to fill the gap, or making temporary seppa out of any non-compressible material. If you do not want to try making metal seppa you can try the plastic that is used for food containers and their lids. Be careful that your seppa are not too thick by checking to see that the peg holes in the tsuka and nakago line up when the new seppa are in place. Do not use leather or layers of paper, these materials may stop the rattling noise but they will not help to transfer the stresses generated into the tsuka as intended because they are compressible.


Loose Tsuka-ito:
You can extend the life of your handle wrap by impregnating it with glue. This is a fairly effective technique that does not seriously "uglify" the tsuka. Do not wait until the ito is completely frayed or just hanging in there by a few threads. This fix works best on a handle wrap that is loose but mostly intact. Use a good quality carpenter's (yellow) glue and use your finger to carefully work the glue into the ito until it is saturated. You may need to do multiple applications but make sure to let each layer dry overnight. Being extra careful during the application will give you a superior looking tsuka that will not look much different. The tsuka may feel "sticky" the first few times you use it and some excess dried glue may come off on your hands. This is only temporary and goes away qickly.


If your sageo is too stiff try throwing it in the wash. We have had excellent luck softening up sageo by putting them in a small net garment bag and tossing them in with the cold-water wash of a similar color. After washing put the sageo in the dryer on the Air Dry setting until it is mostly dry, then take it out and let it dry completely.

How many times can you say, "It won't go through the *@#! kurigata!"? Get a business card, or a similarly stiff piece of paper about the same size, and cut a strip lengthwise. The strip should be narrow enough to fit through the kurigata or shitodome. Now fold the strip in half and push the folded end part-way through the kurigata or shitodome. Dampen the end of the Sageo and place it between the two free ends of your folded strip, tuck in any loose threads that you can. Now pull the folded end of the strip as you push on the Sageo from the other side. Don't pull on the strip any harder than you push on the Sageo or you will have to start over. If it becomes difficult try wiggling the sageo/strip side-to-side as you push/pull.


Saya Splitting:
A saya will frequently wear thin at the edge side of the Koiguchi after years of drawing. This is a very dangerous situation because you can cut your hand severely if the saya splits open during a poor draw. A safe and traditional fix is to wrap something around the first few inches of the saya to reinforce it. Ray skin, leather, cane, even cloth and string were used to do this. Pick the material you wish and use a good carpenter's (yellow) glue to secure it tightly to the saya. This is a fairly permanent fix and the material that is glued down will have to be filed or cut away to be removed. This fix is not a solution to bad drawing technique and is only intended to extend the life of your saya for a short time or give you a bit of added safety.


Tatami Omote:
Store your tatami in a cool, dry, area, out of the direct sunlight.

•Do not store the cardboard box directly on a dirt or concrete floor.

If you are making targets out of used tatami make sure to carefully check for staples along the edges.

Heavy Duty rubber bands and thin cable ties work well for making targets instead of using string or twine. If you use the small cable ties be sure they are 100% plastic, some makers use a small strip of metal.

When soaking targets do not use gritty objects, such as decorative blocks or garden rocks, to hold the mats underwater. Anything that you use should be thuroughly washed or placed in a plastic bag to keep damaging grit from falling onto the targets as they soak.

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