Wooden katana swords, also called bokkens, are a type of practice sword used in many Japanese martial arts, from Aiaido to Aikido and Kendo. Although wooden katana blades are primarily for training, they are in themselves formidable weapons. The blades are considered as an extension of the practitioner’s self, which is why many martial artists like to make their own. The process is quite time-consuming, but the energy put in will reflect in the end result.
Things You'll Need
- 2-by-2 hardwood lumber, 42 inches long
- Band saw or scroll saw
- Wood plane
- Wood file
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Tung or boiled linseed oil
Place a bokken along the lumber and trace the profile of the blade and handle onto the lumber. Use a band saw or scroll saw to cut out the shape from the lumber.
Clamp the handle end of the sword plank into a table clamp, with the spine of the sword facing up.
Plane the sides of the blade, leaving about one-quarter inch flat along the top of the spine, so that the sides graduate from the one-quarter inch spine and bulge to about 1-inch thick once they reach about a third of the way down the side. The sides of the blade should then taper to about a one-eighth inch by the time they come to the cutting edge, which is directly underneath the spine on the underside of the katana blade.
Plane the tip of the blade so that on the cutting edge of the blade around 1 inch from the tip the line of the blade inclines upward at about 30 degrees to meet the tip at a point. The tip should be the same thickness as the cutting edge of the blade, around one-eighth inch
File the blade smooth with a wood file once happy with the shape. Use your example bokken or pictures of bokkens as necessary when fine-tuning the shape. Unclamp the katana and the clamp the blade so the handle is free to work on.
Plane the handle -- which should be about 10 inches long -- into an oval shape. The oval diameter should be roughly 2 inches long, and 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide at the mid-point.
Leave the butt of the handle blunt, but use a chisel to cut a very fine cut around the circumference of the sword, where the handle meets the blade. In a real katana, this line is where the hand guard, or tsuba is placed.
Sand the bokken meticulously with fine-grit sandpaper before rubbing it down with either boiled linseed oil or tung oil. Use rags to wipe off extra oil.
Tips & Warnings
- Katana styles differ between martial arts. Ask your instructor or Sensei to provide you with a suitable example bokken. That way your wooden katana will be made in the proper style according to your form of martial arts.
- Examine your lumber closely before purchasing. Popular wood types, suitable because of its lightness, crush resistance and durability include white oak, maple and hickory. The grain should be close, and run more or less straight along the length of the lumber, with no knots. The curve of the katana blade should follow any curve in the grain, and the weakest end of the lumber piece should be used for the handle.
- Don’t varnish a wooden katana, as this will create a slippery, non-absorbent surface which you will have trouble gripping.
- Wooden katana are not toys. They are serious martial arts equipment that can inflict damage. Only use under supervision of professional instructors.
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