The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

Category: Swords

The Complete History of the Katana: The Traditional Samurai Sword

Have you ever wondered about the history of the Katana? Have you wanted to know where it came from and who wielded it first?

If so, you’re in the right place! 

We have compiled a complete history of the infamous Katana blade so you can know everything about this legendary sword.

To find out the complete history of the Katana, keep reading below and learn what you came here to learn. 

What is the Katana Sword and Who Used it?

The Katana is a Japenese sword that is characterized by its curved, single-edged blade. It has a circular or squared guard and a long grip so it can be held by two hands.

This sword is usually known as a samurai sword since it was the blade samurais preferred to wield. With this said, it is easily the world’s most popular and most recognized sword. 

The word Katana refers to the family of swords to which it belongs. This sword family is known to have a blade length of more than 2 shaku or Japenese feet which is about 60 cm. 

The Kamakura Period – When the Katana is First Mentioned

The first mentioning of the Katana was during Japan’s Kamakura Period which was between 1185 to 1333. During this time the word was used to describe a long sword that had similar characteristics to the Tachi but without the nuances. 

The Katana differed from the Tachi because it had a longer and more curved blade. The biggest positive to the Katana, when compared to the Tachi, was that it had more strength and power than its sister.

When the Mongols Invade – the Need For a New Blade

Most historians believe that Japanese swordsmiths created the Katana due to providing a better need for weapons to use against the invaders. During the span of 1274 to 1281 the armies led by Kublai Khan wanted to conquer Japan, the samurais noticed that their Tachi blades would chip when they came in contact with the Mongol armor.

Due to this, the Japanese swordsmiths worked to engineer a blade that was sturdier than the Tachi. This led to the creation of the Katana.

The Birth of a Blade to Protect a Country

Through the Muromachi period (which spaned 1337 to 1573) the swordsmiths worked to perfect the Katana. They did so by using a different heat treatment to help create a flexible spine and a strong edge. 

This heat would also help to create higher carbon iron. After many trials, the end result would be a blade-like no other, and one that would rise above all others.

In the year 1400, the Japanese swordsmiths began adding a name to the blade, the name of “Katana.” It’s believed that this name was given in response to the change within Samuari culture. 

Until this moment in time samurai warriors had worn their blades with the cutting edge facing down towards the ground. The Katana was the first sword worn with the blade facing up. 

The Birth of the Modern Katana After Samauris Were Abolished 

During the Meiji period from 1868 to 1912, the samurai class was dissolved. This means that no one held the samurai title anymore and the benefits and privileges granted to them were taken away, this even included the benefit of carrying swords in the public eye.

At this point in time, the only people allowed to carry swords in public were former samurai lords, the military, and the police. This limitation made life hard for the swordsmiths and they had to resort to creating items such as farming equipment to make a living.

This slump wasn’t long-lived. During the Meiji period war between Japan and Russia invoked the production of swords again. Then during World War II, all officers were required to wear a sword, which meant business was booming yet again for the swordsmiths.

Since swords had to be crafted fast to meed the military demand, some corners were cut. The Katanas produced were not made out of Japanese steel, power hammers were used, quenching in oil instead of water.

This meant that the swords weren’t handmade and the quality was lower than that of the Katanas made in previous time periods. These cheaper and faster methods brought the birth of the modern Katana, which most Katanas made today are made with these steps unless otherwise stated. 

The Katana Blade Today

Fast forward to today and the Katana is still popular. Even though the production of the sword has slowed down, especially after World War II. After the war Japan agreed to stop the production of weapons, this included swords which led to fewer Katanas.

There is a Katana revival happening in today’s world. Now there are companies around the world, and even in Japan, that is producing the sword to keep up with the current demand. 

Now You Know the History of the Katana Sword

If you’re a Katana enthusiast or if you’re someone who is interested in the vast history of the blade you now have completed the crash course. We informed you of the Katana history through the different periods of Japan up to today.

You know that samurais were the first to wield the legendary Katana and why the Katana blade had to be created to help better defend themselves against the Mongols. 

You’re even aware of the history of the Katana after samurais’ lost their privileges and benefits. The slump in Katana production wasn’t long-lived and went back up during World War II. For more information on blades be sure to check out the rest of our website here

Woman pulls out sword to settle argument at Pizza Hut

Mug Shot of Woman Who Brandished Sword at Pizza HutOne of my fondest memories of my youth was eating at Pizza Hut after little league baseball games; I’m just glad I never played baseball in Louisville, Kentucky.

A Louisville woman is facing disorderly conduct charges after she pulled out a sword to settle an argument–likely over an inadequate slice to pepperoni ration–at a Local Pizza hut.

According to the cops, Wynika Mason removed her sword from its sheath in the midst of a verbal dispute with employees, menacing them with its large, glimmering blade.

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"Lord of the Rings" replica swords stolen from man’s house, along with AK-47

Gandolf Lord of the Rings SwordDon’t leave your swords home alone.

Four “Lord of the Rings” replica swords, along with a bunch of other move memorabilia, were jacked from a Chicago-area man’s house. In addition to the swords, thieves stole a Spartan helmet from the movie “Troy” and memorabilia from the movie “Alien.”  An AK-47, sniper rifle, $18,000 in watches, and a few grand in cash was also taken.

The thieves used a saw to crack open the safe and apparently broke in through the back door. If you have valuable swords or other knives in your house a safe is really the best way to secure them, but sometimes thieves can be so tenacious that they’ll snag you valuables any way.  If you’re going to head out of town, consider leaving your valuable knives with a friend.

A Brief Guide to Swords

We’re writing about swords all week in conjunction with our first Cutting Edge product give-away. Comment on this post or any other between today and midnight on Sunday and you’ll be entered to win a 54-inch Scottish Highlands Claymore sword.

If you are one of the first ten people to comment on any individual post, you’ll get DOUBLE ENTRIES.

Throughout the world, millions of different types of swords have been forged for a number of purposes, including battle and ceremonial garb. Amazingly, when swords are forged by hand, they are unique in many ways.  To build on our theme of swords, I’ve decided to create a brief guide of swords. Even though there are hundreds of types of swords, I’ve separated the swords by region.

Asian Swords

Chinese Saber Sword There are two main categories of Chinese swords: the dao sword and the jian sword. The Chinese dao swords (pictured right) first appeared during China’s Bronze Age and have several distinct characteristic. They usually have a slightly curved single-edged blade with a handle that curves in the opposite direction to give maximum control. They were ideal for thrusting and slicing during battle. The second important Chinese sword is the jian sword. Unlike the dao, which is known as the “General of All Weapons,” the jian is known as the “Gentleman of All Weapons” because it is a very simple double-edged sword.

The other type of major Asian sword is the Japanese nihonto. The type of sword that falls under this category is the well-known katana, which samurai warriors used to carry in the 15th century. The common trait of nihonto swords is their long, single-edged blade. It was fairly standard-sized compared to the range of the other Japanese swords and had a long handle, so it could be held with two hands. If you’re really interested in Japanese swords, I recommend looking into the other types, which include odachi, tachi, nodachi, tsurugi and wakizashi.

European Swords

There are a ton of sword-types from Europe, so I’m not going to go into full detail since several scholars have already spent their time carefully categorizing each type. Instead, I’m just going to focus on a few types that are interesting and pretty common. The first type is the longsword, which was used during Medieval times and featured a massive double-edged blade. Some of the common longswords had to be carried with two hands to ensure usability and is the type of sword you’d see in The Lord of the Rings.

The next major type is the rapier. The design of the rapier, a long narrow blade with a sharp point, makes it perfect for thrusting. In fact, most blades are not sharp except at the end of the blade. Another important element of the rapier is its intricate hilt design that protects the hands during battle. From the rapier, you also get the smallsword and the epee, which are mainly used as fencing weapons and decorative garb.

Another predominantly European type of sword is the backsword. The swords that fall under this category include claymores, cutlasses and basket-hilted swords. The feature of these swords is single-edged blades with a thick back to help support it. Like the rapier, these swords also have complex hilts, because they were often used by European cavalry, specifically Scottish clans.

African Swords

You’re probably least familiar with African swords simply because there aren’t very many. According to Wikipedia, there are only nine recognized swords and none fall under major categories. One of the most interesting types of African swords is the khopesh, which came from Egypt. If you’ve ever seen “The Mummy,” the soldiers carry these swords that resemble sickles. The swords have a unique design with a somewhat circular blade that was used more for disarming opponents than slicing them.

Another sword called the ida is used by the Yoruba people of West Africa. It’s distinctive because its blade goes from being narrow at the handle to thicker by the tip. Legend also said that the Yoruba people added peppers or poison to the blades in order to make the slice more painful and deadlier. In general, the ida is extremely keen making it perfect for multiple purposes, such as hunting, battling and quotidian cutting.

American Swords

Similar to Africa, there aren’t very many prominent or recognizably American swords. The main reason is by the time the Americas were colonized, modern weaponry was already advanced. However, there are still a few notable swords from the region. The only recognized sword from America, according to Wikipedia, is the macuahuitl. This sword was used by Aztecs and made from volcanic glass and obsidian (in the mode of flintknapping). Although the macuahuitl was more like a wooden club with sharp fragments sticking out of the sides, some say it was sharp enough to decapitate a man.

The other American swords are mainly collectibles made from existing styles, typically European styles. For example, US Civil War swords are essentially the smallsword types I wrote about earlier. Other swords made for the United States are mainly designed for military ceremonies.

Tell us what sword category you like most by commenting below and you’ll be entered to win a 51-inch William Wallace sword. Good luck!

Top 10 Badass Movie Sword Fights (#10)

This post is the second about swords in conjunction with our first Cutting Edge product give-away.  Place a comment responding to this post or any other between today and midnight on Sunday and you’ll be entered to win a 51-inch William Wallace replica sword .

Every day, at 10 a.m and 10 p.m. central time, we’ll be counting down the top ten badass movie sword fights of all time.  If you are one of the first ten people to comment on any individual post, you’ll get DOUBLE ENTRIES.

10. BladeBlade Vs. Deacon Frost

With a name like Blade, you’d have to imagine there are some great sword fights in the movie. This is a great scene from the final moments of the first film when the two vampires (including a super vampire) are fighting to the death. Check it out.

Link Between Samurai Swords and Japanese Nuclear Plants

Japanese Power plantAccording to an article published today at, the walls of the imperiled Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant are made by a steel company that  still forges samurai swords by hand.

Japan Works, a major steel company with over 5,000 employees, constructed the containers in a tedious process that utilizes a 14,000-ton press to shape a special steel alloy

The company has built almost all of the containers used in Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants, yet despite it’s high-profile nuclear manufacturing, it reportedly still has a sweet spot for making high-quality samurai swords.

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