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Thread: Sword Maintenance

  1. #1
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    Question Sword Maintenance

    Hey everyone, I have a question on ideas for improvised sword care. I have a Last Legends Tsunami 5K folded katana that I've owned for eight years now. I've been using some improvised sword maintenance techniques suggested to me years ago, using denatured alcohol to clean the blade and light mineral oil for oiling. Does anyone have any other ideas that have worked for you? I was thinking about the polish used for polishing silver. Has anyone ever tried that and how did it work out? A few years ago I was doing some "pumpkin-shigiri" after halloween. I practiced cuts and had friends throw large pieces in the air and I'd cut them as they passed by. One pumkin I cut open had molded inside, the outside looked fine though. The mold stained the blade and I wasn't able to get it cleaned. I know I need to have it professionally polished, but I can't afford it right now with the way things are. I'd like to polish it because that keeps it from staining more and helps it cut better. Any ideas for cleaning, oiling, polishing, and stain removal? Thanks!

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    I guess the best thing is that you weren't using a Nihonto for your "test cutting."

    The basic idea behind sword polishing is to keep the surface as pristine as possible - in your case, as good as it was when you got it - while removing as LITTLE of the metal as possible. Assuming your sword isn't stainless steel, it has a hard outer layer for cutting with a much softer inner layer for flexibility. The outer layer thus protects the soft inside metal, & should be maintained in the best shape.

    Using solvents like alcohol won't cause erosion problems because there is no abrasive involved - just be sure to re-oil the blade when it has evaporated. But using any abrasive-based polishing material, which includes silver polish, starts the process of metal removal. You should also note that cutting most plants also causes wear & abrasion, as they usually contain silicon.

    So feel free to use any polish that you prefer, Yorukage, but just be aware of what you're doing long-term.
    Ken Goldstein
    --------------------------------
    Judo Kodansha/MJER Iaido Kodansha/Jodo Oku-iri
    Fencing Master/NRA Instructor

    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

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    No, my blade isn't stainless steel, it's a two metal bladed, folded and differentialy hardened. Thanks for the feedback. I've read that Michael Bell uses baking soda in water when he polishes a blade because the baking soda inhibits rust, is that true?

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    Steel is steel, whether in a sword or in a car.

    It doesn't like: acid, salt, oxygen.

    Baking soda is slightly basic, it will increase the pH of the water used in the polishing process, so will washing soda.

    Your skin oils contain acids and salt, so do plants.

    The uchiko powder you use to help clean your sword is an abrasive, it is the leftover fines from the stones you use to polish the blade, seive them and put them in a silk bag to further seive them, they abrade the blade to help keep surface rust down. An abrasive will help with getting stains off the surface of a sword like polishes do for your copper pots and whatnot.

    Oil will seal out moisture and oxygen... and it will also seal in skin oils containing salts and acids... hence the wiping off of old oil and abrasive polish to try to get them removed before putting on the fresh oil.

    So if your polish is slightly abrasive that's fine, if it's an acidic abrasive that's not a good idea.

    If the smith who made the uchiko out of his "droppings" used washing powder in his water, the uchiko may well be a good buffer for any acids as well as being an abrasive... always meant to check that out.

    Kim.

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    Just as a follow up. I decided to try to use some silver polish paste to try and remove the staining on my sword. I tried it out on a not as nice Hanwei wakizashi first, just to make sure it wouldn't hurt a high carbon steel blade. I tried it on my katana and it completely removed the stains and the blade looks very nice.

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    Shane, just remember that the use of an abrasive does open up the grain of your blade, so be sure to wipe down & oil it afterwards.
    Ken Goldstein
    --------------------------------
    Judo Kodansha/MJER Iaido Kodansha/Jodo Oku-iri
    Fencing Master/NRA Instructor

    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

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    I did, thank you for checking. I cleaned it twice with denatured alcohol and applied oil. Also, I found that article I mentioned featuring Michael Bell's sword crafting and he uses washing soda, not baking soda, my mistake.

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    What are some methods some of you use to oil your sword? For the past year, I have oiled my katana by dripping oil along the length of the blade, then using a small piece of rice paper (or a kimwipe) to distribute the oil along the surface and inside the groove. I repeat on other side, as well as on the back.

    While this method works fine, I feel as though the oil is sometimes not evenly distributed. While not genuinely problematic, it got me curious: are there other methods/tools which makes the process "neater?"

    Thanks in advance.
    Jeremy Hargrove

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    Quote Originally Posted by Unjust Jester View Post
    What are some methods some of you use to oil your sword? ...are there other methods/tools which makes the process "neater?"
    I was taught to keep a small square of cloth in a small jar or box along with the rest of my cleaning kit. Put enough oil on the cloth to evenly wet it, and then wipe the blade with it. Reapply a few drops of oil from time to time, and keep the cloth in the jar so it doesn't get oil on other things or other things on it.
    Last edited by Brian Owens; 1st December 2013 at 08:28.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Quote Originally Posted by yorukage View Post
    Hey everyone, I have a question on ideas for improvised sword care. I have a Last Legends Tsunami 5K folded katana that I've owned for eight years now. I've been using some improvised sword maintenance techniques suggested to me years ago, using denatured alcohol to clean the blade and light mineral oil for oiling. Does anyone have any other ideas that have worked for you? I was thinking about the polish used for polishing silver. Has anyone ever tried that and how did it work out? A few years ago I was doing some "pumpkin-shigiri" after halloween. I practiced cuts and had friends throw large pieces in the air and I'd cut them as they passed by. One pumkin I cut open had molded inside, the outside looked fine though. The mold stained the blade and I wasn't able to get it cleaned. I know I need to have it professionally polished, but I can't afford it right now with the way things are. I'd like to polish it because that keeps it from staining more and helps it cut better. Any ideas for cleaning, oiling, polishing, and stain removal? Thanks!
    A few suggestions here ... First, denatured alcohol to remove all traces of old oil is good for a nihonto where you are looking to see the intricate properties in the steel. It's overkill for a Chinese made blade. My swords that I use for daily kata and occassional cutting are simply wiped with a clean cloth to get any dirt off, and re-oiled with a cloth on which I have poured a little choji oil, as Brian already pointed out.

    Fruits and vegetables (and gourds such as pumpkin) will stain your blade quite quickly due to the sugars in them. While I believe that fruits and vegetables should only be cut up with kitchen knives, I have carved a couple of pumpkins myself with a sword. Even cutting tatami will stain your sword, so I use a metal polish called Noxon on mine. It is only very lightly abrasive, so it will not polish off the features of your sword as some more abrasive metal polishes will.

    Chinese made swords are not appropriate for a professional polish. A professional sword polisher charges about $100/inch. This would make the cost of having your sword polished many times more than what you paid for the sword originally. It's like putting a custom metal-flake paint job complete with airbrushed flames on your five year old Kia Rio.

    Quote Originally Posted by Unjust Jester
    What are some methods some of you use to oil your sword? For the past year, I have oiled my katana by dripping oil along the length of the blade, then using a small piece of rice paper (or a kimwipe) to distribute the oil along the surface and inside the groove. I repeat on other side, as well as on the back.
    Dripping oil along the length of your blade sounds to me like you are over-oiling. In order to prevent rust, a very thin sheen of oil should be applied. If it is too thick, it will tend to drain off into the saya, which will weaken the wood and end up making a mess eventually. It has been my experience that most light mineral oil that is available at your local store is too thick to work well on a sword, and will tend to streak and form droplets rather than a thin even sheen of oil. Sewing machine oil or 3 in 1 oil are thinner and will work better. I just tell my folks to use choji from Japan. A bottle is less than $20, and should last for years.

    Just realized that the original post is several years old, so the original poster is not likely to see it. However, I already wrote out the post and it contains some decent information, so I'll just leave it there.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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