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Swords, Cutting and Military History

On blade sharpening

On blade sharpening
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Practitioners of the art of cutting, no matter what their style, background, or type of blade they’re using, will eventually find the sharp edge of their weapon becoming nicked or dull.  At that point, they would need to look into some way of having their weapon sharpened.

While rare, it’s possible some practitioners may use real antique weapons for test cutting. In these cases, it’s highly recommended a fully qualified professional sword polisher / restorer  re-sharpen the blade, in order to maintain its quality and value. This is a very expensive option however, as professionals charge anywhere from $25 to $250 per inch of blade length.

A simple re-edging of a practical, “everyday use” weapon is something which can be done much more cheaply by the practitioner themselves, provided they acquire the basic tools and skills.

In order to show the range to techniques available, we’ll take a quick look at some information on professional blade polishing, followed by some suggestions on ways a practitioner can maintain their own blade.

 

Professional Blade Polishing and Restoration

Certainly for antique weapons, particularly nihonto (Japanese swords), it’s best to locate a certified sword polisher.   This can be a difficult task, and a seeker may be best served by speaking with other members of their martial art or collector’s community for references/  Alternatively, they can contact one of the many museums or sword appreciation / preservation societies which exist, including the:

For those with  a particular interest in seeing how traditional Japanese sword polishing is done.  Following those videos, we’ll discuss do-it-yourself blade sharpening.   The first video is a lecture and demonstration of traditional Japanese sword polishing techniques.

 

 

This next video is a shorter public demonstration of sword sharpening, rather than full polishing.

 

 

Sharpening your own blade

There are three basic techniques to select from in re-edging your own blade.

  1. Use an ordinary whetstone, oil-stone or polishing wheel.  There are many sources on the proper way to sharpen a blade using these techniques, though some skill is required, as improperly using these stones can score and perhaps damage a blade’s edge
  2. For traditionalists, you can purchase — and learn to use — a traditional Japanese sharpening kit with a range of honing stones.  These are available  from Japan, or from many of the sword retailers in North America.  Again, practice and skill is required for a finely honed edge.
  3. For very basic sharpening and removal of small nicks or cracks with little danger of damaging a blade, you could use a simple stropping technique, much like was used to sharpen old style straight-razors .  The following video shows how you can easily build your own stropping device;   I’ve used a variation of this (a two-sided block with differing grade polishing compounds) with great success.

 

 

If you have suggestions for other ways of keeping a practical cutting blade razor-edged, please contact me:  [email protected]

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