Copyright Robert Cole 2015 - No copying or distributing -
A sword is carried and handled so that any contact made with the blade is made to the backridge only. The sword is carried in the scabbard, edge up. When the sword is withdrawn, it is withdrawn edge up. When the sword is examined, the backridge rests on a pillow of tissue, edge up. The blade is never handled directly.

Modern steel knives have chromium added to prevent rusting. Japanese swords will rust easily. The acids and salts present in the faint perspiration of the hand can rust a sword in minutes.

The sword is never breathed upon nor contacted by the naked flesh of one's palm. The softest tissue or cotton bundle must baffle between the hand and the blade - ALWAYS.

Care is taken that NOTHING abrade the blade nor tang surface.

Swords are weapons. An etiquette of respect for others have always marked their care and handling. 

Note on Care of Books
With books, one mar or fingerprint to the ink of the pictures - one crease or crush to a page - any difference from brand-new, creates value loss and permanently sets the book back. Just as chips in a blade - or chips in the lacquer of a Saya create value loss. It is overt damage.

"Normal use" is damage to books. 

Anyone having reference or collector books, antique book collectors or curators, all have the same, expected and specific method of handling books. - This is similar to proper sword etiquette being the only allowable method. 

Examination - Removing the Handle

It is common for the Japanese to give a respectful bow of the head toward the sheathed sword before examination. 

    -The sword is taken up and withdrawn by letting the weight of the blade rest, within the scabbard, on its backridge. 

    -The blade is withdrawn, sliding on its backridge, until the tip section rests upon the mouth of the scabbard. 

    -The scabbard is then carefully turned away from the blade. 

    -The sword is held firmly in the hand while the scabbard is gently set aside.
After examination, the order of these steps is reversed as the sword is carefully returned to the scabbard.

When examining the sword of another, it is expected that permission be asked at any step and especially if one wishes to see the tang (tang is an English blacksmith's term for the handle of a blade).

When examining the tang, the handle is easily removed with the following procedure: 

    -The small taper pin is tapped out and removed. 

    -The very end of the handle is held firmly with the sword blade standing straight in the air (the edge facing away from the body). Bending the wrist and elbow, the sword is then tilted back until it stands at an approximate 45 degree angle. The free hand is brought into a fist and positioned over the wrist. 

    -Firm but gentle tapping on the holding hand should cause the blade to rise out of the handle with every tap.


The blade, thus loosened, is removed from the handle. The separators "SEPPA," sword guard "TSUBA" and collet "HABAKI" are then carefully removed from the blade.

Replacing the handle: The separators, sword guard and collet are replaced and the blade is returned to the handle and held as before, with the blade standing straight up. 

    -The holding hand then gently taps the whole affair down against the now outstretched palm, and the sword should fall tightly into place.

    -The taper pin is replaced.


A specific procedure is followed when passing the sword to another.

    -One's left hand grasps the very lowest end of the handle.With the sword standing straight in the air, the backridge is directed outward, the cutting edge facing oneself.

    -The sword is transferred by the left hand. Care is taken that the cutting edge face from the receiver at all times. Using the left hand is a matter of etiquette as offense is associated with the right and is therefore avoided. 

    -The person receiving a sword will take the upper part of the handle by the right hand. Care and communication is taken by both at every step to ensure that the piece WILL NOT be dropped.

More: Sufficient tissue or soft cloth is kept at an examination to ensure proper care. The blade is never handled without tissue or cloth.

Implements are never used to alter, clean, or repair any part of a sword blade or fittings (see "About Polish" for an explanation of the polishing and service of swords).

Small pillows are used to rest a blade at an examination. The blade should never be set on a surface that could, in any way, cause damage.

Examination should never be done in an environment that might become dangerous to the blade or people. One should be mindful of children, unaware adults or chaotic social situations.

Swords are dangerous weapons and at the same time, delicate antiques. They are high steel art and may also have extraordinary value.

Japanese swords are literally irreplaceable treasures from the past and should be respected as such. When examination is concluded, the blade should be oiled before its return to the scabbard. The Japanese use a refined and fragrant blossom oil. A clear, refined oil is necessary. Do not use motor oil. Do not apply oil to the tang.

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