Japanese Swords - Tsuka and Tang

by Mike Lake
(Adelaide, Australia)

Just a heads up, I realise this is more appropriate for true nihonto than our sub $300 market but figured it was worth posting.


The part of the blade that sits in the handle, called the tang, should never be oiled at all and if it comes to it be allowed to rust. Rusting on the tang is one of the primary ways of identifying a swords characterisics and authenticity.

Apart from that, you should also never oil the tang because of the tight fit that the tang has with the wood core of the handle (tsuka). Any oil thats on the tang at all will be absorbed into the (usually untreated and dry) wood core and that will have more negative impacts on the swords integrity. Not oiling all the sword does seem counter intuitive, however realistically youll be long finished with the sword for practical purposes by the time the non oiling of the tang becomes a hazard to the integrity of the sword....

Another point to note is that on practical swords you should try to minimize the assembly and dissassembly of the sword, even done at the 'correct' angle (and lets face it, who really tries to be that exact) it will loosen the fit of the handle to the tang of the sword, this is especially evident on alot of production swords where the tsuka arent made to the exact specifications of the blade tang, so by all means disassemlbe it occasionally, but just be wary...

And my take on the contradictions in the sword community reagrding sword care. It is true that it's a whole another ball game for caring for a true nihonto, however the purpose of nihonto as investments, historical static, artistic pieces and the like are completely different to our swords that will take more beatings than a gyms punching bag. Yes in nihonto circles they may say "dont use this or this, use that" but realistically most of it dosent matter because the purposes are different. You don't buy special lights, dehumidifiers and limit access to your $29 print on the wall at home because thats what they do to the paintings in the louvre so...

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