Sword customization is a great way to take a pretty average sword and transform it into something special.
If your budget is limited, but your imagination is not, this page is for you. For here you will find a collection of free resources, tutorials and walk throughs from members of the SBG community - as well as a collection of the best free downloads - all here in one place.
Everything has been made as clear and easy to follow as possible - and if you know exactly where you want to begin, use the quick jump menu below to get to that section of the page.
So let's get the party started with some extreme customization that was so good, Adam Savage from Mythbusters asked one of our members to make him a replica Kill Bill Sword!
Jason Blakey takes sword customization seriously - though it is not his business or a long thinly disguised advertisement for his services - he is just a very dedicated hobbiyst. And also a very skilled yet humble one..
So much so that he caught the attention of Adam Savage from Mythbusters when he was looking to get an authentic Kill Bill Replica sword made for him..
While what follows is NOT a tutorial, it is rather a log detailing 10 months of work and the process he took to go from this..
His replica is an EXACT copy of the movie sword, and while you might not have all the gear or know how - it is FILLED with tons of tricks and tips that anyone considering a sword customization project of their own MUST read..
To see how it all went down..
Probably the most common, and the simplest, Japanese sword customization is to change the tsuba for another one. Even though it is only a small modification, if you go from a lightweight sukashi tsuba to a heavy iron one, it is going to have a subtle effect on the balance of your sword as shown in the following illustration.
To change the tsuba, you will first have to disassemble the sword of course. Most sub $300 production Katana have pretty tight tsuba that usually take a but more effort to disassemble than simply holding it and banging one's wrist like the traditional way to take one apart. If it does get stuck, the following video is of help.
Once you have the sword disassembled, to change the tsuba is actually really easy. Some filing of the inside of the nagako-ana (the hole in the tsuba that slides onto the tang of the sword) may be required, or if the hole is too big or fits badly, you can add more material to the tsuba by using this technique to fix a loose or rattling tsuba.
Alternatively, you might want to MAKE your own tsuba from scratch. How fancy you want to get with it depends on your time and skill level, but the following tutorial will show you how to make the basic shape.
How far you want to go sculpting it is up to you, but in this easy to follow tutorial you will learn the basics of how to create the basic shape.
Another popular Japanese sword customization is a complete tsuka rewrap - which is called 'tsukamaki' (wrapping tsuka). Many cheap swords come with rather loose or ugly tsuka made from cheap material - so unless you want to spend big to get a beautiful wrap done at the factory, learning how to do an attractive and tight tsuka wrap is a must. Below are two detailed step by step tutorials to help you do just that, either in Hinerimaki or Katatemaki styles - and also a tutorial on how to make a brand new perfectly fitted tsuka core.
Learn step by step how to get the most traditional and tightest wrap on a Katana using small paper triangles known as 'Hishigami'
Also called a 'battle wrap', this tutorial shows you hwo to wrap in this unique and less commonly found style.
Learn how to make a brand new tsuka core that fits the tang of your sword perfectly and would normally cost a few hundred dollars to get it done any other way.
However, there is one sword customization technique that is so simple that pretty much anyone can do it - and that is to add a faux engraving to the blade - without actually engraving a thing.
It isn't engraving, but the effect is more or less permanent, wont polish off, and will result in a perfect image that would otherwise require months of practice or a CNC machine..
This is the DEFINITIVE guide to customizing a Katana from start to finish, covering literally everything from making a new tsuka core to changing the tsuba (and its color), itomaki, making the saya, you name it - its here.
Direct to the point and simple to follow, it is 57 pages of pure gold without any fluff, filler or other garbage you often find in so called 'free eBooks'.
For years it has been the Japanese sword customization bible, and the best part is, it is and always has been 100% free. Click on the image to read it or right click to download and save to read later.
As a bit of a bonus as it would otherwise be all to easy to miss, how about learning how to wrap a Katana so that it ends up looking like this?
You will find all of these techniques in our sword sharpening section - though this article shows you a great method to get a mirror polish finish that may not be traditional, but boy does it do the job..
With medieval swords, it is usually easier to change the wrap than it is to do anything with the cross guard or pommel as they don't (or shouldn't) come apart as easily. Here are two tutorials to help you accomplish just that, with the second technique a complimentary method to the first.
A step by step guide to the most common sword making technique used to create an attractive, comfortable and very functional leather handle in any number of custom colors and styles.
Also a cheap option using nothing more than a Wal Mart Shammy!
To add more visual interest to a leather handle wrap and improve the grip and comfort here are two methods to get the popular cord wrap effect either by actually wrapping it or by imprinting into the leather.
Very simple yet attractive.
Another simple sword customization you can do is to make a scabbard for your sword. Now normally that is NOT an easy sword customization - but this cheeky method can make a great looking scabbard like this..
...and it is actually incredibly simple to do!
The easiest (if a messy) way to make a wood core leather lined scabbard using two wooden slats. No carving of wood and no stitching required!
From here the sword customization techniques start to get a little more complicated - but if you have the will, we have the way - to refine a blocky bad handling sword to give it distal taper, to completing it with a nice fresh home made peen block.
Make the best handling sword possible by thinning the blade as it progressively gets closer to the tip. A more advanced technique but it is used on swords that can be sold for thousands of dollars..
A peen block is a raised block of mild steel used to secure and beautify the peen of a medieval sword. Here is how to make one.
What follows are some general sword customization techniques that can pretty much be applied to any type of sword.
Simple techniques you can do at home to 'antique' a sword to make it look like it is hundreds of years old and other methods to give the steel a unique pattern and texture.
The Poor Mans' Electro-chemical sword engraving technique can be done at home by anyone, and despite sounding difficult is actually incredibly simple.
While the technique is an ancient Chinese one, and is traditionally used on Chinese Jian and Dao, it is also not uncommonly used on Katana or other swords using silk or paracord to get a nice firm, tactical grip.
Another free eBook, simply click to open or right click and save to download and add it to your personal collection.
You can find a good selection of articles, work in progress threads and a helpful community of fellow sword customizers here in the Customization section of our own SBG Sword Forum. And as mentioned earlier, all our of tutorials on sword sharpening and polishing can be found in its own section on our site here
On YouTube there are several channels worth checking out - the first is for Japanese sword customziation by the Samurai Workshop with quite an extensive video library of tutorials and how to vids. And another good one for Japanese and even Ninja DIY projects is by IgaTengu's channel here
Freerk Wieringa 's YouTube channel details the entire sword making process, though as they are broken up into parts (the videos, not the swords!) you can simply skip the forging and progress to the mounting to see how the pros do it.
And should it all get too much and you decide you would rather have someone else do the customization for you (or you get halfway through and screw it up) the following links should be of help.
I hope these sword customization tutorials and resources have been of help. To return to the SBG homepage from Free Sword Customization Tutorials, click here