Katana are among the most iconic swords in pop culture. You’ve probably seen Beatrix Kiddo slay crazy 88 in Kill Bill Vol 1, Samurai Shinzaemon slice through a mob of thugs in 13 Assassins, or Deadpool turn one goon into a shish kebab in his first outing on the big screen. But if you take a closer look at the elegant weapon that was designed to cut through a human being with just one strike, there’s a lot more to this sword than meets the eye.

A key feature of a katana is the wavy line, known as the Hamon, that runs along its length. This visual effect is a result of the fusion of rigid steel in the blade’s edge and softer spine through the process of differential quenching. This allows the katana to have superior sharpness, while still retaining a ductile spine and body that can absorb shock without breaking.

The process of creating a katana is lengthy, and requires several months to complete. The beginning of the process involves adding pieces of various tamahagane metals together, and forming them into a long block. This is then heated and hammered with a large sledge, which welds the individual layers together into one piece of steel. The outer layer, known as kawagane, is then wrapped around a harder core, called shingane, which gives the sword its strength to resist breakage.

After the smith creates the blade, he will polish it with a series of progressively finer stones, which removes metal impurities and enhances the beauty of the hamon, or folded steel grain pattern, that is visible in high quality katanas. Once the blade is polished, the smith will add the tsuba (hand guard) and scabbard. These elements are usually crafted by other specialized craftsmen, who might add intricate carvings or gold inlay to further enhance the appearance of the sword. click on this page