Making A Wooden Samurai Sword General Woodworking

This project actually started three or four years ago when I had an idea for making a samurai sword from wood. That would be recreating the differential hardening in a katana (known as hamon) with two types of wood. I made a sample at that time to test it out:

And was getting ready to start in on the full build when two very popular wooden katana videos came out. And so the sample sat up on my drill press cabinet collecting dust.

Forward to the present and I’m thinking the time could be right for the build. Especially since I’m involved in a scrap wood challenge on the Makers Mob – this is a project that’s perfect for that.

So I had a look through my scrap wood closet and found some suitable pieces. Mahogany and maple for the blade, spalted maple for the guard and walnut for the handle:

But when I cut into the mahogany (salvaged from a pallet) I found these nail hole stains:

So I had to make a change. I’d recently bought some walnut for a new work bench and ripped the edge off one of those. Not technically scrap now, but I’d have to cut it off to size the stock for the bench build, so scrap from the future.

The Damascus steel of wood is spalted maple and I cut three pieces of thick veneer to make plywood:

Clamping it up with a piece of foam (see this in the video at the bottom of this page) to apply even pressure and left to dry overnight:

The trickiest part of doing this is the blade. it needs to be a sandwich of the contrasting wood but also have a wavy joint like this:

I did that by gluing the layers together then cutting them apart at the seams, but doing so in a zigzag pattern. I actually did this twice before doing the final glue up:

I used polyurethane construction adhesive and plenty of homemade clamps to make the glue line as invisible as possible.

The blade is curved and I used a thin strip bend around three small nails driven in:

Then cut it out on the band saw:

Doing this on the fly without any real planning, I made the tang of the blade longer than it needed to be:

I made the collar from hard maple twice – the first time it was too small:

After the plywood for the guard had dried I cut the rectangular hole for the tang:

And then cut it out with curves on each side. I decided later that this looked too much like a cheap faux wood switch plate and added some more detail:

I picked out a scrap of cherry for the handle and cut in two pieces to fit around the tang:

To dress it up I added walnut accent stripes and glued those on one half first before gluing on the other half:

Again to add some detail, I made a template to route diamond inlays in the handle:

These are meant to replicate the look of the cord wrapping on the real sword.

I made an end cap for the handle from another scrap of walnut:

And got that glued on:

While waiting for that to dry, I got busy cutting out the diamond inlays from more walnut:

All twenty six of them individually fitted and glued in. That took most of the rest of the day:

Here’s the extra decoration I did on the guard:

Along with this being a scrap wood project, it was also supposed to use mostly hand tools. And I used several, including a coping saw to cut out the pattern in the guard.

I did use a power tool – my router table – to round over the handle:

Finally the detail that could make or break the project, shaping the blade to reveal the hamon:

The reason why I made the sample to begin with was to see how this would turn out and try to determine how thick the maple in the middle needs to be. While it’s not perfect, I’m quite pleased with the results:

All of the parts laid out ready for assembly:

I used polyurethane construction adhesive sparingly to put it together. I didn’t want to have any squeeze out – anywhere – that might interfere with the oil finish:

A tung oil blend was used to finish the katana and I put on several wiped on, wiped off coats to build a rich lustre:

Of course, after you make a sword such as this, you need a place to display it and that will be an upcoming project.

The build video goes through the details quickly and if you want to watch a longer, more in depth video (along with 5 other projects from 5 other woodworkers), join the free scrap wood challenge on the Makers Mob.