My Other Sword Is A Hanwei

July 11, 2006

A while back I got a neat gift from KarateDepot.com – an awesome dragon-head katana (Japanese long sword). Because it’s fun to look at but not sharpened, that sword now resides above my desk at work. (My office-mates are well behaved!)

My new sword, the Hanwei Practical Katana, is a different beast altogether. It’s made by Paul Chen of the Hanwei forge in China and is completely functional, very sharp and totally battle-ready. You wouldn’t take this to work. My dragon katana, while beautiful, isn’t any more dangerous than a garden weasel; the Practical is stone-cold deadly.

Here’s a fun fact. You’ve probably seen how steel is tempered. You heat it up a lot and then you cool it rapidly, like by plunging it into cold water. You can make some very hard steel that way, but the harder you make it the more brittle it becomes. This presented a dilemma for samurai sword-makers. They wanted a very hard blade so that it could hold an edge well, but they also wanted a blade that was less hard so that it would not break upon impact. The solution? Differential tempering.

You heat the blade, differentially coat it with clay (more on the back and less on the edge), then you cool it in water. The edge of the blade cools rapidly, becomes very hard and can hold a sharp edge. The spine of the blade cools more slowly and remains flexible instead of brittle.

That is how my new sword was made. Its edge has a hardness of HRC60 while the back is only HRC40. Other fun facts: The blade is 28 and 1/4 inches long, the handle is 11 and 3/4, and the total length of the piece is 40 inches.

You can read more about katanas over at wikipedia.


No comments yet

  1. This, unlike your phone and Ipod *wink*, probably shouldn’t be licked.

  2. Whoa, definitely not!

    And for the record I am still refraining from swallowing my iPod Nano.

  3. EVERY man feels the need to add that extra quarter inch to their supposed blade length.


  4. Of course. That is the root of all spam email, after all!

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