Sword care guide-part 1-Oiling and cleaning
Hopefully this post will answer a lot of questions about aspects of sword collecting and use that a lot of people seem unsure of,
please note this guide applies to carbon steel bladed swords as the only care a stainless blade needs is a wipe down with a damp cloth every once in a while.
Equipment and commonly used terms list.
Here is a list of items that can be used in the care of swords and some commonly used terms and there meanings. Items and terms in this list will be referred to later in how to guides.
Sword oil……………..a commonly used term to describe any light mineral oil that is applied to a sword blade to prevent rusting, also refers to a Paul Chen product sold on blades uk.
Some other oils and products can be used to prevent rusting in absence of a good quality sword oil for example, 3in1 general purpose oil, sewing machine oil, and if your really stuck you could use vegetable based oils like sunflower and olive oils but these are not really suitable due to there smell and unpredictable nature when left to decay over time.
Choji oil…………….the original Japanese name for sword oil the term is used to describe a light mineral oil which has 1% oil of cloves in it this gives the oil a distinct smell and was done originally so that the sword oil (choji) was not mixed up with cooking oil as mineral oil is a laxative this was a good idea and the practice has continued to this day and it has become the traditional oil to use on Japanese/Japanese style swords.
Powder ball (Uchiko ball)….. a cloth bag filled with stone dust that has a small stick of wood at its base this ball is tapped along the blade to leave a residue of white stone dust powder along the surface of the blade this is then wiped off with pieces of rice paper to clean the surface of the steel as the dust is a very fine abrasive it will clean the steel but it will also mark the blade after repeated and prolonged use
(A few times a year will do no harm)
The general rule is 'the higher the quality of the sword, the higher the quality of uchiko you should use'. Some collectors never use uchiko.
Very fine unscented talcum powder can be used in place of a traditional uchiko if you want.
Isopropyl alcohol…..commonly used to clean oil and grease off metal this is my preferred method of general cleaning of old oil etc off my sword blades it is available from a variety of sources the one I use is IPA170 cleaning solvent from the electronics supply shop maplins.
(Take care when using this as it is flammable)
rice paper……thin sheets of paper with the consistency of tissue paper supplied with the Paul chen maintenance kit this paper is used both to clean old oil off your sword and to apply fresh oil on to your sword a suitable replacement can be plain non coloured non scented tissue paper or kitchen roll.
Oil cloth/oiled cloth….lint free cloth....a cloth that has been soaked in sword oil that is kept in a sealed bag and used to re-oil a sword thus saving time and excess oil.
This should be a clean cotton cloth ideally an old 100% cotton t-shirt etc
Paul Chen maintenance kit.. A product sold on the main blades-uk website that contains several items traditionally associated with the care of Japanese swords.
It contains a bottle of choji oil several sheets of rice paper a small brass hammer that can be used to remove the mekugi pegs from a sword handle, and a powder ball.
for more infomation on the kit click here
Rust….the reason you have to oil a carbon steel sword is to prevent the formation of iron oxide or rust, rust can form in a variety of ways from the common red/brown form to a light brown “bloom” just on the surface of steel sometimes called flash rust, little spots of rust can appear like black dots and are usually the result of small drops of water being left on a blade for a while causing the oxides to form in circular spot these spots can be quite stubborn to remove as the oxide has developed over time and has “bitten” into and past the surface layer of steel as oppose to just spotting the surface.
Oxidation/oxides………..see rust, above.
Rust eraser…a product that will remove oxides on steel commonly sold in automotive shops like halfords etc
Metal polish….a polish used to clean metal and add or restore shine to a metal surface some common brands are autosol and metalglo. These products can be used to remove light rust and staining from improperly applied polish and from stains caused by contact with other items such as fruit and straw etc.
Great care should be taken when using any metal polish or rust eraser product always clean your blade very well before using any polish I would recommend cleaning with alcohol first, use as little as possible on any area on your sword that is affected by staining and or rust spots as these products can harm the cosmetic appearance of your sword blade and may possibly harm the appearance of your hamon (visible temper line) though this is unlikely.
Sword care guide….from new.
The sword will have probably shipped with some form of heavy grease on the blade this is perfectly normal and should be removed with paper towel or a clean lint free cloth..etc some pieces of wood etc and occasionally shipping grease may well be visible on the blade for the first few times you unsheathe your sword this again is normal and a by-product of the production process.
After handling your new sword for a while you should apply some oil before re-sheathing it or putting it back on display/in a rack.
Spray a little oil on the blade and wipe with a piece of paper of cloth or oiled cloth along the length of the blade being careful not to touch the edge at any time if your using a pre oiled cloth putting more oil on the blade first in not really required.
The idea is always to create a thin layer of oil that will seal the steel against any contact with air or moisture.
Some people use a piece of a plastic bag to wipe oil on there blades.
The pump spray bottles of oil can be used to put one spray at either end and one in the middle of each side of the blade prior to wiping down to give an even coating of oil
If you see any visible beading of oil droplets on the surface of your blade then you have used to much oil and you should gently re-wipe the blade again to even out the coating of oil.
You should ideally re-oil every time you handle your sword or after practice swinging with it (martial arts kata or practice etc) or if storing or displaying every few weeks depending on the time of year and the place where the sword is stored, use common sense and don’t take chances with your investment.
Care after and during cutting practice.
Some people like to cut things with there swords whether its simply for fun or part of a martial arts learning process during and after cutting activity your sword is more vulnerable to rusting than normal.
***please note this document is not a guide to cutting or an endorsement or encouragement to partake in this or any other potentially dangerous activity and no liability can be accepted (by the author or anyone else) for injury or death from participating in any activity of this type etc ***
Depending on the targets cut it’s a good idea in my experience to get into the habit of wiping your sword after each cut or after each series of cuts always wipe with the blade pointing down to the ground and wipe from the blade collar to the point with a towel or clean paper towel etc *this has the added advantage of you looking at your blade often during cutting making it more likely that you will spot anything out of the ordinary with the blade etc.
Staining from cutting fruit can be removed with a good polish with an oil soaked cloth a good few passes with the powder ball or some carefully applied metal polish etc
Always clean very well after using any product on your sword other than sword oil I personally wash the blade down with alcohol as mentioned above.
Care should be taken to avoid water or cutting debris getting inside the blade collar/guard area of your sword a good squirt of wd40 should be enough to expel any water or debris from this area however if possible some people prefer to dismantle there sword to clean it thoroughly after any cutting practice however this is not really required(and not always possible) if care is taken when cutting (not pointing your blade upwards to much etc) a good squirt of wd40 and a quick re-oiling should be more that sufficient to take proper care of your sword.
Due to the nature of construction of some swords the blade collar is fixed in place and as such any water or debris could be a problem however any water etc is unlikely to get further into the body of the sword handle as that area is sealed with epoxy or paint etc or simply solid and impenetrable. This is where a good dose of oil can be used to help prevent water etc gaining access to this area and or a squirt of wd40 will work fine to prevent any problems.
Ok that’s it for this part of the guide hope this was helpful, more information will be added in due time.
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