practical solutions to common problems have come from
and students. If you have a helpful tip please email
us and contribute to the list.
•Many types of polar fleece work
well to clean off the residue left when cutting tatami.
rag that is coated with Breakfree-CLP® also works very well to
clean cutting residue.
your blade down with a piece of cloth immediately after cutting
will make cleaning at the end of the session much easier.
These metal polishes
are highly regarded and regularly recommended for use on
a Japanese Sword for cleaning and cutting residue removal.
The first two are "non-abrasive", the last three should
be used gently.
In order of preference: Noxon,
NevRdull, Pikal, Flitz,
Your own Sword Oil:
and Camelia oil are the most commonly used oils to protect
Japanese Swords from the dreaded "RUST". A much less expensive, and equally
effective, alternative is Mineral Oil. You can find it in the "Health
Care Products" section of Pharmacies, Drug Stores, and Markets.
If you like the traditional smell of Choji Oil then stop off at
the market and get a small bottle of "Oil of Clove" and put
several drops in the Mineral Oil.
the Handle Wrap (Courtesy of Paul Smith):
Take some woolite in a dish
and a soft toothbrush. Wet the toothbrush and touch it to the
woolite. Gently scrub the ito until it's clean. You'll have to
get more water on the toothbrush and more woolite periodically.
Once you are done scrubbing, take a wet cloth and wipe down the
ito several times, then take a dry cloth and wrap around the handle
and squeeze it to get excess moisture out of the ito. Let dry
for at least 24 hours before using. Don't scrub too hard because
that will roughen the silk. You do want to work quickly, but as
long as the water doesn't sit on the tsuka for hours, it won't
hurt anything. Do not get any water down inside the tsuka. It
is obviously much easier to do this with the tsuka off of the
nakago if you can remove it.
If your fuchi is loose then the tsuka
is taking more strain than intended and you should have it looked
at ASAP to make sure the tsuka is still safe. A good temporary
fix is to glue a thin wood shaving around the tsuka and file down
the patch until the Fuchi pushes on tightly. If you do not have
a wood plane to make the wood shaving then a strong non-stretching
tape will work.
If your tsuba is loose then your habaki,
tsuka, etc. are all taking more strain than intended. Sometimes
this is caused by wood shrinkage due to seasonal changes in the
weather. You can correct this problem by buying additional thin
seppa to fill the gap, or making temporary seppa out of any non-compressible
material. If you do not want to try making metal seppa you can
try the plastic that is used for food containers and their lids.
Be careful that your seppa are not too thick by checking to see
that the peg holes in the tsuka and nakago line up when the new
seppa are in place. Do not use leather or layers of paper, these
materials may stop the rattling noise but they will not help to
transfer the stresses generated into the tsuka as intended because
they are compressible.
You can extend the life of your handle
wrap by impregnating it with glue. This is a fairly effective
technique that does not seriously "uglify" the tsuka. Do not wait
until the ito is completely frayed or just hanging in there by
a few threads. This fix works best on a handle wrap that is loose
but mostly intact. Use a good quality carpenter's (yellow) glue
and use your finger to carefully work the glue into the ito until
it is saturated. You may need to do multiple applications but
make sure to let each layer dry overnight. Being extra careful
during the application will give you a superior looking tsuka
that will not look much different. The tsuka may feel "sticky"
the first few times you use it and some excess dried glue may
come off on your hands. This is only temporary and goes away
sageo is too stiff try throwing it in the wash. We have had
luck softening up sageo by putting them in a small net garment
bag and tossing them in with the cold-water wash of a similar
color. After washing put the sageo in the dryer on the Air
Dry setting until it is mostly dry, then take it out and
many times can you say, "It won't go through the *@#! kurigata!"?
Get a business card, or a similarly stiff piece of paper
same size, and cut a strip lengthwise. The strip should be narrow
enough to fit through the kurigata or shitodome. Now fold
strip in half and push the folded end part-way through the kurigata
or shitodome. Dampen the end of the Sageo and place it
the two free ends of your folded strip, tuck in any loose threads
that you can. Now pull the folded end of the strip as you
on the Sageo from the other side. Don't pull on the strip any
harder than you push on the Sageo or you will have to start
If it becomes difficult try wiggling the sageo/strip side-to-side
as you push/pull.
A saya will frequently
wear thin at the edge side of the Koiguchi after years of drawing.
This is a very dangerous situation because you can cut your hand
severely if the saya splits open during a poor draw. A safe
traditional fix is to wrap something around the first few inches
of the saya to reinforce it. Ray skin, leather, cane, even cloth
and string were used to do this. Pick the material you wish and
use a good carpenter's (yellow) glue to secure it tightly to
saya. This is a fairly permanent fix and the material that is
glued down will have to be filed or cut away to be removed. This
fix is not a solution to bad drawing technique and is only intended
to extend the life of your saya for a short time or give you
a bit of added safety.
tatami in a cool, dry, area, out of the direct sunlight.
not store the cardboard box directly on a dirt or concrete floor.
you are making targets out of used tatami make sure to carefully
check for staples along the edges.
Duty rubber bands and thin cable ties work well for making targets
instead of using string or twine. If you use the small cable ties
be sure they are 100% plastic, some makers use a small strip of
soaking targets do not use gritty objects, such as decorative
blocks or garden rocks, to hold the mats underwater. Anything
that you use should be thuroughly washed or placed in a plastic
bag to keep damaging grit from falling onto the targets as they