How is Japanese sword tsuba made?

Published: 27/10/2021 Comments: 0
This article shows some of the processes used to replicate the making of the sword guard.


This is a Japanese Tsuba(sword guard). It is decorated with a tea bowl and a flowering branch. It is handled by master in Japanese metalworking techniques. 


The sword tsuba is made of an alloy of copper and gold. The metals are heated in a crucible and once molten, are poured into warm water. As the metal alloy cools, it frames a round ingot. The ingot is pounded into a flat disc.


A template is used to mark the outline of the Japanese sword guard. The shape is then cut out with a fretsaw. A bed of pitch is ready. This holds the hand guard in place for decoration to be added.


A piece of pure copper has been cut in the shape of a tea bowl. A line is scribed around it. A raised lip is created to hold the tea bowl in place. A recess is carved out. The tea bowl is fitted into the recess. The raised lip is pushed back to secure the tea bowl. The tea bowl is carved into shape.


Texture is added by hammering with a finely pointed punch. The surface of the tsuba guard is now decorated using a hammer and punch. The tip of this punch is cup shaped. Using it creates the effect called nanako, meaning fish eggs.

This partially completed sword guard is now cleaned using abrasive powders. It is placed in a solution of Japanese radish to remove any traces of grease.


The sword guard is then over and over dipped in a heated solution of copper salts. The salts respond with the metal of the sword guard which gradually develops a patina. The copper tea bowl becomes red. The copper gold body of the sword guard turns black. This patina is called shakudo.




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