1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The $20 Dollar Samurai Sword

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by rcmodel, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    I bought this WWII Japanese Officers Katana in an antique shop in Garnett Kansas about 25-30 years ago.
    My wife & I walked in the door, and it was sticking out of a big Red Wing pickle crock full of dusty old umbrellas, canes, and a petrified dead mouse.

    As I found it, the blade was rusted red, the handle was missing the cord wrap (Tsuka), ray skin under the wrap (Sami’), bamboo handle peg (mekugi), and both decorative handle ornaments (Menuki).
    But other than that, it was still all there!

    And six kids hadn’t been sword fighting the cast-iron well pump, or tried to cut a concrete porch step in two with it!
    So the blade edge, though rusty, was still nearly shaving sharp with no nicks or chips after all those years.

    It was priced at $25.00, I offered her $20.00, and the nice lady took it!
    (Yes, even a blind pig finds an ear of corn in the mud every once in a while!)

    The blade is 26 ½” long, and the complete sword is 36 ½” OAL.
    The style of the sword scabbard hanger & pommel is WWII military officer.

    When I got home, I cleaned and polished the blade by block sanding it with progressively finer grades of black Wet or Dry paper & oil.



    And I made new fittings, as best I could.
    Using oak dowel for the peg, I hand sculpted the brass and copper Menuki, used nylon belt for the Sami’, and black silk cord for the Tsuka.


    Tang marking transitions were done by the Asian language department at K.U..
    They are “Showa Period” = 1926 – 1945.
    And “Fuji Wara Yoshi Omi Make This”.
    Or more simply “Made by Fujiwara Yoshiomi sometime between 1926 and the end of WWII”.

    The quality of the blade indicates this wasn’t Fujiwara’s first rodeo as a blade smith.

    Still, I’m not 100% sure they knew what they were talking about, as they didn’t seem real enthused about doing it in the first place??
    If anyone can read it, I sure would appreciate knowing what it actually does say, for sure.



    I know I should have it professionally polished, and the handle re-fitted & correctly wrapped.
    I also know it would add great value and authenticity to the sword.

    But that would turn my $20 katana sword into a $2,020 investment, just to have it expertly polished & the handle rebuilt by a sword expert.

    But this WWII officers sword isn’t worth that much to me, or probably anyone else, I think.

  2. col.lemat

    col.lemat New Member

    Cant read it but your work looks good. Get several differnt readings. I have had the same thing happen only to find out one of the three were not completly truthful.
  3. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    Looks like you did good work.
  4. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    I guess it was O.K. work, but it sure isn't "right" by a long shot.

    I'd like it right, but I'm just not prepared to spend that much money make it right.

  5. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    There are Americans that are talented amateurs that would probably like to take a whack at it. You'd have to look for them though. Check anglefire and Don Fogg's site.
  6. Il Duca

    Il Duca New Member

    The handle is actually the tsuka, the wrap is the ito. I believe Cheness sells complete tsukas for around $30. Basic cotton I think, but the same should be legit and it could likely be fitted to your sword, not sure if they come with menuki though. Decent fitting sets can be had reasonably on ebay for under $100. I just ordered one for $71 with free shipping. Tsuba, menuki, fuchi, fuchi kashira. Comes out of Longquan (Chinese city where a large percentage of sub-$1000 katana are coming from these days). You could also contact the sellers on ebay who are selling the Chinese customs and ask them if they could make you a tsuka based on your sword's dimensions. Can't imagine it would be too expensive since lots of their swords sell in the 3-500 range. And just about any knife maker should be able to clean up the blade. Might cost you a couple hundred all said and done, but would make WORLDS of difference in the sword's appearance.
  7. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Well, I am somewhat of a knife maker, and I cleaned up the blade & polished it.

    Still never going to be polished like a Japanese sword should be, unless somebody sets around for days on end and hand rubs it with finer & finer grade water stones until it is right.

    I don't have the patience, or hand strength to do that anymore.

    Thanks for the info though.
    I might check into the Cheness place.

  8. PJSprog

    PJSprog New Member

    Old thread warning - yeah, I know.

    I have a similar sword that I bought about 10 years ago from a former co-worker ($80). I arrested the surface rust on it then, but never did try to return it to its former luster. It just sits in its saya on a wall-mounted sword stand with my other long blades.

    Looks like you did a nice job on it, rc. Have you done any more work on it in the intervening year?
  9. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    No, and I very likely never will.

  10. Tejicano Loco

    Tejicano Loco New Member

    I do happen to read Japanese and I can vouch for the rough translation they gave you. The name is correct and the last two characters basically mean what they told you (often Japanese does not translate exactly into English words).

    If it ever did become something you wanted to do I could help you arrange to have it polished by a traditional blade polisher in Japan. I live just north of Tokyo and have some contacts in that field. It takes some paperwork to get it in and out of the country again but nothing impossible.
  11. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam


    I appreciate the confirmation of the inscription.

    And the offer to help get it polished in Japan.

    But it's not likely in the cards any more.

  12. CWL

    CWL New Member


    If you haven't done it, do not do anything to remove the rust on the tang of your sword. Rusting on the tang is the only method that sword appraisers can accurately age a sword and anything you do to remove rust from the tang will only devalue the sword. It's OK if you put oil on the exposed blade, but DO NOT even put oil on the tang. A cleaned & shiny tang pretty much makes a sword valueless to serious Japanese sword collectors. Even though we may only be talking about Shin-Gunto (WWII era swords), you can quickly turn thousands of $ value into a few hundred with a wipe of oil or sandpaper. Pre-Meiji swords would stand to lose even more.
  13. PJSprog

    PJSprog New Member

    I did not touch the tang, CWL, only the blade itself.

    And honestly, I'm much less concerned about its worth to collectors than I am of its worth to me and my family, not to mention the integrity of the blade. However, should it ever end up in a collector's hands, I'm sure I will have been long since forgotten.

    Your reminder is much appreciated, though.
  14. TRX

    TRX Member

    Looks fine to me.

    Anyone who doesn't like it is invited to make you an offer you can't refuse...
  15. HankB

    HankB Active Member


    This website has a wealth of expertise on Japanese swords; you have to register to use it (much like at THR) but a couple of years ago I got some good info on my Dad's WWII bringbacks at this site.

    There ARE some good folks in the USA who can do a good job of sword polishing, but they're rare . . . and not cheap. The cost may not be justified in the case of a gunto, or military sword, from the WWII period.
  16. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Thanks for the info.

    But that is pretty much my thought too.

    I can't justify spending the money it would take to restore it right.

    Because it will just never be anything more then a Shinto Era WWII officers sword.

    I got a $20 - $25 in it now, and it's mostly the real deal.
    What more could you ask for??

  17. tomrkba

    tomrkba New Member

    Have you done any cutting with it?
  18. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Worked over some vines in the back yard when I first got it.

    No machine-gun barrels, reed matts, or dead body testing though.

    Like I said in the first post, it was very close to shaving sharp, despite the red rust when I got it.

    Now it is.

    It's the real deal, for sure.

  19. ridurall

    ridurall New Member

    Several years ago while killing bugs in a customers house I saw a Gunto in the corner and asked the owner about it. Her father brought it home from the war and that was all she knew. A couple of years later she called me wanting to know if I would give her credit on the sword to kill fleas and perhaps a couple of other spider jobs. About $350 worth of work. l was happy to do it for her. Upon checking out the tang there were no marks but the blade was traditional tamahagane (sp) manufactured. The metal in the blade is very cool and I just keep it oiled and in the safe. I was offered quite a bit more by a gun show dealer and he was a crook so I think it might be worth well more than I paid for it. It has been suggested it was a family sword that had the 1934 Tuska and Saya put on it for the war. By the way I high lighted the folds with the powder ball for the pictures. When oiled it does not look that tired.

    Last edited: Dec 12, 2013
  20. Deltaboy

    Deltaboy New Member

    Nice Sword.

Share This Page