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Dismantling katanas - replacing mekugi?

Discussion in 'Sword Discussion' started by wizrd, Sep 17, 2018.

  1. wizrd


    Mar 29, 2012
    I have a couple of katanas that I will be dismantling for total cleaning for the first time - are the mekugi re-useable, or should I replace them with new ones? I have new mekugi coming from Sword Armory, so that isn't a problem. Will new mekugi need any fitting, - sanding, etc. or just pressed in for a tight, wedged fitting?..just wondering. Probably a very basic question, but I'm just here, studying at the feet of the Masters. Thanks in advance.
  2. horseclover

    horseclover Basic Member Basic Member

    Nov 21, 2000
    Opinion will vary but keep in mind that breaking down katana as part of routine cleaning is unnecessary. The more often the tsuka is removed, the quicker everything will just get looser.

    Mekugi will need replacement if damaged in removal. There is a good chance of that as chances are the mekugi were not done properly to begin with. The punch should be pressed and tapped from the small end only. Do not use chopsticks unless it is only for a display decoration.

    A proper koshirae nuki will press against the seppa, directing force near the blade and on both sides. Using a mallet banging on one side of the tsuba can deform or break some tsuba, as well as crack the tsuka. These tools can be fairly easily made.

    Do plan to replace mekugi anyway and find a bag of them somewhere. Do plan on some fitting, before and after but work slowly until it is close to finished before the final setting. A little sticking out can be better than not enough. Sanding is one way, scraping with a sharp blade another. Truly, the smaller end should be a slightly smaller diameter than the mekugi ana and rounded on the tip of that, not flat at the end. A rounded wedge as it were. They are supposed to be drawing the assembly together in its final sitting. If this does not look like that will be the case, add a thicker seppa or other spacer. Katana with two mekugi basically defeats the purpose of how the traditional build was made.

    Most modern made katana lack a little refinement that makes a difference. Tsuka and nakago that are assembled drilled straight through leaves a burr on the nakago that can make removal of the mekugi difficult to push out in one piece. That same burr can make it harder to remove the tsuka. There are zillions of katana tsuka removal tutorials out there and many show using a rubber mallet on the tsuba. This is just stupid on so many levels.

    I'll end as I began, there really is no reason to break down a katana on a regular basis. Yes, if the sword is used to cut daily over some time or if it seems rattly. If things are loose, just buy some epoxy and glue it or start over and rebuild it correctly.

    Good luck
    katanas and wizrd like this.
  3. wizrd


    Mar 29, 2012
    Thanks for the excellent info -- these are a few years old, never used - just wanted to be sure the tangs were in good shape. Kept in a humidity controlled environment and blades lightly cleaned of old oil & re-oiled on a regular basis. Don't see the reason to do this too often myself -- as you stated.
  4. althesmith


    Jan 9, 2015
    For a higher quality bamboo, check out some bamboo knitting needles available at craft outlets. A lot tougher than chopstick material.
    john april likes this.

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