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Hamon hardly visible, what to do to make it more prominent?

Discussion in 'Sword Discussion' started by DanR217, Feb 28, 2014.

  1. DanR217

    DanR217 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 6, 2010
    I got my first katana and although I like it very much, I'd like the hamon to be more pronounced. I can't really see it unless light hits the blade at a certain angle and I was wondering what I can do (that's relatively simple) to make it stand out a little more. I've read that Mother's Mag and Aluminum polish with a blue shop towel works as does vinegar. Does anyone have experience doing this?

    Also, there was a slight bit of corrosion I rubbed off with some Flitz and a micro-fiber cloth and now the hamon is gone from that section, is this normal? I was under the impression the hamon would stand out more the more it was polished.
  2. David Stifle

    David Stifle

    Nov 20, 2008
    You can use vinegar to enhance a hamon, but only if the hamon is real, i.e., produced by applying clay to the blade during the heat treatment and quench. If the hamon was produced in that manner, the hamon becomes an integral part of the steel, and no matter what is done to the blade, will always be there. But, with that said, there are times the hamon can become faint through too much or improper polishing. So, let's assume the hamon on your blade is real. If so, I'd advise you to leave it alone, as it is sooooo easy to mess them up. If you don't want to do that, lightly etch the hamon line with white vinegar, just for 30 seconds at a time. Apply, wait 30 seconds, wipe off, repeat as necessary. Keep in mind, this will only work if your hamon is a real one. If it's laser etched, all that will happen is your hamon will disappear. Your call.
  3. crimsonfalcon07


    Dec 27, 2010
  4. David Stifle

    David Stifle

    Nov 20, 2008
    Yes, and if it is an old and valuable sword Don't do anything at all to it. It needs to go to a professional sword polisher.
  5. DanR217

    DanR217 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 6, 2010
    Cool, thanks guys. No, it's neither old or valuable so I think I'll try the vinegar method, I'm not afraid of messing it up. I bought a mid-level Musashi for around $100 for my first because my shoulders don't work well together and I'm not really even sure if I can swing two handed. At the least it will be a wall hanger that I can do slow movements with, but I'd still like to know if it is as advertised and has a real hamon. The website I bought it from says it's a real hamon made from the tempering process.
  6. DanR217

    DanR217 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 6, 2010
    Failed the vinegar test, it erased the hamon and there is no difference in the two sides. Acid etched is what I'm guessing. If they lied about the hamon, they might have lied about heat treating it all together.

    Let this be a warning to anyone buying a Musashi sword.
  7. crimsonfalcon07


    Dec 27, 2010
    To be fair, it's very difficult to bring out a hamon. It may be clay tempered, and you may just not have gotten a good etch in.
  8. David Stifle

    David Stifle

    Nov 20, 2008
    It is extremely tricky to bring out a hamon. However, if you etch it, and just wipe the etching off lightly(without sanding), you will see the hamon, if it is there. My guess, it was a fake hamon. You should be able to tell if the blade was heat treated just by running it over a stone sharpener. If it hasn't been heat treated, the stone will bite much more deeply than if it is encountering a hardened blade. I too, wouldn't be too surprised if the blade is either untreated, or heat treated so badly it constitutes a danger to the user and others in the area.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2014
  9. kevin -the professor

    kevin -the professor

    Dec 18, 2008
    yes, an etch with vinegar makes a hamon jump out before the oxides are removed, because there is such a difference in how the hardened steel etches.
  10. DanR217

    DanR217 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 6, 2010
    I contacted the site that sold it to me and they walked me through a "scratch test" on the phone. There was a very noticeable difference between the back of the blade and the front, so I guess it is heat treated correctly.
  11. David Stifle

    David Stifle

    Nov 20, 2008
    What's a scratch test? Also, what kind of steel is it?
  12. DanR217

    DanR217 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 6, 2010
    The way he had me do it, I took the tip of something sharp (in my case a safety pin) and scratched from the back of the blade to the front and felt a significant difference in how hard it was to scratch. It was much easier at the back, then much harder as I crossed the hamon line.

    It's 1060 carbon steel.
  13. David Stifle

    David Stifle

    Nov 20, 2008
    That's a new one for me. The best way to test it is the 2x4 cut. Get an old, seasoned 2x4, fix it firmly, and start in on it. It shouldn't harm a katana at all. See how it cuts, and check the edge afterwards for chips, edge rolling, etc.
  14. John T

    John T

    Dec 12, 2012
    Do not try to chop wood with this sword. These musashis are light duty cutters--they will handle water bottles, pool noodles and soaked beach mats (single roll) fine. These swords, at least the ones I've seen, have thin edges with little to no niku (they do not have convex edges).
    Generally speaking swords are not meant for chopping wood. If you go after the 2x4 with it you will mess it up; the edge will likely take damage and the sword will likely take a set (get bent as it is designed to do--this is part of the purpose of differential hardening).
  15. David Stifle

    David Stifle

    Nov 20, 2008
    I had no idea some swords were made solely for cutting only light items such as you describe, John.
    I stand corrected.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2014
  16. michael t

    michael t

    Nov 19, 2013
    Then how do the get away using words like Battle ready. I never fought a pool noodle are they battle ready also.
  17. Bill Blake

    Bill Blake

    May 21, 2013
    Even if it is a fake hamon, it doesn't mean it is a bad sword, it might just be through hardened like a European Sword. Modern steel is so fantastic there is no need for complicated construction like traditional katana used, it's an optional frill.

    Being a sword maker my 2 cents worth is that no sword should be used to chop wood, that's what axes are for. Swords are for chopping people and if need be whatever the people are wearing. Some swords are designed for light to no armour, others are designed to damage armour. Although shields are often made of wood, it is generally advisable to try your hardest to avoid hitting your sword on a shield. Nonetheless it does happen but a shield has a shock absorber behind it (someone's arm) that will make hitting a shield quite different to striking a wooden post.

    I make my swords with a convex edge but alot of sword makers do not. Even the big players frequently have very thin edges on their swords, and truth be told alot of historic swords were like that too, but it's my personal preference that a sword should be a bit heavier and more durable. Although I'm sure my swords could stand to be used to chop wood posts, it would be a terrible waste of a specialised tool - equivalent to using a scalpel to dig a hole to pour anaesthetic into. Why dig a hole for an injection when you can use a needle?

    Swords are the most versatile hand to hand weapon in my opinion, but they are also comparatively fragile compared to an axe or a spear, but as they are capable of a broader range of actions than an axe or a spear, and are substantially more difficult and expensive to create, swords retain their position as the zenith of hand to hand weapons.
  18. JParanee

    JParanee Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 23, 2006
    When they say polishing a sword will bring out the temper line (Hamon) this does not mean using flitz or metal polish like mothers

    These polishes will obscure the Hamon to a certain degree

    I am sure if it says that the blade is differentially hardened it is to a certain degree but in a relatively inexpensive piece I would not be setting my sights to high

    If you want to bring out the temper line the quickest way for you to do so would be to etch it with some ferric chloride

    You can get it at Radio Shack. It is used to etch computer boards

    This is an acid

    It needs to be done outside or in a well ventilated area

    You should wear rubber gloves

    Pour solution in a plastic or glass container and since you will not have enough to dip the entire sword dip the tip in and use a paint brush to draw the fluid up the blade

    I like to mix the enchant with hot water even a 50 50 mix will work

    Dwell time will depend on the desired effect

    The blade will turn blackish

    Rinse the blade in water and wipe down with a mixture of water and baking soda to neutralize the acid

    Here is the tricky part

    Take some flitz and gently Hugo over the blade till the desired results

    Remember you can polish it right off again

    These are caustic chemicals do not breath in and be careful how you dispose off

    To be honest on a hundred dollar sword I would not bother. Not trying to be negative just honest

    Here is Shiva Ki blade that was flitzed and the Hamon was obscured


    Here it is after retching and light polish


    Do not cut 2X4's with a Katana unless Dan Keffeler or Phill Hartsfield made your sword :)
  19. John T

    John T

    Dec 12, 2012
    Battle ready is a relatively poorly chosen term meant to describe a sword that is made of medium to high carbon steel, is properly heat treated and is assembled securely. The term is meant to differentiate these swords from wall hangers that are stainless steel and have welded rod tangs that will break resulting in the 'helicopter of death" if one attempted to use them. It also differentiates them from low carbon steel blades or blades that are not heat treated; these are usually used by re-enactors.

    Pool noodles are freaking dangerous, man. Never turn your back on them--especially if they are swarming. Actually a lot of folks I know swear by them as cutting targets to test edge alignment--they aren't that easy to cut cleanly.
  20. Noctis3880

    Noctis3880 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 22, 2009
    Would 1060 be considered modern? I suppose it is in so far as consistent carbon content and how clean the steel is.

    Sad to the egos of us mall ninjas, but true. Plus the hatchet and axes have the advantage of having more force focused in a small area. I did slap a papaya tree with my katana(it's hollow and moist inside, sort of like bamboo), and then tried to hack it down with my Junglas, which kept getting wedged inside.

    Made it about halfway through before dear old mum came and took the whole thing down in a third of the time with a small hatchet:D.

    I've got to ask if bamboo is similarly restricted, because it's typically wet and hollow inside, plus it seems like a popular target for cutting due to its near "weed" status in most places. Would that be different from striking a 4-inch thick tree trunk?

    Likely because people wouldn't want to spend money to buy material to cut as opposed to something that's already there.

    I just enjoy the fine craftsmanship and attention to detail, its status as a weapon is just a secondary consideration. Do people actually expect to use it as such in this day and age?

    It's also a good challenge to learn how to care and maintain one, much as it would be to learn to care and maintain your first knife:thumbup:.

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