How to Choose The Best Katana – 4 Things To Consider

As a knife collector, I have dozens upon dozens of knives. But of all my knives, there is one type that is easily my favourite. These are my katanas.

If you don’t have a katana of your own yet, I highly recommend you get one. Katanas are so much more than ordinary swords. Not only are they beautiful and elegant, but they also hold so much history and cultural significance. That’s why every katana is very special, and it is an honour to have one of your own.

In ancient times, only the samurai could wield such a prestigious weapon. Today, that is no longer the case. Knife enthusiasts like you and me can carry our own katanas. Sure, you’re going to feel very unworthy when you hold it. But trust me, it is one of the greatest things you can own today.

Before you go and buy a katana for yourself though, you should know a few things. There are quite a lot of katanas in the market already. Some of these are close to being authentic, while others are plain fakes. This is why you need to be careful when buying one.

What we’re going to do today is give you a comprehensive look at all you need to know when choosing a katana for yourself. With this knowledge in store, you’ll know exactly what you are looking for. So without further adieu, let’s get started!

Best Overall Katana
Handmade Sword - Japanese Samurai Katana Swords, Battle Ready, Hand Forged, 1045 Carbon Steel, Heat Tempered, Full Tang, Sharp, Japanese Portrait Tsuba, Black Scabbard Painted Landscape Painting
Best Budget
Ace Martial Arts Supply Classic Handmade Samurai Katana Sharp Sword-Musha (Pine Tree-Blue Scabbard)
Handmade Sword - Japanese Samurai Katana Swords, Battle Ready, Hand Forged, 1045 Carbon Steel, Heat Tempered, Full Tang, Sharp, Japanese Portrait Tsuba, Black Scabbard Painted Landscape Painting
Ace Martial Arts Supply Classic Handmade Samurai Katana Sharp Sword-Musha (Pine Tree-Blue Scabbard)
$269.62
$85.95
Best Overall Katana
Handmade Sword - Japanese Samurai Katana Swords, Battle Ready, Hand Forged, 1045 Carbon Steel, Heat Tempered, Full Tang, Sharp, Japanese Portrait Tsuba, Black Scabbard Painted Landscape Painting
Handmade Sword - Japanese Samurai Katana Swords, Battle Ready, Hand Forged, 1045 Carbon Steel, Heat Tempered, Full Tang, Sharp, Japanese Portrait Tsuba, Black Scabbard Painted Landscape Painting
$269.62
Best Budget
Ace Martial Arts Supply Classic Handmade Samurai Katana Sharp Sword-Musha (Pine Tree-Blue Scabbard)
Ace Martial Arts Supply Classic Handmade Samurai Katana Sharp Sword-Musha (Pine Tree-Blue Scabbard)
$85.95

Last update on 2020-08-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What is a Katana?

Before we get into how to choose a katana, it’s important to know first what a katana is. Today, there are a lot of people who advertise their swords as “katanas”, when they aren’t. Also, there is a lot of confusion between katanas and other samurai swords. Let’s clear that up to begin.

What’s the Difference Between Katanas and Samurai Swords?

A lot of people mistake samurai swords to mean katanas. There is a difference between these two terms. Yes, katanas are samurai swords, but not all samurai swords are katanas.

The samurai would carry several weapons on them. Along with their katana, they also carried shorter blades, and blades with specific uses. All of these blades are samurai swords since they were used by the samurai.

So whenever you’re looking for a katana, don’t get confused with the term “samurai sword”.

How Long are Katanas?

When you see a painting of a samurai holding a sword, it’s easy to assume that his weapon is a katana. Before I got into collecting knives, that’s always what I thought. I didn’t realize that the samurai also carried several other blades with them, such as the tanto and wakizashi.

Though they look similar, one thing that sets the katana apart from these other blades is its length. Katanas were the longswords of the Japanese, measuring around 3.3 shakus or around 40 inches.

Why are Katanas Curved?

One of the most distinctive features of a katana is its curve. This makes katanas perfect for slashing away at opponents. The curve leaves a bigger slice than straight blades, making it very deadly. Contrary to what we see in the movies, samurai duels didn’t last long. It only took a few slashes for one samurai to be dead.

The curve also helps to draw cuts. With a curved blade, you can unsheath your sword and slice your opponent in one quick motion. You can kill someone before they can even put up a fight. You can kill them before they even know what you are doing.

Another reason for katanas curve is because it is a single-sided blade. Whenever blades only have one sharp side, the wielder needs to know where it is at all times. If katanas were straight, the samurai may get confused in battle, and use the blunt edge to fight. Since it is curved, you can never go wrong guessing which side is the deadly one.

How Strong are Katanas?

Katanas are not only revered for their cultural significance but also their combat qualities. Growing up, I’ve heard a lot of crazy stories about katanas, and I’ve always wondered if they were true.

The reason why katanas are so strong and sharp is because of how they are built. Most swords are either very sharp but brittle or very strong but blunt. Katanas, on the other hand, get the best of both worlds. By forging two types of steel together, Japanese swordsmiths created a sword that was both extremely sharp and strong.

But how sharp and how strong are katanas? It’s hard to tell today, but ancient Japanese studies tell us that it is capable of slicing 2 people in half with one stroke! What’s more, katanas can cut through metal. During World War II, there was footage of a Japanese soldier cutting a machine gun in half with his katana. You can imagine how sharp and how strong they have to be to do this. That’s why katanas are very deadly weapons.

Read My in depth article about How Strong Are Katanas

How are Katanas Made?

What makes the Katana so special though is how it is made. Making an authentic katana is a long and arduous process. It can take several swordsmiths an entire year to craft one.

To build an authentic katana, swordsmiths fold and refold steel. They do this to remove any impurities, and to get the strongest steel they can get. Authentic katanas are folded up to 16 times, giving them a whopping 65,000 layers. This is why real katanas are super strong and durable, a weapon worthy of the samurai.

Today, there are other methods of creating katanas. No, they’re no longer authentic, but they look just like katanas themselves. There are very few authentic katanas around today, so most of the ones you see are replicas. Mind you, they are very good replicas, but never the real thing anymore.

How to Choose the Best Katana?

Getting an authentic katana today is very, very difficult. The art of forging a katana has almost disappeared. And only very few swordsmiths in Japan know the traditional way of making one.

That said, there are some very good reproductions of the katana. These are swords that are both hard, sharp, and very beautiful. They are also forged with so much care, just not the way the ancient Japanese used to do it. So while most of us will never own an authentic katana, we can all get our hands on an amazing one.

This leads to the question, “How do I choose a katana?” The market is full of fakes that are not worth your money. These are cheap swords that are advertised as “katanas” simply because their blade is curved.

Let’s have a look at some of the things you should look for and consider when you are choosing a katana for yourself.

The Blade

When choosing a katana, it is very important to have a look at the blade. All katanas have curved blades, but that’s about all they have in common. Today, all types of steel are used for katanas. It’s important to check this to make sure you get the best katana for yourself.

The best katanas have at least two types of steel. They have a combination of hard and soft steel in them to ensure that they are razor-sharp and very durable. Some katanas even have more than two types of steel forged into it. This will ensure the most functional blade around.

But a lot of katanas only have one type of steel. If that’s the case, make sure it is high-carbon steel. You should never get a stainless steel katana. Though stainless steel is great for knives, it is terrible for swords. It is simply not strong enough and will shatter whenever you try to use it.

High-carbon steel, on the other hand, is very strong. If you want to go traditional, the Japanese use steel called Tamagahane. It is a high-carbon steel that medieval Japanese swordsmiths used to forge their katanas. Today, there are plenty of Tamagahane katanas around. But any high-carbon steel will do a very good job.

Modern techniques of forging swords is a lot better now than before. While the ancient method of crafting katanas is no doubt the best, modern techniques have improved a lot. For one, the need to fold steel over and over again to remove impurities is no longer necessary. This is why today there are mono-steel katanas. These are katanas that have no folds. They are still very strong despite not having the thousands of folds that a traditional katana has.

The Hilt

The hilt is just as important as the blade of a katana. With a poor hilt, your katana will never reach its full potential. What’s the point of having such a strong blade if your hilt breaks on impact? That’s why whenever you choose a katana, make sure to also check the hilt of your sword.

One thing you should make sure of is that you get a full tang katana. Because katanas are so long, this is very important. With a hollow hilt, your katana won’t be able to take a heavy impact. The blade will fly right off the hilt. With a full tang katana though, the steel goes all the way through the hilt. This is why no matter how much of a beating you give your sword, it will remain intact.

The hilt of a katana is called the Tsuka. It is traditionally made of wood covered with ray skin. A rope of silk is braided around the handle, this gives the hilt its famous diamond pattern. Together, these make the perfect hilt, The wood provides strength.

This ensures that the sword stays intact with every blow. The ray skin provides grip. Your hands are bound to get sweaty when battling, so it is important to have something that isn’t slippery. The silk provides cushioning. Holding on to something after heavy impacts can be tiring, the silk ensures your hands stay comfortable throughout.

Traditional katanas were made in a very specific way. Today though, you’ll find a variety of different hilts to choose from. You’ll find them in leather, cotton, rayon, and even synthetic materials. They aren’t the original, but they still do a very good job. As long as they are strong, have a good grip, and are comfortable, they’re good to go. Keep these three things in mind when you are looking for a katana.

The Design

Not all katanas are the same. In fact, during medieval times, no two katanas were alike. Each katana was forged for one particular samurai to own. It was said that the soul of the samurai was connected to his katana. This is why when a samurai died, his katana was buried along with him. It’s no surprise then to know that the samurai always wanted the best design.

Today, we can get as many katanas we want, and the katanas we get are certainly not made only for us. But, of course, we all still want to get the most beautiful katana we can get our hands-on. This is why when choosing a katana, you should choose one that calls to you.

The most decorative part of a katana is the tsuba or handguard. This is the part that separates the blade and hilt. It is here that swordsmiths can really add a creative touch to their katana. Tsubas are known for their intricate designs, they are a piece of art within the sword itself. The samurai can get a truly personalized katana right here in the tsuba.

The hilt also comes in a lot of colors. The cotton rope braided around most katanas come in any color of the rainbow. Or if you prefer, some katanas have a completely wooden hilt. There is so much variety in katanas. That’s why when choosing a katana, it’s a good idea to check all your options. Remember, katanas were also made to be beautiful. So look for one that catches your eye.

The Cost

Another important factor to consider is the price. If you’re looking for an authentic katana, prepare a lot of money. By a lot, I mean thousands of dollars. These katanas are made the traditional way only in Japan.

Whenever a Katana costs over a thousand dollars, you need to be careful. There are several scammers out there looking to take advantage of you. They make cheap swords and advertise them as authentic katanas. Make sure the company you are buying from has a good reputation to avoid this. If not, go to Japan, to the land where katanas are from, and buy one there.

If you’re thinking, “I don’t have a thousand dollars to spend on a sword!” you don’t have to worry. As I said before, katanas don’t have to be made in the traditional Japanese way to be good. There are a lot of great katanas that won’t kill your wallet.

A katana that looks good and is functional doesn’t have to cost a lot. You’ll find that you can get decent katanas for as low as $50. Of course, these are not the best katanas around. If you have more money to spend, you can get better katanas for over a hundred dollars. They don’t come close to the authentic katanas, but these katanas show us that you don’t have to spend a ridiculous amount of money to get a decent katana.

My Recommendations

With all of these in mind, you should be able to find a great katana for yourself. That said, you might want a good place to start. Today, I’m going to share with you some of the katanas in my collection. These are great katanas, and the best thing is that they are quite affordable.

Ace Martial Arts Supply Musha Katana

One of my first katanas was my Musha katana. I got this for a remarkably low price. For its price, this katana is well worth it. If you’re looking to get into katanas, this is a great place to start. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a look at its features.

The Musha katana has everything you want from a katana. This 40-inch katana looks almost identical with thousand-dollar katanas. It is an absolute beauty of a sword.

Ace Martial Arts Supply Classic Handmade Samurai Katana Sharp Sword-Musha (Pine Tree-Blue Scabbard)
387 Reviews
Ace Martial Arts Supply Classic Handmade Samurai Katana Sharp Sword-Musha (Pine Tree-Blue Scabbard)
  • Original Musashi/Musha quality katana
  • 40 inches handmade sharp Japanese Samurai Katana...
  • 28 inches 1045 high carbon Razor sharp blade
  • Full tang, sharp edge, and functional
  • Check the Musha engraving on seppa (spacer) for...

Last update on 2020-08-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

While the blade is great, the hit of this katana is especially beautiful. It is wrapped in deep purple cotton, giving it an elegant look and feel. The balance is also very good. When you hold this sword up, you’re going to feel like a samurai.

Away from looks, this sword also functions quite well. It is a full tang sword, so you don’t have to worry about the blade flying off. The steel is a high-carbon steel, this is why the blade can get very sharp. When it comes to practice and actual use, this is a great weapon to have around.

Of course, this isn’t the perfect katana. Because it’s made of only high-carbon steel, the blade isn’t the most durable. It is very sturdy, but heavy hits could damage the blade. Aside from that, the handle also lacks some durability. So if you’re looking for a katana for heavy use, this may not be your best bet.

That said, most of us don’t use our katanas for fighting anyway. For me, my katanas are collectable items. If you are the same, you’ll find that this katana is great. This katana is also great for self-defense. It is very, very sharp. So anytime you need to defend yourself, you’ll have something that is sure to scare off your attackers.

The best thing about these Musha katanas is their price (you can get some really cheap ones like this one here). At that price range, you won’t expect much. That is why when you get your hands on them, you are going to be pleasantly surprised. I sure was.

Ace Martial Arts Supply Musha Katana: Check the best price on Amazon

Handmade Sword Samurai Katana

Another great buy for me was Handmade Sword’s samurai katana. Handmade Sword is a company based in California. As you can guess, this company is known for its handmade swords, including their katanas.

Handmade Sword has a full line-up of katanas you can choose from. These katanas are around the lower to mid-price range.

Handmade Sword - Samurai Katana Sword, Practical, Hand Forged, 1045 Carbon Steel, Heat Tempered/Clay Tempered, Full Tang, Sharp, Scabbard (Tomoe Crest)
190 Reviews
Handmade Sword - Samurai Katana Sword, Practical, Hand Forged, 1045 Carbon Steel, Heat Tempered/Clay Tempered, Full Tang, Sharp, Scabbard (Tomoe Crest)
  • 1045 fully handmade quality Japanese samurai...
  • Full tang, sharp edge, and functional
  • Approx. 28. 5" blade 10. 75" handle & overall 41"
  • Wooden handle wrapped w/ray skin & white cotton...
  • White piano lacquered wood with black Japanese...

Last update on 2020-04-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The thing I like most about this katana is how sharp it is. Be careful when handling this sword, because it is razor-sharp. It is also a high-carbon blade, which explains why it can get so sharp.

Not only is it sharp, but it is also functional as well. Sure, it’s not the most durable katana out there. If an actual samurai were to use one of these in battle, it probably won’t hold up. But for casual sword fights and self-defense, this katana works very well. It is also a full tang katana, so it can take some hits.

The hilt also has a good grip. The tsuka is wrapped with ray skin which will absorb any sweat your hands have. It is also braided with cotton cords to provide the cushion you need.

When it comes to looks, you’re going to be spoiled for choice. Handmade Sword offers katanas in so many designs and colors. They have everything from simple tsubas to intricate ones. This is why you have the freedom to choose which one resonates with you the most.

Again, you can never expect an affordable katana to be as good as an authentic one. But when you take a look at the price, this katana is well worth it.

Handmade Sword Samurai Katana: Check the best price on Amazon

Conclusion

Getting your first katana can be intimidating. If you don’t know what you are looking for, there are quite a lot of mistakes you can make. It’s very easy to spend too much, and there is also a chance that you will end up with something that isn’t a katana at all. But with these tips, you now have everything you need to know. These will help you get the best katana for yourself.

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    Ahmed

    I’m Ahmed, the guy behind Knifepulse.com. I’ve owned several types of knives and sharpeners over the last few years and have become obsessed with everything to do with knives. I’m always trying to improve my cleaning and sharpening process, and always on the hunt for the next best knife. But when I’m not spending time with my hobby, I’m here, writing about Knives and Sharpeners on KnifePulse to share with you what I learn along the way.

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