Like any finely engineered piece of equipment, a sword requires some degree of maintenance to keep it in good functional or display condition. Naturally if you own swords purely for display, their care doesn’t need to be quite as intensive as that for a functional sword used for cutting or martial arts practice. However all swords will last longer and look better with the appropriate amount of TLC.
If you are just starting out as a sword owner, this care guide will give you some useful takeaways to help you keep your acquisition in the best possible condition. In fact, if you haven’t yet bought your first sword, so much the better. Proper sword care begins as soon as you take delivery.
Caring for Your Sword from Day One
The supplier or manufacturer of your sword will probably have applied a heavy coat of grease to the weapon before shipping it to you. This is to protect the blade during transportation. You should remove this coating of grease (or oil) with mineral spirits or a lacquer thinner. Once you have removed the coating, wipe the blade of your sword thoroughly with a silicone-coated gun cloth.
Going forward, it’s important to remember that being made from steel, swords are prone to rusting. Therefore you should do all that you can to protect your sword from contact with moisture. If your sword should start to develop surface rust, you can use sandpaper (600 grit or finer) with some light oil to remove it.
To prevent a display sword from rusting, coat the blade with car wax or a spray lacquer. If you use your sword, you can prevent it rusting by wiping the blade with a soft cloth before use. When you have finished using the sword, apply a light coat of oil to the blade before you store it away. Japanese sword collectors recommend using chojil oil, which can be purchased from online sword suppliers such as Swords of the East.
Caring for Your Sword Handle and Scabbard
If your sword has a wooden handle, it’s a good idea to treat it occasionally with a light coat of tung oil or lemon oil, which will prevent the handle from cracking. For your scabbard and your sword handle if it is leather covered, treatment with a good paste wax will go a long way to preserve the leather. Avoid storing your sword in a sheath or scabbard for any length of time. The scabbard can potentially trap moisture which will lead to rust spots on your sword’s blade.
Long Term Sword Storage
The very best way to store your swords for any length of time if you are not displaying them is to keep them locked in a gun safe. This will keep them secure as well as protecting them from rust. If a gun safe isn’t practical, then you can buy or make sword bags for storage. Keep humidity in the bags under control by putting a few packs of desiccant inside along with your swords.
Whether you have a low-cost replica sword, or you have splashed out on a $1,000 plus high quality katana, following these care tips will ensure that your purchase doesn’t get weakened and made to look unattractive by unsightly rust spots and pitting.