With some help from Ted Tenold, I’ve put together a nice modern sword care kit to replace the uchiko-based kits-o-death that are commonplace destroyers of swords everywhere.
I’m supplying these for free to first time buyers of high quality swords from my site. So if you were looking for a reason to drop $50,000 on a sword, it has arrived.
For a while I’ve been supplying high quality care kits to first time buyers of my swords as a thank you. The real reason was some preventative maintenance. Getting someone started with good materials and a good microfiber cloth is an important way of preventing damage to swords, and preventing damage means less polishes and less polishes means longer survival.
These were Microdear cloths with Fujishiro cleaning kits. Those contain high quality oil and with Fujishiro’s uchiko, which is quite a bit softer than el-cheapo brands. As well, Fujishiro does not have a rod attached to the uchiko ball. This makes it impossible for people to drum it on the sword and so prevents one method of damage from happening.
Fujishiro seems to have understood there are some issues with the construction of uchiko for cleaning. His approach has always made me think that there was room for improvement in the overall kit. Plus, it’s getting harder to get his kits currently.
I’ve been kicking some ideas around in my head for a while and on my last trip to Japan, Ted Tenold and I did some running around and acquired all of the necessary elements for a modern care kit.
They are not really intended for sale, but will be gifts to my customers on their first sword purchase.
Rimowa polycarbonate travel case
Since I travel and do exhibits with my swords sometimes, I have broken several of the standard wooden boxes that come with the standard care kits you will find anywhere. They don’t take pressure very well when packing. As well, I’ve had the lids come off in transit (they don’t stay on so well once cracked) and had “stuff” end up all over the place on the inside of my luggage.
These German Rimowa cases are items I’ve encountered while flying to various places around the world. They are miniature versions of the Rimowa Salsa polycarbonate luggage sets.
Rimowa is famous for durable, high quality luggage, and these kits zip shut and stay shut. Polycarbonate is flexible, so won’t break, and the ribs keep them stiff so they retain their form. They are exactly the right size for a sword care kit and so they make an excellent upgrade to the traditional wooden box.
Stuck tsuka tool
We seem to have a problem outside of Japan with stuck tsuka. The problem is caused by the temperature and humidity variability around the world. Wooden tsuka as a result expand or contract in different climates, and it is very common for them to set on so tight in a North American winter, or a dry environment, that they cannot be removed.
This necessitates either excellent technique (and a sore hand) or having to acquire a removal tool on an emergency basis. The hammer has been trimmed a bit so that it fits in the case. No more loose ends lying around.
This is not a standard issue tool in Japanese kits, but I’ve seen people encounter the problem enough worldwide that I thought it was a good thing to include in this one.
Okamura sword oil
The Okamura family has been producing oil for Japanese swords since the Kanbun era (1652). This came highly recommended out of Japan for use on Juyo Bunkazai. So, possibly good enough for your swords too. I can’t say I’m an oil expert. I just asked around for the best oil and this is what it lead to.
Microdear microfiber cleaning cloth
There is no substitute.
Microdear are manufactured for use as camera lens cloths and are popular worldwide among pro photographers. Japanese dealers started using them some time ago for removing oil from swords and they have caught on elsewhere.
This type of microfiber cloth has good bulk to it, and feels right in the hand. It very quickly and easily wicks up any oil present on the blade. It has been hot stamped with Ted’s logo to help you keep track of a dirty and clean side so you always handle it in the same direction and keep junk from your hands off of the blade.
This replaces the disposable rice paper / uchiko combination traditionally used to destroy good polishes.
The benefits vs. uchiko and rice paper are:
- this doesn’t ruin your sword
- this doesn’t ruin your shirasaya by leaving residue on the sword which gets into the shirasaya and turns it into sandpaper
- this doesn’t ruin your oil applicator with left over residue being collected up on the next oiling
- it removes oil easier, faster, and more completely, for a better viewing experience
- it’s reusable and you won’t run out
- no clouds of fine powdered stone dust going into the air beside your face and being breathed (I was going to make a cancer joke here, but seriously this kind of thing is a health hazard)
Really, this is how to clean your sword in the current millennium.
Toray microfiber oil applicator
Fujishiro’s kit goes out with cotton for the applicator, and this tends to make a mess of cotton fibers everywhere. Once oily they get sticky and the results are bad.
I see room for improvement.
Microfiber fabric will not scratch the steel and will give a good even coating of oil. It won’t fall apart. It won’t make a big mess of fibers all over. So that is the choice for this part of the kit. We chose a firmer type from Toray Industries, Japan vs. the Microdear used for cleaning. This LT line from Toray is rated for cleaning optical instruments and electronics, and has more structure to it than the type that would be used for cleaning.
We selected some small plastic boxes for storing the applicator and cut the microfiber to match. When done applying oil, put it away and it will retain the oil already on it and not make a mess elsewhere. After a few oilings you will find that it does not often need additional oil on subsequent uses.
It has also been hot stamped with Ted’s logo. Keep the logo side visible and you will always know which side is the clean side, to keep hand junk off of the blade.
Always necessary is the standard hammer for removing the mekugi. Nothing special here. Ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
What is not there cannot hurt your sword. This after all is the primary reason for making this kit.
Welcome to the future.