Hadori Polishing: What You Need To Know

Today we’ll talk about what makes hadori polish unique.

The katanas and other samurai swords are some of the finest tools of war. Due to their complexity require many hours of work to create.

Their complexity, efficiency, and ability to be customized made of them a unique weapon. No wonder why the samurai class fell in love with them during ancient Japan. This swords’ easthetic elevated them from simple Japanese swords to the status of works of art.

Each sword is unique.

Each sword can be refined in a hundred different ways.

In this post, we will discuss one of the most popular methods to enhance the beauty of swords that have gone through a clay tempering process: the Hadori Polishing.

 

What is the Hadori Polishing?

Hadori Polishing is a stage in the sword polishing process. It’s exclusive for those samurai swords that have been hardened with a clay tempering.

Swords made with a clay tempering are not only stronger but also acquire a unique pattern of curves that runs around the edge, called hamon.

Both amateurs and experts in Japanese swords love the hamon. Not only is it attractive, but by relying on the artistic skills of the blacksmith it is also unique.

For this to happen first the full tang blade has to go through the necessary forging processes, including tempering. Then the creator sends it to a polishing expert traditionally called a togishi. He or she will treat the blade with different polishing methods. The final step of this is the Hadori polish.

The Hadori polishing enhances the beauty of the Hamon line, making it stand out along the blade with an attractive metallic glow.

This is due to the fact that the stones used to carry out the process are more abrasive, which allows them to contrast even more the worked areas.

The result is a beautiful sword, with a shiny look that is hard to forget.

There are two types of Hadori polishing. The classic Hadori and the Feather Hadori polish, exclusive of our Japanese sword experts, which offers a different finish.

We’ll talk about both processes later.

Samurai training in a traditional dojo in Tokyo

 

The Beauty of a Good Sword

Japanese katanas remain at the top when it comes to beauty in hand-to-hand combat weapons.

No matter how many diamond inlays some swords have had in history, they have never been able to rival the harmony and craftsmanship that the katana possesses.

It is not only the quality of its components but also its design. Curved, but not too much. Thick enough to resist the blows, but not too thick to make it impractical to use.

It was the emblem of the samurai class, which came to dominate Japan for hundreds of years thanks to the shogunates. No wonder why much of the efforts of Japanese craftsmen have gone exclusively into improving these emblematic weapons.

 

What Changed in the Design of the Katana?

The components of the katana, especially the handle, were gradually refined. They went from wooden handles to complex handles with ray-skin and silk cord.

The Tsuba became more detailed and personalized, displaying all kinds of symbolism. It was used both to express the personality of the samurai and/or to show his clan symbol.

The tang of the swords was signed. Not just as a seal of quality, but as a way of giving credit to the blacksmith in the same way that a painter receives credit for his painting.

As the aesthetic values of the swords evolved, the method of polishing became more complex in order to perfect the result down to the smallest detail.

After all, we humans have always loved bright things.

Using all kinds of tools, from rock to wood and special powders, sword polishers perfected the art of polishing until even the tiniest part of the weapon shines like a diamond in the sun.

Such was the quality of these polishes when it came to respected polishers that even today swords from hundreds of years ago with corrosion-free parts that reflect like a mirror are still being discovered.

As we will see below, however, the polishing process is not only an aesthetic thing but often a functional one.

And carrying out this arduous task, with the different tools and knowledge it requires, is an arduous job that is not for the faint of heart.

Katana with hadori polish

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Samurai Sword Polishing Stages

Before going to the hadori polish, we´ll take a look at the polishing stages.

The polishing of the sword is crucial to its proper functioning.

It is not only a matter of making the blade more attractive but also of giving it the form, functionality, and excellence that characterizes samurai swords.

That is why the polishing process is the stage that demands the most time, patience, and work of all the processes that make up the creation of a sword.

In the old traditional Japanese polishing, the person in charge of the process, the togishi, usually spent long weeks patiently polishing a sword the size of a katana.

It is a process that takes time but is central to the creation of any sword.

In the traditional Japanese method of polishing, there are two crucial stages. The shitaji togi and the shiage togi.

Here we will detail what these two processes consist of.

 

Stage 1: Shitaji Togi Polishing

In this first stage of polishing, the togishi is responsible for analyzing the sword. He has to ensure that it has no shapes in its structure –deviations, protrusions, any kind of error that the blacksmith has overlooked or failed to correct–.

The togishi will then begin work on fixing these problems.

If the sword has any deviations, the togishi will use wooden jigs to correct them.

To fix any remaining imperfections in the forging, the togishi will polish the surface of the blade with large water stones. This process will gradually remove all protuberances until achieving a perfectly flat surface.

For the more complicated parts, such as the tip of the blade, the polisher uses a variety of different methods.  These include smaller stones, a mikagi-bo, or even fine sandpaper.

At this stage, they also painstakingly repair any damage made during the forging process.

Although artificial water stones are often used today, they are only used in the early stages. It’s always better to use natural stones for finishing.

During this process, the sword is moved over the water stones.

In the next stage, however, the blade remains stationary and the polisher rubs the tools on it.

Blacksmith working on metal on anvil at forge high speed detail shot

 

Stage 2: Shiage Togi Polishing

This stage of polishing leaves aside the correction of errors and perfection of the blade shape. It focus exclusively on highlighting its aesthetic qualities.

During this section, the togishi aims to create a clean, reflective surface.

To do this, he will employ smaller polishing stones than those used during the previous process. He’ll use them to gently and constantly rub the flat surface of the blade, delimiting its shapes and details.

It is a slow and meticulous process, for which the polisher must be very patient.

Once this stage has been completed, the time comes to perform the hadori polishing.

 

Hadori Polishing

The hadori polish owes its name to the hadori stone: a water stone that is especially demanded for its coarseness.

Using the qualities of the hadori stone, the polisher will rub the blade while carefully delimiting the edges of the hamon line.

“Carefully”, however, does not cover the amount of patience needed for this task.

There is an old Japanese saying that says asa mae shigoto dewa nai.

It mens “not a task that can be completed before breakfast”.

Being coarser, the hadori stone will go deeper than normal stones, highlighting the shape of the hamon and giving the sword a more attractive appearance.

This is one of the most sought-after blade treatments on samurai swords because of the attractive end result it offers.

Hadori polished katana

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Feather Hadori

Within the category of hadori polish is another style of polishing called Feather Hadori.

This is a process similar to conventional hadori polishing in the sense that it helps to bring out the line of the hamon.

However, this type of polishing that we -and our partner, samuraiswords.store- offer exclusively has a special added value.

In addition to highlighting the hamon, this method creates deep, distinct lines that emanate from the hamon itself and are reminiscent of a bird’s feathers – hence the name.

It is a unique style that leaves the sword with an attractive and elegant appearance, difficult to find in other swords.

It is ideal for you if you are looking for a striking blade with a unique and harmonious touch.

Feather hadori polished katana

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Which polish is best?

As we saw, when we talk about polishing Japanese swords we mean a process that, while primarily aesthetic, can also be functional.

As far as hadori polishing is concerned, both classic and feather polishing are good options to highlight the beauty of your hand-forged katana.

Neither of the two types of hadori has any impact whatsoever on the functionality of the blade, so at the end of the day it will be a matter of taste.