How to Wrap the Hilt of a Samurai Sword

By Joshua Benjamin
The wrapping, a katana hilt
katana image by NetGraphi from Fotolia.com

Few pieces of Eastern culture have reached the level of popularity in the Western world attained by the katana, also known as the "samurai sword" because of the Japanese warrior caste who carried the weapon. The katana is as much a piece of art as it is a weapon of war, and this is reflected in all aspects of its manufacture. Perhaps the most obvious example, however, is the binding of the hilt, or "tsuka" in Japanese. The hilt of a katana may be wrapped in a number of different styles using a single strip of cloth called the "ito". The most basic wrapping, however, is the traditional diamond pattern.

Wrapping

Judge the length of ito needed to wrap your hilt by measuring the length of the hilt in inches, adding 3 inches and measuring the ito on a scale whereby 1 inch equals to 1 foot. If your katana hilt is seven inches long, for example, you will cut need 10 feet of ito to wrap it properly.

Find the center of your ito and place it near the top of the hilt (toward the blade). Press the two resulting ito strands together tightly, so the wrapping makes a single, tight loop against the hilt.

Press one of the strands of ito against the hilt at a 30- to 45-degree angle. Hold it against the hilt with your thumb and fold it over at the center of the hilt.

Make another fold in the ito immediately after your first fold. Hold this firmly against the hilt so that your folds do not come undone.

Take the second length of ito--the one that is not yet folded--and lay it over the first length. Repeat steps 4 and 5 so that you now have two lengths of ito--one over the other--folded into an "X" pattern.

Hold the ito lengths firmly in place and turn over your hilt. Repeat steps 4 through 6. After each "X" pattern, nudge the ito up toward the blade, so the patterns are snug against each other. The only parts of the hilt that should be visible are those left bare to form the diamond pattern in between the "X" shapes.

Wrap the whole of the hilt in this manner until you reach the end. Tie off the loose ends of ito. Draw one end toward the blade, then pass it under the final "X."

Tying

Bring the other end of ito over and under the first end. Pass it under the previous fold, making a loop. Bring it back again under the fold, then bring both ends up and over the bottom of the handle. Some hilts are made with a slot--called a shitadome--through which both ends of the ito must be passed.

Push the first end of ito under the first "X" fold. Either tie the ito to the fold or apply a strong glue to the ito, cut off the excess length and fold it under the "X" fold.

Take the remaining end of the ito and push it under the first "X" fold. Bring the length up and push it under the loop created when you pushed the two ends under the "X" fold (near the bottom of the hilt). Either tie the end of the ito here or cut off the excess length, apply a strong glue and tuck it under the loop.

About the Author

Joshua Benjamin began as a professional freelance writer in 2009. He has successfully published numerous articles spanning a broad range of topics. Benjamin's areas of expertise include auto repair, computer hardware and software, firearms operation and maintenance, and home repair and maintenance. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration from California State University, Fresno.