Tsuka and Mekugi

Download the full-size picture to use as your desktop wallpaper.

My desktop wallpaper today is another from these week’s theme of the Japanese katana.

It’s incredibly dangerous to handle the blade of a katana. Not only are they razor sharp on their single cutting edge, but the oils from your skin will hasten the sword’s demise by causing severe corrosion over time. What’s needed is the tsuka – the hilt of the sword, which is traditionally bound in ray skin and either silken or leather cord known as tsuka-ito in Japanese.

To hold the blade in the tsuka, the end of the blade (known as the tang) normally has one or two rivet holes punched through it (known as mekugi-ana); there are corresponding holes in the tsuka too. Into these holes go mekugi, normally bamboo pegs. You can see the mekugi on the right of this photo. For several years, this blade was actually held in place with a mekugi that I fashioned from an old chopstick, until I had the blade remounted to preserve its original furniture.

The cheeky chap you can see on the left is an example of a menuki, and we’ll take a closer look at him in tomorrow’s wallpaper.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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August 2010
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