Katana wa bushi no tamashi








Sztuka tsukamaki

materia³ pobrany ze strony



The Art of Tsukamaki

written and illustrated by Thomas L. Buck, Ph.D.

Ever since seeing my first Japanese sword, I have been captivated by the elegance and complexity of TSUKA-MAKI (the art of wrapping the tsuka). Although I will share with you a few of the tools, materials and techniques needed for tsuka-maki, I have learned, through the guidence of Takahashi-sensi, that patience, persistence and excellence are the true requirements for the application of this art.


In order to make this more understandable for both the novice, as well as the experienced wrapper, I shall start by defining a few of the common terms used in tsuka-maki.

FUCHI/KASHIRA pommel caps
HA cutting edge side
HISHIGAMI paper wedges
ITO cloth braid
MAKI to wrap
MENUKI hilt ornaments
MEKUGI peg that secures hilt
MEKUGI ANA holes in the hilt
MUNE the side opposite cutting edge
NAKAGO tang of sword
OMOTE the side that faces out
TSUKA hilt or sword handle
TSUKAITO cloth braid covering tsuka
SAME shark or ray skin
URA the side that faces in


For holding the tsuka: a stand that will hold the tsuka firmly in place for both wrapping and tightening, and will allow work to be done easily on both the omote and ura side.

For inserting the paper wedges, and adjusting the ito: tweezers, a pick (any small pointed tool), and any small hand held tool with a blunt wedge shaped tip. You can most likely find all of these in used dental tools.

For holding the ito in place: a clamp that can be worked around freely, will not allow the ito to shift, and goes on and comes off readily.



Aside from the tsuka itself, the basic materials in tsukamaki are the ito, paper and glue.

The glue can either be purchased (such as Elmer’s) or produced by boiling rice, working it into a past while still warm, and adding a small amount of water.

The paper can be of nearly anyweight, but ideally it should be relatively close to newsprint in weight and consistency.

During the wrapping, be sure to moisten the paper wedges before inserting them under the braid, this will allow the wedges to conform more readily to both the tsukaito and the same.

Although the ito is available in a wide range of colors, it is only manufactured using two different types of fibers (natural and synthetic). When trying to identify an unknown ito, a burn test is often helpful. The following chart gives tests for the principle natural fibers, and a few synthetics.

Cotton Luminous, rapid Burning paper Fine, gray
Silk Slow oran/yellow Burning hair Brittle bead
Wool, hair Slow, blue Burning feathers Brittle bead
Rayon Sparks, orange Burnt paper Black ash
Acetate Rapid, sparks Vinegarish Hard bead
Nylon Melts, no flame Like celery Hard bead


Although I have encounter several different ways to derive the required length of ito, ranging from special formulas and ratios, to wrapping the tsuka from end to end and half way back, I tend to follow the simple guidelines given me by Takahashi-sensi.

TANTO (4" tsuka) 6 feet of ito
WAKIZASHI (6" tsuka) 8 feet of ito
KATANA (10" tsuka) 12 feet of ito



In preparing the tsuka, start by stretching a sample of the desired ito tight and measuring its width (1W).

Using a small amount of rice paste glue, place thin paper strips along both the ha and mune sides of the tsuka. By Layering the paper you will decide the finished shape of the tsuka, and also gaurd the ito from snaring on the surface of the same. Continue layering the paper until the fuchi/kashira will be flush with the edges of the tsuka (after the ito is in place).

Measure and mark the ha and mune sides in tsukaito width segments (1W). The distance between the fuchi and kashira should measure an odd number of width units along both the ha and mune. If not, either the tsuka may have to be altered, or a different weight ito may have to be selected in order to fit within an odd number of spaces.



To give the maki a proper shape, the tsukaito is folded over various styles of hishi-gami, or small paper wedges. Here are a few of the many different styles used.

In making the wedges, begin by folding a sheet of newsprint, or standard weight paper 5-11 times. Cut off excess paper, then cut the folded paper into two width (2W) segments. Use these to make any of the wedge styles previously illustrated in this article.

One alternative to the previously mentioned hishi-gami, is made from a piece of paper (1" X 1/2") folded as shown above.


Another, fatter alternative wedge, can be made from a piece of paper (7 1/2" X 1 3/4W) folded as shown above.


To begin with, it should be stated that both Japanese tradition, and personal observation, suggest that tsukamaki should be started and completed on the omote, or the side of the tsuka that faces outward when being worn. This is almost always true regarless of the style of wrap.

  • Measure half the length of the tsukaito.
  • Place the first two paper wedges on the ura (side opposite the omote), and align them with the marks on the paper strips.
  • Make the first two tsukaito folds overlap the paper wedges.
  • Bring the other half of the braid around and make the next two folds.
  • Repeat with other length of ito.
  • Continue this procedure on the other side, alternating the direction of the folds.
During the wrapping, tightness should be a primary concern. Each fold should be drawn or stretched so that there is no slackness or looseness.

Throughout the process, continually monitor and adjust the symmetry of the folds and open areas, and try to maintain a smooth surface appearance along the ha and mune edges of the tuska. Ultimately, a quality tsukamaki maintains a consistent tightness and exactness.


In both the ito maki no katana, as well as the ito maki no tachi, the menuki are usually


placed after the third set of folds from the fuchi on the omote side and three sets of folds from the knot on the ura side. In reference to wakizashi and tanto, the menuki are commonly place after the second or third set of folds. In any event, the positioning of the may vary because of the tsuka size, menuki size, ito width, or placement of the mekugi-ana.

(Ito Maki no Katana)


(Tying the Ura Knot)

At the end of the tsuka, on the ura side, pass the end of the tsukaito, coming from the mune, over and then under the proceeding fold. Then, pass the end from the ura over the other end, and under the previous fold, making a loop. Bring it back again under the fold. Thread both ends through the shitadome (if present) and the kashira side-by-side.


To start the omote knot, pass the bottom end of the tsukaito under the top set of folds, pull the braid over the fold, cut off,


(Tying the Omote Knot)
apply rice paste glue, and tuck under. Take the top end of the tsukaito under the top set of flold, repeating the first part of the previous step. Then, make a loop by bringing it back again under thefolds. At this point, insert a small wad of paper and fold the tsukaito over and tighten. Bring the top length around to the left and down again cut off, apply and paste glue and tuck under.




Of the more than forty styles of tsuka-maki that I am familiar with, here are five of the most common.

(Tsumami maki)


(Katate maki)


(Tachi Tsukagashira Kake maki )


(Two Variations of Kami Hira Maki zuka)

(Kami Hira Maki zuka)


(Hoso Jabaraito Kumiage zuka)


(Sageo Knots)