Mekugi – Katana Care and Maintenance
Most Katana has one or two Mekugi which are simply known as pegs. These are usually made of bamboo pins. Extra pegs can be a good way to strengthen the sword handle. Secure the tsuka to the Nakago.
Swords use in martial arts it is not advisable to use hardwood or buffalo horn Mekugi. Tapered shape pegs must only be removed in one direction. In traditional wrap style, the Katana Mekugi is hidden under the tsuka ito and the Menuki.
The pegs are held in place with the use of a blade stopper. A special tool like this that can help remove the pegs when cleaning the sword is referred to as Mekugi-Nuki.
Craftsman used a removal tool that is made of brass and resembles a hammer that has a punch. The hammer can unscrew these pegs. Wooden mallets can also be used for the same purpose.
There are different types of bamboo pegs. Suffice to say that the main role of this peg is that it holds the sword together and also acts as the shock absorber of the sword.
Bamboo is a good choice because it is flexible enough to absorb pressure while the sword is used for striking. It is a must to use better grade bamboo. Even if bamboo cost cheap, the process of making the Mekugi is labor-intensive.
Finishing is accomplished with the use of fine shaving with a single-edged razor blade. Some favor the use of brass however once repeated force is applied on the Nakago this causes an indentation in the pin.
This makes it rather difficult later to remove the tsuka without damaging it. Bamboo is flexible, softer and easier to replace. Mosaic bolster pins will spruce up the blade.
Katana Mekugi Maintenance Tips
Always check the Mekugi before practicing swordsmanship even if this is a solo act martial arts practice. Replace any peg that is thin, weak or broken. Failing to do this safety check can lead to disaster.
Some accidents can be avoided like seeing the blade thrown from its handle and seeing the peg slip from its housing. This explains why some practitioners prefer two retaining pins.
We use only bamboo mekugi, however, Some also prefer using two different materials for the pegs, If that is the case, The primary Katana Mekugi should use a bamboo. Insert this on the right side of the handle.
The reserved peg must be made of iron or steel and inserted on the left side. Bamboo is used as a primary peg because the fibers are resilient enough to prevent the blade from being thrown off.
The use of these materials is simply explained this way; bamboo mekugi hold the tsuka while the metal peg helps more with the nakago since it is wood to wood and metal to metal. Some prefer the smoked bamboo as it’s of better quality.
However, not all craftsmen agree with this. When the peg needs replacing the owner will hear a creaking sound.