What is a habaki

habaki katana

The habaki is a metal collar that fits over the base of the katana blade, just above the tang and below the guard (tsuba) and the seppa. This small, wedged component plays a crucial role: Despite its diminutive size, the habaki performs a variety of important functions. It serves to lock the blade and the handguard (tsuba) together, ensuring that the sword remains secure within its scabbard (saya). It also provides support to the blade when the sword is drawn or sheathed. Moreover, in terms of balance and weight distribution, the habaki plays a crucial part.

Habaki are typically crafted from brass or copper, although a range of other materials can also be used. For an ideal fit, the habaki must snugly grip the blade, leaving no spaces in between.

Types of Habaki

The Single Piece Habaki

The single-piece habaki is the most prevalent type, typically crafted from materials such as brass, copper, or silver. The design of this habaki narrows towards the end, wrapping around the blade in a way that ensures a tight and secure fit within the scabbard.

The Two-Piece Habaki

The two-piece habaki, or ni-mai habaki, is a more intricate variant, typically found on higher-end katanas. It consists of an inner and outer piece, often made from different metals for contrast, offering a higher level of detail and aesthetic appeal.

How to make a habaki

Creating a brass habaki isn't as daunting as it might appear.

What you will need:

  • A piece of copper or brass sheeting
  • A sharp knife
  • A file
  • Some sandpaper
  1. Cut a 2-inch wide and 12-inch long strip from your metal sheet. Score a line along the center using your knife, and fold the strip in half lengthwise so that both scored lines align perfectly.
  2. Use your file to even out the strip's edges. Once smoothed, you can start shaping the habaki. Give it a basic "U" shape and gently curl the ends inward until they meet at the center.
  3. After the habaki is shaped, employ your sandpaper to remove any rough edges or blemishes. Your finished habaki should be smooth, with no sharp edges.
  4. Give your habaki a final polish, and that's it, your handmade habaki is ready for use.

Congratulations on successfully crafting your own habaki!