The tsuba is the hand guard that sits between the handle and the blade. It gives the hand a little protection against an opponent’s blade and also prevents your hand from slipping up the handle to become injured on your own blade. Most traditional tsuba are a little bigger than this, I like mine smaller as it keeps the blade a little lighter and has less momentum near the handle.

I lay out what I think I want it to look like on a slab of 5/16″ steel.

I decided on four corners and not six. The hole for the blade should be well fitted. Many historical tsuba had copper welded in there at the ends, as the soft metal provided a good fit that wouldn’t damage the blade if it rubbed a little. I’m not that studious, nor do I think my sword needs it.

A little shaping and grinding to get the look I’m going for.

I give it some sanding but not too much yet. It still needs to be heat treated, and it will need to be fully sanded after that. I just get the edges the way I want them. The copper piece on the right is called a seppa, and it’s a spacer that goes on either side of the tsuba. I need to make two of them.

The fit is great, very tight.

Heat treating is the fun part, and not without some risk. The tsuba is heated in these embers until it’s glowing hot, and then quenched in water. This sudden cooling will harden the steel quite well, but if there are flaws in the steel, it may crack or deform, and then I’d have to start all over.

This one made it fine, a little dirty and with a thick glaze over it that will need to be broken off, then final sanding. I considered getting a little more decorative but I like them simple, as they do a simple job.