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What is a hamon?

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Throughout our site, you may see many Samurai swords that talk about hamons, but WHAT is a hamon?

A hamon is basically a visual effect created on the blade by the hardening process. to more fully understand what a hamon is, you will first have to understand how a blade is forged.

The hamon is the outline of the hardened zone which contains the cutting edge of the blade. Blades made in this manner are known as differentially hardened, with a harder cutting edge than spine, or "mune" (for example: mune 40 HRC vs ha 58 HRC). This difference in hardness results from clay being applied on the blade prior to the cooling process (quenching). Less or no clay allows the ha to cool faster, making it harder but more brittle, while more clay allows the mune to cool slower and retain its resilience.

The polishing of a katana really brings the hamon to life and it can take years to learn how to polish a Japanese blade correctly.

A beautiful hamon can be the most visually stunning part of a katana to the blade connoisseur. Each hamon will be unique, but there are styles associated with each type. A choji hamon, for example looks like fire.

Swords that are not differentially hardened will either have a faux hamon or none at all. A faux hamon is created by either chemical etching or grinding it into the blade surface. 

A hamon does not make a sword great though, as most beginners should opt for a through-hardened blade as they can usually take more punishment from misdirected cuts.

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