Looking after wooden weapons
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Part of our training includes the use of weapons, and this blog discusses a little about how we need to look after them. To start we need to always remember that our training weapons are real weapons and need to be treated with respect.
I’ve spent many many hours with those weapons, oiling, sanding repairing as well as training, and it’s important that you understand it to appreciate its strengths, weaknesses, beauties and flaws. This too is part of Ninpo.
It’s easy to forget that these are real weapons and failing to appreciate that can cause serious injury in training. I’ve seen many people lose their weapons due to breakages in class. A little care means that they can last a lifetime. I’ve had my Bo and Bokken since I started training, and they have been used heavily. During a recent course my bo staff picked up a major injury against another much heavier Bo! Due to the way that it had been looked after meant I was able to repair it.
To treat your new weapons use a medium grade sandpaper to take off any varnish, then finish up to make it nice and smooth with a finer paper. Then using a cloth or brush evenly apply boiled linseed oil in the same direction of the grain in the wood (which is just up and down as this is the way the weapons have to be made). Keep rubbing then allow to soak in for 5-10 minutes and apply another coat.
Ensure that you lay it somewhere flat to dry, if you’ve got some old cotton rags then on that. Keep it away from any heat sources and give it at least overnight to dry. Then using another of your wooden weapons tap the pieces together firmly all over. This helps compress the fibres. Then back to the fine sandpaper, and another coat of linseed oil. Repeat this process at least once more.
Then you should do this once per month for 6 months, then quarterly, then at least once per year after that. It’s a lifelong commitment! After training, inspect the weapon for any splinters / crack etc. These can be glued/sanded for repair and topped up with the sand and oil treatment.
There’s another oil called tung nut oil (sometimes called Japanese wood oil) that can be used too. This has a clearer finish (and different smell) but does the same job. Personally, I use this now on any new weapons I get, but you don’t need to worry about that unless you really want to.
One thing to note, especially with regards to bojutsu and hanbo-jutsu, we can have well treated, true weapons for training, but in reality we may not get the choice. So it’s one thing to know your weapons inside out, it’s another level to be able to pick up any weapon, or improvised weapon and be able to apply the techniques that we have learnt.