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#362363 - 09/24/07 10:19 PM Leather, silk or cotton?
Borrek Offline

Registered: 01/05/06
Posts: 501
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
So it is "first iaito" time (which excites me much more than getting my first car ever did!) and I am faced with a decision on tsuka wrapping. My sensei prefers leather wrapped tsuka, so I am 99% certain that I will emulate this, but when I sent an e-mail with general questions to, Rick mentioned in passing that he would never ever choose leather.

I have pretty much made up my mind, but my curiosity has been piqued. What characteristics do you look for a tsukamaki to have and how do you think each option compares in those regards? One thing to keep in mind is that silk is generally $100 more than cotton, and leather adds roughly another $100-$150. I know this sounds silly but my hands are fairly calloused from weight lifting and I'm adding more from iaido, so I worry that I would snag and tear the silk after repeated use.

any thoughts?

#362364 - 09/24/07 10:35 PM Re: Leather, silk or cotton? [Re: Borrek]
cxt Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/11/03
Posts: 5844
Loc: USA
Good silk is pretty tough stuff---really tough.

I don't know enough about leather wrappings to be able to offer and opinion--have not used them, and I'd don't personally know anyone that does.

Which means nothing except I don't know enough about it to answer your question.

I'd go with whatever your teacher recommends.

You might ask this question over on:

Might get some more answers there.
I did battle with ignorance today.......and ignorance won. Huey.

#362365 - 09/24/07 10:59 PM Re: Leather, silk or cotton? [Re: cxt]
Charles Mahan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/14/04
Posts: 2502
Loc: Denton, Tx, USA
Actually silk is considerably tougher than silk in my experience. After 10 years the silk on my iaito has taken on an almost leathery appearance as the oil from my hands has built up on it. Cotton on the other hand remains... hairy many years after it is wrapped. It never takes on the same smooth surface that leather has naturally and silk gains after a few months of steady workouts.

I'm not really sure why Rick is advising against leather. I know very little about it's long term durability. The only thing that comes to mind is that leather can stretch a little, but silk really doesn't. Not in the same way. I might be off base on that. Like I said. No first hand experience. I know some folks swear by it. I'm quite happy with silk.
Iaido - Breaking down bad habits, and building new ones.

#362366 - 09/25/07 10:19 AM Re: Leather, silk or cotton? [Re: Charles Mahan]
cxt Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/11/03
Posts: 5844
Loc: USA

Me too, I see the leather wrapping quite a bit now--but have never used it myself and I really don't know anyone that does.

No real reason for it that I know of--they just don't.
I did battle with ignorance today.......and ignorance won. Huey.

#362367 - 09/25/07 11:26 AM Re: Leather, silk or cotton? [Re: Charles Mahan]
schanne Offline
breaks things

Registered: 02/18/04
Posts: 4370
Loc: Woodbury NJ
Hello Charles, I too have (blue) silk and have no complaints. Although beautiful blue color that it once was now is fadding due to oils sweat etc. I contacted the fellow who made my sword and asked how to wash/clean the silk and he recommended that he re wrap it with fresh silk which is about $250. Right now I can deal with the fadded look..... Did you ever try cleaning your?
The way of the warrior does not include other ways... Miyamoto Musashi Schanne

#362368 - 09/25/07 01:48 PM Re: Leather, silk or cotton? [Re: schanne]
A.J. Bryant Offline

Registered: 02/28/03
Posts: 98
Loc: Indianapolis, IN USA
I would stay away from cotton altogether unless it’s a question of finances. It fades fast and doesn’t stay as tight as other wraps.

I have used both silk and leather/suede over the years and each have their own feel. That’s really what it comes down to. Leather might last a little longer, but not by much. I would say that silk is probably your best all-around choice, but if you like the feel of leather, go with that (sensei has several swords you can try, BTW).

I actually prefer suede myself. I have it on my main iaito and a synthetic version called “tsunami” on one of my iai shinken. It has a grittier feel than either leather or silk but still maintains a certain “softness” as well.

Whatever you go with though, you have to keep it clean or it will get slippery and that’s the last thing you want with a 30-inch razor blade... I use a simple toothbrush and a little dish soap. Just scrub it lightly and towel dry, or use a hair dryer. In the winter, I even leave the sword over a vent with the heat on overnight.

Hope this helps.

BTW, Suino sensei’s leather wrap has lasted over 15 years I think. Not bad.
Andrew Bryant Rishinkan Dojo Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu Iaido Dentokan Aiki Jujutsu

#362369 - 09/25/07 03:48 PM Re: Leather, silk or cotton? [Re: cxt]
JMWcorwin Offline

Registered: 07/13/07
Posts: 731
Loc: SoCal, USA
I have one with a leather wrap and have had no problems with it. I like the feel of it at the beginning, but yes, after a bit of use the silk is pretty close. The only thing I would warn is that if the leather wrap is done incorrectly it tends to stretch more often than the silk. (according to my instructor)
There are no PERFECT techniques, only perfect execution for the situation at hand. ~Corwin

#362370 - 09/25/07 07:05 PM Re: Leather, silk or cotton? [Re: JMWcorwin]
iaibear Offline

Registered: 08/24/05
Posts: 1304
Loc: upstate New York
My first two iaito were inexpensive ($300) with cotton wrappings. They frayed early on. This was cured easily and inexpensively with clear Krylon spray. Both had metal fatigue failure after @ 3 years of regular use.

My current iaito ($900) has lasted seven years with no sign of wear. The wrapping is silk. No discernible fraying, wear or slippage.

#362371 - 09/26/07 05:47 AM Re: Leather, silk or cotton? [Re: A.J. Bryant]
splice Offline

Registered: 01/24/05
Posts: 230
Loc: Ottawa, ON

I would stay away from cotton altogether unless it’s a question of finances. It fades fast and doesn’t stay as tight as other wraps.

I disagree. Both my iaito are wrapped with cotton. One is 7-8 years old, been through 2 or 3 different pairs of hands and is very tight and smooth indeed. The other is newer but was a rewrap after the silk wrap started loosening a bit. The person who did the wrap (Fred Kay, for those who know him) suggested that cotton may keep a bit tighter than silk, if I recall.

At any rate cotton is a perfectly fine wrap. The one thing I wouldn't ever use is leather and perhaps suede, but that's just my personal preference.

EDIT: Charles, I don't know what you mean about cotton getting hairy. Mine is very smooth, so maybe the ones you've seen were a different type of cotton? Don't know, but I do recall a "hairy" tsuka I've seen, and that was a cotton wrap on a paul chen. Always assumed it was like that because it was a paul chen and not because it was cotton.

Edited by splice (09/26/07 05:50 AM)

#362372 - 09/26/07 08:28 AM Re: Leather, silk or cotton? [Re: splice]
Charles Mahan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/14/04
Posts: 2502
Loc: Denton, Tx, USA
Most of my experience with cotton wraps have been with Swordstore models. Some from back when they were getting them from Igarashi-san, and some of the newer models as well. They all have little threads sticking out from the ito.

I think the moral of the story is that all 3 are in use by most of the iaito makers in Japan. If there was an inherent problem with any of the three, that wouldn't be true. You should be safe no matter which you choose.
Iaido - Breaking down bad habits, and building new ones.

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