Turning broken swords into kitchen knives
sustainability Apr 20, 2022

Turning broken swords into kitchen knives

A Japanese steel maker has found a way to recycle broken fencing swords

by yui sawada
J-STORIES - Fencing swords have a bamboo-like flexibility. But when used in fierce competition and practice they often become broken or cracked, so have to be thrown away within one to six months. Surely there is a way to reuse all those discarded swords? This January, that long-held dream of one Japanese Olympian turned into reality - endorsed as an  SDG (United Nations development goals for a sustainable world) project with the cooperation of businesses and artisans.
Kazuyasu Minobu, who won Japan its first gold medal in the men’s epee fencing team at last year's Tokyo Olympics, has called for the reuse of broken swords. Ever since starting fencing in high school, Minobu had been pained at the thought of broken swords being thrown away. After the Tokyo Olympics, he launched a project to reuse broken swords, beginning preparations together with the Japan Sports SDGs Association, based in Tokyo’s Chuo ward.
Mr. Minobe answers at a press conference for a project to reuse broken swords             https://www.jssdgs.org/
Mr. Minobe answers at a press conference for a project to reuse broken swords             https://www.jssdgs.org/
The work to recycle the swords was undertaken by Takefu Special Steel, a well-established company in Minobu’s home city of Echizen, Fukui prefecture. The company has experience handling a special steel called maraging steel, which is used in aircraft and rockets, as well as in fencing swords.
When the company made kitchen knives from the broken fencing blades, they found that hardness and other characteristics related to sharpness were of a usable level. The company plans to process the swords into medals and kitchen and other knives by forging; and going forward, it aims to also reclaim and reuse fencing swords, which are not currently made and processed in Japan.
Recovered broken fencing sword               https://www.jssdgs.org/
Recovered broken fencing sword               https://www.jssdgs.org/
A fencing sword that has been beaten and transformed into a prototype knife                https://www.jssdgs.org/
A fencing sword that has been beaten and transformed into a prototype knife                https://www.jssdgs.org/
In an interview with the Japan Sports SDGs Association, Minobu said, “I believe Japan is the first country with a project to recycle broken swords. I’d like people around the world to know about this project.” The association also told J-Stories how they hope “this kind of movement will spread throughout the fencing world.”
At present, fencing swords are not manufactured in Japan. Takefu Special Steel explained to J-Stories that during this test processing of knives it was able to understand the characteristics of the special maraging steel used for fencing swords. The company intends to look at using its own special processing technology to reuse the material for a range of purposes.
The company’s president, Michiro Kono, shared his enthusiasm with J-Stories. “We are a company of only 50 employees, but we would like to take on various challenges to develop our capabilities and broaden our vision as a company.”
Takefu Special Steel Corporation succeeded in prototype processing of fencing swords into knives                http://www.e-tokko.com/
Takefu Special Steel Corporation succeeded in prototype processing of fencing swords into knives                http://www.e-tokko.com/
 Translation and Editing by Tony McNicol 
 Top page photo by Prostock-studio/Envato
 For inquires about this article, please contact us at jstories@pacificbridge.jp

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