BLADE Magazine

Knives and Swords 101: What are Menuki?

Menuki definition
Shaped like a dragon, bat and lion, menuki (handle charms) are tucked under the cord-wrapped stingray skin
handles of a trio of tanto knives by RJ Martin. (SharpByCoop image)

In Japanese sword culture, menuki are handle charms, often tucked under the silk wrappings of stingray skin grips. Like all aspects of Japanese swords, the charms are handmade—fashioned one at a time, sculpted, carved and engraved. They are for decorative purposes only, though one could argue that, if appropriately shaped, they’d add palpability, and perhaps, if lucky charms, good omens for sword wielders.

Along with “Agyo” and “Ungyo,” two Japanese temple guardians, engraved on the VG-10 blade of the “Yari” spear, this knife by Glenn Waters also sports an ebony handle and a silver dragon handle charm.

Knifemakers being knifemakers, whether American, German, Nordic, Australian, Indian or South African, these little handle charms have not gone unnoticed. They’ve been adopted by knifemakers wanting to add more elements of intrigue to their knives.

A knife’s ability to perform the cutting chores for which it was designed is the first priority, but ask any knifemaker, and he or she will tell you that form follows function. And sometimes it’s the aesthetics of a knife that catches the eye of a potential buyer.

So knifemakers pay attention to the details. They add amenities, embellish the pieces and fashion handle charms. And knife collectors are charmed, we’re sure.

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