Tsukamaki is the art of wrapping the handle of a katana or in fact most Japanese bladed weapons. In the hands of resourceful and talented Japanese craftsmen can look simple, in reality it's anything but. Just like every other aspect of Manufacturing a Japanese katana or bladed weapon, the art of tsukamaki incorporates multiple elements of both functional and aesthetic qualities to produce one of the most intricate yet sensible sword hilts ever known.
Traditionally, the basic finished tsuka consists of multiple layers of strength and safety. It starts with a wood core carved precisely to fit the nakago (tang) of the individual blade. Placed over this core is either a fully enveloping piece of samegawa (stingray skin) or panels placed on either side. The surface of the samegawa is as hard as teeth and the nodes help grip the ito to hold it in place. When soaked in water and then dried, a full wrap of samegawa constricts around the core to add superior strength and resistance to moisture. These elements are then tightly wrapped in very tough ito (cord), typically silk, so that everything is secure. In addition to securing the underlying core, the tsukamki is done in such a way so that it becomes very difficult to unravel and also provides an excellent grip, even if your hands are wet.