When we handle an Iaito or Katana it is a matter of course you handle or tsuka is tightly wrapped. Nevertheless it is a whole art and specialism to wrap tsuka Ito in a proper and traditional manner. Many parts of the Japanese sword were made by various specialists, when the blade is completed by the sword smith he turns the blade over to a polisher called a togishi, whose job it is to refine the shape of a blade and to bring out the beauty blade with a traditional polish. The habaki shi makes a pefect habaki so the blade can me mounted perfectly and has an excellent fit with the saya. The saya is made by the Saya-shi.
The wrapping of the Ito is called Tsuka Maki (Tsuka = Handle, Maki = Wrapping). This aspect of the Japanese sword is in by talented and dedicated craftsmen turned into a true form of art. An aspect in which functionality and aesthetic elements came together so that a sword arised up that still was unprecedented in the history of mankind. About all the details thought well and has its own function.
The handle is made up of various components so that it can be handled solid and safely. Deep in the Tsuka is the Nakago or Tang, the part of the blade that runs deep into the tsuka. Around it comes wood, which has been carved out so the Nakago falls exactly in it. Around the wood is traditional samegawa or rayskin wrapped, this allows for grip on your hands and Ito, the knots in the rayskin hold the Ito to stay in its place. The Ito (cord) wrapped around is often made of cotton, silk or leather. The same can completely wrapped full around it or in strips (also called panels) are used. This is ultimate secured with one or two bamboo pegs (mekugi), for the safety. The Ito should be tied in such a way so they are not likely to unravel, so that they will stay safe and stable.
A correct Tsuka Maki gives a lot of elegance and uniqueness to your Katana. The complexity between the wraps differs a lot, famous are Hineri Maki and Ikkan.
Recently I made a new Tsuka Maki stand so I can give enough attention to wrapping the Ito.If you have any questions about a new Ito or would you like to thoroughly check your Iaito or Katana then that's no problem.
Below you can see my handmade Tsuka Maki stand.