Characterized by their distinctive curved blade construction and squared grip, The Katana was also known for it's sharpness. Design types are placed into 6 Manufacture Types (according to the Generation or Era made). Development began in the 11th Century. Originally made for lower ranking Warriors, by the 1400s, The Katana became more refined (and personal) in production (providing purchase and use by only the wealthiest of the Warrior caste. Katana's were traditionally “named” by their Owners (even before named). This infused the Warrior's spirit to that of the blade. Carried in scabbards and worn through a belt sash – the were carried in an “upside down” fashion.
Through training in the proper sword “kata” (or procedure), this allowed for a much more deadlier cutting stroke (than a traditional European deployment method). On average a “typical'” Katana was between 27 and 28-inches in blade length. The handle grip added an additional 6 to 8-inches (to the users reach). Various design types (with varying blade lengths and usages) were also made. Swordmakers of great skill were often sought out and commissioned to construct only the finest (and sharpest) of blades.
The forging process and “folding” of the molten steel is a closely guarded secret (much in the same way European Bow Makers differed in their techniques and styles). It could take many months to finalize a Katana and 2 to 4 weeks of special sharpening and polishing to produce a top quality blade. Often, an elaborate ceremony was given to present the blade to it's owner. A Katana was cared for much like a living thing (this special oils and storage practices). As the principle weapon of the elite Samurai, many examples of Katana's can be worth millions of dollars (and are often considered Art).