The first samurai swords we're actually straight bladed, single edged weapons imported from Korea and China known as chokuto, which were later replaced with the curved blade variety at the end of the 8th Century. The name of the curved blade swords which replaced them was Tachi. The reason for this transformation was samurai found that a curved sword could be drawn from the scabbard more swiftly and provided a far more effective cutting angle.
The point of a samurai sword is called a Kissaki. This is the hardest part of the sword to polish and forge and to hand create a quality one would require an extremely skilful artisan. The value of a sword is determined largely by the quality of the point.
Samurai would use wooden swords (Bokken) for practice for safety reasons as well as for preserving their real swords from unnecessary damage.
The samurai would give names to their swords as they believe in the sword lived their warrior spirit.
There are three main types of samurai sword. 1: Katana: The longest type of sword, over 24inches, generally used for outdoor combat. 2: Wakizashi: Around a third shorter than the Katana at between 12 and 24 inches, this was worn in indoor establishments by samurai for its obvious better manouverability indoors. 3: Tanto: A small knife used in much the same manner as a Wakizashi.
As part of the samurai sword making process a sword tester took the new blade and cut through the bodies of corpses or condemned criminals. They started by cutting through the small bones of the body and moved up to the large bones. Test results were often recorded on the nakago (the metal piece attaching the sword blade to the handle).
Shogun is the name of the most powerful samurai, and they would wear two samurai swords. A Katana and a Wakizashi. They had a license to dismember anybody who offended them.
Early samurai would fight on horseback, and they're weaponry in addition to samurai swords was bows and arrows.
Article by Nick Johnson of Japanese samurai swords Dot Net