The anatomy of a *wallhanger* katana

Discussion in 'Sword Arts Talk' started by Swordlady, May 25, 2006.

  1. Swordlady

    Swordlady Senior Master

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    Some of you may have already seen this thread on SFI. For those of you who haven't, it is an informative look at how many of the cheap stainless steel katana are made.

    I took apart one of my cheap kats (looks very much like the one in that infamous Home Shopping Network video clip), and took pictures of what lay beneath.

    Here is the kat in question. The fake ito got messed up from some swinging around:

    [​IMG]

    Closeup of the handle:

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    The "ito" was merely a twisted strand of material, and unravelled easily:

    [​IMG]

    This is what was underneath the fake ito. A piece of black cloth that nowhere resembled same (rayskin):

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Check out the big crack!

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Swordlady

    Swordlady Senior Master

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    I unscrewed the little pommel nut on the end of the handle:

    [​IMG]

    ...and split apart a section of the handle with my hammer:

    [​IMG]

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    I unscrewed the end plate, and slid out the rest of the handle and separators:

    [​IMG]

    Notice where the rat-tail tang is welded on. That's liable to snap at any moment!

    [​IMG]

    Another shot of the rat-tail tang:

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Swordlady

    Swordlady Senior Master

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    For comparison's sake, here are a few shots of my Hanwei Practical Plus Katana (PPK) disassembled. Mind you, the PPK is one of the least expensive production katana, but at least it has all the right parts:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Grey Fletch

    Grey Fletch White Belt

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    I once had a sword like this. I cut and reshaped the blade into a full tang tanto.
     
  5. Lisa

    Lisa Don't get Chewed!

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    excuse my ignorance but should the rag tail tang be one solid piece with the sword blade itself?

    Great pics, btw. :)
     
  6. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    Very much so, that thing looks like it would break cutting a mid sized watermelon.

    It's a pain because half the time they even come sharpened, so people think, cool, Let's try cutting something...

    Sure, they come with a "don't use this" warning, but so does every other weapon, right down to the sticks, so the warning gets ignored.

    Good thread, nice to see the insides.
     
  7. Swordlady

    Swordlady Senior Master

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    Actually, no *functional* sword would have a rat-tail tang. Period. Think of the tang as the sword's foundation. Even the simple action of swinging a sword places torque on the blade. Its tang should be wide and thick enough to withstand the extra stress placed on the blade, caused by the swing and the resulting impact.

    Notice how skinny and narrow the rat-tail tang is in my wallhanger. Imagine if it breaks during a mid-swing. That blade will go flying, since there isn't anything else holding it in place. In comparison, the tang of my PPK is wide, and secured by two bamboo pegs. That tang will probably not snap in two pieces, since it is wide and strong enough to withstand the extra torque placed in the blade. You still need to be careful even with a *functional* sword; they were designed to cut flesh, not hard targets like trees, concrete, or the like.

    Also check out the rat-tail tang in my cheap Braveheart claymore knockoff. See the difference between this:
     

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  8. Swordlady

    Swordlady Senior Master

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    ...in comparison to the tang of my AT1211. See how much wider and thicker *this* tang is? The tang should be a continuation of the blade itself - NOT welded on.
     

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  9. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Good thread, good posts, good pictures. Well done, very educational for those who don't have experience with this.

    I always look for this kind if thing when I rebuild a sword. I have rebuilt some lighter Tai Chi swords (NOT the superlight wushu swords). As a lighter blade, they also have a lighter tang, but at least it was still a continuation of the blade itself and not just a rod welded on. Given these are really only meant for Tai Chi forms practice, I felt they were sturdy enough for the type of use they would get, and the hilt overall was definitely much more solid and sturdy than the hilt that these swords come with.

    One design trick I have developed in rebuilding hilts is to have the guard "socket" over the bottom 1/4 inch or so of the blade at the shoulder, where it becomes the tang. The guard then extends down another 1/4 inch or so below the shouder, where it meets the grip. This creates an envelope encasing this area, which can be a point of high stress during use. I feel that this design increases the strength significantly, although it's just my intuition and not based on any actual tests. I use a similar "socketing" design where the grip meets the guard, and the grip meets the pommel, so everything on the hilt sockets together and cannot twist or spin during use. Of course the flattened, tapered shape of the tang underneath would prevent this from happening anyway, but I still like how it all fits together tight, like a jigsaw puzzle. Behind the grip, I screw it down with two hex nuts, which are hidden under the pommel. A third hex nut goes behind the pommel itself, but its main function is really to just hold the pommel in place. The main strength is the first two hex nuts behind the grip. In addition, I cover the entire tang with a heavy epoxy. I'm terrified of selling a sword to someone and having the blade come flying out and hurt someone.

    Just a few thoughts of my own.
     
  10. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    So if I wanted a decent wallhanger, any reccomendations on where I might look?
     
  11. Lisa

    Lisa Don't get Chewed!

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    after seeing the difference in the pictures, I understand the importance now. Thanks for the clarification and again, excellent thread. :)
     
  12. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Tell me what you want, I could probably pick it up here in Chinatown in San Francisco and ship to you. A set of three, Katana, Wakizashi, and Tanto, with cheap wooden stand, would probably cost about $50 or less. You want a Cobra Head on the pommel?
     
  13. Gemini

    Gemini Senior Master

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    Swordlady, I have to say the amount of time and effort you've taken in creating this thread for the educational benefit of others in rare, and very much appreciated.
     
  14. Kacey

    Kacey Sr. Grandmaster

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    That's really cool, thanks! I know very little about swords, but this makes a great primer!
     
  15. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I know that this is the common wisdom regarding Stainless Steel and swords. I have found one source who feels that this notion in general is erroneous and that at least some types of stainless steel can make for a very good blade.

    Jim Hrisoulas is the author of three books on sword forging: Complete Bladesmith; Master Bladesmith; and Pattern-Welded Blade. In one of these books he discusses the vast variety of steel available, and what types can make for a good blade. He discusses the use of Stainless Steel, and feels that it can be used to make a good blade.

    I don't have any personal expertise on this, but just wanted to point out a differing opinion.
     
  16. Swordlady

    Swordlady Senior Master

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    It may be true that stainless steel *could* make a viable blade, but for the most part, 99.99% of the cheap stainless steel production swords probably were NOT subjected to the proper heat treat needed to make them "functional". And I highly doubt that our friend Calm Intention has one of those properly made stainless steel swords.

    I'm not a swordmaker by any stretch, but if I remember correctly, there is a *special* kind of heat treat needed for stainless steel - which is why most swordmakers don't even bother trying to work with stainless. I can't think of this one bladesmith's name off the top of my head; he makes stainless steel swords. But a stainless steel sword made by him also costs several thousand dollars.
     
  17. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Full agreement here. The stuff that is generally available on the market, esp. made of stainless steel is pure junk, no doubt about it. I was not trying to imply at all that the stainless stuff generally available might be worth considering; in my opinion, it absolutely is not.

    I just wanted to point out that Mr. Hrisoulas, in his book, had a pretty strong opinion that a very good blade can be made from stainless. However, like you state, it absolutely needs to be done properly, by someone who really knows what he is doing.
     
  18. Lisa

    Lisa Don't get Chewed!

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    Maybe you could start a thread about the importance of the blade's distal taper and educate us all a little more.

    I have to admit I am getting more and more intrigued :)
     
  19. Bob Hubbard

    Bob Hubbard Retired

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    One problem with wall hangers. They aren't designed to take much, if any abuse. Even against air (which is actually rather dense).

    I have several from a well known seller of cheep swords. I used 1 to film a demo last year, and it was literally falling apart in my hands as I swung it, against only air. Hot glue, superglue, etc, all didn't hold, so poor was this SLO. (Sword Like Object).
    [clip] (Latest Quicktime required, 8.08MB) Short Sword

    Stainless steel swords are made for 1 thing: To look pretty. They are called wall hangers because that is the only use they should be put to - hanging on your wall. Other problems, besides a safety perspective is the balance, draw, and action of the display piece is wrong. They just fel and act "wrong"
    Functional weapon swords are made from high quality carbon steel. Not stainless.
    Theatrical weapons (these have blunt edges and are made from high quality carbon steel) are not simply a wall hanger that someone took a file or grinder to. Made specifically for movie and stage fighting, these are designed to be abused.

    CAS Iberia has some nice safety tips as well.
     
  20. Kacey

    Kacey Sr. Grandmaster

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    Speaking of wallhangers, if I wanted to get someone a katana as a gift, where would you suggest buying it? I've learned a great deal from this thread already, and find it quite interesting - but while I now understand some things to look for, this would be a display sword... but at the same time, while I don't know that it really needs to be functional, I would like it to be quality (without costing more than my mortgage). Any advice would be appreciated.
     

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