Custom Sword Recommendations

Aiki Lee

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Hey Kenjutsu / iaijutsu practitioners,

I am saving up for a custom made katana and stumbled across Swords of Northshire
Is anyone familiar with their products? I would like something that is appropriate for cutting and iaijutsu practice, and they seem to have a good reputation online. If anyone here has first hand experience with them, I would like your opinions.
 

Flying Crane

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I don't know anything about them or their products, but at those prices I suspect they are not terribly high quality. Could they be dangerous weapons? Yes of course. But probably not great when compared to a real Japanese sword, made by a respected smith, if that is what you are looking for.

I think you need to be prepared to spend at least $3500 for a better quality piece for real training. And that's bottom-end.
 

pgsmith

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They are another Chinese forge trying to cash in on the low price katana market. The problem with all of the Chinese forges is that there is no real quality control. Most of them have between 20 and 40 employees, and you never know if the people that have been making your particular sword were the best at the particular job they do, or someone just learning. If you hit one made by the top people at the forge, you can get a well made and properly balanced sword that will serve you for years. However, it's a crap shoot since you have no idea who worked on any particular sword.

If you want to purchase a relatively inexpensive Chinese made katana, make sure you buy it from someone knowledgeable that will inspect it thoroughly before they sell it to you. Also make sure they have a good return policy, and talk to your instructor before buying it. They tend to be pretty picky about what comes through the dojo door. :)
 

Chris Parker

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Hey Kenjutsu / iaijutsu practitioners,

Hey Lee, long time!

I am saving up for a custom made katana and stumbled across Swords of Northshire

Er…

Is anyone familiar with their products?

Not first hand, but enough similar to them…

I would like something that is appropriate for cutting and iaijutsu practice, and they seem to have a good reputation online. If anyone here has first hand experience with them, I would like your opinions.

Look, like all similar products, they have their place in the market… you just have to be aware of what that place is. In this instance, it's predominantly inexpensive katana-like weapons… they might be reasonable dojo-cutters… but I wouldn't necessarily be backing them for Iai… and even for tameshigiri, make sure you inspect them thoroughly and frequently. If possible, do a complete take-apart before even considering buying one as a cutter.

Honestly, I'd probably advise against getting a single custom made item for both practices… my shinken are for cutting, my iaito are for my iai practice… and I'd highly advise against getting a customised weapon that you intend to do cutting with (and iai, especially if you plan on using a shinken for that!) from a company you're not already familiar with, especially one that you have not had the opportunity to inspect samples of.

I don't know anything about them or their products, but at those prices I suspect they are not terribly high quality. Could they be dangerous weapons? Yes of course. But probably not great when compared to a real Japanese sword, made by a respected smith, if that is what you are looking for.

I think you need to be prepared to spend at least $3500 for a better quality piece for real training. And that's bottom-end.

I don't think Lee's after anything that serious… for the record, my Iaito (custom made) was about AU$800, and my first Shinken (custom as well) was similar… and they're perfectly suited to "real training". A weapon around the level you're talking about I wouldn't use for anything other than Iai… and even then, it's really for a fairly advanced practitioner.

They are another Chinese forge trying to cash in on the low price katana market. The problem with all of the Chinese forges is that there is no real quality control. Most of them have between 20 and 40 employees, and you never know if the people that have been making your particular sword were the best at the particular job they do, or someone just learning. If you hit one made by the top people at the forge, you can get a well made and properly balanced sword that will serve you for years. However, it's a crap shoot since you have no idea who worked on any particular sword.

If you want to purchase a relatively inexpensive Chinese made katana, make sure you buy it from someone knowledgeable that will inspect it thoroughly before they sell it to you. Also make sure they have a good return policy, and talk to your instructor before buying it. They tend to be pretty picky about what comes through the dojo door. :)

This. Especially the last part.

Really, in the end, it comes down to a range of factors… do you really need a shinken at this point? If so, can you afford to get two weapons (one for Iai, one for cutting)? Is there a priority if not? Can you afford to wait a bit longer and get something of a more known quality?

I'll leave you with those thoughts.
 
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Aiki Lee

Aiki Lee

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I do not plan to do cutting often and could probably afford to drop around $1000-$1500 American. I could always wait and save up more, but I am not sure who is a trust worthy smith I can order from. Perhaps I will order one of their "higher end" iaito and experiment with it, unless anyone here has recommendations on where I should look instead?

Your opinions are valued and appreciated.
 

Flying Crane

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I do not plan to do cutting often and could probably afford to drop around $1000-$1500 American. I could always wait and save up more, but I am not sure who is a trust worthy smith I can order from. Perhaps I will order one of their "higher end" iaito and experiment with it, unless anyone here has recommendations on where I should look instead?

Your opinions are valued and appreciated.
Do you have a sensei, and what does he recommend? He should be a source of information on this.

If you do not have a sensei, I suggest any experimentation you might do on you own will be of extremely limited value, beyond the simple "fun" factor.

I get it, weapons are cool and fun. I own a bunch, including some I have no training with. 'Cause they are cool and fun. But be careful, especially with three feet of sharp steel. That can kill you or the guy next to you if you get careless or distracted. Some things are best not treated like a toy. Some things perhaps should not be played with if you don't have good instruction.

That is my opinion and advice.
 
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Aiki Lee

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I'm going to assume you are not trying to be condescending.
I have some experience with cutting practice and iaijutsu, though I do not claim expertise in this field. Both my instructor and I have been through multiple distributors and found many of them lacking in quality. Paul Chen and Bugei is where most of our products are from, but I would like to try something else.

I am curious. If I asked your opinion about purchasing a firearm would you give me the same speech about how guns are "cool and fun, but they can kill you"?
 

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Chris Parker

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I do not plan to do cutting often and could probably afford to drop around $1000-$1500 American. I could always wait and save up more, but I am not sure who is a trust worthy smith I can order from. Perhaps I will order one of their "higher end" iaito and experiment with it, unless anyone here has recommendations on where I should look instead?

Your opinions are valued and appreciated.

Cool. The big thing is that a sword for cutting is not the same (necessarily) as a sword for Iai… my Iaito is well balanced, relatively light (for the single hand work), slender, and features a bo-hi to check hasuji, as well as a number of other facets suiting it to Iai practice… my first shinken was designed from the ground up as a serviceable cutter… it's a wider, heavier blade, with more of the weight slanted towards the kissaki… the tsuka is a bit thicker, allowing for less ideal grip (this sword is for the students in the group, as well as for me… my other shinken is more along the lines of my Iaito…), the curve is a bit more severe, and so on. If you're doing minimalist cutting, but a fair amount of Iai, I'd focus on getting a good Iaito first… and using that as a basis for what you'd look for in a shinken down the track.

Do you have a sensei, and what does he recommend? He should be a source of information on this.

If you do not have a sensei, I suggest any experimentation you might do on you own will be of extremely limited value, beyond the simple "fun" factor.

I get it, weapons are cool and fun. I own a bunch, including some I have no training with. 'Cause they are cool and fun. But be careful, especially with three feet of sharp steel. That can kill you or the guy next to you if you get careless or distracted. Some things are best not treated like a toy. Some things perhaps should not be played with if you don't have good instruction.

That is my opinion and advice.

Hi Michael,

Not sure if you're aware, but Lee used to post here under the name "Himura Kenshin"… he's been around a fair bit, and has a reasonable grasp of what he's doing. Not disagreeing with anything you said, just pointing out something you might not have been aware of.

I'm going to assume you are not trying to be condescending.

Ah, Lee… remember that you've just changed your user name, and Michael might not have recognised who you were…

I have some experience with cutting practice and iaijutsu, though I do not claim expertise in this field. Both my instructor and I have been through multiple distributors and found many of them lacking in quality. Paul Chen and Bugei is where most of our products are from, but I would like to try something else.

Honestly, they (particularly Bugei) are going to be some of the higher end in this range… I'd personally stick with them. I got mine from Furuyama Forge through J-Armory, but I don't think they're around anymore… my Iaito is a custom from Tozando… and I've never faulted anything from them.

I am curious. If I asked your opinion about purchasing a firearm would you give me the same speech about how guns are "cool and fun, but they can kill you"?

Depending on your intentions and reasons for wanting one, probably… but then, I'm not a gun guy…
 
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Aiki Lee

Aiki Lee

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Wouldn't you?

Not unless I had reason to believe they would be irresponsible, and not if they had made posts about firearms training in the past. It is redundant and a little insulting.
 
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Aiki Lee

Aiki Lee

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Cool. The big thing is that a sword for cutting is not the same (necessarily) as a sword for Iai… my Iaito is well balanced, relatively light (for the single hand work), slender, and features a bo-hi to check hasuji, as well as a number of other facets suiting it to Iai practice… my first shinken was designed from the ground up as a serviceable cutter… it's a wider, heavier blade, with more of the weight slanted towards the kissaki… the tsuka is a bit thicker, allowing for less ideal grip (this sword is for the students in the group, as well as for me… my other shinken is more along the lines of my Iaito…), the curve is a bit more severe, and so on. If you're doing minimalist cutting, but a fair amount of Iai, I'd focus on getting a good Iaito first… and using that as a basis for what you'd look for in a shinken down the track.



Honestly, they (particularly Bugei) are going to be some of the higher end in this range… I'd personally stick with them. I got mine from Furuyama Forge through J-Armory, but I don't think they're around anymore… my Iaito is a custom from Tozando… and I've never faulted anything from them.

I don't understand why you wouldn't want your iaito and your shinken to be as identical as possible. To me it would make sense to have the iaito be heavier like the shinken you described so that when I progress to more cutting, I would have a better understanding on how to handle it properly. Do you not find it awkward to adjust between swords of different weight and design?
 

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Not unless I had reason to believe they would be irresponsible, and not if they had made posts about firearms training in the past. It is redundant and a little insulting.
i don't think it was intended as an insult, and I think Chris hit the nail on the head. No one connected you because you changed your username and your avatar.

I think flying crane was trying to be genuinely helpful to a poster he didn't recognize. Not insulting.
 

Flying Crane

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I'm going to assume you are not trying to be condescending.
I have some experience with cutting practice and iaijutsu, though I do not claim expertise in this field. Both my instructor and I have been through multiple distributors and found many of them lacking in quality. Paul Chen and Bugei is where most of our products are from, but I would like to try something else.

I am curious. If I asked your opinion about purchasing a firearm would you give me the same speech about how guns are "cool and fun, but they can kill you"?
We get people coming here all the time, asking about buying swords, thinking they are going to play with them in the back yard and figure it out on their own. This is something that requires good instruction, or you will not progress. You will not figure it out on your own. And many people don't realize how dangerous a sword in inexperienced or careless hands can be, to themselves and the guy next to them, especially a sharp sword meant for cutting practice.

And if you have an instructor, I am surprised if he does not have good supply sources. I would think that a legitimate instructor would have those connections.

So, when people come here asking advice of strangers on an Internet forum about buying a sword, it makes me go "hmmmmmm...."

And yes, guns are fun and cool, but they can kill you, so don't treat them like a toy. Get some quality instruction, and get some guidance from a source you trust, if you wish to purchase one.
 

Dirty Dog

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And if you have an instructor, I am surprised if he does not have good supply sources. I would think that a legitimate instructor would have those connections.

Sometimes instructors want to try new suppliers...
 

Flying Crane

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i don't think it was intended as an insult, and I think Chris hit the nail on the head. No one connected you because you changed your username and your avatar.

I think flying crane was trying to be genuinely helpful to a poster he didn't recognize. Not insulting.
Bingo. Steve and Chris hit the bullseye. Thought you were a newbie. No insult intended, just trying to give a little guidance and didn't realize it wasn't needed.
 
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pgsmith

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I don't understand why you wouldn't want your iaito and your shinken to be as identical as possible. To me it would make sense to have the iaito be heavier like the shinken you described so that when I progress to more cutting, I would have a better understanding on how to handle it properly. Do you not find it awkward to adjust between swords of different weight and design?
In general you don't want them the same because it is very easy to incur repetitive stress injuries when practicing a lot of kata with a heavy sword. Conversely, it is more difficult to learn to cut properly with a light sword. A light sword will not track as easily, and requires a lot more tip speed to cut well than a heavier sword. A light sword will also bend much more easily when your hasuji is off. I always recommend that my folks get a heavier weight sword to cut with until they gain sufficient experience. I use the same sword for regular practice that I do for most cutting, but I still switch to a heavier sword when cutting larger targets such as futomaki (several tatami mats rolled together into a single target) or yoko narabi (several single targets mounted side by side on a single stand).

A sword is a sword. Using a different size or weight will cause you to slow your noto a bit, but it shouldn't have any other effect.
 
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Aiki Lee

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Bingo. Steve and Chris hit the bullseye. Thought you were a newbie. No insult intended, just trying to give a little guidance and didn't realize it wasn't needed.

I should not have taken offense so easily. I did not take into account that I would obviously not be recognized as a frequent contributor to the forum especially after changing my name and avatar and being absent for a year.
 

Flying Crane

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I should not have taken offense so easily. I did not take into account that I would obviously not be recognized as a frequent contributor to the forum especially after changing my name and avatar and being absent for a year.
No worries. These are the inherent charms of Internet communication.
 
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Aiki Lee

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So is the consensus that I should stick with Bugei if I need to stay in the under $2,000 range?
 

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