Is there a market for custom hardwood training weapons?

Argus

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Hi guys.

Being a traditional woodworker, I make a lot of training weapons for myself, and in the process, I can't help but often wonder if:
1) Others would enjoy custom, hand made hardwood training weapons.
and,
2) If there is a large enough market to make it worthwhile.
As well as
3) How to reach that market, which I am clueless, beyond my own small training circles.

What sort of thing, if any, would interest you?
Points of balance closer to the tip or handle, distal tapers, custom lengths and styles, guards, accompanying sheathes, pointy or blunted tips for thrusting, etc. are all on the table.
I imagine I could feasibly turn out simple wooden swords for about $100/each--possibly a bit less for simpler designs, and more for more complex or intricate ones. Custom fitted wooden scabbards would be quite a bit more expensive and time consuming to make, and I doubt adds much value, but would be possible as well.

Is there anything that just doesn't exist, but you wish did?

I have a feeling that it's tough to compete with the price and utility of modern synthetics though...
 

Flying Crane

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Hi guys.

Being a traditional woodworker, I make a lot of training weapons for myself, and in the process, I can't help but often wonder if:
1) Others would enjoy custom, hand made hardwood training weapons.
and,
2) If there is a large enough market to make it worthwhile.
As well as
3) How to reach that market, which I am clueless, beyond my own small training circles.

What sort of thing, if any, would interest you?
Points of balance closer to the tip or handle, distal tapers, custom lengths and styles, guards, accompanying sheathes, pointy or blunted tips for thrusting, etc. are all on the table.
I imagine I could feasibly turn out simple wooden swords for about $100/each--possibly a bit less for simpler designs, and more for more complex or intricate ones. Custom fitted wooden scabbards would be quite a bit more expensive and time consuming to make, and I doubt adds much value, but would be possible as well.

Is there anything that just doesn't exist, but you wish did?

I have a feeling that it's tough to compete with the price and utility of modern synthetics though...
I have had similar thoughts as I have made training weapons including staff, spear shafts, and wooden training swords for my own use. While I appreciate the beauty in a well-crafted wood implement, my primary concern is durability which translates into safety.

For example, the wooden swords commonly available for Chinese martial arts are typically made from red oak. If you do any contact drills whatsoever, they break and splinter even after minimal impact. This leaves a sharp and jagged edge or point which immediately makes them unsafe for further use.

In addition, it is difficult to tell how some of them are constructed. The guard obscures how the blade and grip are connected and there can be the impression that they are glued together with some kind of peg-in-slot design instead of the much more durable method of being fashioned from a single piece. I think the problem is that the manufacturer wants the wooden sword to look as much like a real sword as possible, which comes at the expense of trustworthy durability. A wooden sword that is designed for impact training simply cannot look exactly like a real sword. It needs to be built differently in order to withstand the rigors of training. So the end result is that it approximates the appearance of a real sword, enough that the training is within an acceptable range of what a real sword feels like. But a sword that has the grip and blade connected with a peg-in-slot design could come apart even if used for forms practice. It has never happened to me, but the possibility has always made me nervous. And red oak is simply a poor choice in wood. Hickory is very durable and not terribly expensive. Other exotics can also be good and tough, but can be expensive and can also contain naturally occurring oils that can cause allergic reactions when working with them and being exposed to the dust.

I have a number of real swords in my collection for which I have built new hilts and new scabbards. A scabbard is a lot of work and in my opinion is entirely unnecessary and even inappropriate for a wooden sword, if the sword is meant to be used in contact drilling. Such a sword should have a significantly thicker blade with a much more bluntly rounded edge and point, than a real sword, so the scabbard would be very thick indeed. In addition, the blade will gradually become dented and damaged from the impact training, and then the scabbard will no longer fit unless the blade is periodically ground smooth again. But then the scabbard fit will become loose as the blade becomes thinner. So a scabbard represents a lot of work and cost that isnt worth it and could be very short-lived, in terms of its actual use. And given that a wooden sword is not sharp like a real sword is, and does not rust like a real sword, there is no need for a scabbard to encase the blade. In addition, a wooden sword meant for contact training is understood to be a temporary tool. Eventually it will sustain damage and need to be replaced, so a simple design easy to reproduce and priced inexpensively, is the way to go.

If you want to make a wooden sword from exotic hardwoods as a work of art approximating the dimensions of a real sword as closely as possible, and NOT intended for contact training, then a scabbard may be appropriate, as well as some of the more beautiful and expensive exotic hardwoods. But that is a different animal altogether.

I dont know how much of a market exists for these. I have been able to make my own for my own use. I suppose the thing to do would be to settle on your designs and then do some serious marketing. You could set up a shop on Etsy.com which is inexpensive, at least as a place to start. But some focused marketing is important, and probably a website separate from Etsy as well, because Etsy is huge and it is easy to get buried under a million other artisans.
 
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Argus

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I have had similar thoughts as I have made training weapons including staff, spear shafts, and wooden training swords for my own use. While I appreciate the beauty in a well-crafted wood implement, my primary concern is durability which translates into safety.

For example, the wooden swords commonly available for Chinese martial arts are typically made from red oak. If you do any contact drills whatsoever, they break and splinter even after minimal impact. This leaves a sharp and jagged edge or point which immediately makes them unsafe for further use.

In addition, it is difficult to tell how some of them are constructed. The guard obscures how the blade and grip are connected and there can be the impression that they are glued together with some kind of peg-in-slot design instead of the much more durable method of being fashioned from a single piece. I think the problem is that the manufacturer wants the wooden sword to look as much like a real sword as possible, which comes at the expense of trustworthy durability. A wooden sword that is designed for impact training simply cannot look exactly like a real sword. It needs to be built differently in order to withstand the rigors of training. So the end result is that it approximates the appearance of a real sword, enough that the training is within an acceptable range of what a real sword feels like. But a sword that has the grip and blade connected with a peg-in-slot design could come apart even if used for forms practice. It has never happened to me, but the possibility has always made me nervous. And red oak is simply a poor choice in wood. Hickory is very durable and not terribly expensive. Other exotics can also be good and tough, but can be expensive and can also contain naturally occurring oils that can cause allergic reactions when working with them and being exposed to the dust.

I have a number of real swords in my collection for which I have built new hilts and new scabbards. A scabbard is a lot of work and in my opinion is entirely unnecessary and even inappropriate for a wooden sword, if the sword is meant to be used in contact drilling. Such a sword should have a significantly thicker blade with a much more bluntly rounded edge and point, than a real sword, so the scabbard would be very thick indeed. In addition, the blade will gradually become dented and damaged from the impact training, and then the scabbard will no longer fit unless the blade is periodically ground smooth again. But then the scabbard fit will become loose as the blade becomes thinner. So a scabbard represents a lot of work and cost that isnt worth it and could be very short-lived, in terms of its actual use. And given that a wooden sword is not sharp like a real sword is, and does not rust like a real sword, there is no need for a scabbard to encase the blade. In addition, a wooden sword meant for contact training is understood to be a temporary tool. Eventually it will sustain damage and need to be replaced, so a simple design easy to reproduce and priced inexpensively, is the way to go.

If you want to make a wooden sword from exotic hardwoods as a work of art approximating the dimensions of a real sword as closely as possible, and NOT intended for contact training, then a scabbard may be appropriate, as well as some of the more beautiful and expensive exotic hardwoods. But that is a different animal altogether.

I dont know how much of a market exists for these. I have been able to make my own for my own use. I suppose the thing to do would be to settle on your designs and then do some serious marketing. You could set up a shop on Etsy.com which is inexpensive, at least as a place to start. But some focused marketing is important, and probably a website separate from Etsy as well, because Etsy is huge and it is easy to get buried under a million other artisans.

I totally agree with all of the points you made, especially with regards to durability.

I too noticed a lot of training swords are very poorly made, and of low quality red oak or what have you. And, often times, because they're mass manufactured, pieces are made of sawn boards with very poor grain, running off and creating weak points that will split if something is struck with enough force.

As for wood species, I have a lot of decent varieties available here, including Japanese white oak (much more durable than American/European varieties), Japanese Ash, etc.

Beech is inexpensive and I think would work nicely as well, though I'm yet to test it. I could probably import Hickory or some exotic hardwoods which are often used for FMA weapons as well.

You make fair points with regards to scabbards, but I do know of one guy who makes wooden training swords with scabbards, mostly for Iai practitioners, I think. They come at a very hefty price -- I think around $600. Apparently worth it for some people, though. I don't imagine I would make these standard, just perhaps on special order if someone wants them for a specific purpose.

I doubt that dents would cause it not to fit, as fibers tend to compress, rather than deforming the entire blade as would happen with metal. But in any case, only the area near the very mouth should be friction fit, I feel -- as seasonal changes in moisture may cause the sword to be permanently stuck in the scabbard if they happen to expand at different rates, and the fit is too tight.
 

CB Jones

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We compete and advanced belts are always looking for quality bo, eku, and tonga and are willing to pay for quality.

Purpleheart wood is the favorite for traditional styles in my experience.
 

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