Paul Chen Swords... worth it?

Icewater

Orange Belt
Joined
Oct 16, 2005
Messages
71
Reaction score
2
I am looking at purchasing a Paul Chen Chinese Broadsword that I would like to be both aesthetically pleasing as well as functional for training. I have found a couple of sites that sell his wares, but can't tell the difference in quality.

This is the cheapest one I have found:
http://www.swordsdirect.com/paul_chen_swords.html

This site has a 25" and a 28" sword. Is there a traditional length?
http://www.mantisswords.com/chinese_broad_swords.htm

This one looks the same, but is more expensive:
http://www.beckwithsblades.com/shopcat.cfm?Mfgr=51

I have looked into making my own, but it seems too expensive and time consuming at the moment.

Any help is welcome.
 

Bob Hubbard

Retired
MT Mentor
Founding Member
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Aug 4, 2001
Messages
47,245
Reaction score
769
Location
Land of the Free
My girlfriend and I own a pair of Paul Chen Practical Plus Katanas. The balance is the best of any sword I've held, and I've seen a number of reviews indicating his stuffs good quality. I can't comment on the Broadsword though.
 

clfsean

Senior Master
MT Mentor
MTS Alumni
Joined
Jun 15, 2004
Messages
3,662
Reaction score
355
Location
Metropolitan Tokyo
I've got a Paul Chen Practical Broadsword & an Adam Hsu model gim. Both are top notch IMHO.

Check with www.swordcenter.com & their Asian/Oriental section. You may find the prices a little better.
 

Grenadier

Administrator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2005
Messages
10,826
Reaction score
617
I'm going to say that the swords from Hanwei (Paul Chen's production blades) are a mixed bag, indeed. There's even a lot of variance between two blades of the same model and year of construction.

Does that mean you should shy away from the Hanwei production blades? Of course not. The more reputable dealers do a much better job of inspection than their lesser counterparts, and generally make sure that the bad ones don't make it to the market. For example, I wouldn't hesitate to buy a Paul Chen Practical Plus Katana from a dealer the likes of http://www.swordarmory.com or http://[URL="http://www.dragonflyproducts.com"]www.dragonflyproducts.com[/URL] or any of the better merchants. However, I would be hesitant in buying from an eBay auction, if I were not sure about the seller.
 

Blindside

Grandmaster
Founding Member
Joined
Oct 29, 2001
Messages
5,145
Reaction score
821
Location
Kennewick, WA
I owned that hanwei broadsword that you are asking about, and I found it to be a bit too short (I think I had the shorter of the two lengths) and too heavy and the blade didn't seem "alive" to me. I don't do CMA and don't really know what a real dao felt like, but I didn't like that one.

lamont
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
14,516
Reaction score
4,056
Location
San Francisco
Blindside said:
I owned that hanwei broadsword that you are asking about, and I found it to be a bit too short (I think I had the shorter of the two lengths) and too heavy and the blade didn't seem "alive" to me. I don't do CMA and don't really know what a real dao felt like, but I didn't like that one.

lamont

Yes, I have seen them also. Personally, I liked the heft of the heavier one, but also felt it was pretty short.

The guard is still made of a sheet metal, if I remember correctly. Heavier than most on the market, but still sheet metal.
 

Gemini

Senior Master
MTS Alumni
Joined
Apr 12, 2005
Messages
3,546
Reaction score
37
Location
The Desert
Icewater said:
I am looking at purchasing a Paul Chen Chinese Broadsword that I would like to be both aesthetically pleasing as well as functional for training. I have found a couple of sites that sell his wares, but can't tell the difference in quality.


I have looked into making my own, but it seems too expensive and time consuming at the moment.

Any help is welcome.

Worth it? To some, Yes. To others, No. Paul Chen is a mass produced product. The quality tends to be inconsistent from blade to blade. IMO, overall they offer a decent blade for what you're going to pay ($250 - $700). I've seen comments range from excellent to extremely poor. Many serious sword practitioners tend to go with custom made blades that are much higher quality, craftsmanship and material, but then also will cost between $2500 - $5000.

Making your own? Sword Smiths apprentice as long as we do to become masters of their art. I wouldn't recommend going this route unless you won Lotto and need something extremely intensive to fill your days.

I would recommend checking into custom made swords. Not because you're necessarily going to buy one, but because you will learn what is and is not important in choosing the sword that's right for you and your intent. Material used, fabrication methods, etc. What's important is that you know what your getting is correct for what it'll be used for and that you paid a reasonable price for what you're getting.
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
14,516
Reaction score
4,056
Location
San Francisco
Gemini said:
Worth it? To some, Yes. To others, No. Paul Chen is a mass produced product. The quality tends to be inconsistent from blade to blade. IMO, overall they offer a decent blade for what you're going to pay ($250 - $700). I've seen comments range from excellent to extremely poor. Many serious sword practitioners tend to go with custom made blades that are much higher quality, craftsmanship and material, but then also will cost between $2500 - $5000.

As a mass-marketer, based on the few that I have seen, I would say they do some things better than many of the other weapons that are easily obtainable. I think the overall quality of the blade is better than many. But I still haven't seen one that I was really happy with.

Their straight swords are still pretty light-weight, even their heavier model. The guard and pommel don't feel very substantial, and the whole thing still has a very mass-produced feel to it. For many people a light weight model is appropriate, but I don't think they have a heavier model that really stands up.

The broadsword looks pretty nice, and I did kind of like it, but like I said before, it is definitely on the short side, both in the blade and the hilt.
 

still learning

Senior Master
Joined
Nov 8, 2004
Messages
3,749
Reaction score
43
Hello, Our Professor and some students went to China and visited many martial art schools and temples. Many of the places sold martial art gear, just like those in the catalogs.....only way-way cheaper. Must bargain, but everyone is limited to two suit cases to carry home. So many of them just bought a few things.(Everything is Cheap price). same stuffs as the catalog items.

A friend of mine who went there bought two straight swords and had her two son names put on the swords in chinese. Just like the ones in some of the catalogs selling for over $50.00 each. All of these swords are hand made and no uniform to them. Under $20.00 each. Must bargain hard. Crude factorys, but really made in China and they make them right there, from beginning to end product.

Kinda like how Japan made products in the 1950's - junk stuffs then...today Japan is very well made. In China outside of the big cities where some of these martial art gear is made is still crude and old ways factorys. Made in China....? ..........just wanted to share this story.............Aloha
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
14,516
Reaction score
4,056
Location
San Francisco
still learning said:
Hello, Our Professor and some students went to China and visited many martial art schools and temples. Many of the places sold martial art gear, just like those in the catalogs.....only way-way cheaper. Must bargain, but everyone is limited to two suit cases to carry home. So many of them just bought a few things.(Everything is Cheap price). same stuffs as the catalog items.

A friend of mine who went there bought two straight swords and had her two son names put on the swords in chinese. Just like the ones in some of the catalogs selling for over $50.00 each. All of these swords are hand made and no uniform to them. Under $20.00 each. Must bargain hard. Crude factorys, but really made in China and they make them right there, from beginning to end product.

Kinda like how Japan made products in the 1950's - junk stuffs then...today Japan is very well made. In China outside of the big cities where some of these martial art gear is made is still crude and old ways factorys. Made in China....? ..........just wanted to share this story.............Aloha

Most of the stuff that is available in the US for Chinese martial arts is still made in China, including Lung Chuan, for example. It is still hand made, and no two pieces are exactly alike, but the quality is often poor. For swords, sometimes a blade quality is sort of OK, but the hilt is often poorly constructed, is loose and doesn't fit well. If you take the metal fittings off a scabbard (usually easy to do, since they are often falling off anyway) you will often find that the seam on the two pieces of wood is splitting away or was never well fitted and the metal fittings were covering it up.

This degradation in quality has happened over time, but has become most pronounced in the last 15 or 20 years, due to the popularity of Modern Wushu. I have seen Lung Chuan swords from the 1970s and 1980s that are much much better than the blades that carry the Lung Chuan name now. They no longer make them like they did then, so these are a rarity. But even those had lousy hilts. Today's Lung Chuan "combat" swords are nothing like the Old Stock Lung Chuan "combat" swords. I am fortunate enough to have a couple of the Old Stock ones myself.
 

Swordlady

Senior Master
Joined
May 30, 2005
Messages
2,740
Reaction score
9
I own a Practical Plus Katana (PPK), and I've owned a Shinto and Bushido at one point. I've also handled the Orchid (one of the most expensive PC production katana). As others have said, the overall quality is a hit and miss.

You also see the differences between the cheapest (Practical and Practical Plus series), entry level (Shinto, Mushashi, Wind and Thunder, etc) and the high-end models (like the Orchid and Kami). The PPK is a fairly decent *beginner's* sword, but I wouldn't use it for something like tameshigiri (I actually tried using mine for test cutting once, and it didn't go well at all). There actually have been reports of PPKs failing during test cutting, and some sensei do not allow PPKs in their dojo.

Many of my dojo mates use Shinto katana. They're servicable enough for solo kata and test cutting, but not spectacular. They do feel a LOT better than the PPKs, and handle better too.

The folded kats (Bushido, Tiger, Kami, Orchid) are noticably much better quality than the monosteel models, but the fittings of all of them (except the Tiger) are a little too gaudy for the dojo. I know my sensei would frown upon a bright blue Orchid being used in his class.
 

searcher

Senior Master
Joined
Mar 15, 2005
Messages
3,317
Reaction score
58
Location
Kansas
I am sure that Paul Chen would be a fine weapon. You might want to check with Wing Lam at www.wle.com . Master Lam has a wide selection of broadswords and he even custom makes weapons. You might give him a shot before purchasing. Nothing beats a custom made weapon.
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
14,516
Reaction score
4,056
Location
San Francisco
searcher said:
I am sure that Paul Chen would be a fine weapon. You might want to check with Wing Lam at www.wle.com . Master Lam has a wide selection of broadswords and he even custom makes weapons. You might give him a shot before purchasing. Nothing beats a custom made weapon.

My Sifu knows Sifu Wing Lam well, and has both a custom straight sword and custom broadsword that Sifu Wing Lam made for him. He does a good job of re-building the hilts. He makes a grip from exotic hardwoods like cocobolo, and cuts a guard and pommel out of a brass block using a milling machine. To my knowledge, he does not make scabbards. I have also spoken with him about his work, and bought a unhilted blade from him once that I rebuilt. His workmanship, in my opinion, is quite good.

Unfortunately, he uses standard Lung Chuan import blades for these. For the straight swords, these are fairly light/medium spring steel. Not wushu-light, but still on the lighter side. Definitely not a Battlefield blade. Same thing for the Broadswords.

I would like to see him use higher quality blades for his custom work. I think he can get them, as he does import a wide range of swords of varying quality. I think he is afraid that the resulting piece will be too expensive and nobody will be interested. Personally, I am always willing to pay more for something that I know is superior quality. I think as people become educated about what makes a good vs. poor sword, more people will also be willing to pay more for better quality.

Another source of blades is Angus Trim, website: http://www.angustrimdirect.com/ They make swords for Medieval European swordsmanship, but they are good quality blades, razor sharp, and meant to be used for cutting. They use a high quality spring steel, the same type of steel that is used for truck leaf springs (I think). While it is a spring steel, it is still quite stiff, and tough, and definitely appropriate for sword blades. They are willing to sell unhilted blades, and I have one for which I built a hilt and scabbard, making it appropriate for Chinese style swordsmanship. One thing I like about them is the variety of models that they have. Longer, shorter, wider, narrower, but all the same quality. Many of their models are inappropriate for Chinese swordsmanship due to their dimensions, but some are definitely appropriate. They are a bit expensive, tho, I think ranging about $400 - $600 for an unhilted blade alone, depending on the model. That is also without a scabbard, but they do make an inexpensive leather scabbard.
 

Swordlady

Senior Master
Joined
May 30, 2005
Messages
2,740
Reaction score
9
Flying Crane said:
Another source of blades is Angus Trim, website: http://www.angustrimdirect.com/ They make swords for Medieval European swordsmanship, but they are good quality blades, razor sharp, and meant to be used for cutting. They use a high quality spring steel, the same type of steel that is used for truck leaf springs (I think). While it is a spring steel, it is still quite stiff, and tough, and definitely appropriate for sword blades. They are willing to sell unhilted blades, and I have one for which I built a hilt and scabbard, making it appropriate for Chinese style swordsmanship. One thing I like about them is the variety of models that they have. Longer, shorter, wider, narrower, but all the same quality. Many of their models are inappropriate for Chinese swordsmanship due to their dimensions, but some are definitely appropriate. They are a bit expensive, tho, I think ranging about $400 - $600 for an unhilted blade alone, depending on the model. That is also without a scabbard, but they do make an inexpensive leather scabbard.

I'm also going to vouch for Gus Trim's fine work. I own six Atrim swords, and I also have an Atrim katana on the way from AtrimASA. These swords are machined not forged, and they are built for performance over historical looks. However, the Atrim katana are modeled after actual antiques.

In terms of price, Atrims are quite inexpensive for *functional* swords (cheaper than most of Albion's swords, for example), but are built tough and worth every penny.

BTW...I also met Gus in person a couple times. Even participated in a couple cutting parties at his shop. Very nice guy to deal with. :)
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
14,516
Reaction score
4,056
Location
San Francisco
Swordlady said:
In terms of price, Atrims are quite inexpensive for *functional* swords (cheaper than most of Albion's swords, for example), but are built tough and worth every penny.

:)

I agree, for the quality these are very reasonably priced. It is just that when most people are used to the typical Chinese trash imports costing between $40 and $150 and accept these as the standard, the Angus Trim blades can seem expensive by comparison. Seriously, tho, they are definitely worth more than they cost. Too bad they don't make any Chinese style hilts to make them functional for Chinese swordsmanship. I have been building my own one at a time and I enjoy it a lot, but it is a lot of work.
 

Swordlady

Senior Master
Joined
May 30, 2005
Messages
2,740
Reaction score
9
Flying Crane said:
I agree, for the quality these are very reasonably priced. It is just that when most people are used to the typical Chinese trash imports costing between $40 and $150 and accept these as the standard, the Angus Trim blades can seem expensive by comparison. Seriously, tho, they are definitely worth more than they cost. Too bad they don't make any Chinese style hilts to make them functional for Chinese swordsmanship. I have been building my own one at a time and I enjoy it a lot, but it is a lot of work.

Actually...Gus Trim has a Tai Chi background, and some of the European-style swords he makes have a similar balance to a Chinese jian.

Check out the modifications this guy made with his English Knightly Sword (EKS): http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=42429

For comparison's sake, this is what an EKS looks like: http://www.atrimasa.com/AT1501.html

Edited to add: Maybe you can buy a bare EKS blade from Gus, and have it remounted in jian mounts from another swordmaker.
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
14,516
Reaction score
4,056
Location
San Francisco
Swordlady said:
Actually...Gus Trim has a Tai Chi background, and some of the European-style swords he makes have a similar balance to a Chinese jian.

Check out the modifications this guy made with his English Knightly Sword (EKS): http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=42429

For comparison's sake, this is what an EKS looks like: http://www.atrimasa.com/AT1501.html

Edited to add: Maybe you can buy a bare EKS blade from Gus, and have it remounted in jian mounts from another swordmaker.

Well, I have been building my own hilts including one that I got from Angus Trim and I do enjoy the process, so I'm not really complaining. If he had been making them in the first place then I might have never started down this road, which would have been a shame because I have learned so much and grown so much doing this.

I just checked those links, that guy did a good job with his re-build. Good to see examples of what others are doing. Maybe I'll post pics of some of mine sometime.
 
Top