Where do you buy your swords?

Lisa

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Where do you buy your swords from for training. There are so many places on the internet it is hard to tell which is quality and which is not. Also, what do I look for in a good quality sword? I have read a bit about the RC factor, exactly what is that?
 

Blindside

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I've sold most of my production swords, but a favorite of mine for European blades was Angus Trim's work. He doesn't forge his blades, but rather uses stock removal techniques, regardless his work is nice for production blades and several cutlers can really dress his blades up pretty (see ASA and Christian Fletcher links below). I don't know anything about his Japanese pieces, Swordlady and Kyudogrrl66 would now better since they have handled them.

http://www.angustrimdirect.com/
http://www.atrimasa.com/
http://www.christianfletcher.com/Site/Welcome.html

I also have one older sword by Albion, and they make some amazing stuff, but they are now priced beyond my means.
http://www.albion-swords.com/

Lamont

PS: RC (or HRC) is a measurement for Rockwell hardness, essentially a system of determining how hard a piece of metal is. A higher number is harder than a lower number, but it should be noted that higher isn't always better, particularly when it comes to comparing swords.
 

Charles Mahan

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Also, what do I look for in a good quality sword?

First and foremost you look for your instructors recommendation. It's a really bad plan to purchase a training tool before joining a school. There's a very real chance that whatever you pick will not be appropriate for whatever school you end up joining.
 

Swordlady

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DEFINTELY talk to the instructor first. Different arts require different sword specs. For example, YSKR utilizes a close-hand grip on the tsuka (handle). Other JSAs, like Nami Ryu, uses a wide grip. This is why my katana has a pretty short tsuka (just 9.5") and a fairly short blade (25.5"). If I was taking a different sword art, the specs may be different.

And yes, I do own an Angus Trim katana. :) Light sword, great for solo kata, but not very good for tameshigiri - since the blade is so light. I did use it today for test cutting, with mixed results. I actually did a LOT better with a heavier katana (I also cut mats with my sensei's Last Legend kat and a Hanwei Wind and Thunder daisho), but I would not want to use a heavier sword for solo kata.

Incidentally, Gus isn't making any more Japanese swords, and is only focusing on a few of his European models.
 

Brian R. VanCise

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I would defintely get your instructors opinion and input Lisa! That will probably save you from buying a poor quality iaito or shinken. When I am buying something like a sword I am looking for quality and from
someone who has worked very hard to perfect their technique. Do I
have a bunch of iaito beaters. (absolutely) However I have worked my
way up to the sword I train with now. When you find an instructor (choose carefully) then get their recommendation for your level and slowly go from there. Good luck.
 

Ninjamom

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As said before, PLEASE ASK YOUR INSTRUCTOR. Nohing worse than shelling out $1200 for a really good quality cutter only to be told that it is inappropriate for and can't be used in your class.

With that said, I will recommend two places for quality Japanese-style swords:

1. Cheness, Inc (www.chenessinc.com) - IMHO, best of the low-end entry-level swords. These were designed by a sword smith at the request of some local dojo-owners and Iaido-practitioners in the San Diego, CA area, and specifically made to combine suitability for MA practice with affordability. I have owned four of their swords (my first set of one cutter and one steel iaito was stolen, and I replaced both swords just last month). I have been extremely happy with all of them.

The swords are not made by traditional Japanese forging processes (see the website for details), but use modern steel alloying techniques to achieve proper hardness, with flexibility. This helps beginners practice tameshigiri with less chance of damaging/destroying the sword on a poorly executed cut.

2. Martial Art Swords (www.martialartswords.com) - This represents the 'higher end' in quality and price. Again, IMHO, these swords are of better value (quality for the price) than the similar Bugei swords. You can find many more sources for swords (and performance reviews for each) over at Sword Forum Int.
 

pgsmith

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OK, another late reply! :) First, those that have said to ask your instructor are absolutely correct. Many instructors will have very specific requirements, and possibly will tell you exactly what they want you to have. That being said, here's my thoughts ...
I have read a bit about the RC factor, exactly what is that?
Quick and dirty explanation ... Simple steel is very malleable, meaning it can be deformed easily. Steel can be heat treated to make it harder by changing the crystalline structure of the steel. The harder the steel, the sharper it can be made and the better it will hold an edge. The problem is that the harder steel is, the more brittle it is also. RC factor (or Rockwell hardness) is a scientific measurement of the relative hardness of metal. All swords are a compromise between hardness (edge retention ability) and brittleness. You don't want your sword smashing to bits if you cut something wrong. This is why stainless steel makes poor swords, because it is too brittle to withstand the stresses in a sword unless it is very exactly and carefully heat treated. European swords are hardened to around the mid-50s, which makes them quite springy. Japanese swords are differentially hardened so that the cutting edge is in the 60s, and the spine is in the 40s. This allows them to have a very sharp and hard edge, but the soft back will keep it from shattering with a bad cut. It will allow it to bend and take a set though, much easier than a European sword would.

Yup, that was as quick and dirty as I could manage! :)
Also, what do I look for in a good quality sword?
There is no way that this explanation can be made quick and dirty. It takes a lot of experience to figure this one out, and would take a book to try and pass it on. Sorry!
Where do you buy your swords from for training. There are so many places on the internet it is hard to tell which is quality and which is not.
This is much easier. For a novice, only buy from places that more experienced people tell you are good. If you have a lot of experience, there are quite a number of places that you could get a decent sword, with differing compromises. Production level swords are all about compromises. A true Japanese sword is entirely hand made by a series of very experienced craftsmen. There are at least five people that go through long, long apprenticeships in order to learn how to make the sword. The tosho who makes the blade, the togishi (polisher) who finishes the shaping and sharpening, the sayashi who constructs the sheath and handle cores, the tsubako who makes the hand gaurd and fittings, and the tsukamakishi, who wraps the handle and finishes everything up. Everything is hand made for a specific blade so that it all fits perfectly together. Of course, that is why nihonto, traditionally made Japanese swords, are so expensive. Martial arts grade nihonto (made from mostly apprentice work and using pre-cast fittings) from some place like Sword Store ... http://www.swordstore.com or Nishijin sword ... http://japanesesword.net/eng/index.html will cost around $8,000.00

In order to bring the price down, compromises are made. The various production sword places around vary in which compromises they make in order to bring the price to what people wish. The whole trick is in figuring out which compromises are acceptable for what you are going to be using the sword for. If I wanted an inexpensive sword for performing forms only, then Cheness would be an acceptable choice. If I was looking for a sword to use for tameshigiri, then a Hanwei Practical XL would be a better choice for around the same price. Personally, I am not happy with any of the compromises made until you start to get into the $1000 range from such companies as Sword Store, Bugei, or Martial Arts Sword. However, you would have to make sure and purchase your sword from someone that you trust to carefully inspect it first, because sometimes the compromises in one sword will be much greater than those in another.

One way of compromising is to eliminate the cost of forging and polishing the blade. This is a large part of why iaito are so popular, since they use an aluminum alloy blade instead of steel. This allows more time and effort to be spent on the very important quality of the sheathe and handle, and still keep the price down. If your sword is being used every day for forms like mine is, you want to make sure that the sheathe and handle, which will feel the most use, are very well made. These parts tend to get compromised quite a bit in the Chinese made swords, which is why I recommend that people use Japanese made iaito for regular training. My recommended places to purchase iaito are ...
Sword Store ... http://www.swordstore.com/
Mugendo Budogu ... http://budogu.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/
Nishijin Sword ... http://japanesesword.net/eng/index.html
Tozando ... http://iaido.tozando.com/
E-bogu (for the beginner level iaito) ... http://www.e-bogu.com/Iai_s/58.htm
Meirin Sangyo ... http://www.nipponto.co.jp/english/core_e.htm


Wow! Sorry, that was much wordier than I had planned! Sorry! :)
 

Ninjamom

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Quick and dirty explanation ...
.....and an excellent explanation it is!

If I wanted an inexpensive sword for performing forms only, then Cheness would be an acceptable choice. If I was looking for a sword to use for tameshigiri, then a Hanwei Practical XL would be a better choice for around the same price.
Interesting! I found the exact opposite. I guess the old saying's true that, "Opinions are like noses - everyone has one."

It seems the consensus is:
1. ASK your instructor, and
2. Ask/Buy from someone you know and trust.

I'd like to add:
3. Borrow one and try the sword yourself before buying it.
That way, you might see how well you personally like it for your intended use.
 
OP
Lisa

Lisa

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Paul (pgsmith)

Thank you for the lengthy explanation, I so appreciate all the information you gave me. I will look into the websites. Your answers were exactly what I was looking for. :)


I'd like to add:
3. Borrow one and try the sword yourself before buying it.
That way, you might see how well you personally like it for your intended use.

Ya know, this is really good sound advice. Just like the rifles we use in competition, you try each kind before you buy to get a feel for the weapon. Different people have different needs and different weapons will work in different peoples hands.

Thanks so much NinjaMom. :)
 

pgsmith

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I'd like to add:
3. Borrow one and try the sword yourself before buying it.
That way, you might see how well you personally like it for your intended use.
Those are golden words there! Try before you buy is always best.
 

pgsmith

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Interesting! I found the exact opposite. I guess the old saying's true that, "Opinions are like noses - everyone has one."
That is interesting. Have you tried Hanwei's latest version of PK with the XL blade. I picked one up as a cheap dojo cutter, and have been extremly impressed with it. Of course, I bought it from someone that hand picked out the best of what he had in stock, :) but I was still pretty impressed for its price. The Cheness that we use as a dojo beater is one of their earlier models with bo hi, so I don't know what they may have changed in them lately or how their swords without bo hi might cut.
 

Ninjamom

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Paul: No, I'm familiar with the PK and the PK Plus, but hadn't even heard that they updated to a new blade. Thanks for pointing that out - somehow I missed it.

I use the Cheness Shura, without the bohi, for cutting. I have actually owned three. The first was an early model that had some problems with the fitting of the fixtures - it was exchanged for my second, which was used extensively for bamboo cutting, but then stolen (grrr!). I have been very happy with the later ones, but I will have to see if I can borrow an XL to try.

Thanks again for the info.
 

SFC JeffJ

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For western swords, I really like Cold Steel. They may not be historically accurate like other makers, but are a really good product.

Good axes and 'hawks as well.

Jeff
 

pgsmith

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These guys are awesome...ask for "Al" (very knowledgable)
Hmmmm ... I've used several different Last Legend models in the past, and didn't really care for them much at all. On what do you base your "awesome" rating?
 

Brian R. VanCise

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Hmmmm ... I've used several different Last Legend models in the past, and didn't really care for them much at all. On what do you base your "awesome" rating?

I really dislike Last Legend's fittings.
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Then again I have gotten used to really good Japanese fittings.
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Grenadier

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These guys are awesome...ask for "Al" (very knowledgable) http://www.swordarmory.com/05kat/05kat.htm

Clem's a good guy. Always glad to take time to talk, and he's always been quite pleasant in each of our conversations.

As an owner of a Last Legend Mark V, I'll certainly say that they're decent blades, and that mine has done very well for tameshigiri.

However, they're not, nor shall they ever be, the equivalent of the upper end manufacturers. I do respect them, though, for being up front about this. Heck, even the owner of Last Legend says that if you want the best, to go with Howard Clark (if you have the $$$).
 

Sukerkin

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Most of the makers that I'd recommend have already been mentioned but one that has not is Jidai:

http://www.jidai.jp/index.asp

They've gone a little 'flash' on their web site in recent times, which I'm not sure gives the right impression but they are quite well regarded blade makers.

However, for Katana, especially for Iaido, I'd heartily recommend Tozando. I've seen/handled quite a few and own a splendid Hon Jidai Koshirae.

Just to add to the anecdotal chat on swords bought and used, I've found that 'low end' 9 Circles kit appears well put together but the balance is off and weight too low. Again, to reiterate, that's a personal opinion and some may find otherwise.
 

Flying Crane

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I tend to be generally unimpressed with how most swords for the CHinese arts are put together. So if I can find a decent blade somewhere, I will build a new hilt and scabbard. I am working with some Angus Trim blades, I think he makes a good quality blade at a very reasonable price. As was mentioned, he doesn't forge the blades, rather they are made from Stock Removal methods. However, he uses 5160 steel, and that is a good, high quality steel that makes a good, tough blade. I've seen mention of this steel as being considered a high-end steel for a sword blade, in some research I have done, independent of swordmakers.
 

Xue Sheng

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I lucked out a few years back and got a real good sword from some company in California, sorry I cannot remember the name of the company but it is a combat steel dao from China. If I remember the name I will post it other than that the last swords I bought were bought in Beijing and the 2 jains I got were great but the dao I am not impressed with after a few uses the handle keeps coming loose.

So I guess I am not much help, sorry
 
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