PDA

View Full Version : shinken?


Please visit our sponsor:
 

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!


Chris Evans
08-23-2012, 10:47 AM
At what price, in USD, one must begin to consider when buying a forged sword, a shinken for tameshigiri ?
Are there good American smiths or is buying from a Japanese smith required for a durable heirloom?

Just being curios.

Rob Watson
08-23-2012, 11:17 AM
At what price, in USD, one must begin to consider when buying a forged sword, a shinken for tameshigiri ?
Are there good American smiths or is buying from a Japanese smith required for a durable heirloom?

Just being curios.

Well, if you have to ask ...

Chris Evans
08-23-2012, 11:41 AM
Well, if you have to ask ...

Ha hah: What a mean comment, got me hanging....(but no one innocent).

I'll try to let go the thought...

allowedcloud
08-23-2012, 11:54 AM
David Goldberg in Pennsylvania is a highly regarded American smith. You can find his stuff here:

http://www.goldmountainforge.com/

Michael Hackett
08-23-2012, 12:10 PM
Chris, take a look at Bugei Trading. They have a wide selection of quality swords available. I believe all are imported and they generally start at around a thousand bucks. You can easily spend many times that buying from a custom sword maker. Now the question is what constitutes an heirloom for you? Is it simply the quality and rarity of the individual blade or is it the blade and its connection to you that makes it a family treasure?

Chris Evans
08-23-2012, 12:27 PM
Chris, take a look at Bugei Trading. They have a wide selection of quality swords available. I believe all are imported and they generally start at around a thousand bucks. You can easily spend many times that buying from a custom sword maker. Now the question is what constitutes an heirloom for you? Is it simply the quality and rarity of the individual blade or is it the blade and its connection to you that makes it a family treasure?

Thanks. A heirloom for me is 100% functional and enduring, with skilled use and reasonable care.

Not looking for craft as art, aside from its intrinsic functional & durable beauty.

I do not collect anything other than keep what will be used.

Rob Watson
08-23-2012, 02:07 PM
Ha hah: What a mean comment, got me hanging....(but no one innocent).

I'll try to let go the thought...

Get the cheap one from cold steel and pay Keith Larman to put a durable handle on it. Should be $$ managable. Otherise you could spend $30,000 if you really want to ... you could spend $3000 if you want ...

What do you want? Your answer lays within your own question.

Chris Evans
08-23-2012, 02:49 PM
Get the cheap one from cold steel and pay Keith Larman to put a durable handle on it. Should be $$ managable. Otherise you could spend $30,000 if you really want to ... you could spend $3000 if you want ...

What do you want? Your answer lays within your own question.

Want a shinken that'll stay intact during cutting, when that time comes, and not have the blade fly off and skewer anyone observing, as I've heard that can happen. Otherwise, want to save money, lively frugally.

I know when I buy I'll be consulting with my instructor, but for now, I'm curious.

Michael Hackett
08-23-2012, 03:47 PM
Keith Larman is a major reason for looking at Bugei. He inspects every blade they receive, and from what I've heard, rejects any that don't meet his and Williams Sensei's standards. I'm very pleased with the three I've purchased there. There surely are better modern blades available, and there are certainly far worse out there. This might be a good source for what you're interested in and your instructor can give you the best advice.

Rob Watson
08-23-2012, 06:53 PM
Want a shinken that'll stay intact during cutting, when that time comes, and not have the blade fly off and skewer anyone observing, as I've heard that can happen. Otherwise, want to save money, lively frugally.

I know when I buy I'll be consulting with my instructor, but for now, I'm curious.

Do you just want to cut stuff or are you really intetrested in a bit more than that?

For reference: http://www.shinyokai.com/Essays_TameshigiriReigi.htm

Much like traditional Christians sequested away in a closet so as to be unperturbed by outside influences may be the best approach.

Where some see spiritual mumbo jumbo others see the meat of the method.

Adam Huss
08-23-2012, 10:43 PM
I would recommend your first cutting sword be of intermediate or lower quality (for swords meant to cut). You can easily make mistakes than can bend your sword during tameshigiri. Bugei, Paul Chen, and others sell this entry level, cutting-ready, shinken. I believe prices have gone up, but I purchased a machine-pressed, hand sharpened, carbon steel sword for just under $200. It has a tempered edge, and full tang, but the handle is made with simulated rayskin vice real, and does not come apart. Also has a lacquer finished, wooden saya.

**edit. I think I found it online. Its the Paul Chen Hanwei Practical Katana and is currently $219. Mine came with a nice sword cleaning kit, not sure if they still do. It certainly isn't overly ornate and lives up to its name of "practical" katana, but is a good starter cutting sword; simple menuki, no blood groove, etc.

I would hate for you to spend $$$ on a BA sword and have something happen to it during cutting (assuming you are new to cutting). I can't speak on Bugei from personal experience, but they have a sterling reputation where I train.

JJF
08-24-2012, 02:18 AM
uhm.. just want to chime in.. if you want to practice tameshigiri I think you should find a teacher first - then ask him where to buy the blade.

I would think that just buying a sword and start cutting stuff in pieces would be a surefire way to damage the sword and potentially you and the people around you.

Bad quality swords will break - but so will good swords as well, if you handle them the wrong way.

It's not really like chopping wood with an axe. I've been duing iaido with a dull blade (suits the owner) for some years now, and I still don't think I've got the cutting right - yet. On the rare occasion it feels right, but I would think twice and go through the motions many times before trying tameshigiri.

Good luck

phitruong
08-24-2012, 07:17 AM
Where some see spiritual mumbo jumbo others see the meat of the method.

yup! i liked the meat method. that's why i preferred my cleaver. forks are more frighten with the cleaver than the sword. now if i can modify the iaido kata for cleaver-aido. :D

Chris Evans
08-24-2012, 07:44 AM
uhm.. just want to chime in.. if you want to practice tameshigiri I think you should find a teacher first - then ask her where to buy the blade.

I would think that just buying a sword and start cutting stuff in pieces would be a surefire way to damage the sword and potentially you and the people around you.

Bad quality swords will break - but so will good swords as well, if you handle them the wrong way.

It's not really like chopping wood with an axe. I've been duing iaido with a dull blade (suits the owner) for some years now, and I still don't think I've got the cutting right - yet. On the rare occasion it feels right, but I would think twice and go through the motions many times before trying tameshigiri.

Good luck

agreed and will do "...practice tameshigiri...should find a teacher first..."

for now, I'm curious.

Keith Larman
08-24-2012, 10:26 AM
Since I've been mentioned...

I live in a couple worlds when it comes to swords, and as such, I have a few different views on the topic that all depend on a variety of factors.

For some folk, they just want a sword. For them, the next question is "Okay, great, do you want something that looks relatively authentic to stick up on a stand, or do you want it to be more "real" in the sense of living up more to the functional standards or do you want more "real" in the sense of aesthetics, etc." And we go from there. These people might buy a sword ranging anywhere from Home Shopping Network stainless piece-o-crap to a well made production sword then to a well done custom piece all the way up to getting in to classical antiques. So the price range here is basically next to nothing to damned near infinity. ;)

But when the person says "I want a sword to train with", well, that's a whole different can of worms. I have customers ranging from the guys actually doing the teaching right down to the newbs with their still stiff gi/kimono/whatever. But even with that range of ability, the range of what *should* be used (at least IMHO) contracts greatly. Fine old antiques are out -- go learn with something that isn't irreplaceable. And then the stuff on the low end is out -- they are generally simply unsafe to use.

Now time for the disclaimer -- I do consulting work for Bugei Trading. They pay me to drive down their and do the QC runs on their Bugei Custom swords. That often means me fixing all sorts of tiny details. And sometimes (even though less frequently in the last few years) outright rejecting swords. And keep in mind how difficult that is for a company like Bugei given Hanwei had a major fire over a year ago and stopped production for most of that time. So huge backlogs and here I come rejecting a sword some customer has been waiting for... So Bugei has reverted to only taking deposits on new sword orders if they don't have something on the shelves (which has been the case since the fire). And that said, sometimes a sword will go out and the customer will say the ito isn't tight enough -- stuff loosens and shakes out over time sometimes. In that case I've often found myself rewrapping tsuka for Bugei for the customer. So anyway, that's how Bugei approaches it. And it's been tough lately with the economy and with the factory not delivery much of anything for almost a year.

So now that all that's out of the way... There's lots of stuff out there. Most I personally wouldn't use. Too many have subtle problems with fit on the tsuka that really makes me nervous as they fit the damned things by undercarving the inlet and hammering the suckers on. I've seen way too many split tsuka over the years and that's just a serious butt-pucker event if you're using the sword. Dangerous. These aren't toys and people shouldn't expect to pay toy prices if they want a safe piece.

That said "comfort level" with safety appears to be something folk can disagree on. ;) I am aware of that and I am aware that my hurdle is a bit higher than many.

Of Bugei's swords I'm rather fond of two for those in martial arts. The dragonfly was designed by my friend Ted Tenold for Bugei. Available with bo-hi or without, I think it is a lovely sword with a unique design (promptly "borrowed" by other makers -- I heard someone say that dragonflies were ubiquitous in swords so it wasn't unique -- the first part was true, tonbo are everywhere. The second part, however, is not as I still have the hand drawing of the fittings that Ted put together when it was designed. And I've yet to see an antique with that particular design. It seems some vendors ordered a variety of Bugei's swords and lo and behold soon afterward a few of their "own" designs appeared. Well, similar fittings but without any of the subtle details or proper mounting/shaping/safety.). Anyway, this is a light and fast sword with bo-hi, and a moderate light sword without. I have one myself that was a "reject" that I fixed on my own time and use regularly for cutting practice. With bo-hi. Never even a slight bend in the blade. But then again I have some degree of experience. For those who do mostly iai kata a 29/11 dragonfly with bo-hi would be a good choice.

The other of Bugei's that I personally like a lot is the Peace Sword. Because it is my design. ;) So I'm biased. But it has sold very well. Limited options are offered on this one because we were trying to simplify things for the factory. So the end result is that I've modified a number of them for customers. In terms of training my goal was a sword balanced for kata training combined with a good cross section for those who also perform tameshigiri.

Both those swords are over $1k. But when you consider that someone like me will charge you twice that just to polish a sword... or around twice that just to mount a sword. Or that buying fittings from even someone like Fred Lohman (reproduction fittings) will likely cost you about 500. The rayskin another 100. And we haven't even talked about the blade itself.

The point here is to put it in perspective. If you're buying an inexpensive sword there must be some really good reasons why it is inexpensive. Me, I consider swords at $1000 to be inexpensive. Less than that and I get very nervous...

That said Hanwei released a sword series called the raptors. 5160 through hardened blades (so no grain, no "temper line" (a horribly incorrect term) and very little subtlety. Kind of course in blade shape and finish. The handles are blocky and boring. The fittings are blocky. The saya is kind of blocky and "one size fits all". But... They're inexpensive and seem relatively durable. Just remember you're not buying a Lexus here... But... I've put a few people in to those simply because I wasn't horribly worried about them being "unsafe". Just not exactly stunning looking.

And FWIW I looked hard at those 5160 blades with no hamon a couple times when I was down at Bugei. Gave us a few ideas, but only time will tell.

Next step is custom swords and it is a major step. Like I said, keep in mind that a proper polish is something that is expensive. And a proper blade is expensive. And then mounting. So if you realize you might have $4.5k in the polish/mount/fittings then the blade itself is going to push things up quite a bit.

Howard Clark is probably the most popular of non-traditional smiths doing Japanese swords for martial artists outside of Japan. His L6 bainite blades are legendary. His 1086 blades are quite stunning too. L6 blades start at 3800. And that's unpolished bare blade. So going back you're looking at 8.3K there unless you cut a few corners. His 1086 blades are (I think) about 1k cheaper. So you're still up there in the over $7k range.

There are other smiths doing fantastic stuff. For instance Anthony Discristofano has been working with Japanese smiths and does some really nice traditional stuff. Michael Bell (and his son) up at Dragonfly Forge produce some really nice and some unusual stuff. Rick Barrett is a prolific smith working across a variety of styles ranging from japanese to western to even fantasy. And Goldberg above was already mentioned. They seem to do things ranging from remounted Chinese made Japanese style blades (that's a mouthful) up to fully custom swords.

So anyway, lots of options here but keep in mind that the economy has decimated the craft. I don't know many who are still doing this full time. I'm barely hanging on by the skin of my teeth and others are refusing to do anything but the higher end work because there is simply no money in it. There are lots of folk who appear now and then who hang up their sign, but often they seem to last a little while then vanish. It seems like a fun thing to do but once you start doing it, it is backbreaking work for little money all while you're constantly in competition low end with stuff made in China that appeals to people who aren't educated enough to know the difference.

Phew.

Then of course there are swords for martial artists made in Japan. Those can be had for prices similar to custom swords here. Just a different world, however.

So after all that has been said... If you want a sword and can afford a sword, buy a sword you like. I'm not the type that says you simply can't buy one without a good reason or the right sensei or the right training. To me the fact you want one is good enough. Just keep in mind that I see a lot of people buy a lot of cheap swords. I had one guy come over and tell me he had almost 20 cheap swords, but still couldn't find the "right" sword. Well, for what he's spent on those 20 I'm pretty sure he could have actually bought the "right" sword. But some like to collect cheap stuff. That's okay too.

But if you're talking about something for training keep in mind that *anything* you buy right now might not be something your sensei will want you to use. Some are very easy going about length and dimensions. Others the exact opposite. Some have specific requirements for mounts (the Shinkendo guys have a lot of things they require due to the teaching of Obata). So if you buy something now and then find a sensei later be prepared to find out you might have bought the wrong sword. But if that's okay and then you'll simply buy the right sword later, fine.

With some people I'll tell them the best option is to find that sensei first. Normally you'll start with an inexpensive piece as you're going to make mistakes (and if you're doing iai, for instance, you may spend years before even moving on to a "live" blade as some groups rarely if ever do tameshigiri practice). For some the "right" sword is something they'll "know" after enough years of training. So for some I tell them to simply wait until they can tell me exactly what they want rather than asking me what they should get.

So... That's enough from me for now. I'm supposed to be taking the week off so it's back to the "honey-do" list.

Oh, one thing as a shameless plug. I have a really nice folded bare blade with habaki by Howard Clark I'm hopefully finishing today if I can sneak in to my workshop when the wife goes out. Howard used to do folded blades now and then and this one is really subtle and stunning. So for perspective -- fully polished in habaki the blade will cost $6000. Mounting will set one back another 2k at least with it being more depending on fittings. But that would be a top end piece all done up nicely and correctly. And that sort of price level is about what you'll look at for a properly done, tight, professional custom sword. Just fwiw.

Chris Evans
08-24-2012, 10:40 AM
Since I've been mentioned...

I live in a couple worlds when it comes to swords, and as such, I have a few different views on the topic that all depend on a variety of factors.

For some folk, they just want a sword. For them, the next question is "Okay, great, do you want something that looks relatively authentic to stick up on a stand, or do you want it to be more "real" in the sense of living up more to the functional standards or do you want more "real" in the sense of aesthetics, etc." And we go from there. These people might buy a sword ranging anywhere from Home Shopping Network stainless piece-o-crap to a well made production sword then to a well done custom piece all the way up to getting in to classical antiques. So the price range here is basically next to nothing to damned near infinity. ;)

But when the person says "I want a sword to train with", well, that's a whole different can of worms. I have customers ranging from the guys actually doing the teaching right down to the newbs with their still stiff gi/kimono/whatever. But even with that range of ability, the range of what *should* be used (at least IMHO) contracts greatly. Fine old antiques are out -- go learn with something that isn't irreplaceable. And then the stuff on the low end is out -- they are generally simply unsafe to use.

Now time for the disclaimer -- I do consulting work for Bugei Trading. They pay me to drive down their and do the QC runs on their Bugei Custom swords. That often means me fixing all sorts of tiny details. And sometimes (even though less frequently in the last few years) outright rejecting swords. And keep in mind how difficult that is for a company like Bugei given Hanwei had a major fire over a year ago and stopped production for most of that time. So huge backlogs and here I come rejecting a sword some customer has been waiting for... So Bugei has reverted to only taking deposits on new sword orders if they don't have something on the shelves (which has been the case since the fire). And that said, sometimes a sword will go out and the customer will say the ito isn't tight enough -- stuff loosens and shakes out over time sometimes. In that case I've often found myself rewrapping tsuka for Bugei for the customer. So anyway, that's how Bugei approaches it. And it's been tough lately with the economy and with the factory not delivery much of anything for almost a year.

So now that all that's out of the way... There's lots of stuff out there. Most I personally wouldn't use. Too many have subtle problems with fit on the tsuka that really makes me nervous as they fit the damned things by undercarving the inlet and hammering the suckers on. I've seen way too many split tsuka over the years and that's just a serious butt-pucker event if you're using the sword. Dangerous. These aren't toys and people shouldn't expect to pay toy prices if they want a safe piece.

That said "comfort level" with safety appears to be something folk can disagree on. ;) I am aware of that and I am aware that my hurdle is a bit higher than many.

Of Bugei's swords I'm rather fond of two for those in martial arts. The dragonfly was designed by my friend Ted Tenold for Bugei. Available with bo-hi or without, I think it is a lovely sword with a unique design (promptly "borrowed" by other makers -- I heard someone say that dragonflies were ubiquitous in swords so it wasn't unique -- the first part was true, tonbo are everywhere. The second part, however, is not as I still have the hand drawing of the fittings that Ted put together when it was designed. And I've yet to see an antique with that particular design. It seems some vendors ordered a variety of Bugei's swords and lo and behold soon afterward a few of their "own" designs appeared. Well, similar fittings but without any of the subtle details or proper mounting/shaping/safety.). Anyway, this is a light and fast sword with bo-hi, and a moderate light sword without. I have one myself that was a "reject" that I fixed on my own time and use regularly for cutting practice. With bo-hi. Never even a slight bend in the blade. But then again I have some degree of experience. For those who do mostly iai kata a 29/11 dragonfly with bo-hi would be a good choice.

The other of Bugei's that I personally like a lot is the Peace Sword. Because it is my design. ;) So I'm biased. But it has sold very well. Limited options are offered on this one because we were trying to simplify things for the factory. So the end result is that I've modified a number of them for customers. In terms of training my goal was a sword balanced for kata training combined with a good cross section for those who also perform tameshigiri.

Both those swords are over $1k. But when you consider that someone like me will charge you twice that just to polish a sword... or around twice that just to mount a sword. Or that buying fittings from even someone like Fred Lohman (reproduction fittings) will likely cost you about 500. The rayskin another 100. And we haven't even talked about the blade itself.

The point here is to put it in perspective. If you're buying an inexpensive sword there must be some really good reasons why it is inexpensive. Me, I consider swords at $1000 to be inexpensive. Less than that and I get very nervous...

That said Hanwei released a sword series called the raptors. 5160 through hardened blades (so no grain, no "temper line" (a horribly incorrect term) and very little subtlety. Kind of course in blade shape and finish. The handles are blocky and boring. The fittings are blocky. The saya is kind of blocky and "one size fits all". But... They're inexpensive and seem relatively durable. Just remember you're not buying a Lexus here... But... I've put a few people in to those simply because I wasn't horribly worried about them being "unsafe". Just not exactly stunning looking.

And FWIW I looked hard at those 5160 blades with no hamon a couple times when I was down at Bugei. Gave us a few ideas, but only time will tell.

Next step is custom swords and it is a major step. Like I said, keep in mind that a proper polish is something that is expensive. And a proper blade is expensive. And then mounting. So if you realize you might have $4.5k in the polish/mount/fittings then the blade itself is going to push things up quite a bit.

Howard Clark is probably the most popular of non-traditional smiths doing Japanese swords for martial artists outside of Japan. His L6 bainite blades are legendary. His 1086 blades are quite stunning too. L6 blades start at 3800. And that's unpolished bare blade. So going back you're looking at 8.3K there unless you cut a few corners. His 1086 blades are (I think) about 1k cheaper. So you're still up there in the over $7k range.

There are other smiths doing fantastic stuff. For instance Anthony Discristofano has been working with Japanese smiths and does some really nice traditional stuff. Michael Bell (and his son) up at Dragonfly Forge produce some really nice and some unusual stuff. Rick Barrett is a prolific smith working across a variety of styles ranging from japanese to western to even fantasy. And Goldberg above was already mentioned. They seem to do things ranging from remounted Chinese made Japanese style blades (that's a mouthful) up to fully custom swords.

So anyway, lots of options here but keep in mind that the economy has decimated the craft. I don't know many who are still doing this full time. I'm barely hanging on by the skin of my teeth and others are refusing to do anything but the higher end work because there is simply no money in it. There are lots of folk who appear now and then who hang up their sign, but often they seem to last a little while then vanish. It seems like a fun thing to do but once you start doing it, it is backbreaking work for little money all while you're constantly in competition low end with stuff made in China that appeals to people who aren't educated enough to know the difference.

Phew.

Then of course there are swords for martial artists made in Japan. Those can be had for prices similar to custom swords here. Just a different world, however.

So after all that has been said... If you want a sword and can afford a sword, buy a sword you like. I'm not the type that says you simply can't buy one without a good reason or the right sensei or the right training. To me the fact you want one is good enough. Just keep in mind that I see a lot of people buy a lot of cheap swords. I had one guy come over and tell me he had almost 20 cheap swords, but still couldn't find the "right" sword. Well, for what he's spent on those 20 I'm pretty sure he could have actually bought the "right" sword. But some like to collect cheap stuff. That's okay too.

But if you're talking about something for training keep in mind that *anything* you buy right now might not be something your sensei will want you to use. Some are very easy going about length and dimensions. Others the exact opposite. Some have specific requirements for mounts (the Shinkendo guys have a lot of things they require due to the teaching of Obata). So if you buy something now and then find a sensei later be prepared to find out you might have bought the wrong sword. But if that's okay and then you'll simply buy the right sword later, fine.

With some people I'll tell them the best option is to find that sensei first. Normally you'll start with an inexpensive piece as you're going to make mistakes (and if you're doing iai, for instance, you may spend years before even moving on to a "live" blade as some groups rarely if ever do tameshigiri practice). For some the "right" sword is something they'll "know" after enough years of training. So for some I tell them to simply wait until they can tell me exactly what they want rather than asking me what they should get.

So... That's enough from me for now. I'm supposed to be taking the week off so it's back to the "honey-do" list.

Oh, one thing as a shameless plug. I have a really nice folded bare blade with habaki by Howard Clark I'm hopefully finishing today if I can sneak in to my workshop when the wife goes out. Howard used to do folded blades now and then and this one is really subtle and stunning. So for perspective -- fully polished in habaki the blade will cost $6000. Mounting will set one back another 2k at least with it being more depending on fittings. But that would be a top end piece all done up nicely and correctly. And that sort of price level is about what you'll look at for a properly done, tight, professional custom sword. Just fwiw.

Thank you.

if and when I buy, with permission and advice from my instructor, I'll look for nihonto/shinken that i can afford, but also can "grow" into. For example, my first mountain bike was 600 USD in 1998, but since i've upgraded with over 3000 USD into that frame and if that bike was stolen now, I'd spend at least a 1000 USD for what i consider minimally safe and fun for my style of riding. One can save money by buying enough quality at first.

Rob Watson
08-24-2012, 11:21 AM
Well, if you have to ask ...

Ha hah: What a mean comment, got me hanging....(but no one innocent).

I'll try to let go the thought...

... means you have no idea. Now maybe you have an idea, a hint, even a glimmer - big question put so simply.

No such thing as an innoocent question ... just one asked when what is called for is legwork. Ask the right question and get a direct simple answer. Ask an uninformed question and the peanut gallery descends. Please, think of the peanuts ... chaffing in their shells.

Chris Evans
08-27-2012, 08:09 AM
Where are the Bugei shinken made in?

Michael Hackett
08-27-2012, 09:29 AM
Chris, most of them are made in China, if not all. Check their website as I think the details of manufacture are described. I was given my Dragonfly katana by my family and dojo mates and I went back and purchased the wakazashi and tanto subsequently. They will send you their catalog and you and your sensei can take a look and see if their blades will meet your needs. If you aren't in a rush, attend next year's tokenkai in San Francisco and look at some beautiful antique blades.

Chris Evans
08-27-2012, 09:35 AM
Chris, most of them are made in China, if not all. Check their website as I think the details of manufacture are described. I was given my Dragonfly katana by my family and dojo mates and I went back and purchased the wakazashi and tanto subsequently. They will send you their catalog and you and your sensei can take a look and see if their blades will meet your needs. If you aren't in a rush, attend next year's tokenkai in San Francisco and look at some beautiful antique blades.

Not in a rush, not at all. Thanks, we'd be delighted to check out the "tokenkai" in Fr'isco.
Makes me cringe to think I may have to buy a luxury item of Japanese design -- that I do not need, but want if my training progress to that level -- from China.
So then, Made in Japan forged (laminated?) nihonto starts at what price, I wonder? I'd be willing to pay the comparable cost of a Col 45ACP pistol, at minimum, up to that of an American forged receiver LRB Arms M14SA rifle.

Michael Hackett
08-27-2012, 11:36 AM
Political ramifications not withstanding, China does produce some quality products. The Bugei blades are forged and folded in a specific setting and are not produced by some sort of stamping on an assembly line. Since you used the firearms analogy, I would compare them to a Colt .45 ACP from Colt's Custom Shop. The basic 1911 Government Model will do everything a shooter wants to do, while a pistol from the Custom Shop will have specific features and tighter fits the owner desires. You could also purchase a custom .45 from Kimber and spend considerable money. You could buy a used Colt that had been carried by a Texas Ranger and used in a dozen gunfights for a whole lot more. I've heard that copies of the Colt are being made overseas and are complete garbage as well and being sold as the real deal. If those exist, they would correspond to the junk blades you see advertised on TV late at night. Hope that makes sense.

Don't rush into buying a blade until you decide what you really want, and then purchase from a reputable dealer.

I will return to rolling in peanut husks now....

Keith Larman
08-27-2012, 04:40 PM
Yes Bugei's blades are made at Hanwei specifically for Bugei. They are made to our specific designs and specifications. On the Peace Sword, for instance, I specified a metal kojiri of very precise dimensions. The intention was to force them to make the saya for this particular model with a different set of dimensions to make it more consistent with the saya most people train with on iaito from Japan. I also specified to the mm the distance of the kurikata from the koiguchi, again trying to address an issue with placement that I would like to fix. The blade cross section and geometry is unique to that sword and was spec'ed by me to match a rather famous blade by the first generation Tadayoshi of the Hizen School. Which is why it has a suguha hamon and why I asked that the steel be folded an extra time to create a finer hada. Which itself causes a vastly finer and more subtle interaction in the habuchi (transition zone between hard and soft) where the fine hada is "tracked" by the transitional structures. All in all the idea was to make something more suited towards martial arts training but with a number of subtle nods towards historical pieces. Of course these are still sub $2000 swords and you can't even get a decent polish for what they cost let alone an entire sword. And once they arrive at Bugei I get to take a 3 hour drive down and spend a day (or 2 or 3) going through all the swords. I inspect, shake, swing, flex, look over, then fix, tweak, tear apart if necessary, and even sometimes do major repairs to make damned sure they're right before they go out.

Bugei then repacks them in custom made double-walled boxes with custom made foam inserts. The boxes are worth their weight in gold if you ever have to ship or transport a sword fwiw. They also replace the chinese made cleaning/maintenance kit with an authentic kit they buy from Japan (after I complained long and hard enough about the uchiko in the Hanwei kit being too abrasive they finally decided to just bite the bullet and buy large boxes full of kits from japan and eat the extra cost).

I will also get asked to shorten handles sometimes. Or rewrap. Or rewrap with a different material. Or change menuki. Or make new tsuka with new fittings. Or whatever. All things you can get through Bugei on their swords.

They also offer all their Bugei exclusives with a few choices on things like tsuka length and blade length. On the dragonfly you can get it with or without bo-hi. On the wave you can specify all sorts of options for colors, bo-hi, lengths, etc. All for vastly less than an entry level custom sword or sword from Japan.

Is it the same? No, of course not. But it is something between the "bic lighter" type swords many use as starter pieces and getting a custom sword or an antique.

That's about it in a nutshell. Nothing more, nothing less.

JJF
08-28-2012, 01:46 AM
Did you check out this site: http://www.japanesesword.net/

or this:

http://www.e-japanesesword.net/

or: http://www.wafu-living.com (check unter iaito)

I have a Tozando Iaito and is quite pleased with it though I am outgrowing it.. I need a longer one now that I have become a bit better... it's not 'heirloom quality' I believe, but they have contacts to sword smiths as well.

Good luck

phitruong
08-28-2012, 06:29 AM
bought a cheap hanwei iaito a few years back. ok blade with decent balance, not sharpen, but the point is still pretty wicked. i have stuck that thing in my hand a number of times during sheathing maneuvers and drew blood. saw a guy, at an aikido seminar, who had done iaido for a year or two, examined a live blade, ended up slicing his thumb which required a few stitches. i was at a weapon seminar earlier in the year, and we were doing some iaido stuffs. one guy had a bokken in a plastic sheath. one time, as he bended over, his bokken slipped out of the sheath, and he tried to catch it. i told him not to do that. he looked at me and didn't understand. i explained if that were a live blade, he just lost his hand. my iaido teacher drilled it into me that if the blade slipped out, do not ever trying to catch it, just let it fall.

the above stories are some of the cautionary tales when you have live blades. don't forget if you have young kids around, don't ever have live blade in the house. if you do, treat it like you have a loaded gun.
personally, i don't trust myself with live blade. cleaver, on the hand, i am quite comfortable with. :)

Keith Larman
08-28-2012, 07:43 AM
I saw an injury where someone shoved the tip of a mogito (or iaito if you prefer -- zinc/alloy bladed, unsharpened) in to his forearm and out by his elbow. Lots of stitches. Serious injury.

Another person I know, highly experienced, shoved a live blade through his own midsection on the side during a kata (obvious he made a mistake). Hospital trip.

And there is a famous event here in Southern California where a visiting sensei severed a finger or two during a live demonstration of kata.

And you don't want to know how many scars I have on my body from both training with the things but also as a full time sword polisher and craftsman. I walked in to the tip of a blade on a rack that was itself screwed to the workbench. I grabbed a tanto I dropped (hmmm, yeah, it's sharp). And I've simply slipped doing what I do. And the (what we call) deli slices I get on my hands sometimes are epic. And as one of the weirdest things was when I started having back problems and changed my position for polishing from the traditional posture I found that when I polished a certain part of the mune I had a habit of occasionally lifting a leg up (no longer locked down in the kamae) and sticking the tip in to my own leg right above my knee cap. It took three time in to exactly the same spot before I managed to break myself of the habit of absentmindedly lifting that leg a bit. Nothing worse than holding a blade embedded in your own leg, taking a deep breath, then pulling it out. Advice -- pull quick and don't flinch that leg muscle. Slow doesn't make it any better.

They are dangerous. There is no safety, no unloading. And people like to swing the things around even when they have no idea what they're doing (and frankly most in Aikido (with some significant exceptions) seriously have very, very little idea of how to handle a sword correctly).

That said... Just be safe. Don't do the things you don't know how to do. If you decide to try some stuff, well, best advice is to get some training. Otherwise go slow. I've seen guys on video saying "be careful" then promptly demonstrate cutting technique with a leading leg seriously close to being where it could take a major cut if they blew the cut they were doing. And then watching them cut ("Batter UP!") usually makes me cringe because it is an emergency room visit waiting to happen.

But again... They're only as unsafe as the person holding it. I have many friends and customers who don't train who have lovely swords in safes or on stands up and out of the way on display. They get them out, lovingly look at them, study them, enjoy the artistry (some can be fantastically beautiful), lovingly clean them, and then put them away. Folk can get really strident about saying "don't get a sword without sensei or training". For some who envision themselves as backyard samurai masters because they've seen *every* episode of Samurai Jack, sure, probably not a good idea. But I dare say most folk out there are reasonable, intelligent and fully mature enough to have a sword. Shrug.

JJF
08-29-2012, 02:13 AM
Keith

Nice post. I have to go with Phi though. I don't trust myself to keep a live blade in a display case. I would NOT be able to resist giving it a go, but my skills are not even close to good enough yet. Maybe one day.

Anyway - I fully support that a live blade can be kept as a display piece. My advice to the original poster about going to a sensei first was based on the fact that it seems he want to do some tameshigiri and... well.. we've all seen the 'batter up' approach that you mention.. Let's hope he will stay away from such endavours. Cutting with a sword is not really a good 'do-it-yourself' hobby.. :)

Great day to you all

JJ

Chris Evans
08-29-2012, 10:54 PM
Did you check out this site: http://www.japanesesword.net/

or this:

http://www.e-japanesesword.net/

or: http://www.wafu-living.com (check unter iaito)

I have a Tozando Iaito and is quite pleased with it though I am outgrowing it.. I need a longer one now that I have become a bit better... it's not 'heirloom quality' I believe, but they have contacts to sword smiths as well.

Good luck

thanks

Chris Evans
08-29-2012, 11:00 PM
bought a cheap hanwei iaito a few years back. ok blade with decent balance, not sharpen, but the point is still pretty wicked. i have stuck that thing in my hand a number of times during sheathing maneuvers and drew blood. saw a guy, at an aikido seminar, who had done iaido for a year or two, examined a live blade, ended up slicing his thumb which required a few stitches. i was at a weapon seminar earlier in the year, and we were doing some iaido stuffs. one guy had a bokken in a plastic sheath. one time, as he bended over, his bokken slipped out of the sheath, and he tried to catch it. i told him not to do that. he looked at me and didn't understand. i explained if that were a live blade, he just lost his hand. my iaido teacher drilled it into me that if the blade slipped out, do not ever trying to catch it, just let it fall.

the above stories are some of the cautionary tales when you have live blades. don't forget if you have young kids around, don't ever have live blade in the house. if you do, treat it like you have a loaded gun.
personally, i don't trust myself with live blade. cleaver, on the hand, i am quite comfortable with. :)

ah, good advice: not to catch a dropping bokken. where may i buy a sheath for my bokken?

my local shop says a shinken from Japan, unsigned, starts at $2800, before tax: I will not be buying unless my instructor tells me I am ready for such.

Chris Evans
08-29-2012, 11:17 PM
I saw an injury where someone shoved the tip of a mogito (or iaito if you prefer -- zinc/alloy bladed, unsharpened) in to his forearm and out by his elbow. Lots of stitches. Serious injury.

Another person I know, highly experienced, shoved a live blade through his own midsection on the side during a kata (obvious he made a mistake). Hospital trip.

And there is a famous event here in Southern California where a visiting sensei severed a finger or two during a live demonstration of kata.

And you don't want to know how many scars I have on my body from both training with the things but also as a full time sword polisher and craftsman. I walked in to the tip of a blade on a rack that was itself screwed to the workbench. I grabbed a tanto I dropped (hmmm, yeah, it's sharp). And I've simply slipped doing what I do. And the (what we call) deli slices I get on my hands sometimes are epic. And as one of the weirdest things was when I started having back problems and changed my position for polishing from the traditional posture I found that when I polished a certain part of the mune I had a habit of occasionally lifting a leg up (no longer locked down in the kamae) and sticking the tip in to my own leg right above my knee cap. It took three time in to exactly the same spot before I managed to break myself of the habit of absentmindedly lifting that leg a bit. Nothing worse than holding a blade embedded in your own leg, taking a deep breath, then pulling it out. Advice -- pull quick and don't flinch that leg muscle. Slow doesn't make it any better.

They are dangerous. There is no safety, no unloading. And people like to swing the things around even when they have no idea what they're doing (and frankly most in Aikido (with some significant exceptions) seriously have very, very little idea of how to handle a sword correctly).

That said... Just be safe. Don't do the things you don't know how to do. If you decide to try some stuff, well, best advice is to get some training. Otherwise go slow. I've seen guys on video saying "be careful" then promptly demonstrate cutting technique with a leading leg seriously close to being where it could take a major cut if they blew the cut they were doing. And then watching them cut ("Batter UP!") usually makes me cringe because it is an emergency room visit waiting to happen.

But again... They're only as unsafe as the person holding it. I have many friends and customers who don't train who have lovely swords in safes or on stands up and out of the way on display. They get them out, lovingly look at them, study them, enjoy the artistry (some can be fantastically beautiful), lovingly clean them, and then put them away. Folk can get really strident about saying "don't get a sword without sensei or training". For some who envision themselves as backyard samurai masters because they've seen *every* episode of Samurai Jack, sure, probably not a good idea. But I dare say most folk out there are reasonable, intelligent and fully mature enough to have a sword. Shrug.

I'll be very careful, as I am with our guns. Thanks for the insights.

Janet Rosen
08-29-2012, 11:51 PM
ah, good advice: not to catch a dropping bokken. where may i buy a sheath for my bokken?

I think you have to buy it as a set so the bokken sits within it properly and releases properly; they are available from m.a. suppliers and I bought it when I was just starting iaido and didn't want to spring for an iaito from day 1. Don't like the bokken well enough to actually use it as my aikido bokken.

dreamborn
02-22-2013, 01:27 PM
Chris

I had a shinken custom made for me by a japanese smith from Kyushu, Japan. Kimura Kanetsugu san made it for my height 2.5.5 Shyaku and it was heavier than normal to cut both hard and soft targets. It took 6 months to make. I simply love it! A custom made sword like this from a 'ranked' smith can cost anywhere from $8000 to $100,000+. The higher end is a sword from Living National Treasure Smith.

ryback
02-25-2013, 07:36 AM
That said Hanwei released a sword series called the raptors. 5160 through hardened blades (so no grain, no "temper line" (a horribly incorrect term) and very little subtlety. Kind of course in blade shape and finish. The handles are blocky and boring. The fittings are blocky. The saya is kind of blocky and "one size fits all". But... They're inexpensive and seem relatively durable. Just remember you're not buying a Lexus here... But... I've put a few people in to those simply because I wasn't horribly worried about them being "unsafe". Just not exactly stunning looking.

Very helpful post Keith! I own and practice with a Raptor and I really think that it is the best choice in that price, for a martial artist. I have only two problems: First, i think that it should be a little heavier, it is even lighter than the Bamboo series of Bugei.

Second, the design of the tsuba tends to lightly injure my hand,perhaps i should hold it a little further from the tsuba. To be honest, I actually like its design generaly.Do you know if the steel for the Raptor is of less quality than the Bugei swords?

Now i'd like to ask you some questions,if you'd be so kind. I believe that it will be helpful not only for me, but also the whole thread.
I've been thinking about the Wave katana(without bo-hi) because it offers a bigger variety of choices.Do you happen to know its weight for the 28 inch blade? I was also curious about how wide its Noto is, and how wide is the side of the sword.
I am also interested in the Peace katana.Congrats for its design it's by far the most beautiful sword i've ever seen.Is there any chance for a version of it without the Bo-hi?
Finaly,i'd like to have your opinion on the Samurai katana of Bugei, because i believe that it has the proportionaly appropriate weight for me.

shadowofleaves
04-03-2013, 11:26 AM
I really like Dynasty Forge and a number of the Paul Chen blades are good. I like to cut with a Practical Plus (Paul Chen), it cuts very well and is reasonable in cost (averages $250.00). Nice aspect about cutting with a sword at this level is if I bend or damage it I am not out several thousand dollars.

If you are getting a shinken for the first time, it is good to start with an inexpensive one to learn with. Taking care of something like this is unusual for some people; learning to clean and care for. Again if it gets damaged a nice blade hasn't been ruined.

Some of my students have been getting some really nice Dynasty Forge "seconds" from Athena for about $250.00. Really good cutters and look nice too. We are still not sure where the blemishes are at on the products.

Once you have some experience with low level shinken and you know how to take take of them, and have learned what you want in a sword; then think about purchasing something nicer.

1. Dynasty Forge
2. Fred Loman
3. Paul Chen
4. Bugei (kinda pricey for what you get)

JJF
04-04-2013, 02:22 AM
I'll be very careful, as I am with our guns. Thanks for the insights.

I have little (read: none) experience with guns but I have the sneaking suspicion that it is two very different things. A gun has a 'dangerous end' and a 'safe end'. A live blade has two ends that you need to handle at the same time - for example while doing Nōtō. and it while have almost a will of it's own.

I would NEVER recommend ANYBODY to buy a live blade without extensive training under a competent instructor.

JJ

phitruong
04-04-2013, 07:48 AM
I would NEVER recommend ANYBODY to buy a live blade without extensive training under a competent instructor.

JJ

there are two kind of people in the world who play with live blade: those who had cut themselves, and those who will be.

Keith Larman
04-04-2013, 12:11 PM
I have little (read: none) experience with guns but I have the sneaking suspicion that it is two very different things. A gun has a 'dangerous end' and a 'safe end'. A live blade has two ends that you need to handle at the same time - for example while doing Nōtō. and it while have almost a will of it's own.

I would NEVER recommend ANYBODY to buy a live blade without extensive training under a competent instructor.

JJ

If one is planning on swinging it around, sure. If one is planning on training with it, sure. If one is planning on buying one to appreciate the craft of the sword and do *not* intend to swing it around or otherwise use it, why exactly do they need extensive training? Or do you only tear apart your food since those kitchen knives are so very dangerous...

I am one of those folks who tries to convince martial artists to get proper training in the sword prior to using them. Yup. But absolute comments are also quite silly IMHO.

JJF
04-05-2013, 05:40 AM
If one is planning on swinging it around, sure. If one is planning on training with it, sure. If one is planning on buying one to appreciate the craft of the sword and do *not* intend to swing it around or otherwise use it, why exactly do they need extensive training? Or do you only tear apart your food since those kitchen knives are so very dangerous...

I am one of those folks who tries to convince martial artists to get proper training in the sword prior to using them. Yup. But absolute comments are also quite silly IMHO.

Keith: You are entitled to your opinion about absolute comments being silly (which by the way is also kind of an absolute statement) ;)

None of my kitchen knifes are 70+ cm long. If they were I would probably not allow anybody to touch them either without making sure they know how to handle it. Consider power tools. They are way more dangerous than most people think even though they have some safety features. A Japanese sword does not. It is VERY dangerous and I don't intend to train with one myself for many years - maybe never.

If somebody just want to appreciate the craftmanship - fine - buy it and leave it in a locked display case out of reach. I was under the impression though that some people in this thread intended to buy a sword and 'try it out'. In that case I hope to be at least a few dozen meters away - wielding a first aid kit and a cell phone with 911 on speed dial.

Apart from that - I think we are on the same page. Except I don'Ęt see any point in buying a live blade of the types mentioned unless you intend to use it. They are intended for training - not for displaying. Antique swords have different qualities that can be admired when put on display, but if it's just for hanging on your wall then a modern day sword may just as well be a nice iaito with a dull blade in stead of a live razor sharp blade. In my (not so humble) opinion..

Anyway - I just wanted to cut through the debate and state my viewpoint - now I got sucked into a debate again.. will close browser now and get back to work.

Great day to you all

JJ

Keith Larman
04-05-2013, 07:45 AM
I would NEVER recommend ANYBODY to buy a live blade without extensive training under a competent instructor.

JJ

That was what I was responding to.

Each person buys a sword for their own personal reasons and not everyone buys one to train with it even if it is a relatively inexpensive modern made reproduction. I'm doing a very nice piece right now for a retired disabled veteran who has always wanted a sword. I touched up another sword, modern reproduction, for a guy who simply could never afford a nicer piece and again, always wanted one. He has it on display in his house and is quite proud of it.

Michael Hackett
04-05-2013, 01:00 PM
I know a good number of folks who own live blades and couldn't make a cut with any of them. While they are not swordsmen, they appreciate the beauty and the danger of these wonderful works of art. To simply study a blade is time well-spent in my opinion, whether antique or modern, and can bring great pleasure. Like cherry blossoms, each blade is different and has it's own special beauty. Looking at a live blade in a locked display case is enjoyable, but very much like an iceberg, mostly hidden from view. Carrying the metaphor forward, an iaito is only an icecube by comparison.

john2054
04-05-2013, 03:16 PM
I'd just like to add to this discussion, that Chris, what you seem to fail to have missed is that the 'Bokken' you speak of is not the live bladed 'Shinai' sword they use in Iaido, but the wooden edged blade which is used in some Aikido classes. Consequently it is by far the safest option for a beginner who wants to train in swords, but doesn't know where to start. The advantage of having a wooden sword, is that you can wave it around your living room all you want, and no one is going to get hurt. A bruise or two is the worst that can happen. I brought my very own bokken from Academy sports (derby UK), last week for eleven pounds. (About 18 usd). My is made of red Chinese Oak, and is a mighty fine thing is ever you saw one. The only thing is that ever I took it to my Dojo yesterday, my Senseis advised me not to carry it around unsheathed and consequently wrapped it up in black bin bags for me to carry back home.

Now I do remember about fifteen years ago when I had a live 'Seven dragon' Samurai Chinese antique sword from Ebay. Which was a mighty fine to the best of my perception which then was completely the untrained eye, however the police confiscated this when i smashed up a car with it adjacent one day, and I have had neither the inclination nor the means to buy another since that fateful day.

Suffice to say I'm sure that a good bokken is the best bet for your first sword, and I dare say most weapons stockists will do the wooden variety, at a fraction of the price of the live stuff! John.

Cynrod
07-20-2014, 07:35 PM
Keith Larman is a major reason for looking at Bugei. He inspects every blade they receive, and from what I've heard, rejects any that don't meet his and Williams Sensei's standards. I'm very pleased with the three I've purchased there. There surely are better modern blades available, and there are certainly far worse out there. This might be a good source for what you're interested in and your instructor can give you the best advice.

2X on this :) .

George S. Ledyard
07-27-2014, 03:36 AM
My own blades are all from David Goldberg I have two of his live blades, an iaito, and Cold Steel that he redid the handle on (incredible job... the handle is worth more than the sword now). If you want a custom sword, his are fantastic. And since he started as an artist, he designs and produces the fittings as well. His swords are both functional and beautiful.

At a more modest price has offers a number of choices forged to his specifications in China. The quality is excellent and for cutting they are more than adequate. If you want something more aesthetically pleasing but not quite willing to go to one he forges himself, he will put his own custom designed fittings on one of his Chinese blades which gives you a beautiful sword at an intermediate price.

Call Dave and talk to him. He can do anything you want, really. I wholeheartedly recommend him.
Kinzan (http://www.goldmountainforge.com/david-goldberg-aka-kinzan)

Robert A. Wilkins
02-09-2015, 12:19 PM
http://hsts.weebly.com/