John Kuo wrote:
If you're going to eventually spend a few to several thousand dollars for a Japanese-style sword, you might as well look at some North American bladesmiths. Here's one in Pennsylvania:
I've never dealt with him, but his website states that he also practices aikido and Japanese swordsmanship, FWIW. There are other smiths, but since Dave Goldberg is in your state...
Dave does some pretty good work. I have swung some of his swords around and cut with one of them, they felt pretty good. Some years back I also handled and swung some 13th to 15 century shinken a collector owned. The feeling was pretty incredible, especially one that felt almost like I was holding a live animal. Dave's work is not that good, but then it won't cost you the price of several BMW's. He has an eye for detail and is quite knowledgable. worth a call.
Also the problem with some of the cheap blades you mentioned is the quality and durability of the hardware (tsuka especially). I personally would not trust them too much to swing around (they generally have terrible balance) or to do tameshigiri (cutting). Dave has in the past taken some of those same blades and put much better more durable hardware on them and sold them for around $500 (up or down depending on work and materials). So that might be a way to get an economical cutter blade.