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Old 03-30-2005, 10:37 AM   #1
samurai_kenshin
 
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A warning! Not the chen swords!

I've recently been looking at different swords to buy for tameshigiri and i looked into the Paul Chen Practical Plus katana. I have a friend who owns one as a wall hanger. I asked if I could see it. He said yes, so I took it down from the wall and removed the tsuka so I could see the tang. I compared it with a Last legend Katana he also owned (I offered to buy but he said no). Compared with the Last Laegend the chen sword was almost rat tail! The blade on the chen bit is so thin it almost looks like paper. I don't see how they don't breal when you look at them. I don't know about the higher end chen swords, but the Practical+ definitely isn't one to be used for a tameshigiri sword, even for a beginner. Advice to all: If you are unsure, I'd suggest a mid-range LL katana, only because they are folded and look more substantial. Thank you for listening to my mad ravings
-James Matarrese

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Old 03-30-2005, 11:40 AM   #2
Walter Wong
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

In regards to Paul Chen swords, the Practical series I would stay away from. The mid range Paul Chen line is decent enough for beginners. The high end Paul Chen line and the line he makes exclusively for Bugei www.bugei.com are the ones that are best choices in regards to choosing a Paul Chen blade. Bugei line being top choice for Paul Chen.

Last Legend is good too. I would suggest any mid range to high end for Last Legend as well.

In the world of Japanese swords, you really do get what you pay for. The Practical line of Paul Chen is under $400.00. Not ideal for serious Japanese sword art practice.

If you like to get more indepth bout Japanese sword discussion, register with your real name as your user name at

www.swordforumbugei.com

forums.swordforum.com

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Old 04-24-2005, 05:12 PM   #3
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

the mods can delete this now...

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
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Old 04-26-2005, 04:18 AM   #4
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

http://forums.swordforum.com/showthr...i&pagenumber=1

PPK's tang compared to a wallhangers. What are you talking about?

Last edited by thomas_dixon : 04-26-2005 at 04:21 AM.
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Old 04-26-2005, 07:37 AM   #5
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

I have 3 students starting tameshigiri using practical plus katanas. I have another 4 that use the old practical katanas. They cut and cut again without incident. As they progress they will move to higher end katana, if they choose to stick with it. One of my students is also learning polishing on these blades. (It will be great to have an in-house polisher).

I've heard that the Bugei swords are just remounted from Paul Chen blades and are not actually especially made for James and Co. Can anyone in the know elaborate?

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Old 04-26-2005, 06:52 PM   #6
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

the swords bugei has are specially made for them. That's why they all cost so much. The swords are made by hanwei, but they're much higher end.

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Old 04-28-2005, 01:26 AM   #7
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

translation: PPK is gooooood.
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Old 04-28-2005, 02:24 AM   #8
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

My practical plus tang is nearly 8 inches long. I Don't think we're talking about the same sword here.

The practical series is perfectly suitable for cutting single roll tatami omote (or beech mats if you cut flimsy wara).

If you're cutting anything more than a single roll target though you are asking for trouble. The chen swords do not have the integrity to (safely) cut through multiple targets, bamboo, wood or metal. Period.

I once cut a double rolled tatami omote with mine and I could literally FEEL the blade vibrating as it exited the target. Probably one of the stupidest things i've done in my sword career.

Those swords are entry level swords to be used with entry level technique and cuts. Nothing more.

"Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity"
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Old 04-28-2005, 10:50 AM   #9
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

what i'm trying to say is that in comparison to Last legend Katanas they just don't look very substantial. I didn't litteraly mean rat tail, just sort of flimsy in comparison to the LL stuff. I bought a PPK and cut with it and it felt ok, just not as good as that LL that my friend has. In addition to the flimsier looking tangs, PPK swords are getting thinner. The first ones were thick blades. I think Walter WOng may have said this before, but the question is not will these swords break on a bad cut, but when. These PPK swords just don't forgive bad cuts. BTW which furniture do you find more appealing? Paul Chen on the PPK, or LL?

Last edited by samurai_kenshin : 04-28-2005 at 10:53 AM.

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Old 04-28-2005, 11:04 AM   #10
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

Quote:
but the question is not will these swords break on a bad cut, but when.
The incidents i've heard of the Chen swords breaking ALL involved the person in question doing something particularly stupid. (Cutting a triple rolled target with a 3/4 inch wood core for instance)

If you're cutting the proper material, and keeping the sword in good condition, they can last a very long time.

The problem isn't the swords. It's the stupid and ignorant people who swing them around without having the first clue about what they're doing.

I'm sorry if this sounds aggressive i'm not targetting anyone here but this particular topic always gets me a bit riled up.

"Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity"
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Old 04-28-2005, 11:08 AM   #11
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

I have used a Practical Plus Katana on double rolls and not felt any vibration. It just went cleanly through.

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Old 04-28-2005, 02:27 PM   #12
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

James,

I have seen the exact same car priced much higher at a a high end import lot over the run of the mill lot. Just because they are much more expensive, doesn't mean they aren't anything but a remounted Wind and Thunder and selling it for double the price. What I want to know is: ARE the bugei blades special compared to the regular chen blades? If they aren't, James Williams is a good marketer. Caveat emptor.

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Old 04-28-2005, 07:44 PM   #13
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

Quote:
have seen the exact same car priced much higher at a a high end import lot over the run of the mill lot. Just because they are much more expensive, doesn't mean they aren't anything but a remounted Wind and Thunder and selling it for double the price. What I want to know is: ARE the bugei blades special compared to the regular chen blades? If they aren't, James Williams is a good marketer. Caveat emptor.
The fact that you can order them in a multitude of colors and, blade lengths and options should tell you that these are custom made for bugei. Compared to the other swords in the chen line they are very light too (the powdered steel.) There are too many options that go into them for them to NOT be custom made.

I beleive for a while, our sword organization was planning on going to the hanwei forge for custom swords and my sensei also used to demo the hanwei blades.

The reason we don't usually promote using those blades is that they are hardly, in any way, what you would call traditional.

Those swords come out of the imagination of paul chen (notice the really crappy club-like tsukas? or the ridiculously long blades?) Also, his best ones are the prototypes he makes. The finalized mass produced ones are very inconsistant (which is where lots of the mixed feedback comes from.)

This is kind of rushed post. Sorry about any obvious gramtical / spelling errors.

"Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity"
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Old 04-28-2005, 08:25 PM   #14
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

yes, the thing is that the Bugei swords are highly customizable, plus the swords of that style are sold only by Bugei. Those chen swords were made special. It's not exactly the quality of the sword, but more along the lines of ratiry value, though that's not exactly it either. Hope that made sense...

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Old 04-28-2005, 08:30 PM   #15
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

Quote:
Nathan Gidney wrote:
The fact that you can order them in a multitude of colors and, blade lengths and options should tell you that these are custom made for bugei. Compared to the other swords in the chen line they are very light too (the powdered steel.) There are too many options that go into them for them to NOT be custom made.

I beleive for a while, our sword organization was planning on going to the hanwei forge for custom swords and my sensei also used to demo the hanwei blades.

The reason we don't usually promote using those blades is that they are hardly, in any way, what you would call traditional.

Those swords come out of the imagination of paul chen (notice the really crappy club-like tsukas? or the ridiculously long blades?) Also, his best ones are the prototypes he makes. The finalized mass produced ones are very inconsistant (which is where lots of the mixed feedback comes from.)

This is kind of rushed post. Sorry about any obvious gramtical / spelling errors.
If what you say is true (baout inconsistency of the productuin blades) perhaps I got a bad egg. I do hear alot of mixed reviews about the PPK and I may have been a little quick to jump to the conclusion that all PPK are crap. Maybe i should buy one and see. Even if it isn't the best cutter, it'll make a nice wall-hanger!

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
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Old 04-29-2005, 03:26 AM   #16
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

Quote:
James Matarrese wrote:
If what you say is true (baout inconsistency of the productuin blades) perhaps I got a bad egg. I do hear alot of mixed reviews about the PPK and I may have been a little quick to jump to the conclusion that all PPK are crap. Maybe i should buy one and see. Even if it isn't the best cutter, it'll make a nice wall-hanger!
Make sure your friend bought it from a good source.

I went to the flea market a while back and couldn't help but stop at the sword/knife place there. The guy tried to pass off some cheap wall hanger as "an Orchid Katana worth over $348 retail".
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Old 04-29-2005, 08:55 AM   #17
Ron Tisdale
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

I wouldn't buy the PPK myself...I did buy a shinto model Paul Chen katana, on the recommendation of a sword instructor (all his beginners buy that model or better), and I like it. It cuts wara just fine. I'm not qualified enough to say more than that. Sword forum or bugei's forum are the best places just now to ask, and e-budo when it comes back up is another good place to check.

Best,
Ron

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Old 04-29-2005, 06:30 PM   #18
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

I may have some money coming my way. Buying this PPK would be exactly 26.3 percent of my cash savings at the time, so no harm done really...

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
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Old 04-30-2005, 07:05 AM   #19
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
I wouldn't buy the PPK myself...I did buy a shinto model Paul Chen katana, on the recommendation of a sword instructor (all his beginners buy that model or better), and I like it. It cuts wara just fine. I'm not qualified enough to say more than that. Sword forum or bugei's forum are the best places just now to ask, and e-budo when it comes back up is another good place to check.

Best,
Ron
Shintos are like double the price of the PPK.

I'd suggest the Last Legend Field MK II. It's like $360. Inbetween the two. Plus I've heard really good things from the people over at www.kendo-world.com/forums in their Iaido section about it.
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Old 05-02-2005, 11:01 AM   #20
Keith Larman
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

Quote:
Michael Ellefson wrote:
I have 3 students starting tameshigiri using practical plus katanas. I have another 4 that use the old practical katanas. They cut and cut again without incident. As they progress they will move to higher end katana, if they choose to stick with it. One of my students is also learning polishing on these blades. (It will be great to have an in-house polisher).

I've heard that the Bugei swords are just remounted from Paul Chen blades and are not actually especially made for James and Co. Can anyone in the know elaborate?
And I've heard Elvis is alive and serving smoothies in a juice shop owned by Janis Joplin.

Yes I can elaborate on Bugei.

FWIW my name is Keith Larman and I've been polishing and mounting swords professionally and full time for a number of years now. FWIW my web site shows photos of my work if you're interested. I have a photo page linking to many of my projects.

http://summerchild.com.

The guys at Bugei are friends of mine. I'm also one of the people who is involved in their Quality Control as well as discussions about new blades. I am also involved in helping out with repairs and generally supporting their customers. I also need to say that I am completely independent. I'm not an employee of Bugei but an outside contractor I suppose. I do some work for them that they pay me for. But I'm not "on the payroll" or anything like that. So I have first hand experience. And it's not just something I heard somewhere.

Okay, that said. Bugei has always been intimately involved in the design of their swords. Take as an example the Dragonfly. Ted Tenold is the main guy Bugei goes to with traditional sword spec questions (and since I work with Ted and we're very good friends sometimes I get involved). Ted designed the furniture himself and send detailed drawings, sizes, etc. directly to Paul Chen. The design parameters of the dragonfly was to design a shinogi zukuri blade, iori mune, thinner kasane, subtle taper in the haba, chu kissaki and scant niku. The goal in terms of performance was a lighter, faster blade for iai students looking for a lighter kata blade. Many iaidoka practice hours a day and are susceptable to repetitive motion problems. So we went into the lighter ranges of historic blades and designed a sword that would be easier on the elbows, shoulders and wrists. We also wanted a design with scant hira niku to both keep the weight down but also to facilitate soft target cutting as many different ryu in iai circles are increasing their practice of tameshigiri (test cutting). So the combination of the thinner kasane, wider haba, and less niku resulted in a vicious soft target cutter that is *very* sharp and lighter than the rest of the Bugei models. And with traditionally inspired tonbo themed custom designed furniture. Even the lacquered rayskin with brown silk ito was inspired more along the lines of a nod to some of the Higo tradition. We asked for versions with bo-hi (deep semi-circle grooves) and without. The ones for bo-hi are for those who do mostly kata but wanted a "live" blade.

Prototypes arrived a while after the initial discussions with Paul. James Williams went out, cut, practiced, and showed the blade off at a few seminars and blade shows. Some changes were made in fitting sizing, angles, colors, etc. Ted and I went into Bugei to sit down, take it apart, look it over, and offer critiques. Changes were made, fittings were resized, and it went back to Paul for further modifications. The first shipment came with some incorrect features in terms of degree of tsuka taper, ito color, and color of the same' (rayskin). That was subsequently corrected as well.

That is how Bugei designs swords. The one before that was the crane. That one was designed using a classic tsuba design. The blade parameters was to go for more of a moderate shinto era design with some hamaguriba niku, but not quite as big and robust as some of the other designs. It makes for a nice moderate blade for the serious practitioner who cuts a lot.

Before that was the samurai. More designed along the lines of the larger blades of the Nambokucho era. Big, robust, think, heavy hamaguriba cross section. Same with the unfolded shobu. Very large sword with significant hamaguriba niku. Not a sissy sword by any stretch.

Other info. Bugei has had a long relationship with Paul Chen. James Williams has traveled to China many times to deal with Paul. Tony Alvarez used to go on a regular basis as well on Bugei's behalf before he started his own business. About two years ago Bugei sent Ted Tenold (http://legacyswords.com) over to sit down with their craftsmen and go over issues of tsukamaki quality and tension, blade sharpness, blade geometry, fit and finish of koshirae, polish, refinement, etc. This was paid for by Bugei with the full understanding that Hanwei would eventually use these things in their existing lines of swords.

And for more info again. I get inquiries all the time from people who need repairs to their Paul Chen swords. First of all, I will *NOT* work on any PK or PPK. In my professional opinion they are not good choices. I've seen too many broken. Two PPK's I've seen broken where the user was performing *KATA*. In other words, they didn't hit anything, just swinging, and the blade snapped. The blade otherwise looked fine -- there was no hint of problem. They had cut with them repeatedly. They had used them with success for a while. Then one day - snap. Looking at the blade cross sections you could see enlarged grain -- something not visible externally given the poor finish of these inexpensive blades. In other words even someone with training and experience in the crafts of the sword wouldn't be able to pick out that they were "waiting to fail". And failing catastrophically at that. The odds are small, but the repercussions are horrendous. Japanese swords were designed more to bend on a blown cut. If you use improper hasuji in your cuts the likelihood should be a set in the blade. These just snapped due to brittle steel caused likely by overheating during the mass heat treatment they must use on these. Also notice that the overwhelming majority of the PK's and PPK's are now very thin in the kasane. That is not good given they're using the lower grade steel and a rudimentary heat treatment. The higher end blades utilize a vastly superior steel product (Swedish powdered steel) which requires a more precise heat treatment. The end result is a vastly superior product. Other blades I see frequently have issues that would have resulted in them being sent back to China if they were Bugei blades. Binding saya, loose tsuka, ware in bad places (grain openings), heat treatment issues (yaki-otoshi, hagiri, etc.), loose tsukamaki, poorly carved koiguchi, etc. Quality control is a mixture of hit and miss from china but also how much time the vendor on this end devotes to their product.

but I'm getting off-track.

Bugei orders their blades with various nagasa (blade lengths) and tsuka (handle) lengths. So you're not just buying a generic sword but you can order one sized appropriately for your style and you. When they arrive Ted and I usually get a call from Bugei and we head down with our toolkits. We have spent days inspecting, cleaning, honing, adjusting, repairing and sometimes rejecting swords. Some shipments are in good shape, others aren't as good. After a thorough inspection and tune-up the swords are repacked into custom boxes Bugei has made for them. These are larger, double-walled cardboard with custom die-cut foam. We literally throw away the generic cleaning kit from Hanwei (it isn't very good) and replace them with kits Bugei buys directly from a nihonto supplier in Japan.

Anyway, I must admit I get rather annoyed to hear some of the silly speculation on-line. Bugei has long been very open about how it goes about making swords, designing swords and standing behind their swords. They have an 800 number and are a "brick and mortar" business. They stand behind their products. They have a solid guarantee. They've been in business for a long time. They pay guys like me, Ted, etc. to be involved in every aspect of their sword design, production, inspection and customer care. And frankly we aren't cheap. The swords are collaboration of experienced martial artists (James and his students as well as others) and professionals who work full time in the craft end of swords on the very high end.

Now... All that said. Sure, things always leak back into the generic Hanwei sword lines. Bugei pushed things forward originally many years ago. Hanwei started then offering their Oriole and Musashi sword. Bugei pushed hard about issues such as tip geometry, blade geometry, heat treatment, edge condition, etc. During QC sessions we regularly reject blades. These aren't cheap because they're made to our specs. And we reject things that don't meet our expectations. It takes Bugei a *long* time sometimes to get the swords it needs because Hanwei has to work long and hard to do our orders because they know things will come back if they aren't perfect. I get people contacting me all the time with issues on new swords they bought elsewhere with issues I would have rejected out of hand. They get their swords still in the shipping boxes Hanwei uses to put them into larger boxes for the boat ride over. They still usually have the thick grease hanwei uses to coat their blades. Those blades never came out of the box it was packed in when it was made in China until the customer gets them. Bugei's blades are inspected, cleaned, adjusted, tuned and sometimes fixed up even more by professional polishers before they're repackaged into appropriate boxes and shipped to them. With Bugei standing behind them because they can. Because we do th QC. Because they insist on quality from the factory. Because they designed the blades in the first place.

Sure, the generic ones have benefited from the work Bugei has invested in their swords over the years. Lots of benefits have trickled down. Are they simply repackaged Chen blades? Well, as a guy who's spent many long days helping design, inspecting, cleaning, fixing and sometimes rejecting swords I find that statement bordering on insulting. A lot of work goes into them. That said, if you don't want the things Bugei offers, the generic swords ca be just fine assuming they arrive in good shape. But most really don't know what the "gotchas" are in swords. What is a fatal flaw? Can you see them? Do you know how things are supposed to fit? Regardless, assuming you get a good one I personally think the Bushido and Tiger are really nice swords for the price. But most vendors don't have polishers "on call", don't have the QC, don't have the support options, and don't have the reputation of Bugei. I bought a Tiger for a friend recently because he wanted the ko-kissaki. I ended up repairing the tsuka, adjusting the koiguchi, and doing a few things to the tsukamaki to fix some issues. I also had to ream out part of the saya for him to get a proper fit. And the blade needed some touching up on the edge. Nice sword. And if I had charged him my shop rate he would have ended up spending more than a new Bugei sword would have cost him...

Okay, I've typed way too much.

If you have questions about Bugei, they have their own forum for that very purpose. If you wonder about how they're done, it is *very* easy to go to Bugei's forum and simply ask rather than speculating idly. http://swordforumbugei.com . They also have that 800 number on their website at http://www.bugei.com .
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Old 05-03-2005, 09:04 AM   #21
Walter Wong
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

Quote:
Michael Ellefson wrote:
James,

I have seen the exact same car priced much higher at a a high end import lot over the run of the mill lot. Just because they are much more expensive, doesn't mean they aren't anything but a remounted Wind and Thunder and selling it for double the price. What I want to know is: ARE the bugei blades special compared to the regular chen blades? If they aren't, James Williams is a good marketer. Caveat emptor.
In regards to this, our good friend Keith provided this info to me:
Quote:
Well, the funny thing is that the wind and thunder came out about 6 months after the shobu was released by Bugei. Hanwei frequently takes aspects of what we put together for new models and rolls them into their own "generic" stuff later.
It's more like Paul Chen's standard Hanwei line are remounted Bugei swords and not the other way around. Chen's standard blades from low end (Practical series) to mid range (Tsunami/Mushashi/Wind&Thunder/Shinto/Kin Tori/Golden Oriole/Tokugawa) aren't even the Swedish Powder Steel that Bugei uses. Chen's standard high end line (Kami/Tiger/Bushido/Orchid) do use Swedish Powder Steel but even this line remains 2nd choice after Bugei's line up of swords.
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Old 05-03-2005, 12:50 PM   #22
Fred26
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

There seems to be alot of different opinions of Paul Chen and his swords..To be honest I had set my eyes on a Nami Iaito (think that was it's name) which goes relative cheap.
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Old 05-03-2005, 02:09 PM   #23
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

I would not recomend the nami iaito.

All the nami iaito i have seen, the bohi are very shallow and do not produce alot of tachi kaze even with good cuts. This was a problem when we were testing students a few months ago and we were supposed to count how much tachikaze each student got out of 500 swings. The results were poor which didn't make alot of sense untill one of them said that they had always had trouble getting the chen iaito to "sing." Sure enough, We all struggled to get it to make a sound. And when we did it was very quiet.

Other than the low quality bo hi. The chen iaito is probably a good deal if you can't afford one from swordstore.com or tozando.

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Old 05-03-2005, 06:28 PM   #24
Kent Enfield
 
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

Quote:
Nathan Gidney wrote:
All the nami iaito i have seen, the bohi are very shallow and do not produce alot of tachi kaze even with good cuts.
You do realize that the purpose of hi, including bohi, is in no way related to tachikaze, right?

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Old 05-03-2005, 07:28 PM   #25
Keith Larman
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Re: A warning! Not the chen swords!

Quote:
Kent Enfield wrote:
You do realize that the purpose of hi, including bohi, is in no way related to tachikaze, right?
Any time someone talks about the "purpose" of something related to something as complex as Japanese swords lots of detail gets lost. Horimono of all sorts (of which bo-hi are technically a subset) were cut in for all sorts of purposes. Sometimes to conceal a nasty ware' (grain opening). I was looking at a marvelous antique with the freaking ugliest centipede carved into it. Obviously to hide a flaw. Other reasons for things like bo-hi in particular would be to change the weight distribution of the sword while minimizing loss of structural integrity (at least in the direction of a properly performed cut). Finally, some carve bo-hi and other horimono solely as an artistic expression. The best smiths will make the blade with the idea in mind that they will be cutting in bo-hi later and compensate accordingly. And a well done bo-hi is really amazing to look at. The hi on production swords are usually horribly wobbly and "soft" for lack of a better term. I was looking at a Yoshihara Yoshikazu daito recently that had the most precise, crisp bo-hi I'd ever seen. Amazing when you consider how they're cut in.

And for you trivia buffs, you can get a fairly decent tachikaze with most any sword, especially one with a high shinogi (yamato school shape would be the most obvious example of this). The tachikaze of bo-hi and high shinogi blades is related to turbulence forming in the "wake" of the sword during a cut. When you have proper alignment and can get enough proper tip speed you get the sound. I actually adjusted the shape of my favorite bokken to a very deeply angled shinogi-ji to create a very loud tachikaze with it.

Last edited by Keith Larman : 05-03-2005 at 07:36 PM.

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