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Thread: Does this exist? And can it meet these requirements? Production katana... help.

  1. #1

    Question Does this exist? And can it meet these requirements? Production katana... help.

    Alright... forgive me for being the squeeky wheel with the whole, "I'm new here, wanting an amazing sword for $200," but I believe my actual expectations can be met.

    First, I want to give some up-front information around the history before my first purchase. I am buying two swords. They can be different. One is for me and one is for my brother-in-law who practices different forms of martial arts. He has no idea I'm getting him a sword and I want him to light up on Christmas day (and I want him to light up because he knows that I bought him something that is at least quality - he wouldn't expect a $3000 custom-made Japanese piece of artwork - so please don't go there, as well as the common, "Well, you're not going to get, X, Y, Z with $300. I know this. I'm just trying to get the best for me that I can at $300. There are no unreal expectations for the price range here).

    Requirements:

    1. I want both swords to be cutters (mats, pool-noodles and watermelons, and maybe a zombie if we ever get there). We are both new, but we will take it seriously and I believe will advance from novice to intermediate quite quickly. I research a lot, and learn before doing.

    2. $350 or below for each sword (I could probably hit $400, but I'm buying two). If it absolutely DEMANDS $400, then tell me why in detail. (I could go $300 for his, and $400 for mine as well. $700 total I suppose.)

    3. I want to "invest" in a blade that would be worth upgrading if possible. This is a tall order, I understand that. So, blade more important than fittings, etc...

    3.5 I prefer durability and cutting performance rather than overall looks and decor. These will hang on the wall most of the time, but when we want to use them, I expect that they could (I repeat, COULD) take some serious absuse - think zombie apocolypse and not a lot of time for maintenance.

    4. I am really interested in the spring steel like 9260 or 5160 because of the appeal of durability. But, most importantly, I don't want to deal AT ALL with rust - EVER! I don't need it, and I will accept the compromise with what that entails. I'm not sure if 1060 rusts, but as far as I've learned, I believe 1095 does. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but make sure to make a suggestion.

    4.5.I would really like a folded steel with layers that you can see. This is for me, not necessarily his sword. I would like them to be legititmate folds with layering that is visible that I can be proud of. I don't want etching or after-forging fake lines that are added. If it is by lamination or folding, I don't mind as long as it's visible and durable.

    So far, I've seen recommendations for Hanwei (Raptor Unokubi Zukuri), Kris Cutlery (Katana 28), Dynasty Forge (Bushi on sale/used) and Cheness (Tenchi or Kaze - latter being very interesting). I would prefer 27-29" full katana, and I'm indifferent about the bo-hi as I have no experience (but probably no bo-hi from what I've read). I really like the idea of the Cheness Tenchi and Kaze, but I've heard bad things on here about Cheness. Is there anything similar to these from the other three manufacturers that I've mentioned above? Differentially hardened like the Kaze (with hamon), and then a through hardened like the Tenchi?

    Lastly, please be specific as possible and thorough. I don't have a lot of time, so answering parts of questions without answering the rest isn't as helpful.

    My sincere thanks in advance...

    -Ryan Cleary

  2. #2
    Come on guys... 19 views and no replies.

    I'm dying here.

    Please...

  3. #3
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    Hi Ryan

    Welcome To Sword Forum International

    Keep in mind that I am not really a katana guy but you have a conflict between 4 and 4.5. Either you will find a more "subjectively appealing" blade visual, or you should pursue some of the others you have looked at that lack it.

    The Raptors are a sound choice but you might want to look at the rest of the Hanwei line that will offer a real hamon. The choices are really endless in the price range you are looking at.

    Others are sure to reply in time. Give it 24 hrs and browse the market while waiting. It has been only a few hours but you seem to be more than just in a rush. Go ahead and order a pair of what appeals to you the most. BUy more as you go. I have doubts that one will be enough.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; as mentioned, not a katana guy really but have looked at the Raptors and considred one when they were on sale

  4. #4
    Thanks Glen.

    I will consider your point about the 4 categories.

    Any suggestion on where the best place to purchase the Hanwei and other swords?

  5. #5
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    Well you already have a good bunch of recommendations there.

    I would also add that mentioning where you live would be helpful, as there is no mention I will assume you live in the US. For us European buyers things are bit trickier, as you can usually calculate 50-80$ international shipping + 20-25% VAT, so it really affects your budget.

    1. Every good sword should qualify for cutting, as good c.300$ swords are usually pretty well made.

    2. 50$ difference might be hard to explain and justify. In my thinking sword is worth what you pay for it, when you get more experienced in production swords you'll easily see the small differences in them.

    3. Even though customization is nice, I don't think it really pays off to customize a 300$ or so sword. I'd rather save that money for higher production/custom sword, and have that customized. But again it's just a personal preference.

    3.5. I have cutted some tough stuff, but I've never seriously abused a sword on purpose so I can't comment on that. I would recommend starting with light cutting. Abusing the sword is not a good idea, if you don't intend to test it's limit you can end up with very damaged sword, and I doubt you would be happy if that happens.

    4. I don't know much about metallurgy but I believe that 9260 and 5160 made swords can get rust just like any other carbon steel swords. But if you take a little care for your sword after cutting, and avoid touching the bare blade rust shouldn't be a problem at all. Some cutting materials can however stain the blade more than others.

    4.5. I think the more important factor might be through hardened blade vs. diffrentially hardened blade, like Glen said. For me a hamon in production swords is pretty much a must. I've owned couple TH blades in the past (and currently own 1 due to difficulties of getting cheap/good DH nagamaki blade) but the lack of hamon is usually a deal breaker for me. However there are very good TH swords out there, but they just don't generally appeal to my collecting taste.

    Then onto my view of production swords that you had on your recommendations.

    Dynasty Forge Musha, it's no secret that I love Fred Chen stuff, and even though the Musha line is TH they are still very good blades. Never cut with the one I briefly had but it would have been a good cutter. Unfortunately I believe their Bushi lineup is bit over your budget. As they are made by Huanuo, you should also look other Huanuo products if you find these to suit your taste.

    Hanwei, but I wouldn't go for Raptors, check other blades in their entry lineup. I've owned one Raptor but I traded it for Practical XL, as I didn't like the Raptor that much even though it was a decent sword. Practical XL is a great cutter, and it's one of the few swords so far I've used for what I'd consider heavy cutting. It has performed well, and will continue to do so in the future as well. Aesthetically this is very unappealing sword with fake rayskin, fake suede ito, Hanwei trademark enhancement on blade. But it cuts very well, and that's enough for me. I see you can get this almost at 200$ from some places. In overall I think I'd still take DF Musha over this, as it's a lot better sword in my mind. I just got this by trade, wouldn't have purchased it on purpose as for about the same money I could get DF Musha, but I was surprised how good it is (well aside from aesthetics ). And seems like nobody remembers the Practical Plus Katana anymore, I had one for many years long time ago and used it for cutting a lot of stuff. I think the PPK is also a good option, even though it's not aesthetically top level either.

    Kris Cutlery, I've owned only tanto from them so I can't comment on their longer blades. At least the tanto was of good quality and I've heard lots of good things on their katanas. I would love to get one in my hands someday to personally see them.

    Cheness, well I've never owned a Cheness, so my comment has to be taken with caution. However the reason why I've never gotten one is I don't like them, and they seem to have nearly constant QC issues. In the beginning there was huge chunk of them, quiet in the middle, but in the last few months I have read lots of unhappy comments from the buyers.

    Like Glen said, there are tons of options in that price range, so I won't even begin to start listing other manufacturers/vendors here. But I'd say there are lots of good swords coming out of China with that c.300$ price tag.

    Well I do make one exception as I think this might be close to what you are after.

    Bugei has recently introduced their entry line: http://bugei.com/entry-level-trainers-168-ctg.htm I don't know which forge produces these, and there's few things on these that I don't like. But reading Keith Larman's opinion on these kinda makes me think twice as he was impressed for their performance to price. You can see videos of Keith and James cutting with these in Bugei website, just bear in mind that both men are very good cutters and would most likely cut about equally well with any good production sword in the same price range, or that's how I personally feel.

    Hopefully this helps a bit, but like I said there are tons of good options in this price range and if you would also accept 2nd hand swords you might get a killer deal higher end sword that you could otherwise afford. Of course as you are buying them for Christmas there's not a huge window for pre-owned sword shopping left. But if you get stuff from Hanwei, Dynasty Forge or Kris Cutlery I think you will be fairly satisfied for the product you will receive. Cheness... well I might be bit biased but I can't recommend them. I've watched their company pretty much from the beginning, and I can't say I've ever really thought highly of their products, when they first came out production sword market was much narrower than it is today.

    I could recommend Kult of Athena. I know that recommending bigger companies make it bit harder to smaller ones. But they do have excellent customer service and very reasonable international shipping costs. Add those 2 features with low prices and it's easy to see how they are one of the biggest. But if you live in the US you can pretty much search for every online store for the best price for you. We international buyers have to take shipping costs in the equation as well, and good customer service is something that is very important to me. However there are many good sword shops in Europe and in the US.

    Of course you can buy directly here. But sometimes vendors can offer better deals than the makers.

    Cheness: http://www.chenessinc.com/
    Dynasty Forge: http://dynastyforge.com/
    Hanwei: http://cashanwei.com/
    Kris Cutlery: http://kriscutlery.com/
    Jussi Ekholm

  6. #6
    Jussi,

    I appreciate to the utmost your considerations and advice. You bring a lot of good points to the table, and I will look into the Bugei Musha and entry lines. I had not considered them before your post.

    Also, I very much agree with you on the hamon, and is a must for me. I just have a hard time telling if it is legitimate hamon produced by clay or folding, or if it is added after the forging.

    Can you expound on your thoughts of the Raptor? I can get one on hanweikatanaswords.com for $200.

    Also, have you heard of the Hanwei Lion Dog? Any thoughts about this sword? I would actually consider the $700 asking price. And in that range, what else would you consider if it is a LOT better than the $300 class?

    Is it worth it to go up to $500-700? What do you get for the added cost?

    Thanks,

    -Ryan

  7. #7
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    I am somewhat new to the katana market myself. I started buying swords actively about two or three years ago and in that time I have had 70-90 blades go through my hands. Most of them have been modern production katana.

    Requirements:

    1. This should be achievable. There are a lot of decent blades out there that will work as cutters some of them are as cheap as $50 if you don’t mind a used blade.
    2. Know what you want, or know what you want to spend. $200-$300 market is very different than the $500-$700 market. You can buy a completely different echelon of blade.
    3. Function>Form
    4. Rust and maintenance are a part of the game in the ballpark you are looking at. Its not a lot of maintenance but blades that are intended for use are made of a steel that will rust typically. 440s is not even rust proof, it just rusts less. Also those blades are not really intended for use outside of hanging on your wall.
    5. Folded blades are achievable in the range you are looking at.


    My personal opinion is this.

    1. Hanwei – You pay a bit more but they are solid blades in their price categories. You could find a Practical Katana or even something a little more advanced if you can spend more. They do a great balance of function and form.
    2. Cheness – I have had a few Cheness blades, and they have all felt solid and definitely fit the function>form idea
    3. Ronin Katana – Again you are going for function >form but I think they look a little better than some of the cheness blades. They also hold up very well. I have not owned the dojo or dojo pro line but I am pleased with my elite. You can get an elite without all the fittings for $600. It’s a sexy blade
    4. Kris – Still in the function>form. I have had a few blades from kris cutlery and they are durable. They are a bit different than the average katana out there, at least in the shape. But they function well.
    5. Munetoshi – I think these are nice blades and you can get a Tessen folded steel blade for $360 or around there. It’s a folded blade it looked pretty.
    6. Hauwei – I have only had two blades from Hauwei and they seemed well put together. I think you can find a folded blade in the same range
    7. Musashi/Masahiro/Ryumon all seem to make some basic but decent blades. I think there are better options out there in the range you a looking to spend

    Questions:

    Do you have any measurements you need to fit within? – The Lion dog is a pretty blade. I have had one before but it is heavy, tip heavy, and has a long handle. Is that kind of blade going to work? Do you know how long you want the blade or handle?
    Do you know what color or style you want? The tessen I told you about earlier is bright green is that ugly? Do you want a standard black on black motif?
    Do you want a new or used blade? There are some fantastic blades that are technically used but in “like new” and you can get them at a great price. Some of the blades show signs of use but if you plan on using it anyway, it should not be a big deal. I have purchased several blades from forum mates that have been in like new condition.

  8. #8
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    Hello!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Cleary View Post
    Alright... forgive me for being the squeeky wheel with the whole, "I'm new here, wanting an amazing sword for $200," but I believe my actual expectations can be met.

    First, I want to give some up-front information around the history before my first purchase. I am buying two swords. They can be different. One is for me and one is for my brother-in-law who practices different forms of martial arts. He has no idea I'm getting him a sword and I want him to light up on Christmas day (and I want him to light up because he knows that I bought him something that is at least quality - he wouldn't expect a $3000 custom-made Japanese piece of artwork - so please don't go there, as well as the common, "Well, you're not going to get, X, Y, Z with $300. I know this. I'm just trying to get the best for me that I can at $300. There are no unreal expectations for the price range here).
    OK, might be tough, but if that's the budget then there you are.

    Requirements:

    1. I want both swords to be cutters (mats, pool-noodles and watermelons, and maybe a zombie if we ever get there). We are both new, but we will take it seriously and I believe will advance from novice to intermediate quite quickly. I research a lot, and learn before doing.
    I have no idea what the difference could be between novice and intermediate for backyard cutting. If you are going to cut, by yourself or with someone, I cannot stress the importance of getting personal instruction before doing the sword equivalent of "going to the range". Since you want a sword that can handle a "zombie" don't forget what it could do to you or your brother in law or anyone nearby.

    2. $350 or below for each sword (I could probably hit $400, but I'm buying two). If it absolutely DEMANDS $400, then tell me why in detail. (I could go $300 for his, and $400 for mine as well. $700 total I suppose.)
    Bugei budget line could be a good start. In your budget, you can find folded steel.
    Without putting in the time or study to really learn about swords, a lot of the subtle nuance a better mount would give you would probably be lost. As long as it's solid and tight, it should be more than sufficient for pumpkin carving duties.

    3. I want to "invest" in a blade that would be worth upgrading if possible. This is a tall order, I understand that. So, blade more important than fittings, etc...
    This is lower tier production level. Unless you get lucky here in the classifieds or elsewhere, a new set of fittings will get you in the $400+ price range just in parts (tsuba + menuki + fuchi kashira) before you start looking into having it made up. Unless you do that part yourself, you're looking at another 400 to 500 dollars if not more. At a conservative guess, you'll have sunk around $1100 into a blade worth $300. Not saying you can't or shouldn't, just to kind of put some numbers in front of you to show you what this plan could entail. More realistic course of action might be to 'trade up' and sell whatever you get when you feel ready to upgrade. You can get an idea of what resale values look like by comparing what people sell their used swords for here compared to what their retail price tag looks like.

    3.5 I prefer durability and cutting performance rather than overall looks and decor. These will hang on the wall most of the time, but when we want to use them, I expect that they could (I repeat, COULD) take some serious absuse - think zombie apocolypse and not a lot of time for maintenance.
    I think I understand you. If you're going to bother owning a sword, it should be a SWORD. However, they are not great at handling abuse. Mistreated, they can rust, bend, twist, chip, or break. Doesn't matter if it is a hundred dollar sword or $10,000+. They were made to handle particular circumstances. If you're going to clang them together or repeatedly chop firewood or smash up concrete, you're going to mess it up.

    4. I am really interested in the spring steel like 9260 or 5160 because of the appeal of durability. But, most importantly, I don't want to deal AT ALL with rust - EVER! I don't need it, and I will accept the compromise with what that entails. I'm not sure if 1060 rusts, but as far as I've learned, I believe 1095 does. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but make sure to make a suggestion.
    There are two kinds of swords you could get that you won't have to worry about rust on. Non-carbon steel iaito, and bokken. Otherwise, you will need to either learn how to care for the steel or learn to deal with having a rusty one.

    4.5.I would really like a folded steel with layers that you can see. This is for me, not necessarily his sword. I would like them to be legititmate folds with layering that is visible that I can be proud of. I don't want etching or after-forging fake lines that are added. If it is by lamination or folding, I don't mind as long as it's visible and durable.
    In that case, to get what you want in the Bugei budget line you'd have to jump to $550. They have folded blades for less, but those are through-hardened and acid etched.

    So far, I've seen recommendations for Hanwei (Raptor Unokubi Zukuri), Kris Cutlery (Katana 28), Dynasty Forge (Bushi on sale/used) and Cheness (Tenchi or Kaze - latter being very interesting). I would prefer 27-29" full katana, and I'm indifferent about the bo-hi as I have no experience (but probably no bo-hi from what I've read). I really like the idea of the Cheness Tenchi and Kaze, but I've heard bad things on here about Cheness. Is there anything similar to these from the other three manufacturers that I've mentioned above? Differentially hardened like the Kaze (with hamon), and then a through hardened like the Tenchi?

    Lastly, please be specific as possible and thorough. I don't have a lot of time, so answering parts of questions without answering the rest isn't as helpful.

    My sincere thanks in advance...

    -Ryan Cleary
    The Raptor katana are not folded. Kris Katana seems to be, but I do not know if there is a hamon or if it is genuine or etched. Cheness Tenchi does not have real hamon. Kaze does, but I don't think it is folded. It looks like at your price point you are going to have to compromise on desired features to get something you will be happy with.

  9. #9
    Matthew and Jonathan,

    Wow, thanks for some sound advice guys. I want to reiterate that I don't really want the blade for chopping firewood or concrete, but I want it to be durable and not having to worry about the edge folding over on a cut because I am a novice cutter. That's all I meant when I said I want it to be able to, but not necessarily used for that.

    Also, Matthew, the Lion Dog, would you rate this as a sword worth the cost? I mean, what exactly do you get for that next echelon price? Try and be specific, because I can go there if it deems it so. I mean I'm really interested in Hanwei's HWS-1S steel used in the Lion Dog. Any thoughts?

    I guess I'm having trouble separating the things I will compromise on. The absolutes would be:

    Durability
    REAL hamon - caused by differential or folded.
    Quality (within reason - I understand this concept that a $300 sword isn't a Japanese original, I just want it to hold up and not fail us under normal conditions. I'm not YouTubing Jackass videos with it).
    Color doesn't really matter, as long as the sword is legitimate enough to justify "WO-green" color if you catch my drift. In my opinion, if you're going to have a yellow car, it better deserve it via performance.

  10. #10
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    I thought the lion dog was nice but I personally don't like a long tsuka. 10-11 inches is were I feel comfortable. The lion dog was heavy in its general feeling and tip heavy. I don't mind a blade being a bit tip heavy but I thought it was uncomfortable.

    I much prefer my Bamboo Mat, it has a special Hanwei Steel but it feels a little better. Still tip heavy and hefty feeling but more to my satisfaction.

    In the sub $700 market

    I like the following.

    Hanwei Bamboo Mat
    Hanwei Practical XL
    Kris Cutlery 29II
    Ronin Dojo Elite (you can get a bare blade)
    Last Legend Yashima

  11. #11
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    Welcome to the forum Ryan! Glad to know you decided to look around and ask for some info so that you can make an educated purchase. Jon has pretty much cut the cake on the main points here, so really no point to reiterate those...but I'll be happy to share some opinions.

    In the 300-400 dollar market, I can guarantee that you'll be able to find a sword that fits your criteria. All EXCEPT the real hamon. A lot of swords in this budget range tend to have cosmetic hamon rather than a natural one.

    However, you can give Cheness a try...Theres the Kaze that everyone used to talk about for being a good cutter and it seems they came out with another blade in which the build is geared towards even 'better' cutting performance. They're doing a promo sale: used to be 800, now only 300. Both swords come with a natural hamon, so you might want to give these two a gander.

    Links:

    Kaze

    http://www.chenessinc.com/kaze.htm

    Yamakami

    http://www.chenessinc.com/yamakami.htm

    Personally, I don't like the fittings of Cheness blades, but you ARE asking for cutting performance AND a real hamon. Also, they both are made with the diff. hardened 9260 steel so that's a plus for ya. Gotta sacrifice one for the other bud. Let us know what you decide. Happy hunting!
    Last edited by Chris N.; 12-06-2012 at 11:07 PM.
    "The pain is not getting worse, your tolerance for it is becoming less." -Tanouye Roshi

  12. #12
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    Hi Ryan,

    I'm from the UK (where everything is far more expensive) so I don't really know the US market well enough to offer any specific suggestions. There are though a few things that I think you should consider.

    a. Any carbon steel blade will rust if not cared for. They will patina and rust at different rates, but they will all rust in time. It also obviously depends what you're planning to cut. Tatami mats and pool noodles are going to have a lesser effect than a watermelon for example (which is acidic), but you should always ensure that you clean and oil the blade after cutting. The only type of steel which is highly resistant to rust is stainless steel, but this is obviously only suitable for wall hangers.

    b. There is no functional difference between a monosteel blade and a folded blade. It is purely for aesthetics, and given that the hada on a nihonto is so fine that it appears almost like monosteel except under very close examination, a monosteel blade will likely look more authentic than the damascus like pattern on most folded production blades.

    c. As already stated, it really isn't worth the expense to customise a $300 sword. The blade is of course the heart of the sword and it will always limit the overall appeal, value and feel. Custom fittings aren't cheap (a custom fuchi/ kashira could easily run $300) and the labor the have even the tsuka rewrapped is relatively hefty when you consider it in relation to the value of the sword. I would advise to go for as good quality a piece as you can find and try to find one with stock fittings that you're satisfied with.

    d. It really is worth a look on the classifieds section, as you can easily pick up a pristine sword which has never been cut with for significantly less than the seller paid. It's probably too close to Christmas to go down this route for your brother's sword, but unless you are in a real rush then I would be inclined to hold on a while for yours and see what comes up in the classifieds.

  13. #13
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    Hi Ryan,

    Just one more thing that I'd like to add.
    Most blades in this price range are not differentially hardened (so would have a cosmetic hamon).

    The lack of a natural hamon should not be a problem in itself, but the differential hardening which produces the hamon is a very important step (IMO) in the production of a Japanese style blade. The hamon marks the boundary between martinesite and pearlite. While this is not an important consideration when cutting pumpkins, it is one of the key features that define a Japanese style blade.

    Basically, as the hamon is a consequence of the microstructure of the blade, a natural hamon has greater importance than just aesthetics.

  14. #14
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    First - get some training. Any sword will get a rolled edge, bend, or even break on a bad cut, and you WILL make a lot of bad cuts if you don't have any idea what you're doing.

    Second - you should realize what a hamon is and why it's there; it's not just an aesthetic thing, it is a result of the diff.hardening process which is used to produce a hard edge (which will retain it's edge longer, but will chip more easily on a bad cut) and a softer spine (which will allow the sword to bend on a bad cut but not take a set permanently).
    Certified nerd; if you need an Excel sheet or an AutoCAD drawing done, just drop me a PM!

  15. #15
    Funny you mention the Hanwei Raptor Unokubi Zukuri as this is the next sword on my to buy list. I own a Shobu Raptor and Moroha Raptor and I think they are great blades.

    The SHobu Raptor cuts like a demon as it has a real good geometry although the Tsuka is a little thicker and longer. I had my Tsuka reshaped and rewrapped with real leather Nubuck and it is one of my favorite swords. I liked it a lot better than the Lion Dog that I ended up selling.

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