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Thread: Side by side comparison of 5 budget katana

  1. #1
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    Side by side comparison of 5 budget katana

    Well weíve seen countless threads of ďWhatís the best sword for X amount of money?Ē Iím not usually the type of person to recommend something, my typical answer is usually buy what you seem to like the most. However when reading these what to buy threads, I found myself often wondering, how would these swords compare against each other? I used to be more focused on production katana when I was a kid, as currently antiques are my main priority. However part of me really wanted to know how these compare. Back when I used to focus on production katana none of these 5 models were around back then, most of the manufacturers I praised back then are now goneÖ I am in no way affiliated with any of the manufacturers whose products Iíll compare here. I have bought/traded all of these swords with my own money. Sure this comparison would have been even better with more swords, there are probably at least a dozen good swords that could be in this comparison, but even getting 5 ďbeaterĒ swords at once is for me actually too much money to put for cheap production katana.

    I had planned that I would offer these swords to be tested at some dojo in Finland without a cost to get a view of actual martial artists to give a broader overall view. Unfortunately I got no replies from any dojos, so I will be testing these alone. Therefore this will be only a view of single sword collector, and I am not a martial artist. Iím just mentioning this because I had my favorites before the test, so my view is not 100% neutral, but the numeral data doesnít lie (but there is a slight error margin in there).

    Overall feel before the test:

    Well Iíve had the PC Practical XL for a good while as my main cutter. I know this is a good sword. Sure the fake rayskin is ugly but the imitation leather gives quite good grip. The blade finish is rough, and as Iíve cut with this I havenít been exactly as careful with this as with my other swords, there is a lot of staining in the surface, but as this is a work horse sword, I donít see any reason to polish this yet.

    I received the PC Shobu Raptor by a trade with William Swiger, even though he described it as used, itís in better condition than some of the swords Iíve gotten brand new. So not much time to play with it before review as it arrived today, but Iíve owned Moroha Raptor previously, so Iíve known the koshirae and usual fit & finish.

    Iíve had the new HSTS 1095 Budget cutter for a while and I absolutely love it. It has very graceful appearance due to very strongly curved tsuka. When held in hand this gives me a feeling of a tachi, oh it would be sweet to have this blade mounted in full tachi koshirae.

    Ronin Dojo Pro came to me also by trade with mr. Swiger and arrived today, this was in as new condition. On couple occasions during the last year I almost jumped and bought a RDP. As Iíve heard so many good user experiences on them. I know these are work swords, not aesthetically the most appealing.

    The Samurai Workshop has just gotten a new line of swords. I was at first going to buy the old through hardened Kaneie, but Jeffrey told they are coming up with a new lineup by different forge, and the swords will be better. These new blades would be something that JSA folk will like, well Iím not a martial artist but I sure like an agile blade that was designed after a Muromachi era sword. When I got it in hands I liked it very much.







    For easing the reading of measurements, Iíve number the swords in alphabetical order. 1. Hanwei Practical XL 2. Hanwei Raptor Shobu 3. HSTS 1095 Budget Cutter 4. Ronin Dojo Pro 5. TSW 2013 Batto.

    Nagasa: 1. 68,3cm 2. 73,9cm 3. 71,2cm 4. 68,8cm 5. 72,0cm
    Nakago: 1. 28,0cm 2. 33,3cm 3. 26,4cm 4. 26.4cm 5. 25,7cm
    Motohaba: 1. 35mm 2. 33,5mm 3. 32mm 4. 30,5mm 5. 32mm
    Sakihaba: 1. 26mm 2. 23mm 3. 22,5mm 4. 24mm 5. 23mm
    Motokasane: 1. 6,5mm 2. 7,5mm 3. 7,5mm 4. 8mm 5. 6,5mm
    Sakikasane: 1. 3,5mm 2. 5mm 3. 5mm 4. 6,5mm 5. 4mm
    Sori: 1. 1,9cm @ 36cm 2. 1,8cm @ 35cm 3. 1,7cm @ 31cm 4. 1,7cm @ 35cm 5. 1,7cm @ 33cm
    Bare blade weight: 1. 768g 2. 888g 3. 836g 4. 806g 5. 636g
    Weight in koshirae: 1. 1108g 2. 1269g 3. 1052g 4. 1115g 5. 886g
    Tsuka: 1. 28,5cm 2. 33,0cm 3. 26,5cm 4. 28,7cm 5. 26,0cm

    Mekugi removal: 1. easy 2. very easy 3. very easy (-mekugi donít alternate) 4. very easy 5. easy
    Tsuka removal: 1. easy 2. fairly easy 3. very difficult 4. fairly easy 5. medium difficulty
    Habaki removal: 1. easy 2. fairly easy 3. fairly easy 4. very difficult 5. very easy

    Impressions on the bare blade: I canít really say much you canít see from the picturesÖ






    1. Wide and thin blade, even machi, long nakago, differentially hardened with notare hamon.
    2. Large blade, way too long nakago, shobu-zukuri geometry, even machi, through hardened.
    3. Very nice sugata and I love the curved nakago and placement of sori, uneven machi, weird notch just below machi, differentially hardened with midare hamon.
    4. Thick and quite narrow blade with little taper, uneven machi, nakago feels like a rectangle, and narrows towards machi?, through hardned.
    5. Nice sugata, very light and thin blade, uneven machi, through hardened.

    Impressions on koshirae:






    PC Practical XL
    Tsuba: Marugata, 78mm diameter, 5mm thickness weighs 140g. This might be my favorite in the comparison, well made no frills tsuba.
    Tsuka: Fuchi and kashira are plain design, menuki are flowers, black imitation suede over fake rayskin. Tsuka core is large and morozori shape, but even though itís fat, it gives quite good grip. Tsukamaki is not counted in comparison as this was bought heavily used, and Iíve used it a good amount tooÖ Well made core with no cracks.
    Saya: Kurourushi saya, good even gloss finish. Good shape, kurikata is 7,5cm from koiguchi. Black shoelace sageo. Very tight fit, the few dings are due usage.
    Habaki: Quite nice variation of yujo (cat scratch pattern), at least I think thatís the inspiration. Well made, notch at the bottom for the even machi that I find very important. Very good fit, habaki rises above both machi, best habaki in comparison.

    PC Shobu Raptor
    Tsuba: American eagle, 86mm X 79mm, 5mm thickness, weighs 115g. Even though I personally dislike the design I must say that this is by far best quality tsuba in this comparison. Well made, no sharp edges.
    Tsuka: Fuchi and kashira are American eagle theme, menuki are feathers, black imitation suede over high quality white rayskin in katate-maki style. Tsuka core is large and morozori shape, but even though itís fat, it gives quite good grip. Tsukamaki is very tight with uneven diamonds. This has by far the best construction as tsuka core is very solid.
    Saya: Kuroishime saya, very nice black stone pattern finish. Good shape, kurikata is 7,7cm from koiguchi. Black shoelace sageo. Loose fit.
    Habaki: Plain design, well made, notch at the bottom for the even machi that I find very important. Very good fit, habaki rises above both machi.

    HSTS 1095 Budget
    Tsuba: Sukashi, 75mm X 69mm, 4mm thickness, weighs 67g. Nice design although I must say it feels bit cheap in hand, sharp edges that could hurt your hand.
    Tsuka: Fuchi and kashira are flower theme, kashira mounted upside down, I canít figure out the menuki, brown synthetic silk over black painted and slightly sanded rayskin. Tsuka core is well shaped (haichi) and fits my hand very well. Tsukamaki is very tight with very even diamonds. No cracks can be seen and this is in my opinion the best tsuka in this comparison.
    Saya: Kurourushi saya, quite even gloss finish, few rougher spots. Good shape, kurikata is 8,7cm from koiguchi. Brown synthetic sageo in shigeuchi style. Shitodome are loose, but itís a quick glue fix. Very tight saya fit.
    Habaki: Plain design, feels bit cheap, uneven machi by large margin. Very bad habaki fit, munemachi is way above the habaki. But as I was unmounting these, I fixed this fit with hammer, so now itís good.

    Ronin Dojo Pro
    Tsuba: Model 4, 77,5mm diameter, 4,5mm thickness, weighs 111g. Nice design (although Iím not sure what it is?), many sharp edges that could hurt your hand.
    Tsuka: Fuchi and kashira are plain, and I canít figure out what the menuki are, black Chinese silk over white rayskin. Tsuka core is (ryugo) shape is ok but when mounted it doesnít flow. Tsukamaki is horrible, not flush with fuchi, loose and very uneven. The core looks pretty good but the seam looks quite open.
    Saya: Kurourushi saya, nice good even gloss finish. Good shape, kurikata is 8,5cm from koiguchi. Quite loose saya fit. Black synthetic sageo with white dots in shigeuchi style. I personally donít like the brown colored horn parts and when I opened the decorative knot, kurikata fell off. Shitodome are also loose, 2 quick fixes with glue though so nothing major.
    Habaki: Quite nice two tone design, but habaki feels bit cheap, uneven machi by medium margin. Bad habaki fit, at best habaki is flush with munemachi.

    TSW 2013 Batto
    Tsuba: Musashino, 81mm diameter, 4mm thickness, weighs 99g. Nice design and well made, no sharp edges that will hurt your hand.
    Tsuka: Fuchi and kashira are wine themed, sasa menuki, black Japanese cotton over black painted rayskin. Tsuka core is very well shaped (ryugo) and fits my hands very well. Tsukamaki is very tight with very even diamonds. Unfortunately the tsuka is double shimmed and core is cracked. Without these this would have been absolutely the best tsuka.
    Saya: Kurourushi saya, nice good even gloss finish. Good shape, kurikata is 9cm from koiguchi. Black cotton sageo in shigeuchi style. Very tight saya fit. I think this is the best saya.
    Habaki: Plain design, feels bit cheap in hand. Uneven machi by medium margin. Bad habaki fit, munemachi rises slightly above habaki.

    Overall feel after dismounting the swords, total inspection and then mounting again, but prior cutting:

    I knew PC Practical XL pretty well before this test. After inspecting it more thoroughly I think itís even bit better than Iíve thought. I know it will cut very well in cutting test part.

    PC Raptor surprised me positively, it is a lot better than I had given it credit for. I dislike the huge tsuka on this, but Iím eagerly waiting to cut with this.

    HSTS gave even better impression after dismounting. I love the curved nakago, and I was able to fix the bit crooked habaki by hammering. Sure parts of this could be of higher quality but this is a budget sword after all.

    My impressions about Ronin are quite unchanged. I hope that it outperforms others when I cut, however I have my doubts on that, so weíll see.

    Unfortunately the TSW had that crack and shims on tsuka. Itís really great sword, but those two facts lower the rating for it a bit. And when dismounting the shims probably moved a bit, as now the fit is not 100% what it was. Everything was perfect before, now seppa moves and there may be a slight play at the lower part of the nakago inside tsuka. Iím very eager to cut with this too.

    Side by side cutting test with these swords will be performed during this weekend, if everything goes like planned. And I will cut small wet rolls of newspaper, got few bunches like this already prepared for it.


    Feel free to ask any questions you have about these particular swords, and I will answer as well as I can.
    Jussi Ekholm

  2. #2
    Awesome post. I am looking forward to the final results. I am a fan of the Musashi blades. I get that you are self funding this and have to draw the line somewhere, but I wish you could have tested a Musashi blade.

  3. #3
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    How did you feel about the Americanized tsuka on the Raptor? I felt it was a bit largish for me.

    Also, is the munemachi of the hsts the shape the pictures show? It's rather.. off putting to see that.

    I personally would not feel comfortable cutting with #'s 3 and 4.
    Last edited by Jeff Ellis; 03-19-2013 at 02:14 AM.
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  4. #4
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    Yep all is self funded. That's the main reason I tried to get in contact with dojos so that the cutting part would have been performed on tatami. As unfortunately I couldn't afford tatami omote myself, probaby c. 5-10 mats per sword would have been needed to get comparable results, in my case user errors are more than likely to happen at some point. So if I had only couple mats per sword and botched few cuts on each it would skew my view . As old newspaper is free of cost, I decided to use it as cutting medium. These soaked up light rolls might equal to half-mat maybe (it's quite a while since I last cut tatami omote, but even as a kid it was quite easy, so I can't give an accurate view). So I expect all the swords cutting these with ease. However I've tried thick rolls before with Practical XL and those are very dense & feel much harder to cut than tatami.

    About the Musashi, I have seen 2 of their swords some time ago and I wasn't impressed. But I must say I've looked at their new line up that is priced around 100$. However after 50-60$ shipping cost and then paying 24% value tax I don't see them as cost effective option anymore, even though for US living folk they might offer good price vs. quality ratio.

    I do have smallish hands but I still manage to get quite comfortable grip on Raptor. However it's very wide tsuka and too long for my taste. If you compare it for example to the TSW tsuka the difference is massive. My pic is taken from an angle so it might fool a bit but TSW tsuka is just like an iaito tsuka, where Raptor tsuka is just big bulk, the notorious axe handle.

    Yep the machi are exactly as I pictured, although I'm not a great photographer. The narrowing at machi of Ronin and HSTS is indeed something I did not expect, and after seeing a week ago how Thaitsuki snapped at this exact spot when cutting a coke bottle it doesn't feel very assuring. Both Hanwei swords and TSW get wider towards the machi. On Ronin and HSTS this is a potential weak point and I don't understand why they get narrower on that area, I believe it might be some cost cutting thing at the forge. As on the both HSTS swords I own this notch has occured, 2 swords can't still speak for all of their line but that's what I have personally seen.
    Jussi Ekholm

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    A few of the people I trained with had Raptors, one shinogi zukuri and one shobu zukuri, I really couldn't stand the tsuka on either, and it wasn't the length that threw me off since I'm one of those weirdos who find anything less than 13" awkward. On top of the icky (how's that for technical?) feeling ito those two had, the width was definitely a bit much.

    Those photos are very revealing. Thank you for taking the time to put this together.

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    Handling

    Well as the opening post was already 4 page wall of text, I thought I would post this separately bit later now that Iíve had some more time to actually compare the swords against each other on this field. However like I said in the opening, I am not a martial artist and my view will be more like collectors view. I did train few years of iaido when I was a kid, but basically I donít know anything about swordsmanship. But I can write down how I personally feel about each sword after doing suburi and playing around, as well as doing some ZNKR and MSR katas (as well as I remember, I have books to refresh my memory on the kata) with them. However I donít perform full speed draws with these as Iím not skilled enough, I do only medium speed draws.

    When I did iaido my sword was 2.65 shaku (80,3cm), 9,5 sun (28,8cm) tsuka and it weighed around 950-970 grams.

    Again swords are listed in alphabetical order.

    Hanwei Practical XL

    Itís kinda funny, the more I use this the more I like this. When I first got this my impression was that itís just a mat cutter, and dang it looks cheap. But I must admit this is pretty good sword to use. As the bare blade weighs only c. 770 grams the blade is quite light. It has roughly 340 grams in koshirae to offer counter weight, and it has fairly wide and long nakago to offer counter balance. The sword is very agile and you can very easily use it with one hand. The overall weight is c. 1110 grams and and itís about 68,5 cm in nagasa, so itís 2 shaku 2 sun 6 bu. Iím actually quite amazed that I might think this is fairly good handling sword. Of course the down side is the tsuka. It doesnít flow with the sword, as itís completely straight it seems to be bit off. It just doesnít feel right, Of course we are talking about ďentryĒ swords so things like that will happen, but Iíd believe that more seasoned swordsmen will find the stick straight tsuka even worse than I did.

    Hanwei Shobu Raptor

    My first impression was damn this is one heavy sword. At about 74cm this is 2 shaku 4 sun 4 bu in length. This is a length that is to my understanding very common in todays martial arts. However this sword has a very long 33cm tsuka, which I find to be too long for this particular sword, as my usual tsuka preference is around 27-30cm. Then when you do forms and suburi the weight kicks in, weighing 1270 grams this is quite heavy sword. For me this might be too heavy to comfortably practice with this. However as a kid I used to practice with my LL Odachi, which was over 16cm longer than this and weighed bit more. But the thing is this feels heavy, itís kinda hard to explain. This sword is something I would pick up for an upcoming battle, but not something I would practice daily with. I donít see this as beginners sword due to large weight, but I think this will be good cutter for occasional use, or for more experienced practicioner.

    HSTS 1095 Budget

    Well you all read my praises earlier on how I like the tachi feel of this and so on. I must say this sword is blade heavy. I personally like blade heavy swords, but I know many want their balance closer to tsuba. As you can see from the numbers the bare blade of HSTS is the second heaviest at c. 835 grams (only c.50 grams lighter than PC Shobu raptor) and third longest at 71,2cm 2 shaku 3 sun 5 bu (very common practice sword length), then you combine it with the absolutely lightest koshirae weighing only 215 grams. You know the final result will be blade heavy. And the very strongly curved tsuka and sori near the tsuba will give very different feel than regular katana. I like to use this single handed in sweeping downward motions, like a tachi from horseback. As for regular practice use, maybe, but bear in mind this is special sword which will handle a lot different than the average katana.

    Ronin Dojo Pro

    Well the feelings with Ronin are quite neutral, this doesnít feel neither light nor heavy. When you look at the weight itís about average of the bunch. Itís length c. 69cm is 2 shaku 2 sun 8 bu, which already starts to be bit on the shorter side when modern practice swords are considered. The blade is narrow and doesnít taper much, and itís very thick. The tsuka is narrow and the same length as my iaito tsuka was. However this has similar problem to Practical XL, the tsuka doesnít flow with the curvature. Itís funny even though this is narrow and thick blade and Practical XL is wide and thin, my overall feel with this is quite similar. I see this possibly as good daily practice sword.

    TSW 2013 Batto

    Iím not usually kinda guy who takes much note on marketing. When Jeffrey messaged me they had this new lineup and I read it was modeled after Muromachi era sword, I had to try one. And when I held this in my hand I was sold. First thing what came to my head was phrase in Yamanakaís Newsletters ďKoto feels light, Shinto feels heavyĒ. This sword is 72cm 2 shaku 3 sun 8 bu, which is very common practice sword length, then the weight 885 grams in koshirae. I remember sometimes reading comments like ď no way real swords weigh that little as iaitoĒ. Well hereís one modeled after an authentic Koto sword. When doing some practice with this I fell in love with this. This is just so quick and agile sword itís ridiculous, feels just like practicing with an iaito, except this could easily cut in real life. Single handed draws with this are a joy, as this is very light I could probably do them very fast, but as Iím not skilled I do not dare to try, as I might cut myself or the saya. I would absolutely recommend this for daily training. I have never held so light production katana in my life, like HSTS this is a special production sword with unique feel.


    So these are my impressions on the overall feel of the sword before cutting. I especially wait eagerly to cut with TSW and HSTS, both are very unique production swords in their feel. I donít really know what to expect from Ronin, my impression on it is pretty average, but I have been impressed on itís cutting & testing, so itís nice to see in hand how it performs. I think that Shobu Raptor will be brutal and heavy cutter. I already know that Practical XL is wicked cutter, and as I have more experience with it, I think it will kinda set a mark to others on performance.
    Jussi Ekholm

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jussi Ekholm View Post
    On Ronin and HSTS this is a potential weak point and I don't understand why they get narrower on that area, I believe it might be some cost cutting thing at the forge. As on the both HSTS swords I own this notch has occured, 2 swords can't still speak for all of their line but that's what I have personally seen.
    Cost cutting, or not being made for cutting? Sadly, the only two that look like someone took the extra minute to do it right are the PK and the TSW.... Even the Raptor has a bulge in it, but that can be fixed and doesn't cause a stress point, you can't add more metal to the gouged out ones.

    The ideal would be to have a radius in there, but that's not traditional, and habaki, when fitted properly, take up the wiggle room by having the machi press against the machi-gane, and remove the weak point (in theory). This is my biggest problem with modern production swords, they miss the point of the habaki entirely.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan Frances View Post
    A few of the people I trained with had Raptors, one shinogi zukuri and one shobu zukuri, I really couldn't stand the tsuka on either, and it wasn't the length that threw me off since I'm one of those weirdos who find anything less than 13" awkward. On top of the icky (how's that for technical?) feeling ito those two had, the width was definitely a bit much.
    I think the Raptors were designed for James Williams, and I don't mean in the "Hey, I have this design I want made, can you make it," sort of way. It's more the "I want a sword that looks like this and feels like this and we're going to sell them to the world because they're going to be better than anything else in their price range and people deserve to have that," sort of way. It was a great intention, and they are the perfect sword to customize as you can take the base tsuka core, reshape it, and rewrap it, and have a damned fine sword for under 500 dollars.

    The ito is tsunami ito if I remember right, it feels better after a lot of use.

    I had a Raptor for a while and sold it. It was a nice sword.
    Last edited by Jeff Ellis; 03-20-2013 at 03:11 PM. Reason: Typos and additional information.
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    First impressions on cutting, I know many of you have waited for this.

    I intended to start cutting tomorrow, but I couldn't help it, I had to start today. And I will continue tomorrow. I am very amateur cutter and I didn't try any fancy cuts yet, and after today I doubt I will try them tomorrow. This test cutting was not about my skill or the lack of it, but about how these swords perform against each other on as similar conditions I can replicate.

    Now in this cutting my stand was free standing wooden dovel, which was only kept straight by putting it through 3 X 5kg weight plates. This made the cutting much harder than cutting when the stand remains 100% stationary, now using too much force will make the stand move sideways very much, so you can't power through, you have to actually cut the target. I might build a different stand tomorrow as this stand wouldn't allow rising cuts as the pole was not fixed, so it flew off from the weights very easily.

    Here is the free standing dovel put through the weights, they had bit bigger hole than diameter of the dovel, put they kept it pretty straight, but when I used too much force it followed my cut instead keeping straight. I'm 186cm, and I calculated I could do 3 cuts per mat, actually I managed 4 many times sometimes even 5, so the first cut would be a cut at my throat level, and two following would cut upper torso.


    I was very surprised about the performance differences. Before I began to cut I was under the impression that all swords would cut pretty much equally well. Now I know they don't. 1 excellent performance, 3 regulars and 1 big disappointment.

    Here is the conclusion of my first cutting comparisons with these swords.

    I soaked the newspaper rolls for 10-20 mins depending between the first and last of the soak batch picked up. I must say I was surprised how hard it was to cut them on this free standing dovel. These are quite dense targets, and as the "stand" started to lean over each time I tried to power through, it gave an extra challenge for me.

    I was doing alphabetical rounds again.

    First downward cuts with both hands.

    Hanwei Practical XL, I've cut a lot bigger newspaper rolls with this before, but then I had a pole that was firmly fixed to the ground. This performed very well on two handed downward cuts, I guess I only botched maybe 1 or 2 cuts. This is an excellent cutting sword. I don't know what exactly makes this so good, can it be the thin kasane and wide sakihaba? It's hard to explain what exactly makes this a great cutter, but each time I picked this up I knew I'm going to cut through the target. Could be my confidence as I know how well this sword performs.

    After a typical downward cut:


    Hanwei Shobu Raptor, I had high hopes as this is a heavy sword. However after botching few cuts as I almost tipped over the dovel at midway I knew this is was pure power cutter. I did some good cuts with this too, after I realized how this sword behaves. However as my dovel stand about fell over just when pushed by hand, it provided an extra challenge for this sword. There is a lot of power behind the cuts from this sword. As the current stand required good amount of finesse, this sword was not fully at home.

    After a succesful downward cut (still more succesful cuts than botched ones):


    HSTS 1095 Budget, I had very high hopes for this one. As you read my previous comments it's no surprise. When it comes to cutting this is a different beast than other swords. I botched couple cuts with this but after getting a hang of this I did ok. The sword handles differently from your average katana, and at least for me at first it caused bit getting used to. Once I started to know how this cuts, the performance was good. But after seeing all the HSTS hype, I must admit I was expecting bit better. Don't get me wrong this is very good cutting sword.

    After typical HSTS cut:


    Ronin Dojo Pro, I've read so much about the performance of RDP that I was really excited to try this. I botched first set of cuts, sword cut deep but not through. Then one mat after another same thing happened over and over again... I wasn't able to get a one single twohanded downward cut that would have cut through the soaked newspaper mats. I added extra strength, but that only caused the same tipping effect as with Raptor. I must say I was deeply disappointed, hopefully I will do better with this sword tomorrow.

    All mats looked like this, some deep cuts, but not one single cut that would go through:


    TSW 2013 Batto, I like this sword very much, but as it's very light and agile sword I was actually bit afraid to cut with it. However straight after first cuts I realised there was nothing to worry about. This sword is excellent cutter. Despite it's light weight this cut very good. Sure I botched couple cuts with this and as the sword is thin I feared for damage, but no damage at all. By feel this was probably my favorite sword to cut with.

    A typical cut with this sword:


    Then I tried some single handed downward cuts, I knew this would be a lot harder.

    Practical XL was the only sword I could achive a full clean cut with only one hand, this really is a wicked cutter. Sure I botched a lot of single handed cuts, but got some clean ones too.


    Shobu Raptor is heavy sword for one hand use, I didn't like to use it with only one hand, it did cut deep though.


    HSTS Budget, I was expecting this would do well with single handed downward cuts, as for me this has a tachi feel. And I agree, I did get some good deep cuts, but not one that would go all the way through.


    Dojo Pro, well after being so disappointed with it's two handed performance I was actually impressed with it's single handed performance. I got almost as deep cuts as I did with two hands.


    TSW Batto, I have to say I wasn't expecting much as this is very light sword. But this did impress me. It must be as this is light you can easily get larger speed than with other swords. Good deep cuts, but not one that would cut all the way.


    So this was my first cutting session with these swords, I had a great fun and I will continue tomorrow with many more soaked rolls. I might make a stand that has stationary pole, which would allow me to use more strength when cutting. This would improve the performance of Ronin and Raptor, but of course the all other swords as well. I feel cutting mats that were on this free standing pole required a lot of finesse, and Ronin and Raptor both lack this. I know how great cutter Practical XL is on stationary pole, and after today I seriously doubt that any of these swords can come close to it.

    So this would be my current performance order for the soaked up newspaper targets I did today, from best to worst.

    1. Hanwei Practical XL
    2. TSW 2013 Batto
    3. HSTS 1095 Budget
    4. Hanwei Shobu Raptor
    5. Ronin Dojo Pro
    Jussi Ekholm

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Tampere, Finland
    Posts
    707
    The final conclusion of my cutting test.

    I decided I'd go with the same stand, heck this is not about making fancy cuts, I'm just swinging the blade up to down at approximately similar force and then compare the results. I'm not sure if the water temperature affects the density or the water absorbation, but today similar sized targets seemed tougher than yesterday, or maybe I was just getting out of form and tired from all the sword swinging in 2 day period.

    After the cutting I have now pretty good idea of how each sword performs in my hands. I'm saying my hands, because you can see better swordsmen performing great feats with these swords, that I can't do. This is just simply my personal opinion and it's based on what I've seen and experienced in person.

    This will be my opinion on their cutting performance from best to worst, and I'll explain why I chose them in this order.

    1. Hanwei Practical XL
    2. TSW 2013 Batto
    3. HSTS 1095 Budget
    4. Hanwei Shobu Raptor
    5. Ronin Dojo Pro

    As you can see the list didn't change from yesterday.

    Hanwei Practical XL is a cutting beast. I guess when I first said this sword will be the one that'll set the bar, I think the bar was way too high for others. I had not realized how great this sword actually is before I made this comparison test. And to be honest I might have been too harsh on some swords last year (and after I realized this I might have to change my view on some swords), as they didn't even come close to Practical XL in cutting, well neither did any of the swords in this test... Each time when I botched 2 cuts on a row with some sword, I took Practical XL to test if the newspaper mat was more difficult than others, every single time this cut cleanly through. In the end I cut cleanly 2-2,5 times thicker rolls (I had made these for the end, but cut them with only XL as others had trouble even with those c. 1,5 times thicker) than with any other sword. And for final I soaked that thick roll that was on my OP for 2 minutes so it was even barely wet, 2 succesful clean cuts even though it was very hard target, 3rd cut stopped just before cleanly severing it. I just love this, and this is pure cutting machine.

    TSW Batto is a great sword. Jeffrey at TheSamuraiWorkshop sells an excellent sword. Don't be fooled by the lightness of this sword, this is a mean cutter. However I must note I started to struggle when rolls got thicker. On small rolls this was almost as good as Practical XL. I managed to cut very nicely with this sword. And to be honest it surprised the heck out of me that this sword outperformed all but the XL. My initial thought was that hopefully this will be able to cut small rolls. Even on thick rolls this performed about the 2nd best, HSTS got closer on thicker rolls in cutting performance. As this sword has an amazing feel and weight, this would be ideal for regular dojo use, and now I know this can handle cutting well too. Great overall sword.

    HSTS Budget is another great sword. Ricky has designed a very unique sword. I love the shape of this sword, and the feel is quite nice also. Good cuts with light rolls, and closed the gap to TSW when the rolls got thicker. But I think this sword might require some more skill to properly use than I have (of course all swords do ), as when I got bit tired towards the end I noticed my performance with this got bit weaker, and I botched more cuts than I did early on. This is very blade heavy sword, and I kinda like that feature. This is special feeling sword, and I'm not sure if this would be at home at regular dojo use, but this is a good cutting sword.

    Hanwei Shobu Raptor was a bit of letdown. I've read much about how good these are as cutting swords, but after I was bit disappointed with my Moroha Raptor, I can in the end say the same with this. Not exactly what I was waiting for... Sure this could cut, and with this I could cut few thick rolls too, with TSW and HSTS I didn't get a clean cut on thicker rolls. But in overall I botched bit more easy cuts with this as I did with TSW or HSTS. In overall this was a bit clumsy sword, I really don't like how this handles. Sometimes this was a great cutter, sometimes this was an average cutter, I couldn't get good regular performance with this, probably due to my lack of skill. If this would have performed as well as this sometimes did, this would have been 2nd, but now this is 4th. The two above swords just performed better on average than this did.

    Ronin Dojo Pro was not at all what I thought it would be... Not a single cut was made in these two days... You can tell I'm bit mindblown, I can't understand why. Be it a thin roll or a thick roll, always it stopped in the mat. When I tested these mats with XL to see if there was something wrong with the mat, I could cut through those targets even single handed. I admit I got really frustrated with this sword, mat after mat after mat, always just a "thud" sound and incomplete cut. No matter what I tried I just couldn't get through a single mat... I've read so much good things about the cutting performance of Ronin, and now when I have one in hand I can't believe how badly I cut with it. As I did pretty well with 3 other swords and 1 performed excellently, it can't be 100% swordsmans fault.

    So that is my conclusion, of course it's just a opinion of a single collector/amateur backyard cutter, and it's based on just 1 single sword of each model tested. I really wish that some dojo would have taken up my free offer, and we could have an opinion of real martial artists on side to my view. I'm actually bit disappointed that none of these swords came anywhere near Practical XL in pure performance. Of course switching to tatami omote - bamboo - pool noodles - water bottles - any other cutting medium might change the view greatly, but as soaked up newspaper rolls are free cutting medium and the medium I will use, so the test was performed on that. Now I might have to do some rethinking, as I was under the impression that cutting wise Practical XL would be a mediocre sword. Now I see that it's actually an excellent cutter.
    Jussi Ekholm

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    There aren't many dojos that do cutting in Finland, sadly, but I do know one Toyama-ryu school in Helsinki that cuts regularly.
    Certified nerd; if you need an Excel sheet or an AutoCAD drawing done, just drop me a PM!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    KC, MO
    Posts
    43
    I enjoyed your review, Jussi. It was very thorough, and well-done. Thanks for taking the time to do it.

    I was wondering about your Practical XL. I've never held or even seen one in person. I do own a couple of PKs, though. I was wondering if you have also, and how you think a PK would compare to a Practical XL in the cutting department? Thanks, and have a great day!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Minneapolis, Minnesota
    Posts
    278
    Solid review Jussi! I have had over 150 MPK (modern production katana) in my hands in the last year and I can agree there is something special about the piratical XL. I would put the Piratical XL up as one of the best budget cutters too. I am also surprised about the Ronin, I only cut a few wetter bottles with mine. I thought the sword handled well but I did not do any medium/hard cutting with it.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tampere, Finland
    Posts
    707
    Thanks for the comments.

    I think the last time I owned a Hanwei Practical katana was over 6 years ago. And I had a bare Practical blade too. I thought both of them were good at that price point. I think I cut water bottles with both of them. The Practical XL is more designed for mat cutting, thin and wide profile. And I must say it blew me away to see how well this cut compared to others. As I'm not practicing any sword art I do not need a sword that would resemble a sword from certain period. I cut for the fun of it, and it's fun to cut with a sword that performs well. Heck, I've seen people in Japan use specialized mat cutters (only in videos, not in person).

    I think the good part of this comparison at personal level was that I was able to see just how great difference switching a sword can do. Fail a many cuts in a row, switch sword -> clean cut, if this would happen once or twice it could have been fluke. But as it happened every time that I switched to Practical XL when other swords failed multiple times in row, it just provides much better cutting performance in my hands. Therefore that's the budget cutter I'll keep as cutter. Others may be lot better as overall package, but in pure cutting performance this is a beast.

    I've been thinking about that RDP's weak performance and I decided I must try another of their products so I grabbed Ronin Elite at their scratch & dent sale. Of course this will not be 100% like new but as it will be about the best that Zhengs can offer I wanted to try it out as the price was reasonable. I've previously owned 4 products by Zheng and all have been at least bit disappointing, hopefully the Elite will turn my head, most likely it will be at least the best Zheng product I've seen. After seeing that my opinion on them will not be based only on the low-mid range offerings alone.
    Jussi Ekholm

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    91
    The weights you provided for the Hanwei Practical XL don't match the weights recorded on http://www.nihonzashi.com/Compare_Practical_Blades.htm. Are you sure you don't have the Hanwei Practical XL Light and not the Practical XL?

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tampere, Finland
    Posts
    707
    Thank you very much for providing that link Glenn. I am stunned, this sword is not Practical XL, but the Practical Elite... Damn I have been wrong all along. Should have noticed this from different habaki and blade length... but guess it shows I haven't eyed production sword market that closely.

    This came to me by trade, and previous owner told this was Practical XL and where he bought it. That shop only sells Practical XL so I assumed this was it as this is wide and thin blade. And damn, I thought this was already very wide blade, the XL profile must be very specialized for mats as it will be several mm wider than this.

    Now as even the Elite line is a wicked cutter, makes me wonder what kinda beast the XL is with even wider geometry... Now I need to find a way to change every Practical XL in the review to Practical Elite. I'll contact a moderator if they could add a big bold line on top of the review that what I refer to Hanwei Practical XL is in reality Hanwei Practical Elite.

    But big thanks Glenn, took a great eye to notice that.
    Jussi Ekholm

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    91
    It's me that has to thank you for your great review. Although, you have cost me some money. I have now gone out and bought a Practical Elite

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