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Thread: what is difference btw PC, LL, Cold Steel, Bugei etc?

  1. #26
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    @ Mr. Guertin. I wonder if anyone, to these days, has ordered a folded Shobu (even in Tameshigiri version) mounted in Nagamaki way... It's intriguing me *too much*. If any, are pcitures available ?
    Please forgive my english.

  2. #27
    No, no Shobu as of yet. I have a modified version of the Keicho that passes well for an early naginata / nagamaki though.

    Darryl

  3. #28
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    Ah, yes, UnoKubi zukuri fit...
    Please forgive my english.

  4. #29
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    I have to agree with Mr. Wong: " the Last Legend is not even on my radar screen! I handled one recently and unhesitatingly announce it unfit for my use in my dojo. There were so many things wrong with this sword that I won't even waste my time discussing it here." I owned a Bear and a Tsunami, before I returned them. I found from a very reliable source that they have a tendency to warp and or bend. That coupled with the cheesy fittings, cosmetic kassakis, and poorly done tsuka ito did it for me.

  5. #30
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    Practical and Practical PLus are both the same.

    Slight correction, Practical Katana and the Plus have the same blade, just different fittings.

  6. #31
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    same blade?

    Just wanted to add here that I have a Paul Chen PK and the PPK.
    They don't have exactly the same blade. The hamon on the PK is pretty straight. On the PPK it has some pattern. Also, the polish on the PPK is a little nicer. The dimensions seem very similar.

  7. #32
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    Re: same blade?

    Originally posted by Keith Archer
    Just wanted to add here that I have a Paul Chen PK and the PPK.
    They don't have exactly the same blade. The hamon on the PK is pretty straight. On the PPK it has some pattern. Also, the polish on the PPK is a little nicer. The dimensions seem very similar.
    I believe what was meant was the actual physical blade in proportion to each other.
    Still trying to remember where I was when god was handing out brains.

  8. #33
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    Your're right. Other than the hamon and maybe slightly better polish on the PPK, the blades are identical.

  9. #34
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    Nice presentation for those of us (like myself), that don't have a vast knowledge base about Katanas.

    Thanks!
    Pete Johnston

    ExamonLyf@aol.com

  10. #35
    Last Legend: A newbie on japanese sword making, but actually pretty nice, i have a dragon katana, and it's probabaly the shapest katana I ever see. (sharper doesn't mean better). But many features are non-traditional. I don't like them because I like more traditional Japanese-like swords. But they perform pretty well.

    Cold Steel: I don't even call their "katanas" katana, I call them replicas. Their "katanas" arn't differently tempered and doesn't have hamon, I just can't stand that. But they do cut.

    Paul Chen (non Bugei): Pretty nice, I don't like the shape of their tsuka but the blade are pretty authentic. They arn't always paper-shaving sharp, but they're more than just great for their price.

    Bugei: You can call some of their swords "professional level" but some other swords arn't that great. I don't like Crane and Dragonfly because they looked pretty weak. But I do recommand their Samurai katana and Wave katana. (but pretty pricy)

  11. #36
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    Production Swords and Place of manufacture

    OK, I'm probably going to make some people mad with this post, but that is not the intention, I just want to point out some facts about production swords that seem to get confused with these kinds of global comparative reviews. For the sake of clarity, let's examine the many sword re-sellers or dealers, and where they have their prodcuts manufactured.

    Bugei - Paul Chen's factory
    Paul Chen - this is pretty self-explanatory
    Last Legend - Fred Chen's factory (no relation to Paul)
    Cold Steel - Fred Chen
    LiveBlade- Fred Chen
    Swordstore steel iaito - Fred Chen
    Darryl Guertin - Fred Chen

    (This list leaves out any custom swords offered by any of these companies from individual smiths)

    OK, if we look at this list we see that two factories in China are responsible for the manufacture of almost all of the production swords offered currently. From what I understand, each dealer has their own account and relationship with the seller and submits their own designs, but the people making these designs are the same. So if we really think about this, is the quality going to be astronomically different between a Bugei and a Paul Chen's higher end swords? Probably not. The fittings might be nicer, and the quality control will be a lot better, but that's what you're paying the extra money for, but the difference isn't enough for somebody to justify spitting on a PC Bushido while elevating the Bugei Samurai to Excalibur status. The same goes for all of the Fred Chen made swords, the Cold Steel versus the Last Legend or the Swordstore steel iaito are all made by the same guy, or group of guys, and so you can expect reasonable similarities in global quality. Of couse each line is made for different markets, but this is like when one car company has another make a car for it. I drive an Isuzu Rodeo, who also made the Honda Passport. Now the Rodeo and the Passport are the exact same car, and yet the Honda costs more. This is the point I am trying to make here, sometimes paying an extra 800 dollars for a different name on a sword made by the same person is just market inflation. We all want to buy the best sword for the best deal we can, and so these comparative tests and reviews can really be useful, but know how the production sword industry works so you understand a little better what you're buying and where it is made. If anyone has any corrections or updates on this information (factual, not opinion) please make sure to post it, my goal here is really just to illuminate production sword manufacture and resale to the people on this forum who want to spend their money wisely.

  12. #37
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    Well said and goods points were made, thanks for a nice comparison.
    IMHO,
    Dan

  13. #38
    Actually Nick, that list is completely wrong.

  14. #39
    Angus Trim is offline Moderator
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    Originally posted by D.A. Guertin
    Actually Nick, that list is completely wrong.
    Hi Daryl

    I'm not so sure.....

    Let me explain. Of late I've seen swords from three of the retailers listed for FC. I don't know that Fred Chen had something to do with the swords, what I do know is that the same factory made them. I've seen enough swords by enough manufacturers, and have a background myself, to tell you that each manufacturer actually kind of "signatures" themselves in their work......

    I haven't seen one of the swords you retail {yet}, but if I was to see a standard shinogi crossection piece that you retail, or preferrably a piece with bohi, I could tell you whether its from the same factory.........

    Auld Dawg
    For Good or Ill......

    What Comes Around Goes Around.....
    and

    You Reap What You Sow...

  15. #40
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    I was under the impression that the Fred Chen factory made swords for the dealers I listed, and this was gleaned from some time-consuming searches in the forum to understand where these production swords are coming from. If this is wrong, then please illuminate me with the origins of their manufacture.

  16. #41
    To try to keep it as brief as possible, Fred Chen is rather sort of the Grandfather figure in this situation. This is as it was explained to me by the people leading the company I deal with. He was the very first, and began making the swords for Cold Steel. His head smith left and founded his own shop, the one I deal with. Rick Barrett was working with Fred Chen originally, and that was the 'Cicada Forge' bit. Rick got out of the game to spend time with his newborn, and concentrate on custom work (which he's done well at). Rick turned from Fred Chen to the break-away company.

    Enter Last Legend. I ruffled more than I few feathers getting the details across on making the blades I sell. Mine were by very definition, different. Some people really don't like different. In fact, enough people don't like different that they left. Break-away number two. Last Legend.

    As it was explained to me,

    Darryl

  17. #42
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    Thanks for clearing that up Darryl, the production sword market in China is a murky entity for us consumers to figure out, so it's nice to know a little bit more about its inner workings. As an additional note, I think your designs are really nice, I especially like the wide range of historically based sugata, it's a nice departure from the usual shinogi zukuri with different thicknesses and fittings.

  18. #43
    Let me ask that the other way round, because now I am utterly confused:
    Does Fred Chen's company still produce swords for any of these?

  19. #44
    As best I know, he is still over the Cold Steel swords. That being the case, I have never been in contact with him, or his company, only the separatists.

    Darryl

  20. #45
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    Oh dear, oh dear oh dear.........wouldn't it be easier for someone in the "know" to simply set up a concise "family tree" of mass produced/market swords and where they originate.....I think by doing that people would stop asking the "whats better" question....also if we could narrow the whole market down a bit, then someone could do a definative comparrison between sword manufacturers, rather then name brands.

    Personally I would like to see a complete end to mass market/produced swords and see nothing but custom made blades...NOT excluding iaito blades of course.....which even these could be made on a custom basis. If cost is such a big issue to practioners of cutting, and they feel they will somehow damage their blade by using it in that fashion, then perhaps they need to reconsider the whole issue of cutting with a shinken.......

    would you decide never to buy that Ferrari you've always wanted for fear you may crash it when you drive fast? well guess what don't drive fast.....

    Plus doesn't everyone in the know consider a custom sword to generally be of a higher quality and standard then a mass produced sword? So if a custom blade were to last three times as long as, and cost three times as much as....a mass produced sword...doesn't that actually equal the same thing?

    Surely it was due to an "urgent" need in a wartime situation that kick started the "oh lets produce as much as we can, quickly" syndrome. So surely decades after the sword was considered an effective battlefield weapon, is there still a need to produce so much so quickly? now that the sword is effectively a work of art why are we knocking them out like Ford Motor Cars?

  21. #46
    Permit me to voice polite disagreement with the following notion:

    Originally posted by Anton Shillingford

    Personally I would like to see a complete end to mass market/produced swords and see nothing but custom made blades...NOT excluding iaito blades of course.....which even these could be made on a custom basis

    I do agree that there are very valid reasons for justifying the existence and value-for-money better made and/or higher performance products provide. I do not however believe an end to mass-produced swords would do anything more than make matters worse, not better, for our collective interest (I won't say 'hobby' as that might irk those for whom swords are training tools).

    Rewind fifteen years (in my own experience) and all my friends and I were able to find on the market at that time were cheap 'decorator' 'wall hanger' SLOs, sharpened stainless steel 'time bombs' (aka. 'brittle shatter city saturday night special swords') and other unmentionables for the measly few hundred dollars any of us could muster. This is from the perspective of someone who was not a member of a dojo or otherwise 'connected' to 'people in the know'. One could argue that a sensei should be consulted, a dojo joined, and lessons taken however the type of buyer about whom I am referring would then change from 'an enthusiast interested in owning a functional as opposed to futile sword' to 'sword arts student/practitioner'.

    I will avoid the term 'traditional' because I am no sword expert but do know peoples' idea of what constitutes 'traditional' varies much more widely than their idea of 'this could be used (somewhat?) like the original blades were meant to be'. Mass-produced blades of the 'functional' sort serve an important purpose in that they offer an alternative from higher-priced custom pieces and also from the 'rat-tail tang trash' whose value even as display pieces is dubious at best. Consider this: though one may argue very convincingly that a Mercedes-Benz (to pull a random 'quality' brand name out of my proverbial hat) offers three times the performance, three times the comfort, and three times the durability/reliability of an entry-level automobile, how many of us would never have had the opportunity to own our first car had the Benz, at three times the price of its lesser counterpart, been the only auto available for purchase? Similarly, if only the high-end high-priced automobile is available (thus adding substantially to the overhead costs) how many could even afford what instructors would have to charge for driving lessons given the cost of the 'equipment'?

    With regards to mass-produced swords engendering more interest in sword (not SLO) ownership it might be interesting to conduct a poll in the forum asking participants who now own a prized higher-priced custom-made sword (or treasured antique) to answer the following:

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    If you own a high-end custom or antique sword of any type (worth over $2000.00 USD) please indicate which most accurately describes your progression (or lack thereof) towards acquiring your prized possession(s). Please read all the answers before making your selection!

    a) I neither owned nor bought any other swords (or SLOs) before getting my high-end sword(s).

    b) I started out with another custom and/or antique sword (over $2000.00 USD) before getting my high-end sword(s).

    c) I began with one or more $500.00-$1,999.00 USD 'functional' production or custom sword(s) before getting my high-end sword(s).

    d) I began with one or more $100.00-$500.00 USD 'functional' production sword(s) before getting my high-end sword(s).

    e) I began with 'decorator'/'wall hanger'/'SLO'/'flea market special' sword(s) before getting my high-end sword(s).

    f) I began with ALL of the above! SLO/'wall hanger', then 'functional' production swords (at various prices), and finally expensive and/or antique blades!

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    I believe the proliferation in 'functional' blades that are within reach of the average consumer is beneficial to our collective interest. I for one had completely given up on the notion of owning anything even remotely resembling an actual functional katana until I'd heard about about and read up on Hanwei (Paul Chen) blades, their Practical Katana being primarily responsible for re-igniting my interest in swords. Surprise: there's some decent-looking affordable stuff out there! I did eventually decide upon a different company's offerings but this does not diminish the fact I would not be here reading about and discussing swords were it not for the widespread availability (and marketing) of Hanwei products.

    Like many before me have likely done, I do not doubt my interests and tastes will be refined as time passes and knowledge/widsom is gained, and with that progression my own blade-owning ambitions (along with the price of what I aim to own) will increase. Someday, somehow, some maker of high-end custom blades may without even knowing it owe a sincere 'thank you' to a certain company in China who cranks out far lesser (in comparison to the custom maker's) swords because without that Chinese company doing what they do said high-end bladesmith would never have had the chance to bankrupt me

    With kindest regards,

    - P.W.P.
    uninformed enthusiast
    Last edited by Peter W.P.; 12-15-2004 at 08:14 AM.

  22. #47
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    Total Agreement.....however!

    I mostly agree with the points raised above!! However.....

    Most people ( perhaps or perhaps not including sword art practioners ) will have been bitten by the sword bug, because of the whole mystique that having a sword once meant, chivarly, honour blah blah etc etc.....for most people a trip to an antique dealer or custom blade smith will somewhat smother that mystique as a price is quoted and "reality" bites!!

    Enter the (SLO) and mass market "higher" end sword!!!!

    Now the point I was making, and I think the suggested survey above also confirms this, is that people don't normally enter into the game of sword collecting with aspirations of owning a PC practical Katana or a Kris Cutlery standard blade, c'mon! so these swords are a "make do" until I can afford something better........the mass market swords are playing off of this attitude that we have to settle for something less, and hence we have the inevitable question "which mass market sword is best for.......fill in the blank......" and hence the original thread.

    Beginners don't have faith in mass market blades, especially the cheap ones, because unless you're seriously getting ripped off, everyone knows...you get what you pay for!!!

    I can understand a sword practioner wanting something "cheap" to practice with, and yet everyone I know who trains says "a custom blade cuts better, last longer and is generally a higher quality, not to mention is made to suit exactly the ergonomics of their body" so why waste time buying something that we know is inferior....why! Are we saying sword collecting, sword arts etc is for everyone? I certainly am not, I'm not being elitist, but I think the collecting of swords should be limited to those who are willing to sacrifice the $$ to own the right sword for them, rather then simply settling for second best!!!

    I don't know the author of the above statement, however I would suggest that person is here because they share a fascination for blades and the sword culture....not because cheap alternatives exsist!

    As regards the Mercedes Benz analogy...nice! especially the part about lessons, all of this is valid!! but this only works if someone wants a sword, any sword, any cheap sword.....then fine, in my wonder land they would find themselves a bit stuck!! so for this lets thank God for the Paul Chens of the world, however, most aspiring sword collectors don't want any sword.....they will have an ideal in mind, and this is what starts them off!!

    So the person who really wants a merc, would they be happy to settle for a honda civic? after all...it is cheaper!
    Life is a constant struggle for Balance......Embrace the Chaos of change.

  23. #48
    'Settling for second best' particularly if the individual concerned has the means at their disposal to obtain something better is something people in forums such as these surely try to discourage at every turn. Those who are utterly content to stop at SLOs (I shudder at the thought) are beyond help either because they are not interested or because they fail to appreciate the myriad aspects of something closer to (or in the case of antiques actually are) the originals. Being an amateur numismatist, I can certainly subscribe to the notion any effort expended in search (and endless research) of 'the genuine article' is never a wasted endeavor.

    Note: due to lack of standardized terminology, my use of the term 'reproduction' in this post should be taken to mean "an item whose maker has invested appreciable time, research and/or effort into making it resemble an original, including but not limited to making components thereof by hand and/or using processes similar to those employed by period craftsmen."

    Even though I pride myself on what few decent coins I've managed to collect, I do own the odd reproduction (these are indelibly marked somewhere on their surface so as not to be useful for fraud, etc.). The fact is I cannot afford an original 18th century Spanish gold 8 reales coin but do have a very nicely done reproduction thereof, for example. Were I to win the lottery it would be replaced in a heartbeat - though I might then pop the reproduction into my pocket as I needn't worry about scratching it up against other coins

    As for the swords, I would enjoy owning an original Japanese blade from just about any pre-Meiji era and would also appreciate a 14th century western European broadsword and probably a rapier or two - were it within my financial means to acquire any of them. As they are all out of my monetary reach I will content myself with the sorts of production blades I can afford. Since my arrival here various blades have attracted my interest, Darryl Guertin's being a particularly good example since these are intended to accurately represent Japanese blades from specific time periods.

    The 'functional' blades I buy at present also serve another purpose I would be reluctant to perform with expensive originals even were they within my reach: I hope to become active in the S.C.A. again and when I do my blades will become a fun 'fashion statement' once again.

    As I interpret 'custom sword' to mean "a blade specifically and individually made to the buyer's specifications" rather than one that is a 'stock' blade with mountings of the customer's choosing, these are unfortunately out of my price range as well. Since such a blade in the form of a katana would be of most interest to me personally and since I've no JSA training (and according to the dictates of common sense shouldn't make such a large investment without training and a sensei to consult with before buying such a blade) I'll not go that route yet.

    Anton is quite correct in stating I am here because of a fascination for blades, not because I am interested solely in cheap alternatives nor because I will simply stop after buying a 'production' blade. Do I agree with the idea that a custom blade, being by its very nature precisely what the client wants, is the best course of action for anyone with the funds to go that route? Absolutely: why waste precious time and money on 'almost' or 'good enough' when literally the perfect proposition is affordable?

    For those people who (for example) haven't any other choice but to ask:

    "What's the closest I can get to a historically correct-looking katana for under $500.00?"
    "Is the <insert inexpensive sword here> good for tameshigiri?"
    "I want to re-enact. What model of English reproduction sword is authentic-looking for the Hundred Years' war?"

    ... or other similar sorts of questions simply because they can't afford a 'one-off' there is a part for the production blades to play.

    Buy the best you can possibly buy? Absolutely. I think this is another case of both Anton and myself being right in the slightly different context we have each outlined in our respective posts. Am I here because production blades rekindled my interest in what I had thought was out of my price range for something 'reasonable'? Yes. Am I here because I aspire to someday acquire something more than that? Definitely.

    I look forward to learning even more and to taking part in further discussions. This thread is certainly a useful one for those looking for the swords described herein.

    - P.W.P.

  24. #49
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    Hello...all
    I've been reading this forum for awhile and to those of you who wants to buy your first real nice sword, try to read all the opinions available on forums before asking (everyone has their favorites), then decide how much you can spend (if it's a couple of $$$ more give more time and save the extra $$$, you wont regret it) and go for the one you really will like to have for a long time.

    I've read all the forums available and have purchased LL Dragon. Take a look...yeah yeah...some of you will hate it but it's very solid, good balnce, good fittings and it's sharp...both the look and the blade. (maybe I got lucky???)
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  25. #50
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    Originally posted by Cyril Statum
    I have to agree with Mr. Wong: " the Last Legend is not even on my radar screen! I handled one recently and unhesitatingly announce it unfit for my use in my dojo. There were so many things wrong with this sword that I won't even waste my time discussing it here." I owned a Bear and a Tsunami, before I returned them. I found from a very reliable source that they have a tendency to warp and or bend. That coupled with the cheesy fittings, cosmetic kassakis, and poorly done tsuka ito did it for me.
    Actually I was just quoting someone else's post that contained that comment bout Last Legend. I personally have never said anything negative bout Last Legend cause I haven't experienced their swords yet. I'm looking to get a Last Legend sword to see for myself.

    My exposure to Japanese swords currently are most of the Paul Chen standard Hanwei line from low ends through high ends, a few Paul Chen Bugei swords, a Howard Clark Forged Folded and a Nihonto that my sensei bought from Japan. I myself currently only have a PPK (anyone wanna take it off my hands for $150.00?), Paul Chen Tsunami and a swordstore Iaito and expecting another swordstore Iaito to arrive in the mail.
    Boston Samurai Arts
    www.bostonsamuraiarts.com

    "They must find it difficult...Those that have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority." - Gerald Massey

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