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Thread: First Katana

  1. #1
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    First Katana

    Hello. I've been interested in Japanese swords and sword arts for a while. I've finally saved up enough money to consider purchasing a katana. After doing some research I've narrowed it down to either a Cheness or Hanwei sword. From Cheness I am interested by the Shura. From Hanwei one of the Practical Plus Swords. However I am looking for a katana that doesn't just cut but looks and feels somewhat like a traditional katana. Can anyone throw some suggestions?

    Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Gasienica View Post
    Hello. I've been interested in Japanese swords and sword arts for a while. I've finally saved up enough money to consider purchasing a katana. After doing some research I've narrowed it down to either a Cheness or Hanwei sword. From Cheness I am interested by the Shura. From Hanwei one of the Practical Plus Swords. However I am looking for a katana that doesn't just cut but looks and feels somewhat like a traditional katana. Can anyone throw some suggestions?

    Thanks.
    If you want something traditional looking in that price range you want a Hanwei Practical Plus Performance Series Elite Katana. It has more traditional geometry and construction, and will cut well.
    Non nobis Domine, non nobis sed Nomini Tuo da Gloriam
    "Not to us Lord, Not to us, but to Thy Name be the Glory"

    Adsum, Domine: Totus ingenibus meis ad pedes tuos proponeo.
    Duce et regere servum tui, Domine, ab omnibus temptationem, ita ut honor purus et donum meum incontaminatus sit.
    "Here am I, Lord: All my talents at Thy feet I lay. Guide and guard Thy servant, Lord, from all temptation, that honor may be spotless and my gift unstained."
    - Katherine Kurtz "Healer's Song"

  3. #3
    Another option to consider is the Oni Forge Hannya line. It's in the same price range as the Cheness and Hanwei you're looking at. What does your Sensei say?
    Last edited by rnatalli; 05-15-2007 at 09:16 PM.

  4. #4
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    Also, dynasty forge musha line. but listen to your sensei. He generally knows best.

  5. #5
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    I'm also a relative newcomer to the world of Japanese swords, and I've had a few of those entry level katanas that you're considering. My advice would be to go with the practical plus or elite. I really like cheness blades, but the tsuka and ito weren't great. However, Cheness' customer service is exceptional.

  6. #6
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    I got a blunt-edged Cheness iaito, which is fine until I'm ready for a sharp one.
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  7. #7
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    Looks and feels somewhat like a traditional Katana? Could you be more specific, as they all look and feel somewhat like a Katana. Are you looking for historical accuracy in the blade geometery, like the Niku? Or historical forging techniques? Or a specific type of handle wrap material or method?

    Even a wallhanger is somewhat like a traditional katana.

    As for feel, well traditionally the feel varied. Some weighed more then others. And they had different balance points. So it is not hard to get something that would be in this range and feel very simular.
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  8. #8
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    Hi Josh,

    Best thing I can tell you is to stay away from Cheness and Oni Forge. There has been some *issues* with these companies. I once owned a Cheness, didn't like it. I would say go with Hanwei, Bugei, or Dynasty Forge. All are very well made swords and there is less to worry about with them.

    Also, it depends on what you want to do with them. I tend to just collect swords. So I just own Hanwei and Bugei. They are both good cutters, but have disadvantages. Being that they are (DH) differentially hardened, they are less forgiving on a bad cut. Cheness on Oni forge have (TH) through hardened katana, which are more forgiving, but then you have quality issues.

    One GREAT word of advice, save your money. If you train, get a decent Iaito. It will last you a long time. Then save and get a Cheness 9260 Shirasaya ($199 free shiping). Have Brian Drier from Ronin Swords (zanshinironworks) make you a new tsuka, and work with that. Probably will run you $400 total, maybe a little more. Keep saving and get something that is worth the money. Like a Nihonto or something of that caliber.
    Just my $0.02
    Last edited by Travis Morris; 05-16-2007 at 02:30 PM.
    "Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power."

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  9. #9
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    Well, I don't take any Japanese sword arts, I'm simply interested in them. There is nothing within reasonable driving range that I can attend. I doubt I'm going to be doing much cutting with the sword, but some. The Hanwei PPKE seems to fit the bill, however it doesn't come with all the accessories that the Cheness sword comes with. Maybe as a first time sword I should get a Cheness which is quite durable and later upgrade to a Hanwei?

  10. #10
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    NO NO NO!

    If the sword is just for show, go with Hanwei or Bugei. I would suggest going to Swords Of Might. Jason Moore (owner) has a great selection of Hanwei, at a great price.

    Check out this link: http://swordsofmight.com/index.asp?P...ATS&Category=5

    If you buy something, tell him I sent you. He may cut you a deal.
    "Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power."

    - Lao Tzu

    "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

    "To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

    - Sun Tzu

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew W. Priestley View Post
    If you want something traditional looking in that price range you want a Hanwei Practical Plus Performance Series Elite Katana. It has more traditional geometry and construction, and will cut well.
    This is the best advice. Take it

    Ok, now in all seriousness. Your going to go with a Cheness because it comes with more accessories? Dude your head's in the wrong place. If you like I have about a million of those cheap-ass stands and silk boxes, and about a billion of those cheap-ass sword bags and cleaning kits. You can have them, for what it's worth they are just fooling you into thinking you are getting more for your money. I personally would be more interested in knowing that if I spent $300.00, that is what the sword is worth, not the sword + all the junk that came with it.

    I'm not trying to be rude, and I'm sorry if it comes off that way but I really think you should focus your energies and money on finding a quality functional blade, which in this day and age is not easy in your price range. By the way I like cheness stuff, just don't base your decision off of the marketing gimmicks, ok

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  12. #12
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    No, I'm not basing my decision on the fact that they throw in the stand and stuff, that's just nice. A quality sword is the main thing and I understand that.

  13. #13
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    So go with a Hanwei sword. Many reasons why:

    1. Functional

    2. Look Good

    3. Less quality issues

    If its just a display sword, go with Hanwei
    "Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power."

    - Lao Tzu

    "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

    "To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

    - Sun Tzu

  14. #14
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    Hm, so it seems we are between a Hanwei and a Cheness. If you consider the Hanwei a "upgrade" then get it. Personally I think they have models that are int he same range, but Hanwei does have some more expensive ones.

    I also was between these two in the ~$250 range. On the Hanwei I looked at it had a smooth, plain, undecorated Tsuba. I actually really liked this Tsuba. It also had a really nice suede Ito handle wrap, that I also really liked. It really looked good.

    On the other the other hand Cheness had the 9260 steel and I had seen how much abuse it can take, which is a lot of abuse. The Cheness has a cotton Ito that is frizzy and looks very plain. I don't like it. The Tsuba is a crane and looks good, but it hard on the hand. I am so-so about this. In the end I went with the Cheness because I wanted a blade that could take the abuse from my bad cuts, or take abuse if I needed it.

    Oh, and my Cheness came with a stand, a cleaning kit, and a silk box. The box is amazing in that it is so light and fragile I am surprised it survived shipping from China. The box is so cheap feeling that I don't show it to any one. The stand is cheap and only worth a few bucks, as is the cleaning kit. And you can buy those on eBay for cheap or even get better ones on eBay. So these shouldn't be a factor. Although to be fair, I am using the stand and the cleaning kit.
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  15. #15
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    if it's a choice between Cheness and Hanwei, I'd definitely go with Hanwei. I personaly own a Hanwei Practical Plus katana. It has taken everything i've thrown at it with no damage to the blade. (ranging from pool noodles to 2 inch saplings.
    Last edited by Erik Brock; 05-16-2007 at 05:08 PM.

  16. #16
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    So pretty much from what people have suggested, I should go with the PPK-Elite over the Cheness Shura. What about the PPK-Elite over a Cheness Kaze? I know the Kaze is made differently but is it still a good sword?
    Last edited by Josh Gsnca; 05-16-2007 at 05:22 PM.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Gasienica View Post
    So pretty much from what people have suggested, I should go with the PPK-Elite over the Cheness Shura. What about the PPK-Elite over a Cheness Kaze? I know the Kaze is made differently but is it still a good sword?
    I cannot deny that the Cheness swords are tough, but that stops mattering once you get past a certain level of development. Once you have gotten your hasuji worked out, you aren't going to bend a sword unless you are trying to go too fast on heavy targets with rapid changes of direction. That said, the best cutters out there use differentially heat treated swords with thin, broad profiles, cut lightning fast against big targets, and rarely bend a blade.

    The problem I have with the Cheness swords is the cracked tsuka, cheesy fittings and poor ito. These things are a whole lot more important than novices give them credit for. The tsuka is your interface with the blade, so it's got to be shaped pretty well, fitted together tightly and wrapped well, or that interface will be less than good. Hanwei tsuka below the Musashi or Shinto level are no great shakes, but they are a lot better than the Cheness tsuka.

    Straightening bent blades is not that hard either. A lot of folks are scared of it and think it's got to be sent off, or that you need special tools or whatever. Not really. All that's necessary is to be able to identify the apex of the bend, put a fulcrum against that and counterflex it to take out the bend. It's no big deal. There are tools you can use to help this out, but they are simple to make and use. Even complex s-shaped bends are relatively easy to deal with if you take your time and work patiently (though a bench vice helps in these cases). So don't sweat the bends, I feel that learning how to deal with them is a basic part of katana ownership.

    Edge damage is usually the result of poor handling. Striking hard targets like dry hardwoods, rocks, other obstructions in the cutting area that shouldn't have been there, etc. If you are cutting proper targets, there is unlikely to be anything in the cutting path to damage the sword.

    Another thing to remember is that a katana is not just a big knife, it is a cultural icon. There is a tradition inherent in it so powerful that it seizes the attention and devotion of people utterly unconnected to that tradition by culture, geography, ethnicity, etc. Inherent in that is the basic construction of the sword and the method used to produce a hard edge capable of being honed to razor's sharpness and holding that sharpness through significant use, while also having a resilient body that can absorb the stresses of combat without shattering. Differential hardening is part and parcel to what a katana is, it's central to the mystique of the thing. Tossing that away, in my opinion, lessens the connection to what the katana is meant to be. We give up so much of the perfectionistic care with which the katana is traditionally made in order to achieve approachable prices, but casting away the hamon is too much.

    My personal sword is a somewhat customized Hanwei PPK. It's nothing special. It's polish has ripples and waves in it. The shinogi isn't exactly crisp and the acid enhanced hamon is no longer acid enhanced. But it is sharp and it stays sharp, and it cuts pretty darned well. The shortened tsuka (something I had done to suit the style I practice) fits my hands well and improved the balance of the sword for me (as did the new tsuba). When I received it from another owner, the blade was severely bent, with two distinct bends. It took me about 15 minutes to fix that, and I haven't managed to bend it since.

    Bent swords are caused by poor technique. If you get your technique right before you begin cutting, you won't bend your sword. It's that simple.
    Non nobis Domine, non nobis sed Nomini Tuo da Gloriam
    "Not to us Lord, Not to us, but to Thy Name be the Glory"

    Adsum, Domine: Totus ingenibus meis ad pedes tuos proponeo.
    Duce et regere servum tui, Domine, ab omnibus temptationem, ita ut honor purus et donum meum incontaminatus sit.
    "Here am I, Lord: All my talents at Thy feet I lay. Guide and guard Thy servant, Lord, from all temptation, that honor may be spotless and my gift unstained."
    - Katherine Kurtz "Healer's Song"

  18. #18
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    I'm going to chime in here with this..

    Why not go visit Brian over at roninswords.com and pick up a ronin model for $300? you get a cleaning kit, silk ito, a nice bag, color/style choices in ito/sageo, and excellent customer service.

    I'm leery of Cheness myself, their blades are tough, no arguments there, and Paul is great to work with. BUT, I have gotten two swords from him, a 30" model, and a Shura, both had cracked tsuka. My Shura went to Brian (see above) for a new core and a rewrap with REAL ito.

    And Hanwei - they have practical, well shaped blades, traditional materials, lots of good dealers and deals to be found. If your budget allows, the Shinto Elite is VERY nice, If not, go with the PPK elite.

    If I, myself, had to do it again, I would have bought the ronin from Brian that I currently have, and gotten a PPK Elite, or XL light. I like Paul, but he needs to work on these issues. Tsuka should not be put on with a hammer, its just not a good idear .

  19. #19
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    what a great post Andrew. Thank you
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  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Morris View Post
    Best thing I can tell you is to stay away from Cheness and Oni Forge. There has been some *issues* with these companies.
    And there haven't been with Hanwei, Bugei, or Dynasty Forge? All production swords have issues here and there. Hanwei is famous for poor quality control on their lower-end swords. I've even seen Bugei that have saya that rattle and blades that chip. Besides, Bugei is a bit expensive for someone looking at $300 katana.

    The Ronin from Brian is a great katana and Brian tends to lean traditional. The only thing that comes to my mind is what Josh said. He said he's not a student of JSA and plans to do some cutting. 1095, differentially-hardened steel is very unforgiving and not ideal for a backyard cutter.

  21. #21
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    If you're looking for a showy sword for low-$$$ you might wanna check the Classifieds here on SFI. For example, a Golden Oriole selling for less than a new PPK:
    http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?t=79488
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by rnatalli View Post
    And there haven't been with Hanwei, Bugei, or Dynasty Forge? All production swords have issues here and there. Hanwei is famous for poor quality control on their lower-end swords. I've even seen Bugei that have saya that rattle and blades that chip. Besides, Bugei is a bit expensive for someone looking at $300 katana.

    The Ronin from Brian is a great katana and Brian tends to lean traditional. The only thing that comes to my mind is what Josh said. He said he's not a student of JSA and plans to do some cutting. 1095, differentially-hardened steel is very unforgiving and not ideal for a backyard cutter.
    I am well aware of the issues from these companies. I just feel that they have done more to correct them and now there is less to worry about. All of my Hanwei swords have no issues and my Bugei is FLAWLESS.
    "Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power."

    - Lao Tzu

    "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

    "To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

    - Sun Tzu

  23. #23
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    Well the PPK-Elite seems to be the best sword with the Ronin right behind it. However, though people have said that it's very hard to damage the blade, I don't know if I should get one just yet. I've never cut anything before other than the occasional pastry with a sharp cutting knife. Would anyone advise getting a used Tenchi/Shura cheap, practicing with it and then picking up one of the other swords?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Gasienica View Post
    Well the PPK-Elite seems to be the best sword with the Ronin right behind it. However, though people have said that it's very hard to damage the blade, I don't know if I should get one just yet. I've never cut anything before other than the occasional pastry with a sharp cutting knife. Would anyone advise getting a used Tenchi/Shura cheap, practicing with it and then picking up one of the other swords?
    In another thread, you are asking about JSA dojo in the Chicago area. Brian Pettett pointed you toward the dojo he practices at which has three pretty well respected programs including Mugai Ryu, US Battodo Federation Battodo under Big Tony's direction, as well as a very rare sword program that looks to only allow people who are already relatively experienced. All of the programs mentioned are well respected and worth the effort. If you are serious about exploring JSA and join one of those programs, your options regarding what swords you can use will be dictated by sensei. I would advise you to join one of those programs and begin training before spending your hard earned money on a sword that you may not be able to use in class. Additionally, it is HIGHLY unlikely that you would be allowed to use a live blade in class for some time and will need to purchase a good iaito first. A good iaito is going to run you a minimum of 300 bucks anyhow, so I'd save your money for that.
    Non nobis Domine, non nobis sed Nomini Tuo da Gloriam
    "Not to us Lord, Not to us, but to Thy Name be the Glory"

    Adsum, Domine: Totus ingenibus meis ad pedes tuos proponeo.
    Duce et regere servum tui, Domine, ab omnibus temptationem, ita ut honor purus et donum meum incontaminatus sit.
    "Here am I, Lord: All my talents at Thy feet I lay. Guide and guard Thy servant, Lord, from all temptation, that honor may be spotless and my gift unstained."
    - Katherine Kurtz "Healer's Song"

  25. #25
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    I would love to join one of those programs sir, but I am only 16 and would have to commute with public buses for over 40 minutes to get there.

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