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Thread: Folded vs Non-Folded

  1. #1

    Folded vs Non-Folded

    Now i KNOW this has most likely been asked before, but there are alot of posts in these fourms to sift through...

    What exactly are the advantages of a Folded blade? I have heard different opinions on this.. some say that there is really not much of a difference these days, in modern production swords.

    Are folded steel blades a) stronger? b) more flexible? c) lighter? d) better for cutting? e) more pure?

    Say if i bought a hanwei non-folded sword like the Golden Oriole or the Musashi Daito.... then bought a folded blade such as the Orchid or the Tiger. Would there be a large noticable difference if i were to ever train with them and cut?

    If there are good, older posts on this subject, feel free to just post a link.

  2. #2
    Aside from aestethics I belive folding can have no advantages over mono steel if modern steel is used.
    when folding you have the possibility of welding faults in the blade wich may not be visible, and with all those heating cycles there will be carbon loss.

    Also, in my opinion, most folded katana not from Japan do not look any good either.
    The pattern being much too prominent, brought on by not enough folds and acid.

  3. #3
    Hmm, folded blades are more traditional than monosteel blades because folding was (besides its aesthetic function) the only way for smiths to create a homogeneous steel block useable for swords.

    I suppose the strenght and flexibility depends more on the blades construction (e.g. soft steel core inside etc.) and on the heat treatment than on folded or not folded steel (when talking about japanese swords).
    Best regards

    Andi B.

  4. #4
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    just my opinion...

    Folding is a very broad term, and there are many ways to fold steel...

    When talking about katana, you have to differentiate nihonto from everything else...

    Nihonto are folded by their very nature, since the traditional process doesn't allow modern steel to be used... So, part of the traditional process of getting weapons grade steel is folding... There are subtle differences in folding, but to cover them all you need to get your hands on some good books, and after that, maybe go somewhere where you can see nihonto in person...

    For everything else, steel sharp katana is trying to emulate nihonto... Since modern steel is allowed, no folding is necessary to produce a good quality blade... Even differentional hardening that produces hamon is not necessary, for the blade can be uniformly hardened and tempered, and be even more flexible and forgiving of a bad cut than a differentionally hardened ones, albeit lacking a real hamon and just slightly duller on the cutting edge... But, modern smiths and mass producers outside Japan are, in various grades of successfulness, are trying to mimic, to some point, the look of the nihonto steel by folding it, in some cases by modern smiths forming a different aesthetics also worth of admiration...

    But, in most cases when out of Japan smith makes a katana, it is not near to nihonto (with some notable exceptions to this rule) and that is especially true of the mass produced katana... Why...? Well, in large part because the method of forge-folding is more expensive, and traditional stone polishing in all aspects identical to the Japanese would be insanely difficult and expensive over any and all measure of profit... That is more true of the mass produced blades, but to some degree holds true to the most non-Japanese smiths (but not all)...

    So, to make a long story short, for a modern mass produced user katana, non-folded would be a safer bet... For me personally, trying to buy a folded mass produces katana wouldn't satisfy me because I know how far from the original (nihonto) it really is... But, also, my personal preference would be a modern blade made with differential hardening producing a true hamon rather then the more resilient and less prone to bending uniformly hardened and tempered blade because I would like to have at least the hamon to remind me from where the katana comes, and maybe not to get too rave when cutting, imagining that since my katana didn't take a bend, I executed the technique perfectly...

    But, to each his own...


  5. #5
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    In a modern made "japanese style sword" folding has no use aside from aesthetism, with the quality and availibility of steel we have today. But a perfectly well folded blade will get you more respect than a stock removal blade.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Remy B View Post
    But a perfectly well folded blade will get you more respect than a stock removal blade.
    That's weird. True, but weird..

    folded steel blades are;
    a) stronger? - no, possibly more fragile actually (increased possibility of flaws)
    b) more flexible? - good question, one that I can't answer
    c) lighter? - no, if it's the same volume of same material..
    d) better for cutting? - no
    e) more pure? - define "pure".. if you mean homogeneous, then nope.. if you mean traditional, then "slightly" is the word I'd use.
    Certified nerd; if you need an Excel sheet or an AutoCAD drawing done, just drop me a PM!

  7. #7
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    Well, if anyone is worried about the performance of stock removal CNC machined blades (not in general but some that are properly executed), just think 'Agnus Trim' and remember what proper geometry, proper hardening and tempering of a proper modern steel alloy blade can do for it's performance, and at VERY accessible prices...


  8. #8
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    chinese folded just aint pretty IMO

    For a display sword as a talking point for dinner guests get a nice high end folded katana ,
    If your after a performance sword you end to cut/train with , go for a monosteel none folded blade , a differentially hardened monosteel blade is still pretty enough if the hamon is done well and not enhanced to death

    as well as the 10xx modern steels we have great tool steels for weapons grade stock - 5160 , L6, 9260 etc Its all about heat treating , tempering , stress relief - the steels we now have and the technology and knowledge out there
    its never been better for none folded blades.

    To echo sentiments here already - chinese 'hada' is so far removed from the easthetic of nihonto , it has become a bad characature on some swords - indeed some hada looks like poor mans damascus as opposed to the tight grain structure of traditonally folded tamahagane steel .

    eye popping frosty white hamon and swirly wavy hada used to float my boat but now I see it as like when a woman wears too much make up to look like something she isnt - its an illusion .

    my last purchase before the UK ban will be a folded blade along with hopefully a gunto - the folded production blade will almost certainly be repolished at some time to 'dumb' down the heavy etching effects of the hada and hamon .

    A well burnished mune and shinogi ji , a nice tight itame with a subtle mokume grain pattern married to a subtle sughua hamon - - aaah smell that coffee and someone loan me $15 K , please
    Last edited by michael wilson; 12-27-2007 at 05:05 PM.
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  9. #9
    holy hell there is alot more to learn that i realized... lol

    I gotta go study up on all these terms you guys use... some of this is spanish to me, but i get the point.


    For example... i own the Hanwei Musashi Daito. It is forged high crabon (this is what you guys are calling "monosteel" right?), and also has a very nice looking Hamon, at least to me...

    Then there is one like the Tiger... which is folded, but other wise looks to be very similar. Would the Tiger's folded blade be worth the extra money? (lets assume that all the fittings and materials are the same in both, for the moment)
    Last edited by Jordan M.; 12-27-2007 at 07:21 PM.

  10. #10
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    Timo, it is the amount of skill required to obtain a good, flawless folded blade that fetch you respect, not its stats. Thats for newly produced steel, that is.

    Edit to add: When i say folded, of course i exclude the crappy premade damascus bars most chinese "forges" use
    Last edited by Remy B; 12-27-2007 at 07:40 PM.

  11. #11
    Could someone elaborate on "Nihonto"?

    Any reading on the subject? im interested now...

  12. #12
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    Nihonto would refere to old traditionaly made japanese swords, blade that are newly made using traditional japanese method are called gendaito, these are made by smiths that have apprentise with one master for at least 5 years.

    Nihonto steel, tamahagane is made from satetsu or iron sand, this iron sand is smelted to produce this tamahagane that is forged and folded to strenghten the steel etc etc. very complicated process really, this is why blades that arent entirely made using this method will end up being called a production blade.

    i recommand this book as a good starter : http://www.orientalbookshop.com/si/24585.html

  13. #13
    Jordan, the folded blade of the tiger will be worth the extra money if you think that the folded look is worth it.
    It will not be worth it in terms of performance.

    Remy, I was under the impression that a gendaito was also a nihonto.
    Nihonto only meaning japanese sword,
    and gendaito i belive means sword made in Japan during modern times,
    or something to that effect.
    A shinsakuto will be a newly produced sword (in japan).

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, still trying to get my head around all this.

  14. #14
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    Correct Eirik, but collectors use the term Nihonto to design "old traditionaly made japanese blades" that exclude newly made one that are generaly called gendaito/shinsakuto etc.

    This is just a way to avoid confusion really, since most collector are generaly only interested in old blades.

    Nihon - japan, To - sword
    Last edited by Remy B; 12-28-2007 at 11:31 AM.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jordan M. View Post
    For example... i own the Hanwei Musashi Daito. It is forged high crabon (this is what you guys are calling "monosteel" right?)
    "Monosteel" has nothing to do with carbon, folding etc. It simply means one kind of steel (same carbon content) is used unlike pattern welded steel (="damascened" steel), which means two or more different kinds of steel (with different carbon content) are welded & folded together.

    Strictly speaking, folded japanese swords are made from Monosteel too, because the folded steel is not generated from different steel layers. The layers are all the same steel.

    Here in this context the term "Monosteel" is used (misleadingly - me too ;-) to define "non folded steel".
    Every "unfolded" steel is "Monosteel" (except Wootz etc.) but that does not mean that Monosteel is always unfolded!
    Last edited by Andi B.; 12-28-2007 at 12:10 PM.
    Best regards

    Andi B.

  16. #16
    Jordan, if your gonna use the sword for cutting, might i suggest the Tori katana. It is folded steel and I'm told by several sources, who know more bout swords and tameshigiri than i do, that it cuts the best out of all the hanwei blades. I wouldn't know, myself, as the only folded blades from hanwei i've cut with are the Orchid and the Zatoichi.
    Alright! You and your bastages can gamble. But don't try no fargin' trick, otherwise you wind up with your bells in a sling!

  17. #17
    I was reading an article on some web site that described japanese swords that were made with the Softer steel in the core for flexiblity, and then a hard, differenetially tempered outer shell for cutting and stregth.

    What is this kind of "wrapped" blade called, if this is true....? And are any modern production blades made this way?


    EDIT: I was looking around and it looks as though the Hanwei Paper Crane is made this way... "Tamahagane" steel. I geuss this is what yall have been talking about. lol guess i answered my own question.

    How many swords are out there of true Nihonto quality for people like me to own? is the Paper Crane really that good?

    How much better are they than monosteel? (am i asking enough questions yet? lol)
    Last edited by Jordan M.; 12-28-2007 at 08:51 PM.

  18. #18
    you could always save a couple bucks and find a good deal on a Dynasty forge Tri-Fold. There good quality. Im having Aaron do a polish job on this one.


  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jordan M. View Post

    How many swords are out there of true Nihonto quality for people like me to own? is the Paper Crane really that good?

    How much better are they than monosteel? (am i asking enough questions yet? lol)

    No production blade will ever match a nihonto, be it old or newly made, it is like comparing apple to steak.
    As a side note, alot of old nihonto are more affordable than newly made nihonto, this is because of the current law in japan prohibating smiths from forging more than 2 swords a month. Since these smiths have to earn a living too, they are forced to sell at ridiculous price.

  20. #20
    So what makes the old Nihonto Blades so much better?

    Say for example, you had the best, ancient Japanese sword ever created in history.... In what ways would it be better than a high end production sword these days?

    (And to ask again... is that Paper Crane sword made in the real Nihonto fashion?)

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jordan M. View Post
    So what makes the old Nihonto Blades so much better?

    Say for example, you had the best, ancient Japanese sword ever created in history.... In what ways would it be better than a high end production sword these days?

    (And to ask again... is that Paper Crane sword made in the real Nihonto fashion?)
    Simply put, a nihonto has a history, a timeline and a soul.
    It has a creator that made it using only hand tools and ages old techniques passed down from master to apprentice for generations.
    It have had countless of "owners" or keepers, that took good care of it during the ages...
    It has been drawn countless of time out of its several saya, sometime to showoff, sometime to kill.
    It has earned my respect as a work of art and a unique piece of history.

    .. Did this blade live a peaceful life as a shrine blade or did it wage war until it has settle down in a merchant' house for some time before ending up in the cellar of your grampa who got it from japan back in WWII?

    That is why, in my humble opinion, a production blade will never match a nihonto, even if it does.

    (that is also why nihonto collectors furiously hate to see a blade that got put to the grinder)

  22. #22
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    Oh and no Jordan, the paper crane isnt made the nihonto way but it doesnt make it bad in itself.

  23. #23
    Jordan, this style of 'wrapping' is called kobuse.
    It is one way that traditional japanese swords are/were made, but not the only.
    There are other lamination techniques and inserted edges, and I belive very few production blades are made in these ways.

    And I agree with Remy about the Nihonto,
    an antique sword was made in a time when it was meant to be a weapon.
    This in my opinion makes it incomparable to a newly made sword, even a shinsakuto.
    A shinsakuto on the other hand is a continuation of the traditions involved in making the Japanese sword, at all levels.
    This makes it very special in my opinion.
    Still overpriced though, I'd rather buy an antique.

  24. #24
    Jordan,

    I can highly recomment this book to read about the technique of Japanese swordmaking:

    The Craft of the Japanese Sword

    One thing should not be forgotten:
    Old Nihonto are made as real weapons - the newly made blades aren't. They are the real "Japanese Swords"!

    And: Many (of course not all) Nihonto are pieces of art - the Chinese reproductions (also the high quality ones) aren't, they are off-the-shelf created for modern guys (like us) just for fun.
    Best regards

    Andi B.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Remy B View Post
    No production blade will ever match a nihonto, be it old or newly made,it is like comparing apple to steak....

    Did you say steak?....Mmmmm....steak..<drools>

    Sorry skipped lunch
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