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Thread: Hanwei Practical Plus Katana (picture intensive)

  1. #1

    Thumbs up Hanwei Practical Plus Katana (picture intensive)

    Preamble

    I decided to add a 'user' katana to my collection, but I didn't want to spend alot on it. Quite simply put, I already have a pre-paid Howard Clark 1086 being polished and mounted by Rick Barrett, and spending $300 - $1000 on a 'user' katana did not seem right to me. After all, the best is yet to come and when it does, it will definitely overshadow any production blade I could buy.

    So I went looking around. I have owned or used several katana over the years. Of those that are under $300 in price, I have handled the 4th Gen. Practical Katana, the 1st Gen. Kris Cutlery 29 katana, 2nd Gen. Kris Cutlery 26 Katana, and a current model Kris Cutlery 26 Katana. I have, of course, handled custom and high end katana, and thus I know what to expect in a production blade.

    I looked at a number of inexpensive katana that could be dismounted, and narrowed it down to the Hanwei PPK. Didn't like the rest for some reason or another (ie. poor bo-hi, crude appearance, clunky, no differential hardening, etc.)

    Preamble

    I decided to add a 'user' katana to my collection, but I didn't want to spend alot on it. Quite simply put, I already have a pre-paid Howard Clark 1086 being polished and mounted by Rick Barrett, and spending $500 - $1000 on a 'user' katana did not seem right to me. After all, the best is yet to come and when it does, it will definitely overshadow any production blade I could buy.

    So I went looking around. I have owned or used several katana over the years. Of those that are under $300 in price, I have handled the 4th Gen. Practical Katana, the 1st Gen. Kris Cutlery 29 katana, 2nd Gen. Kris Cutlery 26 Katana, and a current model Kris Cutlery 26 Katana. I have, of course, handled custom and high end katana, and thus I know what to expect in a production blade.

    I looked at a number of inexpensive katana that could be dismounted, and narrowed it down to the Hanwei PPK. Didn't like the rest for some reason or another (ie. poor bo-hi, no differential hardening, crude-looking, clunky, marketing B.S., etc).

    After a week of research, I bit the bullet and plunked down the money. I bought it from Mark Sloughter of Wholesale Imports Direct. He's an Ebay retailer with the email of HanweiDirect@aol.com and he sold me a PPK for approx. $230 (shipping included to Canada, via USPS). Mark was courteous, helpful and did his best to make my buying experience a good one. I'm very happy with his service.

    The box had taken a fairly big hit during shipping, which broke through the cardboard. No damage to the sword, though. The blade came in a black swordbag, suspended in 3 places by hard foam inserts and cushioned on all sides by foam peanuts. I'm convinced these are the reasons why my saya didn't get dinged by the shipping hit.

    I knew that the tsuka would be a tad too long for my taste, so I prepared by reading SFI's article on tsuka shortening, and gathering the necessary tools.






    Basic stats:
    Tsuka: 12"
    Nakago: 9.75" (double-pinned with bamboo mekugi)

    Nagasa: 28.25" from base of habaki, 27.5" from tip of habaki
    Hamon: Gunome

    Habaki: Brass
    Seppa: Brass (filemark design)

    Mihaba: approx. 1 1/8" near the tsuba, 1 1/16" halfway up blade, and a little over 3/4" near the kissaki
    Kasane: approx. 1/4" near the tsuba, 7/32" halfway up blade, and around 3/16" near the kissaki

    Tsuba: Tsukashi kiku design (chrysanthenum)
    Fuchi/Kashira/Menuki: Dogwood motif/Dogwood Motif/Shi-shi dogs

    Sageo: An awful black nylon thing (will soften up when washed)
    Swordbag: Black cotton with purple lining

    First impressions

    I had requested that Mark pick one that is light and sharp, with nothing loose. I got exactly that - it feels quite light, it cuts through paper very easily, and everything appears to be tight. The ito is either leather or a synthetic leather. I prefer this IMMENSELY over cotton because it provides a better grip, doesn't look like it'll fray and it looks much nicer.






    The tsuka is the usual Hanwei slab of wood, straight and not curved to follow the lines of the sword. In this case, the effect isn't so bad as one might think. It actually looks fairly good, to be honest. It fits my hands just fine, and doesn't feel thin at all. Same is real but low grade (small nodes) and in panels. It's still much better than fake, plastic same.

    Saya is a crackle-black all over (kuro ishime, I think) and has a slight texture which can be felt. It's more practical than the usual gloss black lacquer because it doesn't show fingerprints. The saya itself feels quite solid. Kojiri and kurigata appear to be horn because I can see the grain-lines in them. The inside of the saya is somewhat clean, with bits of wood and debris. No biggie.



    The blade has little to no niku, and the shinogi-ji is slightly angled towards the mune, which is of 'iori mune' shape. The yokote is cosmetic, but that's to be expected on a budget sword like this. I think of it more as a shobu-zukuri than a true shinogi-zukuri, but whatever floats your boat. Gunome hamon is healthy and does not dip too far towards the edge at any point. There is a good turnback at the boshi. This is a blade which appears to be designed for cutting light-medium targets, and for iai.

    Fuchi/Kashira are powder-coated brass, menuki is real brass, and the tsuba appears to be iron or steel. Plain, not too garish, and functional. I'm not about to spend money to get nicer fittings, not when the default ones work just fine.

    Frankly, I'm very impressed by the quality of this blade for the price I paid. This is at least 3 steps up from a regular Practical Katana in overall fit and finish, and well worth the difference in price.


    Shortening the tsuka






    Now, I got this PPK with the understanding that I would have to modify the tsuka length to suit my taste. 12" of tsuka seems excessive for me, especially when there is 'deadspace' in the tsuka (ie. parts of the tsuka not supported by the nakago on the inside). I dislike deadspace.

    First I got an idea of where the nakago would end in the tsuka. I tied an elastic to the ito one cross-over below where the kashira would go, then I undid the ito carefully, noting the way it was tied so I can retie it exactly. The kashira was glued on, so it took a bit of effort to get it off. I got a handheld powersaw and cut through the tsuka, then I used a coarse file to shape the end so it would fit in the kashira. Using a bit of glue myself, I attached the kashira, then retied the knots. The little plastic tool mentioned in the article is invaluable. You work the pointed ends under the wrap, sandwich the ito between the tool, then hold both ends of the tool and carefully pull the tool back out, making sure to put pressure on either end. Once everything was tied off, I cut the excess ito and tucked the ends under the crossovers.






    My tsuka had shortened from 12" down to 10.25" (measured from the tsuba to tip of kashira), and the balance point was now 5" from the tsuba. A balance point too close to the tsuba is not ideal for a cutting sword like a katana. Far from feeling clunky due to the changed balance point, it still felt light and well balanced in one hand. More importantly, the length of the tsuka is now supported by the nakago. As you can see from the pics, it came out pretty good for a first effort. You can also see the deadspace which I had cut off. The wood, by the way, is of surprisingly good quality. I also took this opportunity to shim the saya with some balsa wood and white glue.

    Summary

    I hold no illusions that the PPK is anything but a budget blade. It is not meant to be a substitute for a high end production blade, let alone custom work. It was designed to be a (more or less) traditionally made katana for the price conscious, and I think it excels in this aspect. Speaking for my personal sword as it sits now, with shortened tsuka, the only problem right now is that the tsuba is very slightly loose and that is only because I had dismounted the blade. A little shimming will fix that right up. Other than that, the sword is very acceptable for the price paid. Anybody looking for a dismountable and differentially hardened katana of decent quality for under $250 should seriously consider the Hanwei PPK. Buy it from reputable retailers or stores, and you shouldn't go wrong with it. My only recommendation is that one shorten the tsuka, but that's really a matter of personal taste.

    K. Mark
    July 15th, 2003.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Posts
    3,180

    Nice review

    Nice review, good detail. Looks like the handle modification went well. Hope you tell us about the Clark when it comes in.

    Dave
    Dave Drawdy
    "the artist formerly known as Sergeant Major"

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