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Thread: Martialartswords.com Custom L6 Review

  1. #1
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    Martialartswords.com Custom L6 Review

    By way of background, I study Nakamura Ryu Batto-Do in Guy Power Sensei's dojo located in Mountain View, California. http://www.webdiva4hire.com/kenshinkan/

    In early September I decided to place an order for a Custom L6 with competition geometry from http://www.martialartswords.com. I'd heard good things about their sword's durability while I was visiting Dave Drawdy's dojo this past summer. (It seems like every time I visit Drawdy, I end up buying a new sword...) The sword arrived a few days before Thanksgiving (definitely one more thing to be thankful for) and after two months of waiting, I unwrapped my prized package...


    Out of the Box

    Initial impressions as I took it out of the box... This sword is definitely light, much lighter than the blade I'm normally used to swinging, which is a Darryl Guertin Nobukuni. The reason for the light weight is that it's thinner than my Nobukuni. Thickness of the Nobukuni is .25 inches while the L6 is about .20 inches.
    • The blade's lines are nice! Very crisp and well-defined.
    • Tsuka feels solid, no rattling when swung.
    • Two bamboo mekugi. The second mekugi seems to be rather high on the tsuka, which makes me suspect that the nakago tapers a bit near the end.
    • Tsukaito is nice and tight. I got the bare-bones fittings since for me, the blade is more important and I plan to have Fred Lohman customize the fittings later on.
    • Sword balance is approximately 6 inches in front of the tsuba.

    I did a standard paper-shaving test, with regular computer paper and some thicker stock paper, the glossy type used for those Chinese food delivery menus. The blade sliced both with no problem. I wasn't able to get thin shavings on the regular paper, but was definitely able to do it with the heavier paper. This sword is definitely very sharp out of the box!


    A Little Kata

    The sword is very fast and light. In fact, it feels just like my one and only SwordStore Iaito which I bought ten years ago back when SwordStore was Cutting Edge Technologies. It feels good in the hands and is not unwieldy. I've got more tip control than with my Nobukuni because this one is more properly balanced, as opposed to being tip heavy.


    A Little Tameshigiri

    Power Sensei was doing promotions last night, so I had the opportunity to do some tameshigiri. The mats were mostly for the students who were testing, but I got to try my hand at a few of the remaining mats.
    • kesa-giri = very smooth. In fact, I didn't feel the blade go into the target, and it had a nice 35 degree angle. Clean slice.
    • gyaku-kesa = Power Sensei asked me to do all gyaku-kesa on one target. Again, it was nice and smooth with no resistance. I decided on my last gyaku-kesa to do a half swing -- half the power and momentum -- and again it was a clean slice with no resistance.


    Minor nitpicking...
    • The blade is polished with a mirror finish, so it almost has a "stainless steel look to it". (MAS offers a "hand polish" option which I think will give it a more natural look as opposed to the results of the mirror polish.)
    • The hamon doesn't stand out right away (probably due to the mirror polish option).
    • No Yokote. I would have preferred to see a Yokote. In fact, Power Sensei commented on the lack of a Yokote as well.
    • It only has one seppa, between the habaki and the tsuba. I figure if it were Japanese-style, it should have the two.
    • The saya is well-made, though there's a small sliver in there that is putting a small scratch on the blade. Nothing bad though, but it's down far enough on the blade that it can't be because of my draw or noto.
    • Power Sensei mentioned that the ridges of the tsukaito needed to be hammered down a bit as they stick up a bit too much.

    Again, this is just minor nitpicking. I could have spent more money on upgraded fittings and services, but I chose not to and instead stuck with the absolute basic model.


    Final Thoughts

    I've held a Howard Clark L6 before and was amazed at how light it was for kata. The L6 by MartialArtSwords.com was just as light and just a fast as the Clark blade. This blade was made for me. I stated the length of the blade and the handle. I chose a specific geometry and the swordsmith and craftsmen did an excellent job. It cut very well right out of the box. For the price I paid, I got an unbelievably nice sword that I know will serve me for many years to come in both kata and cutting.
    Last edited by J. Mijares; 12-11-2006 at 12:58 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Texas
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    569
    Nice! I was wondering about these aswell, now I'm really tempted to buy one. Did you buy it for a kata blade or for heavy cutting? I thought most people preferred a heavier blade when doing cutting, what made you want to go with a lighter blade?

    Thanks!

    Brian
    "He was an angel once, he didn't mean to fall. He just hung out with the wrong people..."

    Good Omens

  3. #3
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    Initially I wanted it just for cutting, but when I started using it for kata, I realized that it's got great balance for that as well.

    I've used tip-heavy blades for a while and they're nice because they feel like they just want to drive right into a piece of makiwara. Having cut with a SwordStore steel iaito with bo-hi, I've discovered that you don't necessarily need a heavy blade for cutting. You can do a double roll of makiwara with it, but it takes a little more strength and speed. In fact, there's video of the late Nakamura Sensei doing dodan-giri with a katana with a bo-hi and he went through four makiwara! Tip-heavy has its advantages because of momentum, but a light blade with the competition geometry does well too.

    Jay

  4. #4
    The traditional geometry version has a slight but true yokote. The TX and competition geometries do not.

    Let's see some pictures!
    "It is my feeling that to make a good sword, one must make a weapon first, and art second. But if it is really "right", it is both things at once, and in equal measure." -- Howard Clark

    "I cannot compensate for improper use of a sword. Nothing is bullet proof and idiots prove on a regular basis that nothing is idiot-proof -- they're just too creative." -- Keith Larman

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    A very positive review. Hopefully someone will take a look at their TX series sometime. I'd like to see how it stacks against the traditional/competition, the website makes it sound as if they are more optimized (even compared to the competition models) for light targets.

  6. #6
    I owned the prototype for the current L6 "traditional" model, in the hand polished version.

    These are very, very nice swords. They are fast, with great balance, and put together well. Polish on the blade is excellent, with crisp planes, and a very well formed kissaki, rare in a production blade.

    Overall I was really impressed, and the only "flaws" I noticed were not functional, but aesthetic and therefore subjective. By this I mean what bothered me may not bother you:

    1) The sori on my particular blade was almost nonexistent. Definitely shallower than the sword in the photos provided by the company. Not a bad thing per se, just made it a bit of an outlier in comparison to most historical nihonto. (Were there historical nihonto with very shallow sori? Sure.)

    2) The fittings (F/K, seppa) on my prototype were engraved with a very non-Japanese flower/vine motif. Almost Victorian English. And the silver was...very flashy. These were "ok" to me, but -had I kept the blade- I would have swapped them out for something far simpler and less showy, like a basic Higo with a black or brown patina.

    3) Lastly the shaping of the nakago was, in spite of the name, completely non-traditional. Sort of rectangular, short, and not very wide. Worked fine, just not pretty to look at. It would be nice to know if you disassembled the blade that you could feel like you were looking at an actual nihonto.

    Again, the model I am describing was the immediate predecessor to the one mentioned above, so maybe these things have been changed as the line evolves.

    Overall I thought it a terrific sword for the money, and will probably buy one again.

    PS Customer service/ communication with the company is excellent, and usually you'll deal with the owner himself. Can't say better than that!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
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    I'll have pics posted of the blade itself this coming weekend. Sadly, I don't have any pictures of it in action because my camera's batteries ran out by the time we got to the tameshigiri portion. Besides, it was the student's night for testing; I just helped take care of the leftovers. However, we'll be cutting again in February or March and I'll make sure to get some still pictures and video at that time.

    Regarding the TX, when I spoke with Brian at MAS about it, he said that the shinogi-ji is smaller than the Competition model. The shinogi-ji on the Competition model appears to be 1/4 the width of the blade while on the TX it appears to be 1/5th.

    What actually attracted me to the Competition model was that its proportions matched that of a sword the late Nakamura Sensei used, which had what he called a "high shinogi".

    As for customer service and communication, dealing with Brian and Stephan was a pleasure. They kept in constant contact each step of the way. Now that's great customer service!

  8. #8
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    Pictures

    Pictures as promised...

    First two pictures show the tsuka of a gunto (top), MAS L6 (middle), and my Darryl Guertin Nobukuni (bottom).

    Third picture is dark, but you can see the kissaki. Chu-kissaki for the Nobukuni, and o-kissaki for the MAS L6. The gunto also has a chu-kissaki.

    Fourth picture shows four swords. Osuriage katana (top), gunto, MAS L6, and Nobukuni (bottom). Here you can see the sori of the MAS L6 as it compares to the others.

    Fifth picture shows the tsuka of the MAS L6 with a magnet on it. So the nakago of the MAS L6 is quite long. Proportionate to the size of the handle, which is good. I haven't yet taken the tsuka off, but hope to next weekend.

    Jay
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    Last edited by J. Mijares; 12-17-2006 at 03:22 PM.

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