Sword Buyers Digest - Issue 150, September 1st 2020
This month we celebrate 15 years of SBG!
It is hard to believe isn't it, but it has been 15 years since Sword Buyers Guide first got started. Well, actually it was officially registered in February 2005, but only by September - the month of my birthday - was the thing actually starting to really take shape.

In this issue, we will be looking not only at the past and how the sword industry has changed (for both better and for worse) over the last 15 years - but we will also be looking to the future.

So let's celebrate 15 years of Sword Buyers Guide.com together with this Special Issue.
15 years of Sword Buyers Guide
On this day in 2005, THIS is what Sword Buyers Guide looked like..

Though the Sword Buyers Digest was still a few months away from its first issue..

During this time I was working for a debt collection company, but my passion always had been swords.

And so, seeing the opportunity, I decided why not give it a go and try to share the little knowledge I had about swords at the time. And here we are 15 years later and we are still going strong and looking ahead to the future...
Whoever in their wildest dreams would imagine that 15 years later, not only would we have the biggest and most active Sword Forum in the world, but have been influential and shaping the industry and helping it to stay afloat during tough times, of which there have been plenty..

Fifteen Years - Huzzah!
I am a fairly modest guy by nature and still consider myself to be very much a beginning student scholar of the sword.

Yet despite this, I have traveled much of the world to visit the forges first hand - sharing my discoveries with you along with way - and only by being both a collector AND someone directly involved in the industry have I been able to gain insight into how swords are REALLY made and do away with so much of the speculation and guessing by enthusiasts that dominated the early years (and sadly, has made something of a comeback).
I'm not a fan of Facebook or social media in general - I prefer email or meeting face to face.

And so, when there once was an era of global travel, I saw forges in China, the Philippines, Cambodia and Japan to name the most prominent - and become firm friends with each along the way.

Along the way, many ideas occurred to me - things that someone SHOULD be doing, but no-one was stepping up to the plate to actually do them.

By 2006 we had, more or less by accident, ended up with a Sword Store of our own. You canm read about how this came about here. Hoever it was 2 years later that we really started to try our hand with two projects, both of which are extinct - ProSwords and the SBG Custom Katana and I began making my own designs such as the now often copied 'Torakami' T10 tool steel Katana
And the all black on black on black Kuramono ('Dark thing').
Visiting Forges - SBG gets serious
Fast forward a few years and I move to Japan and take my first trip to one of the largest forges in Longquan city, the mountainous sword making capital of China and PROJECT X was born.

Things were very different then, there were small forges and a few big ones like Jack Zheng, pictured with me as I show a clearly rather pleased reaction to one of the very first Project X Japanese blades ever made.

7 Years later, it's now available as a custom sword (indeed, as many of you who read the store blog will know, it's all I been talking about recently as we just opened the first and only batch on the 23rd of August and it was closed slightly oversold within 4 days).

This was 2 years after what I termed the end of the "Golden Age of Swords (2005-2010)" - but I was not going to let the downturn from the 2008 financial crisis destroy the industry. Not on my watch..
SIDENOTE: We just revived and updated a page from the old and now defunct 'Sword Manufactures Guide' called The Sword Industry: recent history and future directions..

In it I made some predictions back in 2010 about what the industry would be like in the 'future' - i.e. NOW! Have a read at the unedited guesses and see how accurate I was or wasn't. And see me take another stab at predicting what the industry might look like in another 10 years time..

I just hope they come up with an economical way to make high tech flexi-glass sword from synthetic green obsidian..
Obsidian can fracture down to one atom across and is 500 times sharper than we can get steel to be at its absolute sharpest (or something like that).

Now THAT would be your ultimate backyard cutter... But I digress, this is after all a sidenote, not a time to talk about the ultimate sword of the future..
(The Basic SBG Philosophy)

Indeed, while times were tough and many companies teetered on the edge of extinction (and quite a few did go under, some of whom were good personal friends) new companies started springing up all over the place to fill the void. But the basic model that had build the sword industry up had changed, and most forges in China have been dying a slow death for the last 10 years.

Add to this every sword maker now afraid to take a risk, the variety of swords on the market decreased dramatically, dominated by 'safe' products (i.e. Katana and Longswords) as few manufacturers wish to take any risks anymore..

So SBG decided if everyone else was only going to make Longswords and Katana, we would branch Project X in a new direction, and from it came one of our most interesting and successful collaborations to date, Project X - Forge Direct.

A branch out of the basic Project X idea to introduce a range of traditional Chinese swords and even fantasy 'Wuxia' pieces made by Masters Smiths.

Initially we were a bit reluctant to reveal them, but eventually we introduced them to you all, Masters like Michael Ye (pictured below) who is exceptionally skilled at Spinsteel and Windsteel, but can also make a quick but beautiful Jian.
Then there are the brothers Jiang, especially Master Xiaolong Jiang - whose series of Custom Katana (Forge Direct Custom Katana) are some of the finest Japanese style cutting swords we have ever seen (and during the current downtime, are further being refined and improved).
And then along came the biggest maker and specialist in Chinese swords, the famous Baojian Forge - growing Forge Direct grew into a powerhouse for premium quality, certified Master Smith Forged Chinese Swords not seen anywhere else (at least, not the real thing - there are plenty of fakes and copies).
Things were finally starting to turn a corner for the better, and the industry felt like it was taking more risks. We certainly were, starting an ambitious project that fell flat - the Legendary Swords Project - but out of it came some cool prizes, and truly original designs that I would love to find a way to make it work - and to some degree it still continues to this day, with a project coming very close to completion - a limited run of Zelda inspired Master Swords (which we hope will be ready in time for Christmas)..
But all of this came to a screeching halt as a certain animal to human Coronavirus variant of SARS made the human to human jump, and the world as we know it changed forever... (I recall watching the virus first reported as 'over' and the only transmissions were animal to human. By the time it came to leave Japan, it was already spreading around the world - very lucky for a good friend of mine whose new wife just got her fiance visa and moved to Australia in December, one month later and they would be separated and unable to even meet each other. So many sad stories like this must be commonplace).

Curiously, with more people at home bored - and others concerned about the possible total breakdown in society, sword and knife sales INCREASED - especially of the tactical style...

I'm not sure if Hanwei could see the future, but their A.P.O.C. line had 6 new models added just as the outbreak started getting serious - which makes for for a bit of a scary coincidence..
I suppose in many ways my philosophy on life is when it hands you a lemon, make lemonade!
What's Next?
Obviously when it comes to SBG Special Projects, I have to play my cards close to my chest and can't reveal everything. And some things, well, they just kind of 'happen'. But here's a few hints on where we are focusing for 2021 at least.
One is to work closer with Japanese Smiths to make a series of affordable dojo level cutters made in Japan by my friend and Japanese Swordsmith Shinsuke-san.

Another is to change up the direction of the Legendary Swords Project, deciding once and for all what it is and what it is not - after all, a project has not truly failed until you give up on it. Instead, I need to look at it from different angles to see what it really wants or needs to be and figure it out from there.

And Custom Swords...

Custom swords of all types and styles will be a big thing for SBG in 2021. And then there is the site itself, a professional overhaul is long overdue on every platform.

But overall, while the workload remains inhumanly high and biting off more than I can chew my standard modus operandi, I remain positive that despite many challenges to come, a way forward WILL be found and if I have my way, continue to grow, raise the standard for the industry, blow away the BS and do whatever it takes to ensure that the industry remains alive FOREVER..

Paul Southren
September 2020

Before I finish this short but nostalgic issue of the Digest, I have some sad news to report. ANOTHER of the old guard was lost this year - preceded by his wife just a few months earlier and his father not so long ago - we say goodbye to the one and the only Rick Williams...

Rick was with SBG since the beginning, and will be sorely missed. Personally, I want to see 2020 finished and over with as quickly as possible as it has been an awful year in almost every way - and losing good people like Rick and earlier Adrian Jordan, well, that just takes the cake.

R.I.P. brothers in swords. 2020 was never supposed to be like this.. The sooner this year is over, the better..
Well, that's it for this issue of the Sword Buyers Digest. Some of you may be missing the usual 'sword news', Video of the Month, Best Forum Posts, etc that most issues have. But unfortunately despite working 12 hour days 7 days a week, I just could not squeeze any more into this issue.

Basically, we need to overhaul the site and get more software to make life easier and so I can do more with less. So if you enjoy the digest and want to make a small donation, it will be used directly to improve the site and hire professionals to assist bring it up to speed.
Goal: To Finance Professionals to help overhaul the site, store, forum and newsletter!
Payment will be made through one of our subsidiary companies, Midgard Trading Pty Ltd.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who sent in a testimonial as requested last issue. I'm still adding them to the Digest Sign Up Page, so thanks so much to everyone who added their support. And what do you know, we even got a celebrity testimonial from a UFC champion!

P.P.S. Next month is another special edition, the spooky annual 'Halloween Special' then the November issue, the Christmas issue and we can kick kiss 2020 goodbye.