Sword Buyers Digest - Issue 143, February 2020
Welcome to the first issue of 2020!

Good to be back - and boy, do I have a lot of stuff to tell you all..

As many of you may know, I spent a good portion of the last 2 months traveling in Japan - first to spend time with my daughter in snowy Hokkaido for a White Christmas and New Years - then on to Tokyo for a short time and finally, up to Seki city - which will be the focus of a major new article on Japanese Swords - and a brand new project for SBG (actually, several projects, but the first of which is being released TODAY - and you guys will be the first to know about it!).

Catching up on the backlog of work after I got back and running all these projects plus writing this issue of the digest has seen me stretched a bit thin of late, but the fact that you have this in your inbox shows that at least we are on track for the month - so without any further ado, let's get straight into this jam packed issue shan't we?
Swords in the News
Positive Sword Related Stories in the News
There is no doubt that custody trials can get downright nasty and bring out the worst in people. But this Kansas man, enraged by the situation, has demanded a court ordered 'trial by combat' as technically trial by combat has never been officially banned or restricted in the USA..!

Hand made by Artur Wysocki, these stunningly beautiful, fully functional replicas of the Witcher Sword are true works of sword art in steel. Check out the associated video to see them in their full glory.
You may disagree with this list, but there is little doubt that the sword designs from anime come from a rich and fertile imagination. Even if physics may disagree at times..
I wish I had seen this one before my trip to Tokyo earlier last month.. But the Tokyo based hamburger joint 'Shogun Burger' has teamed up with Seki city to offer cool, hand forged mini-katana with every order..! "Did you want a Katana with that?" is not something you hear at the drive through very often.

Commentator Andrew Klavan hates the scenes in the Witcher where the women can fight like, and against, men. But is this a realistic assessment or an outdated way of thinking? Read the article and make up your own mind.

Two famous national treasure level Nihonto on display at the Kasuga Shrine, Nara were believed to have been linked at birth and have long been regarded as related to each other, 'brothers' if you will. But this deep investigation shows is an insight into how to evaluate a Nihonto, and reveals this may not be the case at all.. Fascinating article.

Once famous the world over, could this be the last bastion of the Toledo Sword Smithing tradition. In a city famous for its medieval swords even to this day, it is sad to see that the true artisans are, like in so many places in the world today, on the edge of disappearing forever..

An inspiring article about the benefits Kalari training has brought to a group of young women and girls in North Kerala, India. As is always the case, sword training strengthens the mind, feeds the spirit and leads to a balanced, better life..
Nihonto in Japan - My Visit to Seki City
As many readers of the digest will know from the previous issue in December 2019, from the tail end of December until mid January last month I was in Japan - first spending my time in snowy Hokkaido with my 12 year old daughter - a short visit to Osaka and Tokyo, and then - spending time with a Japanese sword smith and his American English teacher friend.

To say the trip was as awesome as it sounds is an understatement. Hokkaido had always been a dream location for me to visit ever since I first came to Japan, as being from Australia, I can count the number of times I have seen snow on one hand. And Hokkaido did not disappoint, leaving powder snow everywhere almost everyday.
And like snow, until this trip the number of times I had seen and handled genuine antique Nihonto was also something I could count on one hand. Up until this trip, I had seen plenty behind glass, but only handled and disassembled a very few..

Here are the first two that I was able to check out personally, going over each blade with a fine tooth-comb..
It was something of a surreal experience - handling these blades, almost all of which were at least 200 years old, but some considerably older - such as this stunning Tanto with Dragon Horimono engraving that dates back over 700 years that literally drips history from it and has a very strong presence that is hard to describe in words..
While not every sword was as well preserved, each had its own unique story and history behind it - much of which had been lost and could not only be guessed at. But this is part of what makes Nihonto appreciation what it is - the deep sense of wonder and mystery that each blade holds is palpable.

In addition to checking out these antiques first hand, I was also fortunate enough to be personally shown around the 'Sekikaji Densho Kan' Sword Museum by the Sword Smith Shinsuke-san, also known as Kanemasa II - which serves as a hub for the local blacksmiths and is also home to a stunning collection of truly beautiful national treasure level antiques.
But not only that, I was even able to spend time at his forge and try my hand at blacksmithing a small knife made from Tamagahane..!

All of this is detailed in my recent article - 'Antique Samurai Swords, a Personal Journey' - as is some of the new things I learned and clarified about Japanese swords, including:

  • What we call a Ko-katana is not a Ko-katana. A Ko-Katana is the blade of a Kozuka knife, what we call a Ko-Katana should properly be called an 'O-Wakizashi'..
  • Tamahagane, also know as Wako, can be made with a small personal Tatara known as a Ko-tatara and is often made from older steel items such as gun barrels, nails or other antiques in their own right.
  • That I am NOT a natural talent at smithing, attemting to make a small knife from Tamahagane and instead making, well - a duck...
  • That out of the 300 registered Swordsmiths in Japan, only about 30 are active and of those 30, most are not able to do it full time..
  • That the domestic market for Nihonto has well and truly tanked and prices of antique swords have plummeted..

These last two bits of information had me quite concerned - for until this trip I had always imagined that Japanese Sword Smiths must be quite well off and demand far outstripped supply despite there being 300 odd smiths registered as Sword makers.

But the reality could not be further from this - after all, when you consider that to make a new Nihonto requires $3000 worth of hand polishing by a specialist Togishi, $500 for a basic habaki and $2000 for a basic hand made Shirasaya - after the cost of materials, labor and utilities, the humble smith who sells the finished sword doesn't pocket much..

And with Japan's rapidly aging population, seeing many of the smiths retiring or literally dropping like flies, the industry there is hit by a double whammy - with a poor economy and aging population effecting sales and production, the whole situation is actually quite dire..

And to add insult to injury, the Shinsuke-sans forge and workshop, which is right by the banks of a winding wild river, was badly damaged by a flash flood about 2 years ago and he has not been in a position to recover much of what was lost or water damaged in this most unfortunate incident..

And so, in typical SBG style, the three of us sat down and decided what to do about it. Below is a picture of the 'A-team' with Chris Loeber on the left, Shinsuke-san in the middle and yours truly to the right.
The first part of our plan is simple enough - to SELL the antiques we have available, passing on the heavy discounts we are able to now get them at and offering them on to Nihonto fans all around the world..

To start out with, we have a total of 7 Katana (2 of which are recently made Gendaito, going out for less than 1/3rd of the price they would cost to make new), 1 old blade in Gunto fittings (under $2000), a truly amazing Edo Period Daisho set with original fittings, a very cool looking Edo period Koshirae set, a Wakizashi, a 700 year old Tanto (pictured) and a large collection of antique hand made menuki and tsubas.

Check out what we currently have to offer here:
And in the meantime, after very length discussions with Shinsuke-san, we are in the early stages of a truly revolutionary approach to Japanese made swords that we will be revealing over the coming months as he creates the protoypes and we figure out all the costs involved and how to make it all work..

But if it goes to plan, we may well soon find some genuinely Japanese made practical cutting swords soon to hit the market and help to revive a flagging industry, and help Shinsuke-san rebuild his forge bigger and better than ever before..

So stay tuned for that one, in the meantime - check out what we have available to buy right now and hope you enjoy the detailed article about my trip and everything I learned on the main site here:

Special Digest Readers Poll:
Is there anything you want from JAPAN?
Chris Loeber, the gentleman pictured on the left in the article above, is a very resourceful fellow. One of his skills is that if someone wants something, he is able to find it - no matter how obscure. And so, in addition to the Nihonto and other special projects we are working on, he wanted me to ask you guys if there is anything in Japan that you would like him to source for you?

For example, when I was in Hakodate in Hokkaido, I stumbled upon a 'Samurai' themed shop selling all kinds of Samurai themed knick knacks, and as my daughter is also a sword fan (did she really have a choice? It is in the DNA!) we bought all kinds of cool stuff. Here's one of my favorites, the coolest handkerchiefs ever made..
If Japan makes it and you want it, we can get it!

So please take a moment to look over the following poll and if there is something listed there that you would be interested in buying, let us know and if we can identify some popular product categories, we will make them available!
Which of the following products from Japan are you most interested in?
Sword stands, polishing stones and cleaning kits
Samurai & Ninja themed stationary (pens, mousepads, etc)
T-shirts and apparel
Katana Keychains and Mini-Katana
Shuriken and Ninja Related Stuff
Traditional Japanese Clothing
Mogito and Iaito
Japanese Bokken and Shinai
Japanese Kitchen Knives
Scrolls and Wallhangings
If there is something else that you are looking for in particular that isn't on the list or you would like us to follow up on as a serious inquiry just let me know by replying to this email and we will see what Chris can come up with for you!
New at the SBG Sword Store
In addition to not just one but FIVE new swords added to the Forge Direct Chinese New Year Mega-Sale (more on this later in this edition of the digest, but for those who want to jump ahead click here to see what is on offer) we added two new Dao, two new additions to the budget 1045 carbon steel Ryujin 'Art Sword' line, the return of the Ryujn Custom Wakizashi series and two cool new designs from our friends at Scorpion Swords!

Click here to see the full lowdown on each new product line here in the store blog

In the meantime, here's the new swords:
NEW Cutting Dao from Hanwei. Second sword designed by Scott Rodell - available for just $362.98 ($490 at Cas Iberia).
65mn Spring Steel Willow Leaf Dao by Ryujin is an absolute steal at $149.99..
The Ryujin Blue Sakura 1045 carbon steel art blade series sword. Blue ito with battle wrap. $69.99
Ryujin Green Battle Dragon Art Sword, also with battle wrap. Just $64.99
Ryujin Custom Wakizashi - with bo-hi. DH T10 Tool Steel Blade. $199.99
Ryujin Custom Wakizashi - solid bodied blade. Also $199.99
Doomsday Boarding Axe # 001, design by Jason Woodard - $229.99
Second Orc themed blade by Scorpion, the Orc Chopper: yours for $274.99
Video of the Month
Anyone who knows anything about Japanese swords knows that the best cutting blades are and probably always will be made via the traditional method in Japan. But while the sword itself is important, the person wielding it determines how well it will cut or not..

This video from Japan eminently demonstrates this fact - with cut after cut being attempted on a wide variety of Tatami Omote showing that if you don't use the right technique, it really doesn't matter how sharp or how good the blade is.
Best Forum Posts
Seems that one of the China based eBayers has claimed one of China's national treasured smiths as one of their own - despite the fact that they specialize in cheapo swords and the smith charges hundreds of thousands for his art.. I weigh in, and the eBay fans rush to the defense.. Very sad..

The JSA community loses yet another one of its icons - rest in peace Mr. Larman.

With only a few posts under their belt, new member 'Misterurahara' shares and distills what they have learned in a single post. Not bad - welcome to SBG!

With the interest in HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) Blossoming around the world, it begs the question. What would the training have been like back in the day? Thought provoking and interesting thread.
A new fantasy sword design taking shape
While the future of the Legendary Swords website, the project that we mothballed after a couple of years trial and error (mostly error) remains up in the air, at least some good continues to come from it..

Inspired by the work BCI did for the Sakkala Sword - we had one customer contact us to make a special custom sword request. However, as we noted in the Sakkala Sword write up, to make it economical usually requires a larger order than 1pc. So, on the assumption that some other people would also want a really well made replica of that famous sword, we are making it a single short limited edition run of them!

You can read more over on the Legendary Swords.com blog here - but in the meantime, here is a teaser pic of the project to date..
Personally I think they have definitely done it justice - and if all goes to plan, we should be offering them for sale shipped direct from the BCI workshop in the Philippines mid to late February.

So definitely something fans of functional fantasy swords, and Zelda aficionados in particular will no doubt be interested in!
New Discounted Chinese Swords from Forge Direct - the Baojian Forge
As you may know, right now we are in the middle of the Forge Direct Chinese New Year Mega-sale - where literally EVERY traditional Chinese sword in the Forge Direct collection is discounted from 25-40% to celebrate the Chinese New Year festivities - Novel Coronavirus be damned.. (don't worry, you won't get infected from a box!).

And we kick it off with the release of not one but FIVE gorgeous new designs from the Baojian Forge, who are well known and respected for their production of premium quality, fully functional Chinese Jian and Dao.

So without any further ado, here are the new designs in all their glory, starting with:
The Cloud Dragon Dao
A true bargain hunters delight - the Baojian forges entry level Dao is the perfect companion to the similarly priced Classic Peony Jian, just $599.99 - but discounted by 25% down to $449.99 until the 7th of February (all inclusive price - FREE worldwide shipping).

Two Handed Gem Dao
At the other end of the spectrum is another Dao, this one a big, bad two handed fighting Dao - ornately decorated with premium brass fittings and 83 red and green jade gemstones while sporting a folded, differentially hardened blade. Normally would be $1795, but with 40% off, is now just $1077.

Spring Flower Yi-Dao
The Dao theme counties with the original Tang Dynasty Dao that was the prototype for both later period Dao as well as the Japanese Katana and the Korean Jingum (plus, in a round-a-bout way, modern ideas of a Ninjato). Amazingly detailed, it is normally $1350 but down to $1012.50 as part of the CNY Mega-Sale.

Brass Dragon Han Sword
A recreation of a blade made by the Han Chinese during the Warring States period, this incredibly sturdy piece is functionality personified - and features beautifully hand crafted brass fittings on the austere fighting blade - normally $1,300 but available now for $975..

Red Copper Ruyi
Last but definitely not least, one of my favorites - the super cool looking red copper Ruyi sword - featuring an incredible folded steel blade with some of the nicest and most unique looking fittings I have seen. 40% off on this one brings the price crashing down from $1795 to just $1077.

Of course, this is just a fraction of the total number of designs this sale has marked down - now there is a total of 36 swords (and one spear) all marked down from 25 to 40%..! Check them all out by clicking the link below:
Sale ends Midnight, February 7th 2020
Well that is it for this issue of the digest - and boy has it been a busy month getting to it..

But things are about to get even busier, so I will take a couple of days off to recharge my batteries before rejoining the fray. In the meantime, hope you enjoyed this issue and found something of interest - so until next issue, take care and Happy Swordening!

  • Paul