Sword Buyers Digest - Issue 139, September 2019
Lots to get through in this issue, with some varied sword news, a look at the last 5 Longship Armory Odin's Oar Swords, some info on tariffs (how they will effect the sword industry and a mini rant about China based sword sellers), cool vids, cool posts and lots of news - so without any further ado, let's get into it!
Swords in the News
Positive Sword Related Stories in the News
As a fan of the fantasy fan in general, I like a well balanced cool magical sword. But by the time we get to overpowered sword # 1 - it makes Clouds Buster Sword look historically accurate and takes it all just a little OTT..

While the sword industry worldwide is in a state of general decline, you might be surprised at the thriving trade in low to high end blades being made in Saudi Arabia.

It happened a few months ago but only made news last month, the battle of the nations in Serbia was a runaway success, Russia coming out on top with 24 medals and the Ukraine just behind.
By the second month of 1966, there were already a dozen stories about people finding old swords from not just the civil war but from early Spanish explorers. Or were they? A curious read about an era long gone but still in the hearts and memories of many.
You'd think it being a national icon and all that the Japanese sword would get a bit more respect over there than it actually does..

And I am just as guilty, having bought umbrellas with a tsuka handle, Katana shaped and styled scissors in their own saya and even a knife and fork with tsuba and Japanese style handle. But if it takes an icecream to remind a country of its rich heritage, I don't know whether to laugh or shake my head in despair..
A short but well written article about when and when not to draw a sword in dangerous situation. Common sense really, but in these days where ridiculousness seems to be the norm, sometimes we all need a reality check.

The reverse blade sword from the popular anime series was purely fictional. But real world Japanese Master Swordsmith Kanekuni Ogawa went to work recreating it with the meticulous detail the Japanese are so well known for. Put your prejudices aside and check it out, for ANYTHING that keeps the actual sword making industry in Japan going is a good thing indeed.

They have a few in there that I tend to agree with, and certainly some movies that I am a big fan of, but I think they left some important ones out.. Monty Python and the Holy Grail didn't even get a mention!!

The Cleveland Museum has an excellent exhibition on through until October 6th with 60 manuscripts from the medieval period and provides an insight into the medieval mentality, fears and of course, the weapons used to slay these hideous beasts of nightmare.
A bit of SBG History - The Last 5 Odin's Oar by KC Lund and John Lundemo
Apart from the prototype, only 20 of these amazing swords were ever made - and I must admit I felt a little pang of nostalgia when the last 5 went out a couple of days ago..
Literally the last 5 of 20 Swords now on their way to their new owners
20 swords is a SERIOUS limited edition run, not like 'limited edition runs in the hundreds or even thousands many other companies label their swords as. But when you see how much work went into them - true blood, sweat and cutting edge technology - even someone who had never seen a sword before in their life would know they were holding something very special indeed..

The blade itself is made from a 480 layer pattern welded mix of O1 & L6 Tool Steels, commonly referred to as "Damascus." These are some of the toughest steels for sword making when heat treated using a method known as "Aus-tempering," which is done with high (1450°F +) and low temperature molten salt baths and extended hold times at low (500°F) temperature. The resulting microstructure is known as Bainite. This microstructure differs from the martensitic microstructure achieved with conventional quench and temper methods more commonly used. A Bainitic microstructure has much higher impact resistance and ductility than a martensitic microstructure of equivalent hardness, perfect for swords.

After forging the sword blanks (pictured right) KC then handed the blades over to John Lundemo. And so with literally half a century of sword making experience between them, John hand shapes, polishes and sharpens the blanks to perfection.

The fittings were hand carved from mild steel by John who then had them investment cast in the USA, peening the pommel and making the Poplar oar themed scabbard (which due to severe allergies, was a very painful and slow process for John).

But the end result - a Legend become real in steel..
Sad to see it go. But excited to see what SBG and Longship will come up with next. Check out our two projects to date here in the archives section of the SBG Sword Store.
Tariffs, the effect on the Sword Industry and eBay Parasites
As many of you know, from day a 10% tariff will apply to all sword imports - but what effect will this have on the sword industry? Will prices go up? Will quality go down? Can the industry, which has been struggling for years, actually survive?

Real swords are made on very tight profits, so any increase in cost pretty much has to be passed on to the consumer. But it will be gradual - for now it seems most companies will do their best to try and hold prices where they are for as long as they can, but eventually something will have to give.

The companies hit hardest by these tariffs are the big name, trusted importers - stuff from forge Direct or coming direct from China is unlikely to require you to pay the tariff before they release your sword. But the danger here is that if the US based importers end up even more expensive than the Chinese sellers, its only the Chinese who will benefit..

We understand that everyone wants a good deal - and sometimes these eBay and Alibaba sellers come through. But more often than not, they will tell you anything to get the sale.. For example, there are only two sword forges that make 9260 Spring Steel Swords - Cheness Cutlery and Hanwei. No-one else can get it - but its often advertised at impossibly low prices (well below what it costs).

Our advice? Continue to support sellers who do the right thing by you and the industry. Do not support these questionable companies - one of the reasons Project X swords took so long and now will take several months to make is because all the smiths we met back in 2012 have lost their jobs due to low demand. The eBay crowd pick up and sell the scraps, and then the orders stop coming in from the big boys and for a while the eBayers have nothing to sell. New orders come in, slower this time, and the whole process repeats itself again, each time the industry losing more and more vitality - and more and more potential collectors getting fatally flawed swords, being told all manner of lies and basically undoing all the work we have done to try and make the industry transparent and accountable.

Tough times are ahead, and many companies have scrapped plans for new models and are scaling back on anything slightly risky or unique. Prices WILL go up - for the most part they have held steady for over 10 years, but its only a question of time. So get what you can now - but if you love the sword industry - just don't get them from China based sellers..

You may also notice that we will be calling them out more and more on the forums. For example, many SBG members are fond of a seller (once claiming to be a Master Smith, but actually a young lady working part time) calling themselves 'Jacky' from 'Huawei'.. On our forum, there are currently 28 reviews for their swords. Have a read of them - 17% are positive, 80% neutral and 3% negative.
But within these reviews there were many complaints of spotty or poor communication, frequent errors with customization, two cracked tsukas, one chipped blade, one blade snapping at the tang and breaking through the ito, one kashira falling off, one handle coming unwrapped (and many reviews mentioning loose ito or a Chinese swords wrap coming loose after just one dry handling session) - alloy fittings being advertised as brass, shoelacey sageo - and blatant lies about the use of 9260 Spring Steel - and their return address and forge, a Candy Store..

And the worst part, their lack of response from a customer whose sword snapped at the tang when cutting a roll of wet newspapers.

One forum member summed them up the following way.

  • Poor to no communication once item marked as shipped. sometimes if item takes too long to be completed, communication drops off completely. I'd open a paypal dispute before time runs out. Explain to huawei you are doing it just to protect your interest and keep them communicating
  • Uneven translation/understanding of english. That habaki I had made- I specifically asked for it to be made of copper, not brass... got the shape I wanted but not the right metal.
  • I had damage due to poor packaging & shipping to a rosewood saya & horn koiguchi. Huawei paid me some of my cost back, & offered to send me free tanned samegawa to use around the saya for repair. Got the money but never got the samegawa and Jackie stopped replying to my messages/emails.

And yet, somehow despite all this and more (seriously, take a look at the reviews) they are highly recommended by a handful of members as being one of the best sword suppliers around..?!

And the good reviews, out of the positive reviews it was stated that Huawei were told that the sword ordered would be reviewed - so no surprises the product was well above what everyone else seemed to be getting.. Not fair to other buyers, because effectively they won't get the same thing and a practice that should be discouraged..

Anyway, if you really are a sword lover - support the industry by supporting brands and sellers who actually care about the community and go the extra mile - not parasites that have been sucking it dry for the last few years and will use these tariffs to THEIR advantage and punish US companies..

/rant over
Video of the Month
In this 'covering the basic's video UK bladesmith Joseph Dawes of White Well Arms shows the presenter the tools of his trade, and related his old school sword making methods with how swords were made back in the actual medieval era. Informal and somewhat relaxing 20 minute video.
Best Forum Posts
We all know that early Viking and Celtic Swords were often made from pattern welded or Damascus steel. But was it also seen in the medieval era? Very interesting discussion with lots of links to further information.

While it's true that both the way Albion swords are made and put together, they are considerably more 'perfect' than any historical sword ever was. But if you want to knit pick, you can still find minor imperfections (and some not so minor ones too) and if all you look for is minor flaws, maybe collecting anything not mass assembled is not for you..

Prolific SBG sword reviewer ndave has stated a new YouTube channel - sword re-reviews, where he takes a look at the swords from his collection and how they have held up over the years. Great stuff.

Clyde Hollis previews some of the new blades as part of his comeback into the sword industry. Here's a chance to provide YOUR feedback and let him know what YOU would like to see made next..
Reboot of the Legendary Swords Webcomic
While the original project may have failed and still needs to find its feet, and while it was incredibly involved and time consuming - I hate seeing the webcomic come to a dead end like it has.

I don't know exactly how I will find the time - after all, I am a guy who has such little free time that I am not ashamed to say that I have not even seen a single episode of Game of Thrones, the Walking Dead or any other TV series or even many video games (SBG just doesn't allow for such luxuries and I feel guilty to relax when I know there is a customer in need somewhere).

But I am determined to make it work - and so the story will be rebooted and change direction.

First off, the side story that would eventually come together at the end of the series will be split off and saved for a rainy day - while the story will concentrate on a single story line.

But one of the most exciting changes I have in mind is realistic combat based on actual historical fighting techniques.

I have posted a thread asking for opinions, advice and ideas here in the SBG cafe and welcome any email suggestions too, but at the end of the day - I want this webcomic to work for arts sake. So please support our endeavor with your thoughts and advice. Every comment is welcome!
Just a few more days to go before round 2
It took longer to make the last 10 of 20 swords from the first trial run of Project X Japanese - Custom Swords. Part of the reason is the complexity and high failure rate of the complex lamination - it often takes several attempts before a perfect blade can be made, and due to the decline in the industry, many of the Master Smiths we personally met back in 2012 have found better jobs elsewhere - and each one takes YEARS to replace..

As such, with the first trial run successful - but slower than anticipated. So the second run will be for 30 swords but with a 3-4 month turnaround time, meaning there will only be 3-4 opportunities to get these swords per year..

So get ready, not long before its hammer time again..!
3 new designs will be added to the line up, so if you are curious but haven't signed up to the exclusive Project X newsletter to be the first to know when we start taking orders (and get access to special deals that non subscribers miss out on) be sure to visit the Project X page HERE and sign up to the list. You can unsubscribe anytime, but I think once you see what's inside, if you are into high end and exclusive swords, I think you'll want to read every issue that goes out..
Hope you enjoyed this issue of the digest. We changed plans a bit from what we planned to talk about last month for this month, but we will get there. But not next month - for the October edition is the Halloween Special..

I can almost smell those freshly cut pumpkins..

In the meantime, have patience and Happy Swordening!

  • Paul