Sword Buyers Digest - Issue 141, November 2019
The penultimate issue of the digest for 2019 is being written from a rather interesting place - Ho Chi Min City/Saigon in Vietnam. Why?

Well, my good friend and SBG business partner, Sam Sung from Ryujin is on his annual business trip to source some new suppliers and meet up with existing ones. And so - currently being based in the region myself, I hopped on a plane to catch up with him..
I'll get to the details of some of our discussions a little later in this issue because every-time we meet up, something new and exciting tends to come from it for sword and sword related enthusiasts..

And this meet up was no exception..

But first...
Swords in the News
Positive Sword Related Stories in the News
When you think of Estonia and the Baltic's in general, you don't generally think about Vikings right? How and why where they found there?

A video and article on Nihonto made by Master Sword Smith Akihara - how many Smiths are there in Japan? How long is the apprenticeship? All this and much more..

It has been dubbed as 'Excalibur' and is described by Archeologists as a significant find - and no wonder the name, found embedded in a stone at the bottom of a lake - what else would you call it.. Read the article for the full story..

There is a movie in this. Actually two. 500 years ago the first non Japanese Samurai was of African descent and became a friend of none other than the famous Daimyo, Oda Nobunaga (below is a picture from a children's book showing them fighting side by side). Totally fascinating article and story.
Standing just 5' 2" with bad teeth, balding and back problems - digital facial reconstruction techniques show a rather ugly 46 year old Scotsman who died over 600 years ago - and check out the related article, on the same technique used to bring back to life a 'witch' who died 300 years ago.. Life's never easy - and certainly seemed to be tough on some more than others..
Maybe you don't like your job. But during medieval times, there was one job that had a high demand and low supply. A job no-one in their right mind would want.

The job of executioner.

In this article we take a look at this dark occupation, what kind of life they lead, how they were thought of by the general populace living on the very edge of society.

And not just in Europe - the article also touches on the executioners of Japan, the Ottoman Empire and more..

So hey, maybe your job isn't so bad after all?
Most fans of the Star Wars Franchise know that many of the concepts and costumes used are inspired by the Japanese Samurai. But a new book dives deep into the concept. A must read for fans of both the Samurai and Star Wars.

A special exhibition of a rare 'e-maki' roll this month reveals that the Samurai weren't the supermen that some people think and in fact had a rather close resemblance to today's Japanese 'Salaryman'. The more things change - the more they stay the same..
Discussions With Sam in Saigon!
I've known Sam Sung, one of the founders of 'Musashi' Swords and the current owner of Ryujin Swords among several other sword, knife, blade and hand held self defense products for well over a decade now. He's about 9 years older than me but doesn't show his age, though recent events effecting the industry in general have taken its toll on us both in different ways..

Anyway, as I mentioned at the start of this issue - Sam was traveling the Asia Pacific region as he does almost every year, meeting with the forge owners, the workers, and discovering or creating new and exciting product lines. And being based in the region myself, took a quick flight over to Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon to catch up for dinner with a few other friends in tow both to catch up as friends, and also to discuss in person various issues and opportunities related to the sword industry as a whole..

Neither of us had actually been to Vietnam before - and it's a short trip for both of us, but just as an aside, HMC is a bustling, vibrant city rich in history - both recent and ancient (it was established in the 4th Century AD and soon invaded and taken over by the expanding Khmer Empire, then the Nguyen Dynasty Vietnamese - became a French Colony in 1862 and finally, after WWII - well, we all know what happened then.. (and if you don't look it up!).

So history lessons aside for a moment, here's a quick overview of some of the things we talked about..
A shared Pet Hate - Sellers who flat out lie about the steels they use
Sam and I both share the same basic philosophy when it comes to the sword business. Be upfront, be honest - and the business you build may struggle at times because of it, but if you tell the truth your reputation will keep you going when others fall by the wayside.

Most of you who are regular readers of the digest know my disdain for some China based sword sellers who lie and use every dirty trick in the book to try to get your $$. Sam confirmed this - that many of these sellers are outright liars - especially regarding steel types used.

In almost every case, the steel is just well tempered 1045 carbon steel - but there are sellers out there that will claim its 9260, 5160, L6 or whatever is popular right now simply because when well tempered, a 1045 carbon steel blade is more than strong enough for most backyard cutters.

Of course, that does NOT mean that this is the only steel used in China - I've seen the raw steels sorted by type in 'hammertown' and essentially there are 4 steels in common use - 1045, 1060, 1095 and T10 (which is often confused with 1095 as it has a very similar carbon content, but T10 has additional elements - see our section on Sword Steels on the main site for more information).
At the end of the day, that's pretty much it - it's what is DONE to the steels in terms of tempering and hardening that makes a difference.

We also discussed how humidity can really wreak havoc on anything wooden - especially when it arrives in the US which is much drier overall than the Asia Pacific region and leads to issues such as perfectly assembled swords being sent from a forge arriving with loose tsuka's and/or saya, and scuttled a few plans to come up with some products with too much wood in them..

And of course, we also talked about new product lines - such as the most recent to hit the SBG Sword Store, the 1045 Monotempered Art Sword Line (see below).

But the Big News - A totally New Line..
The big news though may surprise you..

For the last 3 years Sam has been working on a special project - one of personal interest to both of us - as like many (though certainly not all) sword enthusiasts, we are fans of the Star Wars Franchise (and we both took a reflective moment to kind of mourn the deaths of the actors like Carrie Fisher and Peter Mayhew - my daughter is a huge Chebacca fan, so it felt very personal when I heard he was gone).

Moving on..

Both of us love the concept of a sword with a blade of pure energy that can cut through anything - the ultimate sword of the future (or a long time ago depending on which way you look at it)..

And while a true energy saber or light sword isn't something that can be made right now, was inspired to try and make something based on the concept cosmetically but is designed for fun and with a very, very tough blade..

It's not exactly original - there are many companies such as SaberForge, UltraSabers, Kyberlight, Vaders Vault making similar 'battle ready' lightsabers loosely based on the Star Wars concept and that have been reviewed extensively by another long time friend, Daniel Dacombe.

But Sam wanted to try his hand at producing something similar of his own. And it looks like he has pulled it off - a single sword that you can change the color with a push of a button and has a simple rechargeable 18650 battery with about 50 minutes of continuous use before it needs to be recharged.
Here's a video of some testing of one of the first generation prototypes - two of which I have at home myself and are still going strong despite many a 'battle'..
As you can see, the early prototypes were as tough as nails - but the issue was sound tracking. Some people swing and clash blades much harder or faster than others, and it's extremely hard to get them to track 'just right'.

So after years of tweaking, he came up with what is effectively a 'medium' setting that will fit the way most people use them... (but even the best made ones tend to still have this issue).

But the main difference between these and most other 'battle ready lightsabers' on the market will be price. The target - sub $250 but almost as good as those costing several times that (do a google search for battle ready light sabers and you will see just how expensive these things can be!).

Before the final release, there will be some additional testing - we can't and won't say they are indestructible - yes they can handle machete blows. And yes, it's possible to break one flexing the blade as hard as you can if you are VERY strong and use your knee... (As an aside, Sam bet that a Firefighter friend could not break one with his bare hands - but forgot to stipulate hands only..)

But fans of sparring with non lethal objects of all kinds are sure to get a kick out of them, especially at the intended price point...
And there's more...
Whenever Sam and I catch up we always end up talking for hours on end - about life, family, friends, shared interests and of course, various types of weaponry - modern, ancient and yet to come..

But of course, it's always good to save something for later - and right now with the deadline for the digest to go out rapidly approaching and writing this into the late afternoon from a hotel room in HMC/Saigon with not the best internet connection I have ever experienced ('spotty' - as is often the case with hotels the world over really) it's time to wrap it up.

However, there are some further surprises and products coming down the line as a result of our discussions. Not to mention refinement of current products and doing our best to create new products for you guys that are affordable and fun..

All in another issue.. ;-)
Video of the Month
Further exploring the world of the Samurai class who flourished during the Edo period/Tokugawa Jidai - this video explores their darker aspects, from Seppuku (hara-kiri/stomach-cut) ritual suicide to a re-imagined and not necessarily accurate interpretation of the code of Bushido to the original "Tameshigiri" on human bodies and more. As with almost all YouTube videos it's 'history lite' and not everything is as clean cut (pardon the pun) as the channel suggests, but it's not a bad attempt to balance out the idea that the Samurai were some kind of benevolent Super Warrior..
Best Forum Posts
There's no doubt that we live in an increasingly paranoid society - but when someone tries to buy a BOOK titled 'Manouchehr Khorasani's Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the End of the Qajar Period' and it gets flagged by PayPal, you know things are getting out of hand.. sigh..

Back in the day when SBG was getting started, Legacy Arms - then known as Generation 2 - were one of the best and most popular suppliers of medieval swords. Over a decade later, and still sub $300, a SBG member shares a recent buying experience and gives you some idea of what to expect.

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.
Hope you enjoyed this issue of the digest. If all goes well, I shall be meeting one long term subscriber who has become a friend over the years who happens to live in Vietnam.

In the meantime, where did this year go? How can it be the end of the year next month??

Take care all, and as always, Happy Swordening.

  • Paul