Sword Buyers Digest - Issue 149, August 1st 2020
To make up for last months relatively light digest - this month it is filled to the brim.

You see, in February this year SBG turned 15 years old - but with SARS-COV2 Pan dem ic taking center stage, the timing was totally wrong to celebrate our success. So, instead, we will be having a special 15 year anniversary edition of the digest NEXT month as it is also my 47th birthday (hard to believe, when I first started SBG, I was only 31 years old..)

But this issue might even be a bigger one - not only is there the belated follow Part II of our series on Angkor Wat and the swords of the Khmer warriors - but we have some really good news for international sword collectors (about time I hear you say!), some great news on Project X and Project X - Forge Direct, a couple of special subscriber only offers and the usual mix of videos, article links and much, much more.

So take a moment to sit down and forget about how crazy the world has become in 2020 and enjoy everything sword related for an hour or two..
Swords in the News
Positive Sword Related Stories in the News
Dressed in Viking period garments, a young lady re-enactor in the UK moves just a little too close to one of her fellow enthusiasts practicing his moves with a real,sharpened sword - and while it was an accident and thankfully she did not die, where she was cut will shock you..

From working in the sales department of a steel making company, Sword and knife maker Keaton Goddard turned a blacksmithing hobby into a full-time profession.

As usual, I doubt I will have time to watch a single episode. But if I did, the story sounds very unique and interesting - a kind of retelling of Arthurian Legends with a Tolkeinesque feel. And such a strange and sinister looking blade for Excalibur, and sad tale of the lady of the lake..
'Cursed' - the netflix series about the legend of the Sword of Power, definitely puts a new spin on a tale as old as anyone can remember. Here, the best aspects of this series and the many variations of the tale through history is discussed in an intelligent and modern way. Make up your own mind what version of the legend YOU prefer.

While I almost never have time to watch Netflix (or at least, something that I want to watch, but rather have to sit through and bear) I do enjoy the occasional PC game. And while it's not on my radar quite just yet, this highly anticipated Samurai vs Mongol Invasion story is more grounded in history than most games, yet anything but boring.

The worldwide Pandemic and associated lockdowns spawned a whole new genre of music - taking modern songs and singing them in a distinctively medieval fashion. From Jolene to 'I want it that way' by the Backstreet Squires, it certainly something different!

And one more thing, the cover art - a lot of it is made using a recreation of some very cool free software made by two German students with flash using images using the historic tale construction kit. While it was not maintained, a few fans rebuilt it and have put it back online so you can create your own medieval Bardcore covers! Here's the link (no download necessary). And below, my first attempt at playing around with it.
During the Middle Ages, while Europe fought, traded, explored and evolved, Africa was a continent in darkness, 'without history' – or so the traditional western narrative runs. But oh how so wrong that is.. Read this eye opening article to get a better understanding of just how advanced the continent really was.
Just a few picks of my favorite 'Bardcore' Covers so far..
(and some Mongolian Hard Rock for balance)
Fortune Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Seek & Destroy - Metallica

Take me home country road - John Denver
And just for a change of pace, the Mongolian band 'the Hu' - Wolf Totem
Side Note on 'the Hu'
As far as I know they are still stuck in Australia as they were touring at the time of the worldwide lockdown. But the Mongolian band the Hu combines hard rock with traditional throat singing and musical instruments - and are clearly very proud of their ancient history. And why not, their Empire was the largest the world has ever known. Here's a 'reaction' video to their song 'the Great Chinggis Khan'
Coming Soon - Preview of the Irish Kern Sword
New from Clyde Hollis and Kingdom of Arms
It is no secret that Clyde Hollis is a man proud of his Irish heritage. Indeed, from the 2006 interview with Clyde we did with him when he still owned Generation 2 (Legacy Arms) his answer to the question "O f the various Generation 2 swords you have produced over the last few years - if you had to pick just one as your personal favorite, which one would it be any why?"

His answer? The sword pictured in his hand (left).

"Still the Irish Hand and a Half. When I traced my ancestry I found that I am of Irish decent. I have an Irish Kilt with my county plaid (Antrim)."

Nowadays Generation 2/Legacy Arms is owned by Cas Iberia, and the Irish Hand and a half sword is still a very popular seller, especially considering is $299.99 price tag.
The $299.99 Legacy Arms Original Irish Sword - available here at SBG

But the Kern, it takes it to a whole new level - and created a new choice in the market and is helping to support our dear friend at BCI in Pagansinan. True craftsmen.

Basically, they turned the Hand and a half sword into what it wanted to be when it grew up..

I mean, just take a look at this thing - the complete package first including a scabbard that you could sell for the price of the original Irish sword.
And then, the blade...
Stats are not finalized yet, but here's the info what we have so far:

  • Blade Length: 33.75”
  • Overall Length: 40”
  • Weight: 2.0 lbs 
  • P.O.B.: Below Hilt

If those stats are right or even close to being accurate, this sword will be greased lightning fast and beautiful from pommel to tip, and everything in between. Even the handle!

So how much you expect to pay. 100% hand made, hand hammered, tempered 5160 Spring Steel, hand stitched wood core scabbard, brass fittings, - everything done the olde way. A couple of G? $1000?

Try $690. And apparently you can pre-order! Here's the product listing on the Kingdom of Arms website - so email Clyde or him Clyde a call at 731-300-1032 and he will be only too happy to be of assistance - this is a man who KNOWS his swords..
A Visit to Angkor Wat, Cambodia - Part 2
Missed Part One? Click for the Back-issue with Part One HERE

Apologies part II has been published a month later than originally intended.

I hope that you not mind too much and enjoy the journey and we delve deeper together into this mysterious South East Asian Kingdom's distant past and of course, and any all depictions of their swords - comparable in both detail, time period and historical importance to the great European records such as the Bayeux Tapestry or the Maciejowski Bible as we mentioned in the first installment of the series (though the big difference is, restoration and excavation at Angkor Wat and surrounds is anything but complete and still there is MUCH yet to be discovered - but we will come back to this a little later in the article).

The point is, ancient battle scenes that occurred millennia earlier (or were essentially mythological) were depicted with the weapons of the current period. In other words, if you complain about historical accuracy in movies, this is more akin to EVERY movie set in the Renaissance Period was like that awful Baz Luhrmann movie 'Romeo and Juliet' where the feuding families have guns, cars, etc..

But as a window into the period in which the frescoes were made, it is INVALUABLE.

We already covered how swords shown in Indian battles from the 8th and 9th century BC nearly 2000 years before the Frescoes recorded them depicted cutting swords that with only minor regional variations. But the frescoes strongly suggest these curved blades dominated the 11th century battlefields onward, though their exact origins are still a matter of debate, they were the blade of choice throughout Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Yunnan, Cambodia (and to a lesser extent, parts of Southern Vietnam) and were known as Dhaab, Dha, Dao, Krabi, Dabb Song Mue and several other names that even within a single culture existed many variations in curvature, tip and handle.
Being a very hot part of the world, metal armor would see even the toughest soldiers pass out from heat exhaustion in an hour or two, thus the blades all seem to be focused on the cut and defense on evasion and/or a few varieties of rattan shields.

It is also surprising that in many frescoes swords are the majority weapon - where in most other cultures it was spears and bows that were the mainstay of war, the sword in Europe for the most part more a symbol of authority or weapon of last resort. Though there are Frescoes that depict a similar feeling, with a mounted leader armed with sword and a large body of archers in tow.
But the apparent dominance of the sword on the ancient battlefield is also reflected in the beautifully restored color frescoes in the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh.

While other weapons (many quite exotic) are depicted, it is clear that the sword and shield combination was extremely common, predominant even.
Below is a good example of what I mean by that in an ANCIENT tale where there a Kingdom of intelligent monkeys were hired as mercenaries - the story is still unclear to me and needs further research as it is quite fascinating, but take a look at the variety of swords and other blades in use during this human vs, well, non-humans.
Curved swords and shields dominate, but there are also straight bladed, long handled swords, some blades are more curved or complex than others, and to the right of the image, short hafted spear like weapons with extra long blades..

In the picture above, there is one image that is hard to reconcile. Specifically the grey skinned monster holding what appears to be a single handed curved sword with a secondary, rather fanciful looking hook like blade on its spine. Could this be one of the first fantasy swords ever depicted? The spine of these cutting swords is usually thick and unsharpened, and this would make it much heavier and slower than other swords. Definitely need to look deeper into this one.
So from two sources we see that for a long period of time, the single edged, curved and one handed sword was not only common on the battlefield, it tended to dominate! And it made no class distinction, from the common footsoldier to a mounted general - these curved swords (coincidentally called 'Dao' Khmer: ដាវ) were clearly effective and no doubt many were 'munitions grade' while others were deadly works of art.

You can see this clearly in a very cool hollow bronze statue recently erected along the riverside of Phnom Penh where the Tonle Sap river meets the mighty Mekong, depicting the folk heroes, T echo Meas and Techo Yat.
These two commanders soundly defeated one of many Thai invasions into Cambodia, driving them back to their borders and into a war with the Thai's other close neighbors, the Burmese - and thus were given a sacred title, Techo, the highest honor for any Khmer commander.

Of course, what interested me the most are the swords they bear and how they are worn on the BACK but short enough to be drawn from the back. And the other real point of interest, one of them bears not one but a PAIR of twin swords..
These twin swords are not for show - while most Cambodian scholars I have talked to said that the Khmer only usually used one sword by itself or with a shield, by the 17th century in Thailand a fighting system known as Krabi Krabong began to specialize in the use of the Daab Song Mue - two blades of the same length used together to create complex patterns of attack and defense, and there was much cross pollination between the Thai and the Cambodian fighting systems (for example, Kun Khmer is effectively almost identical to Muay Thai, and all fighting systems included kicks, disarms, grappling, leg sweeps, choke holds and more).

While the direct line of transmission was basically destroyed along with everything else that represented the old Cambodian traditions during the Khmer Rouges reign of terror from 1975-1979 - across the border in Thailand the art is alive and well.

Have a quick look at the short video below showing some of the training techniques and complexity of this fighting style.
Exactly where and when the switch to a twin sword fighting style is not clear, as it was only first recorded by 17th century European visitors to Thailand, but what is clear is that sometime between the 11th century in the Angkor period where single sword and shield dominated, by the 17th century twin swords were extremely common and the individual soldiers highly proficient in their use.

While it is clear that the singled edged Dao, Dhaab, Krabi or whatever other name you wish to call it was the most common type of sword in the region - there is one more style of blade with a totally different appearance - leaf bladed, double edged and straight as shown in the fresco below from the Royal Palace.
My research on this particular style of straight blade is limited, the first time I saw one was a replica the owner of Citadel Swords had made for his own gratification.

Geographically and to some degree culturally, Cambodia is pretty much something almost in between India and China (Angkor Wat was originally dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu) and as mentioned previously, the ancient Indian 'swords' were straight bladed 'daggers' or 'shortswords'. But here you can see just how different these straight bladed swords are compared to the curved Dao.
And like all Khmer swords, variation in detail and ornamentation varied widely. Some were beautiful works of steel art like the replica pictured above the owner of Citadel Forge in Cambodia had made for his own personal gratification. The majority of course were unadorned and plain.
Angkor Thom - the Great City
Angkor Thom roughly translates to 'the great city' and curiously, planned and square in shape - was located close to Angkor Wat, but was not physically connected.

As such, it and relied on its own defenses with its own moat (now dried up unfortunately due to water loss in the basin below) and four 1.8mile long, 26' high stretches of stone wall on the enemies side and gradient slopes on the defenders side, allowing archers and defenders to run up en masse and concentrate their forces quickly at any point where the city was being attacked.

Below is an image of one of the main approaches with a Buddha lined bridge spanning the moat and leading to a fortification tower.
Once inside, you start to get a feeling for the scale of the city. Where now are trees, there once were many wooden houses - long since disintegrated.

It's a huge area, much bigger than Angkor Wat - and comparable in size to modern day Paris. And like Paris, it was a very cosmopolitan city - with scholars and pilgrims coming from India, China and even quite a large number of Japanese to share ideas and learn together.

It is also rather iconic in the ancient trees that have burst through many a wall and structure, growing inches every year as generation after generation of people come and go.
While they may look beautiful, these trees have done a lot of damage over the years, but now really have become a part of the whole experience.

And that is one thing about both the 'Angkors' - restoration was initiated by the French, who re-assembled many collapsed buildings, and the restoration work continues and will continue for many years to come.

Which means that there are so many more things yet to be uncovered and like a giant jigsaw puzzle, re-assembled. Indeed, when the French first arrived, most of both Angkor Wat and Angkor Wat was in a state similar to what you see below.
And all around there are ongoing projects finding more pieces of the puzzle - including some items hastily buried by tomb robbers who - fortunately for us and UNESCO - never made it back to claim them.
As with Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom's walls are all full of detailed frescoes - three 'registers' high (in other words, one story is depicted takes up the top 1/3 of the walls surface and so on). And it was here that I found that even the ancient Khmer had the same sense of humor that they do today..

The scene, an army on the march, with one of the camp followers letting the turtle she is carrying for dinner that night get just a little close to a warriors derriere - clearly annoying him immensely.
And so, with this light-hearted conclusion, we come to the end of Part II in our series of articles on Angkor Wat and the swords that dominated combat for centuries across the entire region. But we are not done yet..

For there will be a part 3, where we will look at the state of sword making in Cambodia TODAY, and take a deeper look into how the swords were and are made - and how these ancient traditions are preserved by so few people, you can count them on one hand..

And just for fun, my favorite photo - the one I think turned out the best.
International Sword Shipping
(and what looks like the ultimate solution)
If you are outside of the US, you may not even know that the vast majority of fellow sword collectors around the world have for several years now found it increasingly difficult, and at times impossible, to ship swords from the US to them - leaving them at the mercy of the local market only, which may have limited choices and by necessity or greed, much, much higher prices than the US.

Most recently, I put the call out to try and find something, anything, that I could do to help and made a direct appeal to the SBG community here on the forums and even Facebook.
The response was underwhelming to say the least. On the forum, only one person had a suggestion, and out of all 10 posts, 4 of them were mine - which was rather disappointing to say the least (though the thread is still open, and the Facebook Post active here).

So, a usual when no one else seems very interested, I decided to do something about it myself.

In the forum thread you will see a lot of the research I did trying to find solutions - and using a combination of past member experiences and reading the fine print of nearly every package forwarding company until my eyes were sore and tired.

The vast majority will only ship the most mundane items - books, odds and ends, clothes, etc and either listed blades, swords or 'weaponry of any kind or replica weaponry' as prohibited items, regardless of the legal status. One even went so far as to say "Basically, if it can be used as a weapon, we won't ship it."

Can of worms anyone? Lol.

Anyway, in the end I was able to find a grand total of 7 mail forwarding services that have either been used to ship swords previously and recently, or who seem open to the possibility and updated the page on Sword Forwarding Services accordingly.

One such listing was for a company called 'Planet Express' - but as I had never used them, nor had any of our members, I was only able to say the following about it in the Mail Forwarding List Page:
PLANET EXPRESS (The initial listing)
"I am leaving this one until last because it is the one I know least about. However, they are at least worth a look - under their list of prohibited items in their FAQ section here they only mention ITAR military grade weaponry, so no hand grenades, nukes or directed energy weapons.. So I think swords should NOT be a problem.."
But that all changed when one of their team members must have stumbled upon this listing, saw the communities problem, and not only said they are HAPPY to ship swords, but provided a ton of helpful information. I've signed up myself, and if you read the write up I collaborated with them on here and then see how it all works on their website (such as taking photos if requested before shipping, buying FOR you if the store will not accept your card, and so much more).

Yes, finally there is a sword friendly mail forwarder on our side!!
Click here to read the article we co-wrote with examples of how the service works, what kind of pricing is involved, and everything else. They have our vote and will be recommending them for all the product lines we have that can only be shipped to US addresses..

FULL DISCLOSURE: We thought we might as well become an affiliate of theirs at the same time so not only do we help desperate collectors find a reliable service, but by using it you also provide a small donation to SBG! The others all have affiliate programs too, and most actually pay out a lot more money - but I assure you, I have been dreaming of a service like this for years and the recommendation is as genuine as can be,
Video of the Month
SBG takes up the vast majority of my time - usually staring work around 7am and finishing around 5 or 6pm, though occasionally working several days in a row from 7am to midnight or longer, so as you might expect, I don't watch much TV.

I think I have mentioned it before, but I have not even seen a single episode of Game of Thrones, the Witcher or anything really.. If anything, I may have YouTube on in the background, either for music or something that is not too distracting. I especially avoid the 'news' - for years I stopped watching it, but got suckered back due to the MH370 disappearance 6 years ago, and only in the last 2 months have completely stopped watching it. A quick scan of google news for anything interesting is about the limit of what I watch now, simply because every station is biased and has some kind of agenda.

But, for a while, there were a few TV shows that I did make time for - such as Forged in Fire and Pawn Stars. So here is rather long compilation of every sword ever shown in the series, from fakes to real treasures.
So while the video is over an hour long, its worth watching (I was always hoping to see a sword brought in every episode) - simply to see what swords were brought to them, how much they offered for them and how clueless the general public and even the Pawn Stars themselves.
Best Forum Posts
With so much 'fake news' about swords making the rounds since the darned things were first made from bronze to 'debates' on Reddit, it's refreshing to get information from a reliable source. Great video and a channel well worth subscribing to.
A double entendre if there ever was one, but not like the wizard of ID revolting. But rather, when pushed too far (and many a lord would push as far as he could) a cool example of a home made improvised peasant polearm and an interesting discussion on medieval society, weapon ownership laws in medieval times and why it is good to be the King (or at least a part of the landed gentry).

Over the years we have had many talented sword makers either get their bearings and start on the SBG forums, or have never really been a forums type of person, but decided to give it a try. So when I saw the work of recently joined member Danill - I was blown away. And I think you might be too. Truly beautiful work.

Check out some of the latest stunning designs by Brother Banzai - master brass caster and sword maker building his designs around bare Albion Blades. Wow.
Forge Direct and Project X
It has seemingly been an endless delay - Project X Japanese, those limited edition swords we make in small custom batches around 2 or 3 times a year was originally scheduled to be re-released in February this year..

Better late than never - and most of you will recall and still see on the site this unpleasant news about Forge Direct:
Well, I am pleased to say that with one exception (our first remake) every order from Project X Japanese has been fulfilled - the smiths and the forges are back at work and rearing to go, and the components we needed are also becoming available again (though at this very moment, if we opened orders right this minute, we could ONLY ship to US addresses..! (which seems silly, but at least now we have a solution for that problem!).

Whether or not we will be able to hold the price at $1000 is not certain as shipping costs from China to the USA have almost quadrupled, extra taxes are being added at the Chinese side (that we have to pay for!) and the cost of components has also gone up, so I cannot make any promises - but we will crunch the numbers and do our best..

As we gear up, we are also making a few changes here and there. For example, we have increased the number of available mother of pearl inlaid saya from 4 styles to 10 (though only one can be used for a Wakizashi to make a Daisho set, all the others are strictly for the custom Katana ONLY).
Dragon Themed MoP Saya
Black Mother of Pearl Saya
Red/Maroon MoP Saya
Get updates as we prepare for launch and exclusive discounts:
If all goes well with the backlog of Forge Direct Orders (most of which are for the increasingly popular Forge DIrect Custom Katana as word gets out about how good they really are) then soon after Project X we will be able to re-open Forge Direct again.

And we are gearing up for quite a few upgrades and surprises. For example, how about a full rayskin wrap with Emperor Nodes as an optional extra upgrade?
And that's just for starters.. Look at how the leather ito upgrade has improved..
As noted, neither line is open or taking orders yet - so we strongly suggest that if you are interest in Project X, you sign up for that newsletter (it has offers in there not seen anywhere else). And/or sign up for our SBG store newsletter (anyone who is a subscriber will already know how cool some of the deals are in there - especially all the last month exclusives!).

So stay tuned, we are coming into the home stretch. So if you don't want to miss out, either sign up to the store newsletter and/or the Project X newsletter or just keep your eye on the official store blog HERE
  • First heads up on the official launch date
  • Avoid Missing Out
  • Special Deals and Exclusive Discounts
  • High End, Elite Swords Only
Mailing Frequency: 4 or 5 times a year
  • First chance offers on limited availability items
  • Special Coupon Codes and Discounts
  • Members Only Products and Deals
  • Find out what's coming down the line
Mailing Frequency: Usually once or twice a month
Well, that's it for the August edition - hope you enjoyed it.

Before I go though, I'd like to ask you a little favor - especially long time readers. I want to promote the digest a little bit more, so if you like it - please take one moment out of your day to email me a 'testimonial' I can use on my site to let people who aren't members know what to expect. But only if you think it's worth passing on.

You don't have to write much, indeed the more succinct the better. But it would really help us out if you could.
If you could do that, it was absolutely awesome.

As I mentioned briefly at the start of this newsletter, next months issue will be the official celebration of 15 years of SBG (and my birthday is in there sometime too).

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and happy swordening to you all!