Sword Buyers Digest - Issue 133, March 2019
February always kind of catches me off guard with its abrupt ending 2-3 days earlier than most other months. Everything kind of crunches up - maybe you can relate and have the same thing happen in your life or business..

Despite this, we managed to squeeze in a new edition of the digest as always - this month we continue on from last month with a historical featured article (this time about the 'proto-punks' of the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe and Japan) a classic styled YouTube doco for video of the month, and lots more - so hope you enjoy!
Featured Article:
Swords of the Wild Men of the 15th and 16th Centuries
In both the west and the east, there arose two very curious types of warriors who came to prominence in the 15th and 16th centuries - warriors who defied and thumbed their noses at the social norms of the time in every possible way - from the manner of their dress, the way they spoke and most notably, their swords.

For the swords of these medieval 'punks' were some of the most specialized, unusual and fierce ever seen..

In the West, they were known as the Landsknecht - Germanic mercenaries whose primary weapon was not the sword but the pike, and who became renowned and feared all throughout Europe for both their bravery and even recklessness in the face of death and their own peculiar mercenary code of honor.
Feared for their brutal effectiveness, it was remarked that the Devil himself would not let them into hell for he was frightened of them. But to the Landsknecht, they wore their fearsome reputation with pride - and with such short and often brutal lives - were exempt from the sumptuary laws that dictated what each class should wear - and as a result tended to wear:

"[the] most garish costumes they could devise. Slashed doublets, striped hose, tight or voluminous breeches and outrageous codpieces were all worn in a deliberate attempt to flaunt their status, intimidate their enemies and shock civilians."

Their weapons were equally intimidating, specialized and unique - for while the pike was their main weapon of choice, they were just as famous for their use of the massive Zweihander Sword - which was used to great effect to clear the ranks of enemy pikemen and throw them into disarray so that their fellows could fall upon them and clean them up.
However, their most famous weapon - the one that pretty much defined a Landsknecht in the same way that the twin swords of the Daisho defined the Feudal Japanese Samurai warrior - was the so called " Katzbalger" - their utilitarian 'Cat-skinner' sword.
Designed for close quarter fighting when the battle gets tangled up and too close to use pikes or other longer ranged weapons, they are an extremely sturdy cutting sword of the early Renaissance and suits the tough and utilitarian fighting style of its bearers well. For it is clear from its thick and short blade that this sword could take one heck of a beating and was anything but refined and graceful. It was a chopper, pure and through - similar in effect and use as the Gross Messer, which not surprisingly was also a part of the average Landsknecckts formidable arsenal.
As the Landskneckt started to decline in Europe, there came a similar bizarre warrior suddenly appear in Feudal Japan - though unlike their mercenary cousins from the West, these Eastern eccentrics were true outlaws and little more than a menace to society..

The so called 'Kabukimono' - the crazy ones..
A short lived trend that lasted only one generation, the Kabukimono were true 'proto-punks' dressing in crazy bright, clashing colors, weird haircuts and went about town with a bad attitude. Hanging around in their own clique and forming menacing gangs, they were typically young master-less Samurai - though some were rebellious scions who came from much more well to do and high ranking families - and they abused the privileges that came with that revered class at every opportunity.

Walking out of restaurants without paying, fighting in the streets and murdering innocent commoners out of boredom or to test their swords, they took advantage of transitional period between the Muromachi and Edo periods as the country slowly began to recover from centuries of civil war.

As to be expected for gangs who defy all social norms, their weapons were also very specific - and as Samurai (master-less or otherwise) they pushed the limits of 'good taste' with their choice in fittings for their swords - oversized blades with square, garish tsuba were the order of the day. But the most distinctive mark of a Kabukimono was the saya, specifically its coloring - blood red..
After their decline, as the Shogunate consolidated its power and locked down society for nearly the next 300 years - the Kabukimono's distinctive red saya was actually outlawed - and remained illegal all the way up until the Meiji restoration (at which time the carrying of swords and the Samurai class themselves were outlawed) - and so from then on the red saya became a symbol of defiance to authority and owning one, a crime punishable by death (though that is not saying much, in Feudal Japan almost all crimes were punished by death - medieval Japanese were not really a very forgiving lot).

While both the Landsknect and the Kabukimono are long gone, their patchwork style and defiant attitude to all social norms returned full force in the 1980s with the birth of the punk movement, and remnants of it can be seen today, especially in Japan - no doubt that the young folk pictured below would make a Kabukimono proud..
Video of the Month
While there are quite a few sword related documentaries banging around on YouTube, this video is one of the better ones. Starting with copper swords (with a guest appearance by none other than Neil Burridge) and ending with modern sport fencing, it has the kind of inaccuracies you might expect from a documentary of this scope, and while a bit overly romantic, it is well worth the watch. Enjoy!
Best Forum Posts
Check out this hot (literally) new heat treating kiln by Lukas MG. 6.5'/2 meters tall and can heat treat blades 51"/130cm long!

While the thread obstensibly is about Hanwei vs Longquan heat treatment, it turns into a very eye opening discussion about heat treatment generally.

What it that ephemeral quality about swords that makes them so much more intriguing than any other ancient weapon. Forumites weigh in.

An honest and no holds barred look at some of the bargain Chinese swords on offer at the SBG Sword Store.
Coming Soon - the First BCI Legendary Swords
After many delays and issues trying to get a reasonable shipping rate and method, I am delighted to say that the first run of three swords from the BCI/LS collaboration are due to land and clear customs in the USA this month and if all goes well, should be available to buy by the middle of March at the latest.

After several failed projects in the project and significant financial setbacks that have bled into SBG itself and caused us no end of stress and worry - we really hope that these awesome swords will be well received. We have done everything we can to make them as good and as affordable as possible so fingers crossed that their release goes better than our previous fantasy sword attempts! (I am pretty sure that they will, these swords are truly unique and totally awesome - but only time will tell if other collectors agree or not),.
Another Chapter of the Legendary Swords Webcomic!
For reasons explained on the Legendary Swords blog - last month the 6th chapter of the Gathering of the Hero's nearly didn't make it out on time.

Obviously, we just scraped in - and with good progress being made on this months issue, fingers crossed that we will be able to stay on schedule.

On the positive side though, the delay prompted us to post some examples and behind the scenes stuff of how each issue is made - from my storyboard to the rough draft to finished product.

Either way, hope you enjoy the latest installment.

That's it for march - hope you enjoyed this issue, had some fun and maybe even learned something new. See you again in April - until then, have fun, stay safe and happy swordening!

  • Paul