PK Elite
A step up for Hanwei

For years the PK (Hanwei's Practical Katana) had the market all to itself..

Then the interwebz happened, and Hanwei had some soul searching to do with regards to their lowest cost, entry level Katana in the Practical series.

The PK Elite and the other swords in the Elite line was their response. Lightweight, fast and razor sharp - though perhaps it still didn't quite go far enough, but it is an exceptional blade for those who like to do trick cuts and fast, light cutting..

In this review of Hanwei's new line of PK (Practical Katana) by a man who certainly knows a thing or two about Japanese swords, Marc Ridgeway (yes, the infamous M.K. Ridgeway who brought the Masahiro Bamboo Katana to the attention of production Katana enthusiasts all over the world), you'll find that we are not just taking a look at the latest developments in this line of swords...

This review goes a lot further than that.

Because it's not only a review, it's also a beginners introduction to the often baffling array of Japanese sword terminology surrounding the Katana. Not to mention a real resource for anyone wishing to learn how to customize a blade on a shoestring budget...

So sit back and enjoy this informative and educational review about this line of literally razor sharp Katana by Paul Chen of the Hanwei Forge.


Practical Katana Elite Review

Review by Marc Ridgeway, Georgia, USA


Steel 

Weight 

Point of Balance 

Price Range

1566 Carbon Steel

2.3lbs

4.5" from tsuba

US$219-360

One of the great Cinderella stories of recent sword releases is Hanwei, specifically the practical series. Recent competion from other affordable, functional swords caused some of the industry giants to back up and reassess. Most were left with two choices...drop prices, or step it up.

Hanwei chose to step it up.

The old version of the PK was a sliver of a blade, with a nonremovable tsuka. This was bad news for any who wish to dress up the sword. The new elite version is a reworked PK, with a better polish, a nice sugata (shape), gunome hamon and a removable tsuka (handle).

The PK is pictured here, as I recieved it, it is the third sword down, pictured with two Masahiro Bamboo and a Hanwei Wind and Thunder.

For a comparison of the the new PK with the old PK check out this page on Mike Femal Sensei's site... http://nihonzashi.com/ComparePracticals.htm

Here's the stats:

Weight: 2.3 lbs
Nagasa 長さ (length from tip to back notch of blade collar): 27 inches
POB (Point of Balance): 4.5 inches from the tsuba
Tsuka 鍔 (the handle): 11 inches
Motohaba 元幅 (width of bottom of blade):1.4 inches
Sakihaba 先幅 (width before the tip): 1.1 inches
Motokasane 元重ね (thickness at bottom of blade): 6.5 mm
Sakikasane 先重: 4.5 mm
Sori 反り (curvature): 0.78 inch

Aesthetics

The sugata (blade shape) is shinogi zukuri (the most common katana shape) with chu kissaki (medium sized tip).

Fuchigashira (handle fittings) are plain steel, and the tsuba (hand guard) is the classic plain maru gata (round) with kogatana ana (holes for fitting companion knives). All are nicely blackened.

The kashira is detracted from by the fake shitodome (the bit where the handle wrap slips into the end cap) cast into it.

The tsuka ito (handle wrap) is a synthetic suede and the samegawa (rayskin) is synthetic as well. Although the diamonds are too wide, the maki (wrap) is tight and even, however for most more experienced sword users, this tsukagawa must go.

Fortunately the tsuka is now removable to make the new PK an easy platform for customization. Mine was immediately re-done...and the result is a beautiful and personalized sword. More on this later.

"The polish is impeccable..."

With a high mirror shine on the shinogi-ji (flat part of the blade near the spine), a great satin finish on the ji (part of the blade closest to the edge) that really brings out the natural grain of the steel, and a nicely presented hamon (wavy temper line).

Handling Characteristics

At 2.3 lbs with a balance point of 4.5 inches, this is the quickest, best handling production sword I've seen. It flows effortlessly through kata, and direction and momentum changes are fluid. Simply put, this sword handles more like Nihonto (swords made in Japan) than any production sword I've held (yes heresy, I know).

Cutting and Durability

This sword has a wide mihaba and thin kasane (see illustration). This is commonly known as Kotetsu geometry, and is very popular for cutting swords.

Combining this geometry with an absense of hira-niku ('meat') makes this a very sharp sword indeed.

"In fact, this sword is the sharpest thing I've ever owned, short of a razor blade. Just stupid, stupid sharp..."

This comes with a price, however. Sharp = thin, and thin = fragile. This sword sails through soft targets.

An empty (dry) freestanding water bottle cut side to side is launched by most swords, with the PK elite, it falls softly into two pieces.

One has to be very careful as to ones targets, however. There are two dings, and two chips in my blade from bottle mouths.

This sword is simply too sharp to handle any abuse...

Conclusion

The PK is extremely upgraded from it's previous version. It is well made, attractive and functional, and should serve well as either a display sword or a light cutting sword.

MARC's CUSTOMIZATION TIPS

The PK is a great base for customization. I mentioned earlier I would elaborate on that.

The PK is available at the SBG Sword Store here in the Hanwei Japanese Swords Section for $219.99.

Tsuka-ito can be found on ebay. Real Rayskin scraps can often be purchased at implora for incredible prices: http://implora.com/searchpelt.asp

You should be able to purchase the Rayskin and ito to rewrap your tsuka for $50-$70. If you DIY it, you can have a truly unique and attractive sword for under $300. It might seem hard, and of course it is at first, but anyone can succeed with a little practice. You can find some simple tutorials right here on SBG, here for standard tsukamaki and here for a 'battlewrap'

Now if you still don't feel; capable, for a little more money, you can have someone do it for you.

Some of the pros are very costly with extremely long wait times, but there are craftsmen offering GREAT service at GREAT prices with quick turnaround time; you just have to know where to look.

You can also find several private individuals offering their services on the various sword forums (and of course, these are always a good place to ask who is currently 'hot').

PROS

  • RAZOR sharp (exceptional for cutting soft targets)
  • Exceptional Handling characteristics - very light and fast
  • Relatively low price point

CONS

  • Cheap looking plastic imitation rayskin
  • Unattractive synthetic suede ito wrap with overly large diamonds
  • The blade is a little too sharp for its own good and chips relatively easily on non-standard targets

WHERE TO BUY

As mentioned you can pick this sword up here at SBG for $219.99


I hope you found this review of the new line of Hanwei PK enjoyable and informative. To return to A Beginners Guide to Authentic Japanese Swords from PK - Hanwei's Latest Generation of Practical Katana, click here

Looking for honest, trustworthy sword sellers? Look no further than:

The Official SBG Sword Buyers Directory!

Sword Buyers Digest Newsletter!

Sign Up Now

Sign Up to Our FREE Monthly E-zine for all the latest sword news, info and much, much more! Click Here for more info..

Popular Review Categories

From the Store

If you like swords, "like" our page..!