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Sword Buyers Digest - Christmas December 2011
December 01, 2011

Paul Southren Yup, it’s time for the Christmas edition of the digest! And as this issue is the last one for 2011 it’s a big one (Plus we don’t publish it again until February. Just so I can take a short but much needed breather over Christmas and on New Years day!)..

From getting starting in collecting antiques to a new SBG project unveiled and the best last minute buys for Christmas 2011 – there’s lots to get through this issue so I hope you enjoy it!


1. From the Desk of Paul Southren
2. Featured Article: 5 Tips to Start Your Antique Collection
3. Letters to the Editor (NEW)
3. Best Forum Posts
4. Video of the Month: AMAZING Sword Skill
5. Christmas Sword Buyers Guide 2011


November has been such a busy month that if it wasn’t for those super convenient “Calorie Mate” food stick things we have in Japan I would probably have wasted away in front of the keyboard (ok, well I’ve probably got enough fat reserves to go for a bit longer for a month, but those Japanese biscuit/ration bar things are very handy and do the job of keeping you going if you don’t have time to actually sit down and eat. Which is not at all an uncommon situation in the land of the rising sun!).

Most of the ultra-busy factor was (and still is) down to the SBG custom Katana. Batch 18 opened up and reached what the forge (and I) can comfortably handle within 7 days, a new record! Though some orders are still not 100% finalized yet and even as I write this issue of the digest I am still in the process of cross referencing each order with any and all emails and notes about it and batching them all up so the forge can get started (it takes a while, so please bear with me). And of course at the same time, Batch 17 is going out the door, plus a whole lot more (pfft, sleep and food is for the weak! Lol).

Definitely busy, but while at times it’s all very draining - it is emails like THIS one from Michael Rivera in Michigan that make it all worthwhile:

"I am going to buy an SBG Katana. My birthday is November 18th as well lol. But, do not expect me to purchase one in this batch. I will be getting one in batch's later on. Just wanting to stay in the loop. I just wanted to give the friendly hello! As well as THANK YOU for what you are doing! You are doing something that will allow me to pass that sword down generation after generation for my family. The High Quality you are offering looks too good to pass up compared to the other $300+ katanas'.

I have only just begun studying Battojutsu. Being in a town of 3,000 people, with a dojo 30 miles away, I have not been able to make it to the dojo due to financial and transportation reasons. But, I want to learn the whole aspect in the dojo so I can absorb the depth of what Battojutsu really is. But for now, I train form and condition myself, mentally and physically. Your site and this cold steel bokken has really changed my life. This is going to be something I study for a lifetime, I can tell already.

Once again, Thank you!
You will be hearing from me again!"

I am often touched and amazed by the kind of stories that come my way from this project. And while it will be a while before we open up on new orders again, that isn’t all there is for the SBG custom Katana line this year..

The forge has been working on a special Christmas project for the better half of this year – and a project I alluded to previously has finally come to fruition..

…INTRODUCING – the SBG Katana limited edition collectors series!

Made by the SBG forge, the SBG Katana limited edition collectors series came in quietly with batch 17. These are NOT pre-orders, they are sitting there with my agent ready to ship out within around about a week after ordering!

These swords are basically remakes of the original SBG custom Katana prototypes, essentially the same basic themes but adding in several of the new upgrade options and basically rebuilding these prototypes for 2011/12 to demonstrate exactly how far the forge and SBG has come!

To graphically show you what I mean, here is an image of the original prototypes and the new ones side by side:

SBG Prototypes

Check out the bo-hi version with a much nicer replica of that original ‘claw’ tsuba, battlewrap and FOLDED steel by clicking here or on the image below:

SBG Prototypes

And the heavy duty, solid bodied blade bamboo cutter with rattan saya wrap and leather ito here or on the following image:

SBG Prototypes

Only 20 pieces were made of each version and they are available with FREE shipping to the USA and CANADA from my agent based in Canada (for orders outside of the USA and Canada, please contact us first for a shipping quote).

NEW SBG BLOGS! There is a LOT going on in the last few weeks of 2011. And after resurrecting the old blog for the SBG custom Katana to try and make it easier for people to keep track of what is going on I decided that it was also time to update the SBG Sword Store Blog and give it a new ‘real blog format’.

In this new STORE blog I will be providing sneak previews of new products and projects for SBG, announce sales and specials and also give general updates on stock levels, restocks, etc.

For example, in an update on the 16th of November I previewed several new models coming in THIS month from Ronin Katana – including a 29” blade (with mean looking fittings), Ko Katana, Wakizashi and an anime inspired budget line (below is a quick pic of the Wakizashi!).

Ronin Wakizashi

You can access the news blog from the store anytime, or better yet subscribe to the RSS feed to be the first to know what is going on.

Click here to check it out for yourself.

FEATURE ARTICLE: 5 Tips to Start Your Antique Collection
Moniteur Andrew (Drew) Tharp

Chinese Fake
A typical fake antique sold on ebay as the real deal…

Every sword collector that I have ever met has been interested in antiques, but we don’t spend much time talking about them on SBG. This is probably because antiques are so expensive. The focus of SBG has always been sub-$300 swords, so antiques are generally out – right? Many people presume that antique swords will automatically be precluded if we try and stay below a $300 budget, and to some extent this is true, but there are many swords and genres that break that preconception.

Below are five hints to help the beginning sword collector get into antique collecting.

1. Buy from a Reputable Dealer

If you ask around, you will hear that buying from a reputable dealer won’t be cheap. That is true; you do pay a premium for the dealer’s expertise and advice. Looking at my favorite vendor’s site, I see a handful of weapons under $300, at least a dozen under $500, and tons under $1000, all of which would make great starter weapons. I would not always suggest buying from a dealer, but when you first start out, it is important to find someone who is on your side and is willing to tell you the truth about their products.

I know many experienced sword collectors that buy on eBay, but they all have stories of getting burned, it just happens sometimes. In the beginning it is best to start with some quality, well made pieces. Just like starting your cutting or reproduction collection, you have to know what you are getting into. Even more with antiques, because if you want to be able to identify fakes and frauds, you need to know what the real thing is first. Speaking of identifying fakes and frauds….

2. Start with Books

I know it is boring, but books give you the foundation that you need to identify the treasures from the traps. Invest at least as much in books as you do your first antique sword. Make sure you also buy at least one book on caring for antique swords, they are slightly different than modern reproductions, and of course, most people don’t cut with antiques (but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t – much information can be gleaned from interacting with the real deal, but extra care needs to be taken – you can lose more than money if you mess up – you can destroy history), so that changes the equation considerably. Antique sword books are often expensive, and that means that you need to…

3. Choose Your Weapon

What I mean by this is: make a commitment to a certain type (or even a certain sword) before you start looking around. You will get distracted (I want a smallsword, but that saber is pretty….), and that is fine, but you will probably regret spending your money on something that wasn’t exactly what you wanted. My Mom used to always say, “Just because it is cheap, doesn’t mean it is a good deal.” With antique swords this is very true, but is even more confusing because “good deal” doesn’t just relate to value.

I once bought two kris knife blades on the cheap – I think $50. I thought it was a great deal – but they just didn’t fit in my collection. So I sold them for $25. Minus my shipping and time, I probably lost at least $50 on that deal, only because I was not interested in the item. Don’t try and invest immediately. You may get lucky and make some money off of a deal, but honestly, buy the items which you think are neat, and don’t worry about what other people think of them. Remember, when choosing your weapon…

4. Start Small and Late

Everyone wants a high medieval longsword. When I say everyone, that includes – die hard sword collectors, rich people who like cool things, ultra-rich people that just like to buy stuff, and museums. That means that you are bidding against ultra-rich people and the government for a small amount of items.

Collecting swords has always been cool – in the Victorian era it was hugely popular (in fact, one quick way to get burned to get a Victorian replica of a medieval piece – even back then people were trying to rip each other off). That is great for us – it means people want to see our collection and there are great networks of individuals to learn from. It also drives up prices like none other. So, if you start with less well known pieces that are from a more recent time period, you are going to get better bang for your buck. The first sword I bought was an 1800’s French briquet saber. I bought it because I wanted to do sabrage with an antique. Because it was made in the 1800’s it was fun and easy to research – I learned a lot about the sword. It isn’t popular – it’s not a Civil War saber, or a Napoleonic cavalry saber, but it is from a place and time I am interested in. It was less than $300. It was a fantastic beginning investment and I have not regretted it one bit. But since it was from a later period and a less popular style of sword (short swords tend to go for less) I was able to get a good deal on a good quality piece. But, just because you start small and late doesn’t mean you shouldn’t…

5. Go all in

Don’t sell yourself short. If you want something particular, save up and get it – don’t jump on the first thing you see (but also don’t set your goals too high, we all have to start somewhere). If you choose to start with an affordable type of antique sword, then you should be able to get a good example for a reasonable price. Sometimes we buy used replicas or scratch and dent pieces, but I try and get the highest quality example of historical items I can. You are more likely to hold onto an antique, so get something you know you want.

Some good places to start: African Swords, Cavalry Sabers (especially if you stay away from major engagements – American Civil War Sabers or French Revolution Sabers can get pretty expensive), and Filipino styles tend to stay fairly cheap. I would avoid: Japanese Swords, Medieval European Swords, and Scottish Swords. Not that those are fantastic pieces to collect, they just tend to get faked fairly often, and a good example is generally pretty expensive. Good luck starting your antique collection! It is possible and fun to get antiques that are less than $300, and will really add something to your sword collection.

By Moniteur Andrew (Drew) Tharp – Drew is the Senior Fencing Instructor at Indiana University, has a Certification in Martial Arts from IU, and has been collecting swords since the late 90’s.


Last months article by Drew about the merits of sport fencing received quite a bit of feedback, so I’ve decided to (with the authors permission of course) to share a couple of the emails with you guys and may even make this an ongoing part of future issues of the digest…

Rick Johnson from Tuscon Arizona writes:

"People who say that Fencing is not ‘real’ sword fighting should be aware that by definition, Kendo is not ‘real’ nor is Judo, Kyudo, Olympic Archery and most of the Martial Arts out there. They are modern stylized sports that have been stripped of their military uses to retain … a sport!

I remember when I could afford cable-TV, I used to watch the Karate tournaments. I’d watch the White-Belts go at it with all the neat moves they taught us, then I’d watch the Black-Belts and I noticed: “Hey! Where are all the neat moves they taught me? They only are using maybe three punches and two kicks!”

And I recall some military instructor when I was in the Air Force tell me, “In any army, Sparta, Samurai, US Armed Forces, only 5% of the army are real soldiers, the remaining 95% are grunts who we are lucky to teach ‘pointy end goes into the enemy”. Ok, so Fencing/Kendo are not ‘real’ sword arts. Does that mean my 28 years in uniform are NOT ‘real’ military service? Hey! Can I have my scars and injuries revoked?

I watched a fencer and a broadswordsman hack away at each other one day. The fencer took out the broadsword’s leg, then remained out of his range and simply chipped away at his 3’ Viking round-shield! After a while, there was this really neat notch in the shield and the fencer snapped through it and got in the ‘killing’ blow!

The next day I signed up for Fencing Class!

I learned karate, my favorite sport. Then was in an area where the only school was kung Fu! It took me awhile to adapt until something clicked! The stances and moves were the same, only instead of holding my right fist at navel, I was now holding it at belt-buckle! That was when I advanced in the school!

What I learned by combining these experiences is that Sturgeon’s Law* applies to combat too! BUT, just because Fencing (developed for the Small Sword which was easier to carry in town than the Battlefield Rapier) has been stripped of combat uses, it STILL retains the 5% core of very useful martial arts that is universal to ALL sword-systems. Learn Fencing! Learn the footwork, learn the parries and lunges. Then when you know the basics, adapt these to other systems because the chances are that your longsword instructor is recreating a lost art and never thought of that move because it was so natural, the guy who wrote that book 500 years ago thought, “why write this down, everyone knows it!”

The basics are the same, only fencing schools are easier to find than are Longsword schools! And a good fencer can adapt very easy to other sword arts AND the basic skills he learned in fencing makes him a better swordsman.

Bruce Ingham, a Tai Chi Chuan and Chinese sword stylist concurs – adding:

"Having had some western fencing while a senior in high school 40+ years ago, I find the application of competitive fencing most applicable to any sword. Jian techniques mirror in many ways western techniques (cultural cross-over?). Yet, form work doesn't come close to the anxiety, anticipation and rush of competitive fencing, ever so rudimentary.

The point made in the article about footwork is ever so relevant. Modern MA training so de-emphasis' the value and importance of lower body training, i.e. stance training, footwork and walking drills, etc. Yet, much of the "advanced" skills are based upon solid leg work! What many do not realize is the sensitivity and proficiency in TCC push hands comes from the legs and the root."

And Stephan adds:

"Great newsletter....especially appreciate Master Tharp's article on fencing, being an epee man myself....amazing that anyone would declare this not to be real swordfighting.....they need to get a mask on and try it.

A propos your Christmas bargain article, you might know that there's a Chinese company out there that makes reproduction swords, French & German styles (mostly Napoleonic era), that are for re-enactors/theatre/movies; blades properly marked so as not to be mistaken for originals as they are chemically "aged" to look old. Some dealers on ebay are selling these as original antiques. So if the location section of the sword's page says anywhere in China, Mongolia, Tibet, etc, you know what you're getting. But some will give the dealer's location. You really need to familiarise yourself with the originals by closely scanning all the ads & see if you can find any books on the type & era you want. Research is a must. Toujours en garde!"

Kind of spooky how Stephan’s note on antiques tied in with Drew’s latest article!

To add your $0.02 to the letters to the editor section, simply reply to this email and advise that you are happy for it to be published and space and time permitting, I’ll add it in accordingly.

Finn and Fuller


When it comes to amazing sword skills, one young gentleman from Japan – Isao Machii – takes the cake (and also holds a Guinness world record for tameshigiri - the 1000 cutting "senbongiri").

Even though some of what he does is a little bit ‘sensationalist’, he is a serious martial artists based out of Hyogo Prefecture (actually just the next prefecture over from where I am in Osaka) – and this video shows him doing the impossible, cutting a bb bullet in mid flight…

Youtube vid of the Month

YouTube Video of the Month

Sure, a bb pellet is around 1/3 of the speed of a real bullet, but its also a third of the size, and I honestly have NO idea how he can do this..

Just beggars belief – and shows the kind of skills serious, dedicated training can build..


Last issue I provided a basic guide to the usual pattern of the best sword buying opportunities for Christmas 2011 (if you missed it you can read the last issue online here).

But in THIS edition I’ll be looking at what’s available at four of the best sword stores in the last 2-3 weeks before Christmas, as there really are some amazing NEW deals on offer right now, starting with…


I’m really excited about the possibilities of this project, and while I am not 100% certain that they would arrive in time for Christmas – I can’t really see why not (best to email them to check first if you need it BEFORE Christmas).

Either way, the concept is very much one that for medieval sword enthusiasts would see all their Christmases come at once..

The project was leaked on the SBG sword forum by a member who somehow found the project when MRL were testing it – MRL’s “Create Your own Sword” option:

MRL Make Your Own Sword

The blades and components are all in the USA and assembled on site, and while the number of choices is currently a little limited, it’s early days and for the price (the sword I designed above would cost just $185!) it’s a total steal!

Check it out – and don’t forget to use your 10% MRL discount code: sbgweb

I think this project deserves as much exposure as possible and really is taking Windlass and MRL in the right direction.

Speaking of which, Windlass have just made all MY Christmases come at once: ever since I first saw the original Conan movie with Arnie, I had wanted a real Atlanean sword. But due to licensing restrictions, the only models ever available were either cheap and nasty illegal copies made in Pakistan or the $3,000 Albion..

But after so many years, Windlass finally created not just the stunning Atlantean sword, but also the fathers sword and Valeria’s sword too!

Conan Sword

I imagine that these will sell out pretty fast and for any Conan enthusiast like me is a dream come true, and thus the PERFECT Christmas gift.

Check them out here

Trueswords stock an incredibly large range of ‘cool’ odds and ends, and while only a small fraction of what they offer is of interest to hard core sword lovers, this small fraction is backed up by top notch (extremely professional) customer service, incredibly fast shipping and low prices.

For Christmas 2011, Trueswords have put together a neat little holiday guide page here organizes the most popular gift ideas into easy to search categories.

Of particular note to real sword collectors is their ‘handmade’ section, ‘stands’ and practice swords, though if you want to get a couple of ultra cheap but decent looking wallhangers for friends and family while you are at it they have the best prices on these kind of things too.

I should also mention in passing their new zombie apocalypse section – a tongue in cheek one stop shop for zombie hunters with a selection of khurki, machete, survival kits and more.

Zombie Apocalypse

Definitely a fun store to browse not to mention a safe and easy way to get a few new serious blades while at the same time stocking up on a whole heap of other odds and ends like medieval themed décor, zippo lighters, flags, airsoft to ensure the Christmas stockings are nice and fat.


Kult of Athena always has exceptionally good prices all year round, which of course makes buying from them at this time of year a very smart choice indeed.

In their New Items Section you’ll find some very hot items perfect for the sword collector who has everything already – from new releases by Windlass Steelcrafts to the new greatly anticipated Rheinlander sword by Cas Hanwei for just $199.

Rheinlander sword

And of course, their perennial sale page is a must visit destination - at the time of writing this there are still a few of the Hanwei Raptor series Katana on sale from between $150 to $200 and as these are apparently now being discontinued they make a great gift idea.

Well, that’s it for this issue – I hope you have a great Christmas and a very happy start to 2012. Talk to you all then.


Paul Southren

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