Cheness Cutlery specialize on a range of
economical entry level Japanese swords for Iaido and Kenjutsu
practitioners since 2005.
With a focus on making the best functional blade possible, and mounting it in simple ‘no bells and whistles fittings’ – Cheness Cutlery are more popular with Japanese Sword Art practitioners than collectors looking for a ‘pretty art’ sword, though naturally their customer base also includes a large number of ‘backyard cutting’ sword enthusiasts.
Owned and operated by Paul Chen (not the same Paul Chen as Hanwei), their most revolutionary and unique concept to date is the use of 9260 Silicon Alloy Spring Steel, creating a range of functional Dojo Katana that have a solid reputation as the toughest and most durable Japanese swords on the marketplace.
Price range for Cheness swords is from $149 to $299 maximum.
9260 SPRING STEEL MONOTEMPERED KATANA
Cheness swords quickly found its niche with its line of ultra durable monosteel Katana, Wakizashi and Ko-Katana (Wakizashi length blades with Katana length handles). These blades are easily the toughest and most durable swords on the market, able to be bent up to 90 degrees without taking a set (permanent bend) yet still feel as stiff as a normal Japanese sword should and have a thick ‘hira niku’ profile, making for heavy duty swords that cut well above any other swords in this price range.
9260 SPRING STEEL SPECIALIZED BLADES
The success of the original line of 9260 Daisho spurred Cheness to delve into niches that the ‘big boys’ usually ignore – such as O-Katana, the SGC (Specialized Goza Cutters) and the Oniyuri Bujinkan Katana (Shinobigata/Ninjato). These unique ‘semi custom’ swords have been very well received by taller practitioners, at cutting competitions and by members of the Bujinkan Federation.
While their focus is primarily on Dojo cutters, Cheness have not ignored the casual collector – with several blades including the Laminated Higo Katana, the folded Kochou and the Differentially Hardened Kanbai. Most of these have been phased out (though the folded Kochou is still available) – however there was one Differentially Hardened Katana, the KAZE (made from 9260 Spring Steel!) that is perhaps their most popular sword to date – primarily due to it being as strong and effective as traditional Katana twice the price and its a beautiful natural hamon.
Easily the lowest priced iaito on the market, Cheness Cutleries range of non-sharpened training swords are exceptionally popular with dojos around the world and make an excellent alternative to the standard (rather lightweight) zinc alloy swords typically used for dojo practice. Weighing as much a real Katana, the general consensus is that these swords are seriously under-priced and could be sold for double the current price and still be considered to be a good deal.
Cheness Cutlery swords are all hand made, unlike most other production Katana in this price range which make heavy use of machinery throughout the process (often stamping out the blades rather than actually forging). The amount of time and labor put into each sword is truly impressive, and Paul Chen from Cheness has been very transparent with the process as you can see from the video of his forge in action below.
As Cheness Cutleries QC concentrates on the integrity of the blade and overall functionality, occasionally a sword may leave the factory with a few cosmetic marks here and there, a bit of wood peeking through thin same (ray skin) or worst case scenario – a slightly rattling tsuba, etc. However, it is extremely rare that these issues effect the swords primary intended purpose – i.e. overall functionality.
Cheness have been VERY forthright in explaining the known limitations of their swords in an article on their site “Our Philosophy and What to Expect”
In their own words:
"We practice in JSA and use our own swords and have had the guidance of many generous senseis and develop our own refinement over the years. There are features that we developed and may not be the same as swords from other manufacturers. We do not just copy designs, and the swords that we make are the ones we would buy and use. They may not be suitable for every practitioners or collectors out there, but are what we would like at the prices we would pay for ourselves."
There were some reports in the early stages that some of the tsuka cores were cracked upon disassembling the sword (which Cheness actually advised their customers to do before using ANY Katana, either from them or any other Japanese sword manufacturer). How many of these tsukas were cracked during overzealous disassembly (they are on VERY tightly) or were misidentified (i.e. all tsukas have a seam down the middle where the two halves are glued together that ‘looks’ like a crack) has never been quantified…
Regardless though, as part of their continuing commitment to producing the best product for the lowest price, Cheness swords now all sport a new improved hardwood tsuka.
Due to their low margins, in 2011 Cheness Cutlery ceased their wholesale supply operation and the only other place where they can be purchased outside of Cheness themselves is right HERE at the Store of our sister site, Sword-Buyers-Guide.com
I hope this information on Cheness Cutlery has been helpful. To return to the Sword Manufacturers Dossier from Cheness Cutlery, click here