Try a Ronin, or throw down for a Shinto?
First, thanks for a side full of very useful information!
I am a long time practitioner of Iai-do, with occasional tameshigiri practice (not nearly as much as I would like). While I have a Paul Chen Practical Plus Elite I love for tameshigiri, I find it to be rather clunky and awkward for kata. A couple of years ago, I purchased a Cheness Tenchi in order to try something different. While the cross-sectional shape of the tsuka felt a bit odd at first, I generally liked it very much, until recently I noticed a crack in the tsuka. This sword has seen a lot of use for kata, but not much at all tameshigiri, so it has had SOME wear on it, but nothing extreme. I can (and will) repair the existing tsuka, and/or mount a replacement (and I should note that Paul Chen offered a free replacement tsuka, even though the sword is out of warranty), but this incident has caused me to think about adding another katana to the collection. Since I am shortish, I need a blade in the 27-28" range, and since I practice kata far more than tameshigiri, I need one with a bo-hi. Since I have far more demands on my wallet than cash in that wallet, I need something affordable.
Now that all of that preamble is out of the way, the Ronin blades seem very interesting to me. They seem to have better quality furniture than Cheness uses, albeit with perhaps a less durable blade. This would be OK for my particular needs. The price is certainly right, they make models with bo-hi, and there are a fair few cosmetic options. That said, I cannot help but wonder if I would not be better off squeezing another $300 out of the wallet somehow and going one step up the quality scale to a Paul Chen Shinto. It also meets all the specifications, but I'm just not sure, not having handled either, if the difference in quality is equal to the difference in price. What would your recommendation be?
Alternatively, is there an obvious OTHER brand/model that I should be considering but have missed?