Apr 01, 23 02:27 AM
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.
Review by Marc Ridgeway, Georgia, USA
Point of Balance
1566 Carbon Steel
4.5" from tsuba
One of the great Cinderella stories of recent sword releases is Hanwei, specifically the practical series. Recent competition 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
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).
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).
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 absence 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...
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.
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 around $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').
The best place to pick this sword up is HERE at Kult of Athena where it goes out the door for a mere $319.20 - around $80 less than buying from the manufacturer direct!
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