When Sword Buyers Guide was first started in 2005, we had no idea that our site would actually become a major driving force to shape the sword making industry..
Over the years however, our position as an industry insider allowed us some very unique opportunities. Not only were we able to get the REAL scoop on what goes on in the sword industry, but by being involved in some projects of our own, we have been able to help shape and refine it - stacking up a few real victories, making some mistakes, and learning a whole lot in the process..
In this article we will look at all the different projects that we have been involved with over the years, and also provide you some insight into what is coming down the line..
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In 2008, we kicked off our adventures with SBG Special Projects and began our first foray into making Custom Katana as a response to people having numerous bad experiences attempting to buy Custom swords on eBay (a situation that we helped mitigate to some degree, but in the end after seeing OUR designs being copied and misrepresented, ended in the Projects eventual demise.. Click here for our behind the scenes article on the dirty tricks some of the direct from China sellers pull on unsuspecting customers).
Since 2008 the demand for custom made Japanese style swords has only grown - and we made two attempts at around the same time to set a template that others could follow - "don't promise what you can't do, take care of your customers properly and be upfront about the process"..
And so with two different company representatives that I had come to trust, our journey into the world of exclusive SBG Special Projects began in earnest..
One of the projects - which was made in collaboration with a Canadian based importing company 'ProSwords' had a lot of potential. But unfortunately, ended up as something of a failure.
But from every failure and setback, something new is learned - and it gave me my first taste in designing swords of my own.. A taste that would soon become insatiable as you will see.
It's an interesting read, and still many of the goals and ideals it set out to achieve remain our constant priority.
But the second project that started at the same time had a much longer run - 45 batches of swords made from 2008 to 2019 - our famous SBG Custom Katana Series..
While both of these projects may be history, it did start a trend that continues to this day - my preference for T10 tool steel as the best reasonably priced steel to make a Katana that's both strong and sharp.
Since then, almost every SBG Katana project has featured this steel - and it has gone on to be the steel of choice for many a company since, starting something of a trend for using this steel for traditional style blades as it seemed to improve the overall durability of the blade and took a very attractive hamon temper line.
Project X started out in late 2011 and is a joint project between SBG and Ronin Katana, the largest manufacturer of Dojo ready Katana in the world.
The initial goal was to produce the very best Katana that money can buy outside of Japan by commissioning a series of swords with complex Soshu Kitae lamination and premium fittings, yet offering them at a price that almost any collector could afford.
Two years into the project, Project X began to branch out into high end traditional Chinese Swords with some limited runs, the most famous of which was the Jian of Marquis Yi (pictured right) which was made for us by Master Swordsmith Xiaolong Jiang - who would later become instrumental in another of our SBG special projects, Forge Direct..
Then in early 2019, Project X Japanese was revived - but with a wide selection of premium customization choices, more upgrade options and came back with a vengeance.
Officially an offshoot of Project X (it is officially known as Project X - Forge Direct) the goal was perhaps one of the most ambitious SBG special projects of all time. To get direct access to a massive line of premium quality, rare and unique traditional Master Smith forged Japanese and Chinese Swords available to sword collectors on a 'made to order' basis.
There are many Chinese based sellers claiming to be forges doing this, but a it was soon learned from direct experience that these individuals were simply part time sword sellers who knew a little English (most were/are housewives). The big forges tolerated selling scraps to these entrepreneurial 'forges' but only wanted big orders - they didn't want to mess around with individuals.
But we knew that if we could convince them to give it a try, it would allow us to offer swords that may not have mass appeal and/or were too expensive to risk importing - the end result of this being that we now we have over 40 unique designs available, including some that are so rare they have never been seen outside of mainland China!
In due course, the project turned towards Japanese swords - and after some negotiation the Forge Direct Elite Custom Katana was born, several steps up in quality from the SBG Custom Katana series we started in 2008 but with more customization options and a 99% satisfaction rate..
A new pricing structure was released in late 2019 - making it possible to pick up one of these high end swords at mid range prices with amazing customization options.
The project was temporarily mothballed on the 23rd of June 2020 due to supply chain issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but has since been re-tooled and re-launched as Version 4.0 (and includes several free upgrades, including buffalo horn kurikata and hishigami triangles used to create a best possible ito wrap - all added at no extra cost, despite significant price pressure - though for how long it can remain available at this price remains to be seen)..
Check out the entire lineup at the official SBG Sword Store:
Longship Armory joined the SBG Special Projects movement in 2015 and is a unique collaboration between its director, James Fang, Sword Buyers Guide and the legendary US based artisan, John Lundemo.
The aim was to produce several limited edition, SBG exclusive runs of 20 swords per run - and we started with the ultimate zombie slaying blade made from S7 shock steel - one of the strongest and rarest types of sword steels around.
A sword we named after the character created for our backstory, Furia - Sword of the Apocalypse.
After the second and final round of 10pcs were sold, our second project was created in conjunction with yet another of our SBG Special Projects, Legendary Swords: Project Eletreus (more on this later) with a Fantasy Pattern Welded Viking Sword we called "Odin's Oar", the blade of which was hand forged by KC Lund and hand finished by John Lundemo in his workshop.
But this is just the beginning, as more limited edition designs are being planned for the future, and while they are quite expensive (typically around the $2-3K mark per sword) they are truly limited edition, and priced much lower than if they were ordered as a one off custom piece by making 10 at a time.
Scorpion Swords and Knives LLC is a small local US operation run by Chris Palmer making EXTREMELY tough and durable shortswords of various styles and cultures at his Missouri based workshop via the stock removal process.
The first sword made as a part of the SBG Special Projects series was a true 'Tactical Ko Katana' made from through hardened, monotempered 1095 carbon steel with a solid, immovable handle and blackened, rust resistant blade - and was destructive tested by Jason Woodard, who - despite his best efforts - was unable to destroy it..
After the initial success of the Tactical Ko Katana, we followed up with a Tactical Gladius, and then in 2017 - four battle ready Fantasy Swords which are also a part of the Legendary Swords Project, the most popular of which was the Goblin King Sword that was also tested by Jason Woodard and proved that despite its made up design, it was as tough as any other sword made by Scorpion.
Then in late 2019, SBG Sword Tester Jason Woodard (seen in the video above) created his own line of swords, the Doomsday line - starting with Model #001 =- his own version of an ultra durable Katana..
And well, here's what it did to a wallhanger..
More swords in the series and exclusive swords are planned for the near future, and being made in the USA and under $300 - are really exceptional value if you love intimidating and extremely strong swords..
Exclusive designs and full custom options only at the SBG Sword Store:
While Ryujin Swords are available at some other retailers, SBG was the first company to get involved with this project and have created a line of exclusive products quite different than what later competitors got on board with.
The concept was quite revolutionary, to take some high quality T10 tool steel blades, import a wide variety of fittings, and have them assembled in the USA instead of in China, allowing our customers to get a custom designed sword completed and shipped out to them within a week!
In addition to lower, flat rate pricing (some competitors offer a lower base price, but turn out $30 to $80 more expensive if the same customization options are offered) we also developed an extremely close working relationship with Ryujin allowing us to offer speedier shipments, higher levels of customer service and support, and ensure that stock levels are accurately reflected (many of the competitors offer products that are not in stock)..
Accurate stock levels, best prices and quality at the SBG Sword Store:
In 2017 we were approached by the owner of Musashi Swords, one of the largest manufacturers of affordable, entry level Katana, to design our own blade.
Naturally, we jumped at the chance - and the end result was a sleek, fast in the hand, traditional and strong Katana we Christened the Musashi Fast Cutter.
Affordably priced at just $199.99 - the initial run sold out quickly and more runs, and designs, are planned for the coming months and years ahead.
It was the most ambitious of all the SBG special projects to date - Legendary Swords: the Eletreus Project. Launched on the 20th of September 2018, the project was designed to tie several previous collaborations together and serve as an entertaining backstory site for a series of SBG member designed fully functional Fantasy Swords with the tag line:
"Fantasy Sword Art Made REAL in STEEL"
Many of the Sword designs in production for this line were actually designed by members of the SBG Sword Forum community from a sword design competition we ran in 2017 - with the winners receiving their design for free from both Scorpion Swords and most notably, Blade Culture International in the Philippines.
Below you can see some of the process, from a members sketch to half finished blade and blueprint and finally, the finished product - the so called 'Aeultian Gladius' with the unique property to bisect a water filled bottle with a THRUST..
Unfortunately, almost every new product release failed to become even remotely profitable - while the site itself (including original artwork commissions and even several webcomics) continued to dig deeper and deeper into SBG's limited coffers.
The site itself still exists and is not completely 'dead' yet - but simply needs to find a new direction. And we are very proud of some of the amazing fully functional works of Fantasy Sword art this project made possible. From the most simple like the Orc Kings War Cleaver..
All the way up to a collaboration between Master Smith Michael Ye's Feathersteel/Windsteel blades and the amazing original bronze work by US artisan Jeffrey Robinson - an angelic blade, the Seraph Aegis.
You can see how all the swords were made, step by step, read deep backstories and even check out the first drafts of our webcomics as the site is still up and running - it simply has no products for sale anymore or immediate plans to make any further production runs..
In January 2020 I took a trip to Seki City to meet up with an American gentleman who has been living in Japan for the last 25 years and his friend, a Japanese sword smith.
Together, we explored the deep world of antique Japanese swords which is documented in my article 'Antique Samurai Swords: a Personal Journey' and this trip led to us getting access to a wide range of genuine antique Japanese Nihonto at previously unheard of prices due to the poor state of the Japanese economy.
Blades are available for as low as $1700 and even the highest end stuff such as a stunning and complete Edo period Daisho set, is all discounted as low as it can possibly go.
Then in August 2021, we released a sneak preview of a project coming down the line in the free Sword Buyers Digest Online Magazine that we had been working on for around 18 months - a custom line of Japanese made Shinken (live swords) using parts until now only ever seen on high end Japanese made iaito (unsharpened training swords).
But instead of an unsharpened (and by its nature, unsharpenable) zinc aluminum blade Shinsuke-san forged a blade made from 'Shiro2' steel from the Takefu Sword Company.
Looking back, I am relatively proud of what we have achieved - but am far from resting on my laurels. Indeed, personally I feel we have only just begun and what you see above is all just the tip of the iceberg.
There is almost always a new project being planned or developed behind the scenes, some taking months, others years to come to fruition. No doubt, there will be more failures and lessons to be learned. But by avoiding previous mistakes as much as possible and never giving up, we promise that we will do our best to surprise and delight you with our creations.
In short, 'you ain't seen nothin' yet'..
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I hope this information on SBG Special Projects has been helpful. To return to the SBG Homepage from SBG Special Projects, click here