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Sword Buyers Digest - September 2009
September 01, 2009

Paul Southren Glad you could join me, it’s been one heck of a busy month at SBG and I’ve got quite a few interesting things to talk to you about this issue – including a behind the scenes sneak peek at a SBG project that has been over one year in the making!

So please sit back and take a few minutes out of your day to ‘talk swords’ with me. ^_^


4. COLLECTORS CORNER: Swords and Children
6. VIDEO OF THE MONTH – ‘Longsword Techniques’


I have to admit that I am getting a bit sick of html coding right now...

In fact, it got to the stage where when I found time to drag myself away from the computer for a few minutes and go down to the shops, I kind of felt like Neo in the Matrix when he sees everyone in code...

Too much coding got me seeing things like this

I’ve actually got at least 60% of the entire site coded and ready to load up to the transition every page to the new look site – though I am slightly behind schedule. Mostly because I had the bright idea of making sure that every page was both up to date, consistent with the others and had the new review conclusion format (pros and cons, plus a star rating).

In other words, generally being far too much of a perfectionist instead of just wacking it up there... (Oh well, it will be worth the effort when it is all done!).

Still a fair bit more to go, but the news and updates section and the main home page have already been added to slowly prepare long time visitors for the transition and to avoid the sudden shock an overnight site wide change causes. I’d love to hear what you think though, especially about the new navigation (which is an improvement I think, even I used to sometime scan up and down the navbar looking for a page!).

New Look SBG

When I have previewed the review pages, I think they look a lot nicer now too– so there is also the ‘cosmetic facelift’ factor. But boy, what a project – it was kind of unplanned as I had originally intended to concentrate on SMG this month, but I guess by now you guys know how I can end up jumping from one project to the next, though as you will see later in this issue, I think that some SBG projects can be pretty revolutionary (and others, just a bit of a headache! Lol).


Yup, it’s that time of year again – the third and final batch of SBG Custom Katana for 2009 has been gathering orders for the last few days, and we are about to finalize it and about to close the window of opportunity to design your own Katana for $330 within the next few days!

I’ve also taken some feedback on board and due to popular demand have added some new ito and saya colors, as well as created a Ko Katana and Wakizashi option..!

It has taken me a while to release these, mostly because the forge could not give me much of a price break on them (because in reality there is not a huge amount of difference in the work that goes into a 21” blade than a 28” one, and the guys at the forge prefer to spend their time making Katana!).

However, even though I had to squeeze my margins – I thought I had better offer the option even if there is not a huge price difference (only $30 less than the Katana)...

Anyway, for everyone who was asking for them, and everyone else who would be interested in a custom Daisho set for 630 bucks (which I must admit, is a pretty cool thing to have) – now is your chance!

Check them out here in the Custom Katana section of the SBG sword store!

(But get in quick, because as mentioned this will be the LAST BATCH for 2009 and I will be closing off on accepting new orders between September the 3rd and the 5th).

The Quest for a Perfect Entry Level Katana...

Staying with the Katana theme just for a little longer (and enthusiasts of other types of swords, please bear with me – the rest of the digest will be dedicated to you guys) – I’d like to share with you a sneak peek at a secret project that I have been working on for at least 1 year now...

In the kind of price range that SBG specializes in, I am yet to find a martial arts grade Katana that has truly met all my requirements. For example, Cheness swords have very tough blades, but many baulk at the rough finish of the kissaki, and of course the fittings are very plain basic. Hanwei’s Performance Series ‘Plus’ Katana range have decent quality (and well assembled) fittings, but the frosted hamon leave me a little cold (pardon the pun) – and the blades are often reported to be somewhat on the delicate side. Dynasty Forge are usually pretty good all rounders, but the blades of the ones in our price range are sans hamon – and anyone who has been paying attention may have heard of some quality control issues of late..

And while the SBG Katana have really nice blades, the fittings – though customizable - are pretty ‘generic’ and only average quality.

All in all, I’ve pretty much had to concede that a perfect all round ‘good’ sword is going to cost at least two or three times that of a half decent entry level martial arts grade Katana (as stated HERE in my ‘final word and caveat’ section of the Japanese swords page).

But not being one to simply accept the status quo – I decided one year ago to do something about it and try and create a more or less ‘perfect’ entry level sword. In other words, a Katana that was a great all rounder - with all the common issues that plague entry level Katana firmly addressed.

And I am so close to success now – I just had to share!


A Canadian gentleman who was actually one of the SBG sword stores earliest customers contacted me a little over a year ago now (I had actually sold him his first iaito) and started telling me about how he had found a forge in China that was largely unknown, but had great potential because they really did seem to want to make the best quality product possible. Having spent one year working on prototypes, sending them to the top ranking iaido sensei (5th to 7th dan) in Canada for feedback, and continually improving them until they met their requirements – every detail of these swords were heavily scrutinized by this group of sensei to eliminate the typical issues that plague most production swords.

Naturally, I was more than a little intregued and I ordered a prototype from him – a basic 1060 through hardened blade with iron fittings. And apart from the psuedo hamon, which I did not like at all, this was one of the most comfortable to weild, well assembled and great handling blades that I had laid my hands upon!

Sure it wasn’t a $1,000+ Bugei. But it was essentially ‘issue free’.

Below is a pic of this prototype:

Original Prototype

This was around about 6 months ago. And while I was very happy with this sword, there were just a few things missing – so while I did not change the dynamics or basic build of the sword, which had already been perfected by the team of Canadian Sensei, I really wanted a differentially hardened blade, some more attractive fittings, and a few other minor tweaks.

And having received the final prototypes in mid August, I must say that I am seriously excited by the product that I have in my hands!

What we are talking about is a Katana with:

  • Excellent Handling Characteristics
  • Evenly sharpened blade ready to cut right out of the box
  • NATURAL and easily visible Hamon
  • Excellent quality, optimally tempered hand forged steel (T-10 actually, which I am quite partial to)
  • Carefully assembled and super tight components (no shortcuts)
  • No loose Kashira, off centered habaki, ‘fat’ tsuka, incorrectly wrapped ito, ugly kissaki, etc
  • Low margins at my end and no silly extras that increase the price, such as sword boxes, cleaning kits, etc.
Below are a couple of pics of what I am talking about – one of the prototypes with solid brass Tiger themed fittings...

Tiger Prototype

Tiger Prototype

These swords tick all the boxes above and then some! And the final price tag at this point is going to be somewhere between US$350 to $400 (shipped free in the US and Canada!).

Of course, how soon I can bring them to market all depends on how they do in the tests. If they fail, it’s back to the drawing board. But if they succeed... Well, let’s just say that I don’t think that I will be the only one excited anymore...!

Once they pass my tests, I’ll be taking some pre-orders on a limited edition run to help get it all up and running. So stay tuned guys, I really do feel that something VERY exciting and VERY big is just around the corner, and could not contain my excitement about it for a minute longer!

Hopefully I will have some updates for you in the next issue of the digest...!

Will keep you all posted either way.

“Swords and Children”

Dan Dacombe Having children changes things. I know you’ve all heard this before, probably many times. “A child will completely change your life,” they say. “Say goodbye to your privacy and free time,” they say. “It isn’t legal to leave them in your backyard all day,” they say. To those I respond with, ‘Yes,’ ‘Sort of’ and ‘It depends on what kind of critters are in your backyard.’

But I can’t deny that parenthood brings with it many changes, some big, some small. Other parents will agree with me when I say the most drastic difference is that 95% of your conversations will revolve around the size, colour, odour and consistency of your new child’s bowel movements. Perhaps you experienced this from the outside before; having friends over who just became parents, for example, and spend the evenings chattering away with other parents present about the exciting new world of their child’s poo. “Our little Jonny produced about two pounds of what looked like refried beans this afternoon,” one will say proudly, while another responds, “How precious! Our baby Maria’s looks more like guacamole,” and all the while you are cursing that you went with a Mexican theme for your party.

The only stories you have to tell to keep up with the conversation are about your dog, which always seems to offend parents for some reason. Why can’t I compare my dog eating an entire cake and throwing up purple icing for a week to your child’s spit up stories? A baby is kinda like a pet, right?

But when you become a parent for the first time, all sorts of things make themselves clear. You begin to realize that people tell the poop stories not because they think stinky disgusting parcels are awesome, but to show some kind of horrified solidarity with each other. You learn new meaning behind ordinary words like “uh oh.” And lastly, if you’re like me, at some point in time, you wake up in the dead of night with this thought in your head:

I have a baby.

I also have swords.

Swords hurt people.

Babies are people.


And it goes on from there. Suddenly you’re no longer thinking about the frivolous things in life, like expanding your sword collection, getting a better stereo in your car, or that dream house with a den, a workshop and a shower so large that you could fit yourself and a jazz saxophone quartet. You have just realized that your home is a dangerous place, and more so than most other people’s houses. Your collection of long, sharp objects is a liability, putting your child in mortal peril! What to do?

Hopefully you’ll be able to get over this reaction, as I did, and recall that you can own swords and not have them harm your children – otherwise, we as a species would never have made it out of the Middle Ages. But if you were still having doubts, we at SBG have come up with 5 compelling reasons to hang on to your collection of swords all throughout your child’s development. And here they are:

Infant Stage: Babies won’t get much out for your sword collection, to be perfectly honest. But those protective first parent instincts need all the help they can get. Consider securing a nice katana to your child’s strollers in case everyone but me is wrong and the zombie apocalypse *does* happen, and happens while you are out for a stroll.

Toddler: Most of your sword collection’s involvement with your child’s development at this stage will involve being put up high out of the way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t pull one out (maybe a blunt) for help with learning the alphabet. “S is for sword, T is for tempered, U is for... um, Uther Pendragon?” Always a classic.

Preschooler: Your child may start to get really fascinated with your swords at this point, possibly because they will be attracted to shiny objects of all kinds. But perhaps pointing them out when reading your child “The Hobbit” will be a way to help them make physical connections to the abstract reality of the book. Of course, if certain individuals object to your reading a child books with giant spiders, war and black magic then perhaps this is a moot point.

School Age: Be prepared to be seen as “the cool parent” with your child’s friends – or at least, “the weird parent who owns swords, which is so weird it is a little bit cool.” Personally, I’ll take either. During this time you may start to teach your child about proper sword care and use, and this can bring the two of you together – at least until they reach the next stage, when everything you like will be automatically uncool because they will be in-

Teenage Years: Unlss you are extremely luck, your teenage boy or girl will start to hate everything you like simply because you aren’t cool, that’s it, no other reason needed. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still try – and swords are interesting enough all on their own that your teen might not hate them! Enrol them in JSA or WMA classes, buy them their first sword, whatever you can do to support them and then get out of their way. They’ll thank you someday.

Sword can certainly be a way to bring you and your child closer – but there are also other benefits, especially if you have a little girl. Having swords at home is infinitely more intimidating towards future boyfriends for your little girl – guns are scary, yes, but swords can cut things off. Casually mention that around the little upstart and let it sink in. You’ll thank me someday, too.


New Edge on the Tinker Pearce Hanwei Swords
The Tinker Pearce medieval and Viking swords now have a new and much improved edge - great post by the man himself.

Were medieval swords really as flexible as modern reproductions?
We all know that well made modern medieval sword reproductions are supposed to be able to be quite flexible and be able to be bent to almost 45 degrees without taking a set.. But were the original swords they are based upon truly as limber? Very interesting thread.

Sword Training Info Overload!
A great thread with many useful links for anyone just getting started in WMA so they can figure out exactly where to begin...

Cool video effect for JSA Training
A very cool video effect by one of the forumites showing what is really going on in some iaido kata. Very interesting to watch and a great training tool and technique.


I always enjoy watching good videos of Longsword techniques. And this one, by the Polish division of the ARMA, shows exactly how sophisticated Longsword techniques can be – as well as revealing quite a few nice moves and tricks...

Youtube vid of the Month

You Tube Video of the Month

These guys really do know their stuff.

That’s it for this months edition of the digest - hope you enjoyed it!

Until next month, take care and have fun with swords!

Paul Southren

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