Angel Sword Review

Angel Sword have been in business for many years doing the Renaissance fair circuit in the USA and are well known for producing sturdy custom blades their own unique way. Many people have either first encountered them at the fairs or perhaps seen the extremely impressive world record cut of 26 tatami mats in one swing with a giant Angel Sword Nodachi Katana.

However, in some quarters it would seem that there are people who really seem to dislike them - and with two polarizing opinions out there about them, it has been hard to be able to really get a sense of what they are really about and what kind of sword and what kind of service you will get if you actually buy one from them.

Until now..

This impartial review by SBG member and popular YouTube sword review channel owner Matthew Jensen documents his own experiences with Angel Sword, but with their product and meeting the owner in person. So for you to be able to form your own opinion, simply read on..


Angel Sword Bright Knight Katana Review

Review by Matthew Jensen


Let me start by asking folks to approach this review with an open mind. I have not written many reviews and I know Angel Sword is a naughty word in some circles. Still I would simply ask that you give it a fair shake.

So… I am sure the first question that comes to a few folks mind is WTF? Why did you buy that?

Understand, that for me Angel Sword along with Arms and Armor and 80’s ninja movies got me interested in swords. I remember seeing them at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival when I was just a boy. I remember seeing their shop full of swords in person and how impressive it was to my young impressionable mind. I remember looking forward to going to the Angel Sword and Arms and Armor booth at the fest every year… That and Scotch Eggs… (Weird kid, I know…)

I did not start buying, collecting, and selling swords actively until around 2010. When I started looking at swords more closely most of the forum resources I could find online had some pretty harsh words for Angel Sword. Admittedly, I fell prey to popular opinion myself. I looked at the geometry and basic appearance and I was just a quick to judge. I thought to myself.. “Too Expensive, Is that a secondary bevel?, that geometry looks funny, I hear the owner is a real X&#!&Bag.” But then something changed a bit in my thinking.

I thought to myself, these folks have been in the business a long time, have a solid guarantee, have a product that is proven to work, and have a unique take on style. I know they might have their shortcomings but that can be said of just about everyone. I thought I would chance it and form my opinion form firsthand experience. That said, I put my thinking cap on and scoured the internet for a second hand blade.

After a long search, I found one and have it in hand. If you are still interested reading, I will be happy to share it with you.

Historical Overview

Japanese Sword Terminology

If you are not familiar with Japanese sword terminology and want to look up what a particular component is and what it is for, click here

I am not really a good enough historian or writer to give a history of the katana or how this blade relates. Even if I could, I think it would throw out a little too much controversy so I will stick to what I know. This is a “Japanese Style” blade more than a katana. It is a little bit like a Naginata-noshi / Unokubi Zukuri style. I would consider it an artistic interpretation of a katana rather than a reproduction.

I think the more relevant history is about the stigma of Angel Sword. There is plenty to read about online if you are interested in the topic and I will not really point fingers. To sum the situation up (from my very limited understanding), there was some conversation on various forums about Angel Sword and the situation for some reason lead the owner of Angel Sword to take legal action. I am not here to argue this point or take a side, I can only say that it really seems to have soured the online community on Angel Sword.

Again, I am no authority on the situation but I thought it was important to give context to my opinion going into the review. There are a lot of folks that seem to have an opinion about Angel Sword without ever having held one. I know there are also several people out there who have asked for a firsthand nonbiased review but the price point is inhibiting. So.. I figured I would take a crack at it. I am guessing they are doing something right because they are still in business and will alone does not pay the bills.

I am stepping off my soap box now..

Full Disclosure
I am not an employee of Angel Sword and I am not being paid to do this review. I have considered applying to work for Angel Sword or Arms and Armor at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival but never got much past thinking about it. I do frequently buy and sell swords but I am not an employee of any organization or company that would affect my review.

I purchased this blade second hand on eBay so it is not from Angel Sword directly. I do not believe this will affect the review but it does mean that I bought second hand and cannot speak to the customer service or salesmanship of Angel Sword.

I have a collection list on SBG that outlines what I have had in the past. I have owned $5 wall hanger katana all the way to a Howard Clark L6 katana and about 200 others in-between. I acknowledge that owning a lot of something does not make me knowledgeable about that something but I hope it allows me to have a well rounded opinion in the eyes of whomever might be reading.

Initial Impressions
I bought this blade having only seen poor resolution digital photos. When I took it out of the USPS box, I thought it was sexier than expected. The blade felt light and lively and the leopardwood gave it a very unique look.

Statistics

  • Blade/Nagasa Length: 25” (no habaki)
  • Motokasane: 6/32"
  • Sakikasane: 5/32"
  • Moto-haba: 1 6/32"
  • Saki-haba: 1"
  • Sori: 13/16"
  • Handle/Tsuka Length: 11 ½”
  • Overall Length: 36 ¾”
  • Guard/Tsuba Width: 2 7/8”
  • POB: (Point of Balance): 4 1/8” (from tsuba)
  • Weight: 1 lb 12.5 oz

MSRP: $2400-$3000

The BLade

The blade has a relatively no frills look to it. It looks similar to any other through hardened blade but a bit rougher. You can see the sanding marks relatively clearly on the blade. The Hanwie Raptor, Cold Steel Warrior, and Last Legend 2000 series blades come to mind.

The polish is not really a polish but more of a smiths polish. It looks almost like the type of finish you would see on some euro style blades. Around 600-800 grit perhaps? I can’t be sure what grit it is polished to but it looks more utilitarian than art polished. Also, the words “Bright Knight” are etched prominently into the blade..

I don’t care for that personally.

Despite the rough polish the lines are clean. I have had many production blades with nicer finishes but production blades often have ripples or waves along the surface of the blade. I think it is much harder to get a uniform blade in this way than to polish the blade. (I could be wrong, I’m no polisher or smith) Still, in this blade there are no ripples in the surface of the blade as you look at it in the light and lines are clean. I think that is expected in this level sword. The blade also has a very pleasant sori and feels very well balanced.

The blade is also sharper than most other blades I own and I do not see a secondary bevel along the edge. The one odd thing, there is no habaki at all. It seems constructed like a fixed blade knife more than a katana. The blade goes into a seppa and it could be fitted better in my opinion.

The Handle/Tsuka

The tsuka is simply a matching piece of leopardwood with two pins and no menuki. The pins are very elegant. Something like you would see in a custom fixed blade knife.

Unfortunately I don’t think they would come out easily so they don’t function the same way mekugi do. The tsuka has a nice shape to it and does not seem to slip when I have sweaty hands. I thought it would because of the bare wood but it works fine. There is no kashira on the blade but the wood terminates in a rounded way that shows off the wood. There is a fuchi made of what looks like a horn substance of some kind. It is well made and put together. There is no difference in the level of the wood and the fuchi, it is very well crafted.

The Guard/Tsuba

The tsuba looks like a cast of something. I can’t really make out the theme but it does not really match the blade in my opinion. It is made of what looks like brass or bronze, I can’t tell for sure.

There is also only one seppa. The seppa goes on the side with the blade, the side with the handle is flush with the handle.

The Scabbard/Saya

The saya is matches the tsuka in leopardwood.

The koiguchi, kojiri, and kurikata seem to be made of the same horn as the fuchi. All are fitted quite well without transitions as you run your fingers across them.

Because there is no habaki you would think the saya would not fit right. Well, it works like it is supposed to but in a different way. The saya holds the blade relatively snug but it seems to happen somewhere in the center of the saya. I don’t see saya rub where it feels like the saya is grabbing it. The blade does move a bit when you shake the blade in the saya but it does not fall out when you hold it upside-down. Still it seems like it would be difficult to adjust or maintain. If the saya becomes loose it will be difficult or unsightly to change.

Handling Characteristics

This blade is lively. I am used to larger blades so this feeling is likely natural but it moves very easily. The POB is closer to the tsuba than you would typically find and that likely contributes to the feel. It is easy to move with one hand and sings when you move it with two. It is difficult to express in words how much I like the feel of the blade when I have it in hand. I was quite surprised as a moved it at speed the first few times. It is easy to move and more importantly easy to control. At least it is easy when it is out of the saya.

I don’t think it would be a good fit for iai because it seems to want to be put back in the saya gently. It is easy to snag the saya as you are sheathing it. Also when you try to move the blade quickly out of the saya it pulls in the center of the saya. It is a little hard to get used to when you are used to the sword flowing from the saya with ease after removing the habaki.

Even though iai might not be in the cards, the blade is solid. There is no rattle on the tsuka or tsuba, everything is tight.

Test Cutting

I am going to be testing the blade soon. School is in right now and it’s also crazy hot, so I will update this with test cutting a bit later. Angel Sword has some videos that show the cutting ability of other blades if you are interested.

Conclusion

I like it! The blade is an artistic take on a katana and I appreciate the look. Also once you accept it as an artistic take, it is easier to accept. I am a fan of exotic woods and this is a very pleasant blade to look at while in the saya. It’s is not as pretty when the blade is out but the lines are clean and the blade moves almost effortlessly. I have heard how hard it is to make a blade with clean lines and I appreciate the effort and skill that went into this one. I think it is a very comfortable experience and has a unique feel.

I can see how the price point would put people off but then again, this is not really a production blade. It is more like a custom blade than production (arguably) and I think it is a fair price for a custom sword. I know you can buy a custom sword for less but you can also buy one for much more. Most of them don’t come with a warranty either. I’m not saying this type of sword is for everyone but I think it defiantly has its place and deserves a little respect.

I am glad I bought an Angel Sword. I don’t think I would recommend it to everyone but I can think of a few people who would enjoy the sword quite a bit. If you are looking for a blade for iai or something very traditional, this one is probably not going to suit you well but if you are looking for a unique blade in your collection this fits the bill. It is well constructed and a work of art in my opinion.

The price tag is high but I don’t think it is crazy for a custom blade. I know it puts the blade out of reach for most folks but I was able to find one at a reasonable price second hand. Still, the value is not great if you are looking for a basic cutter. If you don’t have $1000+ to spend on a sword (even for a used one) and the thought of that kind of money makes you cringe, Angel Sword is not likely in your future. However, if you have had a lot of blades and want something a little outside the box then, you might find what you are looking for with Angel Sword. I have had a few swords at or over the $2000 price point and the Angel Sword is ahead of a few and behind others.

I also think there are other benefits like a warranty or trade up deal that Angel Sword has. I am less timid about trying this one out knowing that they will fix it if I break it.

Pros

  • Handles like a dream (out of the saya)
  • Clean lines (no small ripples in the surface of the blade)
  • Unique look ( I like the leapordwood and the pins)
  • Well crafted (no transitions between the horn and the wood… some of you folks know what a pain that is)
  • Solid (no rattles or wiggles in the blade)
  • Pleasant sori
  • Very Sharp


Cons

  • Rough polish (I like my Japanese blades to have a little more refinement in the polish)
  • Difficult for iai / weird saya fit (no habaki makes it strange to draw + it would look ugly if shimmed)
  • Tsuba does not seem to flow with the theme
  • Bright Knight etched into blade
  • Seppa not fitted great
  • Not easily disassembled

Follow Up - A Meeting with the Owner

I went to the Ren Fest today and I got to have a long talk with Daniel Watson.

For the folks that were asking for a bend test. Simple answer is, we did not do one. Daniel Watson said that the sword would likely take a permanent bend of some kind and that he did not have the tools at the ren fest to fix it. He was happy to try it but I took his word for it and opted not to hassle with it.

He also noted that the polish on the blade had been modified by the previous owner. I looked over several other Bright Knight blades and while they all had similar construction to mine, the polish was more even. Still rough but not like it was done with a dremel.

Daniel offered to fix it for free. He took the blade and sharpened it while I walked around the fair.

When it was done Daniel Watson offered to test the katana. He did a demonstration with my blade on 4 rolled tatami mats. After he was done he let me cut it at the shop.

I know this is not the testing everyone was hoping for but I did not want to damage the blade. Daniel Watson was willing to do it, and fix it but I opted not to. Daniel Watson also said he thought it would take a bend and was very honest. He also called his blades artistic interpretations. He said his stile is not for everyone but it was his intention to make them look the way they do. He is happy with the results as the artist.

I can tell you from the tatami I cut the blade moved well. I am not used to the size or balance but still it moved with ease and cut a 4 tatami mat roll with little effort... very very little effort. I have cut a 3 mat roll with my Bamboo Mat before and it was a bit harder. The blade performed well, in fact it was one of the better cuts I have made. I wish I had it on video.

While I was there, I got a chance to talk with Daniel Watson for a while. First off, I understand his personality might rub some folks the wrong way. That said, I found him to be a perfectly pleasant person. He did not try and sell me anything on crazy claims nor did I hear it from anyone in his shop. There were lots of blades being sold but I did not hear any crazy claims selling the swords. I was in his both for a good two or three hours.

Also, Daniel Watson seemed transparent about what he thought his blades were good at. He said if you are looking for something more traditional you should probably buy from someone else. He said his blades are about performance. Daniel seemed like a guy that took a great deal of pride in his work and thought the info he provided about the resilience of his products was honest.

I don't want to get into a battle over the claims but Daniel seemed honest and willing to give data to substantiate his claims. He said people should expect performance for what the blades cost and he was confident they could deliver. Anyway, I don't know enough about metallurgy to be able to debate the topic so I wont. Folks on the internet call BS, and Daniel Watson is confident it is not BS. (at least about resilience) I'm going to stop on that side of things because I don't understand it enough to debate. I have a vague understanding but I am not able to productively add to that side of the conversation. You guys can at least see it cut a big roll of tatami with relative ease.

I have some notes on a few other things that came up in our conversion that other SBG members asked me about:

1. How long do the blades take to make? Daniel Watson estimated that their were around 100 man hours in most of the blades. I don't know if that covers administration time or just time in the forging/treating/polishing/mounting ect.

2. If the heat treatment is so special, why not use it for industrial purposes? He said he does. He said that is a big part of his business.

I hope this helps the conversation. I have to admit, I am happier with my purchase after going to the Angel Sword both at the ren fest. I thought I was treated with respect. Daniel Watson was receptive to my thoughts on this sword and some of this others. He sharpened my blade for free even thought I told him it was a second hand used blade. He gave me some tasty whiskey while we chatted. He was generous wit his time and knowledge. He did not dodge my questions and did his best to explain things to me candidly. He let me cut a big roll of tatami in the middle of his booth. And he offered to exchange the sword for something that fit me better if I wanted to upgrade.

I can only speak from the experiences I have had and this one was very good. I even looked at a few L6 blades from Angel Sword and found some I like. I might think about doing a trade in at some point.

WHERE TO BUY

Angel Sword are exclusively sold either in person at Renaissance fairs or via their website here


I hope this review of Angel Sword has been helpful. To return to The Ultimate Guide to Authentic Japanese Swords from Angel Sword review, click here


Buying Swords Online Can Be DANGEROUS!
Find the Best Swords in the:

FEATURED ARTICLES & REVIEWS


Damascus Steel Sucks

Why cheap so called 'Damascus' steel (folded steel) swords are actually some of the WORST buys on the market. Don't believe the hype..


eBay Scams Exposed!

The article most China based eBayers don't want you to see.. The dirty tricks and deceptive practices of the worst sellers on eBay exposed..