Ryan Sword - The "Sanmai" Katana Review

Ryan sword have a pretty spotty reputation on the SBG sword forum, and on the sites questions and answers page. A handful of people like them and defend them, but the overwhelming opinion is that there are much better options out there.

In this review, experienced blade maker, "Digs Fossils and Knives", takes a much closer look at one of their so called "San Mai" laminated blades - and is not at all impressed by what he finds..

Ryan Sword "Sanmai" Katana Review

Review by SBG member "DigsFossils n Knives"

A pic from their eBay Post

This review starts with a long conversation with Gong from RyanSwords.  He has been offering various sanmai and honsanmai katanas on eBay for years.  

One in particular is offered for $738 and claimed to be honsanmai.  As part of my "due diligence" I emailed Gong (owner of Ryan Swords?) and asked for close-up pics of the blade.  RyanSwords claims the blade has a folded steel (Damascus) jacket and a 1095 core therefore a true honsanmai blade would show unfolded steel at the edge. 

The emailing started in DEC 2014.  I commented that the photos in the ebay post for the $738 honsanmai katana did not show unfolded 1095 core.  And I politely asked for close-up pics.  

Gong sent me this pic.

I thanked him for the pic but stated that if he wanted me to spend $738 for a sword I want to see better pictures.  He sent me close-up pics of two blades, I wont post them all, but these are the pics I received.  I enhanced the contrast and the sharpness to bring out the details:

The pics above look as if they used a polishing trick to hide the Damascus pattern in the edge area. Same trick was done with blades I received from (another eBay seller) Katana1980.  

Unsatisfied with these pics I sent Gong this photo to show him what I was expecting:

Gong's response was this: "I got your mean now. The finally looking of a honsanmai blade not only depends on the folded process(the way that the outside layer comes, the position), the abrasive method also works. I know what you exactly want. I will show you a blade soon."

Unfortunately I received more of the same photos.

I then ask him about this blade sold by swordmaker688 on ebay.

I'm going to skip over a lot of the following email discussions, I just wanted to provide a sample of the communication and show that I attempted to set expectations.  

The blade I ending purchasing in March 2015 had a buy it now price of $305 (but I won the bid at $230).  I received the following confirmation from Ryan sword:

"Yes, it's a real sanmai structure. 1095 isn't folded, the outer layer is folded steel which is folded. HRC is 56-58, it can cut small trees, bamboos and iron wire. The silk isn't 100% silk, it's 50% silk, because pure silk is easy to be worn-out and its friction force isn't good. The tsuba is real iron, 100% iron from inside to outside.
 We can send you the saya you want.
The Buy it Now price for this sword is $305."

I received the sword on March 29, 2015.  The katana was shipped to me accidentally without a protective coating of oil, the plastic wrap around the steel blade was completely dry.  It's an unfortunate event that can occur with any seller but still annoying in any case:

I apologize for the foul language in the YouTube vid.  I did my homework and set expectations and got screwed over again.

But more importantly, the blade is not sanmai or hon-sanmai;  100% Damascus top to bottom.

On to the destructive tests:

Again, I apologize for the foul language in the YouTube vid.

So, in summary, the blade from Ryan Sword was sent without oil, without sanmai or honsanmai lamination, and without a proper heat treat.  At least the previous blade I bought from Katana1980 (also not laminated) had a good heat treat and can cut a stainless steel nail without edge chipping.

The next thing I will cover are the responses I got from Ryan Sword, which are also disappointing.

1) Gong did return my money, but this does not justify fraudulent activity. He only returned my money because I knew what I was talking about.

2) This review does not cover the performance of the katana. There are reviews covering this, but the performance of the katana is not my focus. My focus is that there seems to be a common practice of fake san mai or hon sanmai blades sold on eBay and sourced from China. People need to be informed of this.


I hope this review of the Ryan sword "Sanmai" sword was helpful. To return to The Ultimate Guide to Authentic Japanese Swords from Ryan Sword - the Sanmai Katana Review, click here

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