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Thread: katana for around 100 t0 150 bucks

  1. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Triton View Post
    You can't buy a katana for 150 dollars. If you think you can you could benefit from study. After that study I'd be surprised if a 150 dollar katana was still wanted.

    You are correct however, I probably should have just kept that opinion to myself. For years there have been hundreds of questions about "what's the best katanaesque object that I can get for <insert ridiculously low dollar amount>. Perhaps the only way to learn is by experience. Sometimes it bothers me more than other times. I will try to rein in those instincts.
    My instinct for this situation: $20 bokuto and spend the rest on quality instruction. That's the route I went and the knowledge gained was invaluable. Later, I bought a second bokuto (this one with a saya) to preactice iai-justu and then an iaito as my skills progressed. I've yet to see any "katana" (or any sword for that matter) that was suitable for any serious for 150 bucks. Quality steel and smithing don't come cheap.

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by BePrepared View Post
    again, that's going to depend on what you want with it... if you want to learn tameshigiri, i'd MUCH rather use a Hanwei than a $3000 katana...

    as i said above, there are plenty of lower end katanas that will do for a beginner. Don't let the elitists throw you off.

    go to Sword Buyers Guide online and find something that has good reviews and is tested to do what YOU want to do.
    At the same time in following the road to SBG, pay attention to how many sub $100 swords fail (one way or another) in time. There is more to pretty and profile, once one looks at how a katana is put together and the shortcuts made to make a sub $100 sword viable. If someone wants a sword for appearance and extended use over the years, the base line swords from Hanwei such as the practical and Raptor lines are fairly safe bets. My practical from 2003 doesn't get constant use but comes out of its bag every year as a loaner for those wanting to cut mats. Occasional touch ups to the edge and a small bit of grinding after one fellow put the tip in the gravel, the sword is still reasonably sound after almost a decade of this.

    A first timer real faux paux I see is the need for many to repeatedly take apart the swords, find a reason to mess up/with the fittings. All this in a measure to somehow make a poor sword better or wanting different bling. The suggestions to learn about katana is quite sound and even superficially worth spending at least some weeks in looking at the market and general construction.

    Another good baseline for using swords is Kris Cutlery (although start a bit higher). If someone just wants to get the first sword out of their system, most anything will do but if seriously testing the waters of Japanese type swords, do yourself a favor and understand why a minimally functional sword at sub $100 really might not be in one's best interest.

    I picked up eight stitches between two toes with my Hanwei practical. I was back cutting with it and other swords the next day but every time I cut now I keep that in mind. A sharp sword is like an always loaded gun. Safety first



    I watched the sword market during the 1990s as the internet grew and was somewhat determined to buy the best sword I could afford. The appeal for Japanese was rooted further back in life from exposure to culture but danged if I wasn't ready to plunk down serious money on a high end Art Gladius silver fitted dragon and leather set. Within about a week of spending time on search engines and finding Michael Bell, Howard Clark and the beginnings of Bugei , I was much more informed and put it aside for some years until the modestly priced Hanwei swords started to roll out. I really should have contacted Ball for a fully mounted sword well under the $2,000 mark (I think he quoted about 1,200 to 1,600 back in 1997)

    Needless to say, I went medieval instead while still looking at the Japanese types (both antique and current production at the time). I picked up one of the last wide generation of the basic Hanwei practical (fourth generation?) and to tell the truth, it is still a better sword than a lot of the $100-$200 swords out there today. Sure, plastic same, cotton ito, plastic menuki, simple (steel) tsuba; yet even then better made than many of the low cost throw aways that newcomers flock to. the Ronin swords posted up at SBG and elsewhere look pretty good for the money but there are some things I could say about them as well. From what I have seen of them, they qualify, albeit pricier than a sub $100 "who cares" sword.

    It takes some restraint on boards such as this for those meaning well not to call out others as idiots or elitists and labeling either as such is counter productive both in offering advise to beginners or trying to clarify a stance of "proper" vs "good enough".

    Swords are not pool cues, golf clubs, or even bowling shoes but would any figure the cheapest "good enough" is what one would want to start with if seriously interested in the hobby/sport? Sorry if I seem to be rambling but I want to suggest any newcomer to any sword type at least exercise patience in looking at the market before putting down dollar one.

    Cheers

    GC
    Last edited by horseclover; 06-04-2012 at 09:34 PM.

  3. #23
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    In response to horseclover's last comment, I feel that often times it's a good idea for a newcomer to the sport to NOT invest in anything more than a relatively cheap, but durable starter piece of equipment. I'd venture to say that's true of most activities. It usually takes the cheap piece of equipment to let a person know whether or not they really want to be serious about whatever activity it is. If I was interesting in playing piano, would I go out and buy a concert hall quality grand? No way. I'd buy a cheapy keyboard and see if it's something I want to stick with. If I wanted to see if airsoft was a sport I wanted to play, would I buy a Systema PTW and drop $1500? Nope, I'd buy a cheap A&K or CYMA and see if it entertained me. If I wanted to swim, would I buy one of the engineered full body suits and jump straight to Swedish goggles? I think I'd rather just get a cheap pair of jammer shorts and some comfortable goggles and try it out. If I'm going to try out golf, I'm not going to spend thousands on a set. I'm going to buy something cheap and see if the sport itself is for me.

    At the end of the day, research is a very good idea, but if you don't know for sure whether you're going to be serious about the sport, it would be a serious waste to buy a really nice blade that you likely won't appreciate fully. Get something inexpensive, sign up for a few classes, and see if it's something you're interested in getting serious about. Most people, even on here, aren't that serious. I'd venture to guess that there's a LOT of people on here who own a cheap katana, and not that many who really are into serious sword collecting, or really know how to use or appreciate a top-line blade.

    I've been pretty happy with my Hanwei blades for what they are. They're not amazing top-line quality blades by any stretch, but they're well-made for the price, and if you just want to try out a new style, or a new blade, or just have a new sharp object to do some backyard cutting with, I submit you probably will be well satisfied. If you're expecting to go out and excel at competition cutting, well, you need to increase your budget. If you've built a time machine and expect to be going back in time and doing battle with the blade, again, you'd be better off buying something quality. But there aren't that many people who fit into any of those categories, and it's hard to tell if a first-time buyer will be one of those few.
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  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by crimsonfalcon07 View Post
    In response to horseclover's last comment, I feel that often times it's a good idea for a newcomer to the sport to NOT invest in anything more than a relatively cheap, but durable starter piece of equipment. I'd venture to say that's true of most activities. It usually takes the cheap piece of equipment to let a person know whether or not they really want to be serious about whatever activity it is. If I was interesting in playing piano, would I go out and buy a concert hall quality grand? No way. I'd buy a cheapy keyboard and see if it's something I want to stick with. If I wanted to see if airsoft was a sport I wanted to play, would I buy a Systema PTW and drop $1500? Nope, I'd buy a cheap A&K or CYMA and see if it entertained me. If I wanted to swim, would I buy one of the engineered full body suits and jump straight to Swedish goggles? I think I'd rather just get a cheap pair of jammer shorts and some comfortable goggles and try it out. If I'm going to try out golf, I'm not going to spend thousands on a set. I'm going to buy something cheap and see if the sport itself is for me.

    At the end of the day, research is a very good idea, but if you don't know for sure whether you're going to be serious about the sport, it would be a serious waste to buy a really nice blade that you likely won't appreciate fully. Get something inexpensive, sign up for a few classes, and see if it's something you're interested in getting serious about. Most people, even on here, aren't that serious. I'd venture to guess that there's a LOT of people on here who own a cheap katana, and not that many who really are into serious sword collecting, or really know how to use or appreciate a top-line blade.

    I've been pretty happy with my Hanwei blades for what they are. They're not amazing top-line quality blades by any stretch, but they're well-made for the price, and if you just want to try out a new style, or a new blade, or just have a new sharp object to do some backyard cutting with, I submit you probably will be well satisfied. If you're expecting to go out and excel at competition cutting, well, you need to increase your budget. If you've built a time machine and expect to be going back in time and doing battle with the blade, again, you'd be better off buying something quality. But there aren't that many people who fit into any of those categories, and it's hard to tell if a first-time buyer will be one of those few.
    Thank you for this. I completely agree. And I trust your opinion as I see that you are a Beckerhead. Beckers are all about quality for value and that is what I'm looking for in a katana as well.

  5. #25
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    I wouldn't necessarily trust my opinion just cause I'm a Beckerhead. I'd probably trust horseclover the most, but fortunately, he seems to think that Hanwei isn't bad either. If you do your research, you can find a Hanwei practical series (that's probably what I would go for, in your place) for around 150 shipped for the regular practical katana. The plus and pro are going to be a bit above your price range. You'll have to look into them and decide for yourself whether they're worth the additional 50-80 to you.

    Just remember. They're good first-timer swords, in my estimation. They're not good in comparison to a really well-made traditional katana though. If you decide you like them enough to want to do some serious cutting and learn how to use them, you definitely should look into having a good one made. A real pro may decide to have one made specifically for them--different people need different lengths, weights, and balances. That's gonna cost beaucoup dollars though.
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  6. #26
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    Seriously interested, not simply an impulse to start something is where taking a step back will benefit a newcomer.

    Some can manage in life with minimal tools and get a job done but there is a pretty fine line in the sword market where worth really starts to fall off. Knowing why ther are difference in builds is where a deep look before buying can be a good thing.

    Pot metal fittings- You don't want that.

    Cheap synthetic grip wrapping done in a piece work environment- you don't want that.

    A fancy box with certificate and poor maintenance supplies- A cheap loss leader to grab the attention of someone that will leap at the sub $100 mark.

    I am hardly an authority on the current market for these but with all the hype of pumping "bad enough" swords that embody those last three points; Consider that the $100 sword may have cost the maker the same amount of money to supply the box and goodies with the blade alone worth more than the rest of a $10 investment.

    So yes, spend some time on other boards to see how things go on the really cheap swords. More than often one will read that gee ya, the blade is ok but the rest is crap. Do you really want to spend more than the initial cost to upgrade it? Some do and have probably bought more thatn a few others. At some point they will realize that the money spent is going to add up to a level that would have bought them a very nice first sword.

    I am no different with some of my own spending though by buying from the bottom in quantity instead of waiting to buy a premium sword (four figures and up).

    Watch the classifieds on boards for some decent discounts.

    Cheers

    GC

  7. #27
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    The only sub $100 blade that i've seen that's worth a crap is from Musashi. They use real iron fittings, real Same, the Ito is well wapped, the blade is hand made (not even CLOSE to the quality of the high end stuff, but functional), and there is a real hamon.

    It's made of 1060 steel and hardened to 55-56 RC, so it's suitable for light cutting, but the fit and finish is WAY above anything else you can find under 100

    all that said, if i were planning to actually USE it for anything, i'd invest another 120 and get a much better TH blade

  8. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by will_1400 View Post
    My instinct for this situation: $20 bokuto and spend the rest on quality instruction. That's the route I went and the knowledge gained was invaluable. Later, I bought a second bokuto (this one with a saya) to preactice iai-justu and then an iaito as my skills progressed. I've yet to see any "katana" (or any sword for that matter) that was suitable for any serious for 150 bucks. Quality steel and smithing don't come cheap.
    That's not a bad route either if one wants to become a practitioner of a sword art. I guess it all depends on what is wanted. A serious katana for martial arts? A collector grade art piece? (the two are not mutually exclusive) Something to hack brush in the back yard?

    As I've said probably more than I should, with swords you get what you pay for.

  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by dust. View Post
    Hmm ok then. For what reason are "real" katanas so expensive? Material, labor, please educate me. I just started getting into them so I'm not too knowledgeable. Also, I am still looking to purchase one and I'm not trying to break the bank so what would you suggest?
    Material isn't the major factor so much as knowledgeable labor. Blades are expensive and you pay by the inch. Polishing is expensive (if you can find a togi) and and again you pay by the inch. Fittings are expensive, and saya are expensive (assuming you can find a good sayashi).

    At the very least you are trying to ask the right questions rather than just buying a stainless steel wonder (I bought one a long time ago). So this is a good thing.

    Personally if I just had to have a katana now (I did at one point) I would buy one of the offerings from Kris Cutlery or at least a better Hanwei piece, just set your expectations accordingly. There's a reason that the swords are cheaper. On the other hand as has been noted one's first car isn't a Ferarri either so...

  10. #30
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    Yeah I'm starting to realize what you guys are saying and after doing a little more researching, I've decided I'd rather save up a bit and try to get more quality out of my first katana. But I'm still not trying to spend $500+ because that is just out of my budget... I was looking into the Dynasty Forge Musha Katana. Anyone have any opinions on it?

  11. #31
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    if that was my price range, i certainly wouldn't buy that blade.

    The Hanwei Practical Plus Katana is a MUCH better sword in that price range. The Musha is 1060 mono-tempered. The Hanwei is 1090 and is differentially hardened

    Also, this was said about it on a popular website

    As a cost saving measure, the tsuka is made from basswood, which is really quite soft and the absolute minimum acceptable material for a cutting sword. And as you can see from the pictures below, they are also shimmed to fit properly in a rather cheap and nasty way...

    Edit: Google searching will reveal that the Practical Plus Elite Katana is now available at a greatly reduced price...

  12. #32
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    Yep, haven't seen much good from Dynasty Forge. Had one of their offerings for about a year. It's gone now, gifted away, since they don't retain value at all. If you want a decent blade but don't want to spend a lot, get yourself a Kris or a Hanwei, or maybe one of the nicer Chris Zhou pieces. He was a winner of the Masters of Fire competition one year, IIRC, and you can find nice stuff that he's made on occasion. One of these days I'll get my favorite dealer to join BladeForums so I can recommend them...
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  13. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Triton View Post
    That's not a bad route either if one wants to become a practitioner of a sword art. I guess it all depends on what is wanted. A serious katana for martial arts? A collector grade art piece? (the two are not mutually exclusive) Something to hack brush in the back yard?

    As I've said probably more than I should, with swords you get what you pay for.
    I kinda default to the "learn to use it" mindset. I feel there are some nuances to blades that are difficult to grasp unless you learn to use them. As always, your milage may vary from mine.

  14. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by will_1400 View Post
    I kinda default to the "learn to use it" mindset. I feel there are some nuances to blades that are difficult to grasp unless you learn to use them. As always, your milage may vary from mine.
    I think you are spot on. One can't really appreciate a sword unless one has at least of inkling of how it was used in my opinion.

  15. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by dust. View Post
    Yeah I'm starting to realize what you guys are saying and after doing a little more researching, I've decided I'd rather save up a bit and try to get more quality out of my first katana. But I'm still not trying to spend $500+ because that is just out of my budget... I was looking into the Dynasty Forge Musha Katana. Anyone have any opinions on it?
    Bravo! Now we've sucked you in. Research will lead you down the right path. Right now you want a better sword, if that trend continues one day you will find yourself dropping multiple thousands on one and not batting an eye.

  16. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by dust. View Post
    Yeah I'm starting to realize what you guys are saying and after doing a little more researching, I've decided I'd rather save up a bit and try to get more quality out of my first katana. But I'm still not trying to spend $500+ because that is just out of my budget... I was looking into the Dynasty Forge Musha Katana. Anyone have any opinions on it?
    My recommendation would be to try to save up for a quality blade. Mantis Swords are what I default to since I've used them and they're good quality from what I've seen. But they also start around $700. I seriously think that if you go the training route, you'll have a strong grasp on what works for you and you'd be able to make a much more informed purchase down the road.

  17. #37
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    Look into the bussekin swords.... if you want a sword that will take ANY abuse you can put it through and keep on going, look at the scrapyard knives scrapizashi.

    It's not a traditional katana but it's MUCH tougher than any traditional katana in your price range

  18. #38
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    I have the Hanwei Raptor and have been very pleased with it. I purchased it for Iaido cutting and it has done a great job, cutting pool noodles to tatami mats. It is supposed to be discontinued now, and can be found for a great price if you do a search for it. My 2 cents...

    slik

  19. #39
    I'll stick with the assertion that you can get someting "katana-shaped" for 150, but not something I would call a katana.

  20. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by BePrepared View Post
    Look into the bussekin swords.... if you want a sword that will take ANY abuse you can put it through and keep on going, look at the scrapyard knives scrapizashi.

    It's not a traditional katana but it's MUCH tougher than any traditional katana in your price range
    Fixed that for you. Again, I don't want to seem like a Busse hater (I'm not) but the fellow asked for a katana. Whatever the Bussekin models are, they sure as hell aren't katanas.

    The Hanwei Practical Plus or Raptor series are good ones to start with in my opinion, and are the workhorses of many dojos. If you get into JSA seriously you'll certainly end up upgrading, but something from one of those lines would be a good introduction to a low priced katana of acceptable quality. The shortcuts are in the right places and done intelligently with a focus on performance.


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