Your purchase of a Samurai sword may be a once in a lifetime event. Before you buy, please take a little time to study these few items. We would encourage anyone interested in owning an authentic samurai sword to use all of these facts in deciding what sword you should buy.
Picking steel with the most even distribution of carbon will insure that there will be no weak spots in the finished forged blade. Beginning with very clean Swedish steel allows for a very controlled and precise heat treatment regimen that results in a very fine grain structure. It is this fine grain that creates a blade that is stronger and less prone to deflection and breakage.
Forging: This process defines the Samurai Sword. Authentic Samurai Swords are forged. Many companies are selling stock removal steel swords. These blades are not forged and do not have the integrity of a forged blade. Ask for forged steel blades when purchasing your Samurai Sword.
The one real benefit of a forged blade often overlooked is that each blade is unique and made by a skilled craftsman. Unlike modern blades that are stamped or milled out by the 1000s, each identical to the last, every forged blade is a one of a kind piece.
Forging allows the smith to determine how much each blade needs to be worked in order to obtain the best results. As each piece of steel is worked, it is folded repeatedly. This process tightens the grain pattern of the steel making for a more beautiful blade. This personal forging means that your sword is unique. No other blade will be the same as yours. Each forged and folded blade is an individual expression of the steel, the fire, and the smith.
Design and Shape: The design and shape of your Samurai Sword should be historically correct. Authentic samurai swords follow historical tradition. There are many shapes and designs in the market place today that have very little in common with the feudal era sword. The shape and balance of a properly made Japanese sword evolved over centuries. The life of the warrior depended upon his sword and he depended on the smith to make a blade that he could rely on in the direst of circumstances. You should purchase a Samurai Sword from those that honor this tradition and manifest these qualities.The evolved shape of the authentic samurai sword determined the strength, the cutting performance, and the balance. You want all these attributes in your Samurai Sword.
Polish: Polishing the steel brings the Samurai Sword to its final shape. The shape of the sword determines its success as a cutting instrument. Polishing a Samurai sword is a painstakingly long and tedious process requiring all surfaces of the sword to be refined and brought into harmony with each other, while maintaining the shape the sword smith originally intended for the sword. It is a process that requires hand finishing. Many swords today are finished on machines, which do not contribute to the swords efficiency or final beauty, but are merely made mirror bright with rounded lines and no visible characteristics of the forging and heat-treating the smith created in the blade.
Beware of some sword sellers who say that their blades are in cutting polish. The reality is that they don't finish them at all beyond a simple and poorly done foundation polish. (It's kind of like selling a car in working finish, however, in reality it would be just primer.)
The Japanese have a tradition of stone polishing by hand. This process takes days if not weeks of individual work. A traditional polish today would cost thousands of dollars per each blade done in this manner. This process is not practical today, however, the blade that you purchase today should be fully finished to display the hamon, folding pattern of the steel, and the various activities in the steel. It takes a great deal of extra time and care to finish blades to this level. If you are serious about the sword you are buying, you should expect no less than a full finish.
Mounting: The Samurai sword has many specific characteristics that make it what it is. The scabbard (saya) is made of wood. The opening has a water buffalo horn ring that reinforces the wood which helps prevent splitting at the area. A water buffalo horn part is attached to the saya allowing for the cord (sageo) to be attached. The metal fittings (tsuba, fuchi/kashira, menuki, and shitodome) should be of the authentic materials including steel, copper, silver, and gold. The handle (tsuka) should be a proper length to balance the blade and be held with two pins (mekugi). The under wrapping material should be ray skin (same) with proper cording (ito) or leather wrapping the handle in a traditional pattern.
A Samurai sword is vastly more than the sum of its parts. It is not enough to have a decent blade with cheap fittings, or a nice blade, but poorly executed tsuka. A Samurai sword is a synthesis of the blade, habaki, tsuka, and saya. With all the fittings matched in such a way as to ensure a proper flow and function. Everything needs to be of good quality to make it a good sword. Any one part not being of good quality and the entire sword suffers.
The overall success you have with your training will be a direct reflection of the mounting of the sword and the materials used.
Sometimes we as buyers discover that the product we purchased was not what we expected or that it was more than we could handle. Does your seller have a short term (7 day) no questions asked policy if this should arise? Allowing the customer time to be completely at ease with their purchase, or to return it in original condition for full refund, is a reasonable expectation that your seller should provide.
We would like to thank you personally for taking the time to learn more about the Samurai sword. If we at Bugei Trading Company can be of any service, please call our office at 800 437-0125, visit our web site at www.bugei.com , or visit our sword forum at www.swordforumbugei.com