One of the first functional katana I purchased about 8 years ago has just been pulled out of stasis to once again fulfill its purpose as a dedicated light cutter.
When you buy a Chinese made production sword there are always risks involved and for many of us, the most we can do is hope we get a “good one”. So many things are often sacrificed in the construction of these affordable swords in order to be sold for the low prices they are. These can include fit and finish, heat treating/tempering, sharpness, performance and more. We count ourselves lucky if we get a sword with only a few of these things off the mark and then either make do as is or try to fix what we can.
When I originally bought this katana from the Handmade Swords website, I was very new to production katana and wasn’t aware of what else was available and to my inexperienced eyes, everything looked just as I imagined it should. The reality was that overall; it appeared it was essentially a completely average and unspectacular mid-range sword. The happy surprise however was that this particular blade had an exceptional heat treatment and a sound tsuka core. You get lucky sometimes.
Since then, I have customized it once already and now once again for its final purpose as a dedicated light cutter. Everything about this final transition was geared towards being as efficient as possible for cutting light to medium targets. It’s super-fast and agile and also super comfortable with a streamlined tsuka and strong but purposeful fittings. The sword alone weighs in at only 2.06 Lbs. and with saya, is 2.85 Lbs.
The tsuka is just under 10 1/2″ and was reshaped and new samegawa panels were added. The Menuki are tri-color sun and moon with waves and clouds in copper, silver and brass. It sports a horn kashira and brass fuchi with a brown patina and it’s held securely to the nakago by new black Delrin mekugi. It’s wrapped in Japanese brown silk ito with a lacquer treatment for strength and durability.
The steel tsuba is a sukashi style with a Kemuri(smoke) motif and I’ve added two hand cut and very stout copper seppa, which will eventually take on a beautiful and natural aged patina. The brass habaki with two decorative grooves on either side is artificially aged with a dark patina.
The saya has been refinished in a two-tone brown and black with a texture added to the collar and a smooth satin body. The kurikata is wood and there is no added kojiri but it does have a horn koiguchi for safety. The saya is adorned with a high quality synthetic silk imported Japanese sageo in dark brown.
The blade is 1095 steel, differentially heated to form an authentic hamon in a midare pattern and a bo hi to lighten it while not sacrificing much strength and has a nagasa of 27 3/4″. This blade has been cut with countless times and has taken on all types of targets, including bamboo and wooden dowels and though it’s rated for light to medium targets, it has taken its abuse and kept right on going. While the surface of the blade and kissaki show many signs of use, it is in no way damaged or dull. It has held a sharp edge throughout the years and has never suffered a bend, set, chip, nick or roll. Of course I’m not saying it’s indestructible, as no katana is, but I can say it has one of the best heat treatments I’ve personally witnessed on a Chinese made production sword. I saw no reason to polish the scratches off of the surface since it was not meant to just sit on a shelf and collect dust. It is meant to cut… and look good while doing it!
This would be a perfect sword for trick cutting since its lightning fast and turns on a dime. If you’re used to dealing with katana featuring huge bloated and stick straight tsuka, this extremely comfortable and tapered tsuka will be a new pleasure to experience. Everything about this sword was made to be used for cutting and while it is very pretty, it’s all about business and performance.