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Thread: Stainless steel???

  1. #16
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    Default Great sword / Marginal skill

    Bruce,

    Even the best sword can not compensate for poor skill. I have seen a $3000 sword fail to cut through beach mats in the hands of a beginner, while the same sword cut through six tatami mats in the hands of an expert. We expect better results from students with superior swords. They should rely on technique rather than force. Cuts are expected to be cleaner and the angles more precise. I equate a cupped cut with a superior sword to failing to cut with a lesser sword. The superior sword can cut with almost no effort if proper technique is used. I personally cut with swords ranging from a remounted 26" WWII gunto to a 30 ½" modern Japanese sword made specifically for tamishigiri. Our targets range from beach mats to tatami wrapped around bamboo cores. I have cut both single tatami and bamboo with the gunto. I definitely prefer the feel of cutting with the superior sword. I can use all the help I can get when I cut big rolls of multiple tatami. The big sword can cleanly slice through a roll of four.

    Mike Femal

  2. #17
    Dan Harden Guest

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    Hi Guys

    I have several things I wanted to respond to. However, I am opening a new Abbey conference center I designed. I got in at 2:30 this morning, and I dont have time to write down everything I want to say. I'll write more tomm.

    Earl,
    My answers to some of your questions were in my original letter.
    Two examples of metallurgy that existed during the Japanese discovery of steel manufacturing and that equals or surpasses the Japanese product are Wootz steel,and viking steel,

    Wootz steel is a very superior product.Perhaps surpassing all others in its time. And being a top contender to this very day. It too is a smelted product like the Japanese tamahagane. Both initally had a dendritic structure upon cooling with varying carbon content. So do many meteorites. The Wootz steel frequently has carbon in the 2% range. The excess carbon produced should make a brittle structure. After a certain point the excess carbon would precipitate into graphite. This is supposed to weaken the structure, but we find it doesn't. Instead the metal is VERY hard yet extremely flexible. This is due to the fact that it is supported by the iron in the cake. The result is a damascus layered look from a smelted ingot. The differening hard and soft properties are retained in the ingot from cake to blade. Giving a VERY hard surface juxtaposed to soft metal. it will bend 90 deg. and then cut through steel. There were supposedly "verified" field records of wootz blades cutting through the blades of other attackers.
    Due to the preservation of the dendritic structure its performenace curve is WAY above that of Japanese process. As I stated, the main reason is due to the formation of a dendritic structure formed during cooling of the smelted ingot. These dendrites are "left in" in the Wootz process. They are removed in the forging process of the Japanese. Interestingly, the west tried to buy and forge the wootz cakes with freqqent failure. The cakes were so hard they cracked when you hit them. Anyone who has forged meteorite can tell you how that feels!. Some are soft like iron others wham!!! all over the shop.
    The key to forging wootz cake was to place it above critical temprature long enough to have it decarborize the outer layer. The results were a soft skin to hold it together. This, together with cold forging (below 1000 to 1300 deg) kept the dendrites intact.
    Wootz blades are the only ones that you could literally float a scarf over and have it part. You could take the same sword and cut hard objects as well. New makers are casting blades to get the dendritic effects. But they have compromised structures due to brittleness........

    Some Viking swords had damascus steel of low carbon and low layer counts in their core. The bar was twisted and folded back on itself to produce a chevron pattern. (This is telling, in that the makers knew the visual effect they were forming in the blade) This core was surrounded by a high carbon layer used for double edge cutting.

    Note*
    The core I speak of here is a visible, exposed, layer wrapped with an outer layer. This is NOT the same as the Kobuse method. The inner and outer is exposed.

    They didn't need clay tempering either. They heat the whole thing to critical. Upon quenching, the outer core would harden, the inner would not, since it didn't have enough carbon to form martensite. The result! A differentialy hardened blade

    Shhhh!!.......Don't tell the public.
    Many of whom, still think the Japanese make the best swords

    Hoplology and the notions of "emic" and "etic" study, applies to weapons and their MAKE.
    Not just their use.

    More later

    Dan
    "Who likes to give credit where credit is due
    and who has found that "being published" holds no promise of expertise."

    P.S

    Joe
    As I stated earlier Most of the 440c blades are in fact "too" soft. They do this to prevent them from cracking due to the inherent brittleness of 440C in that length of blade. However, The margin for error when using a sword is very small. With the potential for catastrophic results. MOST of the people cutting with them ARE inexperienced. Therefore, all things being equal, I wouldn't recommend their use

    [Edited by Dan Harden on 09-29-2000 at 12:01 PM]

  3. #18
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    Default

    Dan Harden on 09-26-2000 wrote:

    (quote)

    "Don't buy into the myth of the all mighty Japanese sword steel either. . . .

    . . . . More nonsense has been written about the supposed 'perfection' of the Japanese sword than any other sword in history. "

    (end quote)

    The Japanese sword can be criticized on more than just metallurgical grounds. For much of its recent history its design was dictated more by fashion and government decree than by practical considerations.

    As a result, when the Japanese armed forces adopted traditional Japanese swords (in place of the Western-style sabers they used initially) front-line soldiers experienced high rates of failure. These failures were documented by NARUSE Kanji (1888--1948). Naruse was a master of several traditional martial arts who, upon being drafted into the Japanese army during the Sino-Japanese war (ca. 1894), became employed as a sword repairman. As a result of what he saw on the battlefield Naruse became a lifelong advocate for changing the design of Japanese swords. He wrote three books which recently have attracted the attention of a new generation of readers: Tatakau nihonto (1940, Japanese swords in battle), Jissen todan (1941, Discussion of practical swords), Rinsen tojutsu (1944, Battlefield swordsmanship).

    During one nine-month period Naruse kept detailed notes. During that period he repaired more than 2,000 swords. The sword ranged from all historical periods: 25% were Koto, 60% were Shinto or Shin Shinto, and 15% were Gendaito. Only 30% had been damaged in battle. In other words, most of them (70%) had been damaged in training or through mishandling. The types of damage they suffered is very instructive. Scabbards required the least attention: about 10% of scabbards had been broken or split --- a problem primarily caused by the stress of incorrect unsheathing or re-sheathing the swords. Blades, of course, were a problem, but not the most numerous problem. About 30% of the swords suffered bent or broken blades. For the most part, these were the swords that had actually been used in battle. (Although at least one sword was broken when a horse stepped on it.) Naruse was shocked at the high rate of blade failures. The main problem, however, was not the blades. It was the sword handles. A full 60% of the swords needed to be repaired because their handles had broken. Worse, Naruse reported that almost every sword he examined need to have the handle's mekugi (retaining pins) replaced. Even without severe use, the mekugi quickly wore out or became damaged.

    In short, the handles are the weakest part of traditional Japanese swords, and the mekugi are the weakest part of the handles.

    Even the worst quality blade can inflict serious injury if it comes loose from a defective handle. Anyone who wishes to own a sword that will be used for any purpose other than decorating a display case or wall, therefore, should pay as much or more attention to the quality of the handle as to the quality of the blade.
    William Bodiford
    Professor
    Dept. of Asian Languages & Cultures
    UCLA

  4. #19
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    Default

    Think of your sword as a watch. A $5 watch you got from a cereal manufacturer tells the time as well as a $200 Seiko sport watch or a $5000 Rolex. The $5 watch generally offers lots of bells and whistles (sometimes literally) but generally is not especially water or shock resistant, and typically looks cheesy. Meanwhile the Seiko and the Rolex probably don't offer much more than the basics, but will withstand most any reasonable (and more than a few unreasonable) conditions to which you are likely to subject a watch.

    Which watch is best?

    Depends on what you're doing, but for myself, I normally choose the Seiko range.

    Another analogy. A Kia, a Saturn, and a BMW are all automobiles, and all should get you to work reasonably reliably. I would like a Beemer, can best afford a Kia, and would be most likely to buy a Saturn L-series.

    The same principle applies to cutlery. You can buy Taiwan swords for about $100, tool-steel katana for between $350-$1000, and museum-grade weapons for however much you want to spend. My personal recommendation is for the Saturn rather than the Yugo, the Seiko mid-range rather than Swatch's cheapest.

    ***

    As for cutting, well, a story, told from memory, so my apologies to Murphy and the late Warren Sapir.

    Remo Williams wanted a new job, so he got a job on TV selling cheap cutlery. Chiun happened to be watching the commercials on his soaps, and had to stop because, watching Remo slice and dice, he was in awe -- this was the only pale piece of pig's ear in the world who could chop lettuce with those knives and not only make flowers, but also not lose fingers in the process. Oh my, said Chiun, I really must videotape this.

    A few weeks later, though, Remo was back to work at his old job, as there had been so many fingers chopped off using the cheap cutlery that the lawyers were after Remo for false advertising.

    So, with this cautionary tale in mind, it is probably best that beginners use the best cutlery they can afford because good tools are more forgiving. Meanwhile, you should probably reserve the $90 Century specials for the 20-year old grandmasters, as if anybody can make Taiwanese sheet metal cut machine gun barrels, it will be they.

  5. #20
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    Talking

    Janty, you trying to say those things blow up when you hit 'em?

  6. #21
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    Default

    When I was a kid we called them Generic Death Traps which, of course, meant we had to drive faster and drink more beer in the Pinto.
    Proving that our youth should avoid Freud!
    :smokin:
    Everyone wanna go to heaven, but nobody (except the kids) wan’ to die.

    [Edited by Walker on 09-30-2000 at 01:35 AM]
    Doug Walker
    Completely cut off both heads,
    Let a single sword stand against the cold sky!

  7. #22
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    Default Kwan-dry (sic)

    There is some fabulous information here. But there is a piece missing, I think. People have been sorta talking around it, but I imagine it plays a pretty important part.

    Price.

    By this I don't mean to ask anyone to justify the tag they themselves put on a product. For a moment I want to just play "Joe Consumer" and say that I have a hard time identifying a clear correlation between quality and cost among the higher ($900 - $1800) priced swords. I think what pressed the point home was John's contribution comparing sword quality to the auto industry. Putting aside the (rare) chance of finding someone who will produce a museum piece to specs for under $100 out of sheer love of metalurgy, are there general guidelines correlating cost to quality overall?

    One other point, as long as I have the floor, I noticed that there are a lot of references to cutting "mat". I remember a video tape some years back which included a section on constructing targets for cutting. The process included soaking straw, and binding it around a bamboo standard. Has this practice been abandoned?

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce W Sims
    http://www.midwesthapkido.com
    Bruce W Sims
    www.midwesthapkido.com

  8. #23
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    If you are truly a stud, try this next time you're test cutting:

    Japan Times, 3 May 1919, page 4. Mr. Hayama, 72 years old, will perform test-cutting on bundles of straw, bamboo, and iron. Hayama described as "only living swordsmith whose blades are classed as 'deserving to be trusted.'"

    Japan Times, 10 Jul 1934, 2. Hiromichi Nakayama [think Toyama Ryu], one of two highest graded kendoka in Japan, demonstrates the strength of a New Sword by cutting iron bar the thickness of a man's finger wrapped in straw and placed on the edge of table. He cut it with one stroke, without leaving a mark on either the table or the blade. The Japanese Sword Institute forged the sword; the smiths were students of Hikosaburo Kurishara.

    ***

    As for the Army issue sword (one of which resides in my closet, though in fairness to Shango, God of Steel, I should light a fire and melt the thing to slag):

    Japan Times, 4 Oct 1931. Sunday Magazine photo section shows photos of Japanese soldiers sharpening their swords and bayonets, which were historically kept blunted.

    Japan Times, 3 Dec 1932, 1. Japanese Army decides it likes swords during Shanghai street combat, allocates Y 500,000 to promoting sword smiths and starts a new sword plant in Tokyo.

    The information Professor Bodiford cited regarding broken swords appeared 4 May 1938.

    Japan Times, 9 Jan 1941, 4. In Meiji, Japanese military sword was modeled after the German military saber. Found inadequate in Russia in 1904, it was remade "in the style of the broadsword used by the Japanese during the end of the Kamakura period." Again found inadequate during the 1930s.


    ***

    Regarding cost:

    Japan Times, 4 Jun 1941, 8. A New Sword typically cost ¥2,000-¥8,000. The yen was at the time worth US 47c; at the time, a new house in the US cost $6,000 and a new Ford cost $1,000. So figure $20,000-$80,000 for a New Sword of 1941.

    Same article: Four hundred swords were listed as national treasures, and about 30,000 swords were "good swords". The rest were considered junk. This implies the Allies didn't dump that many in the ocean -- there weren't that many to be dumped.

    Furthermore, SCAP directive dtd 24 Sep 1945, published in Japan Times (then known as Nippon Times) on 22 Oct 1945: Police ordered to collect revolvers, rifles, and "privately owned swords, except those having particular value as objects of art… As regards swords considered to be objects of art, such distinction in this matter is approved."

    By way of comparison, the standard issue US Army bayonet of the current era costs the government about $100 per copy. The blade length is about 8", and it cost 5x as much as the bayonet it replaced in part to the over-engineering required to make a knife that would not break when put into a vise at -50 deg F. and then repeatedly struck with sledgehammers.

    ***

    Bottom line: if you shop carefully, you get more sword today for $1000 than you did in 1940 for $10,000. And for $350, you get more sword than was reasonably available to any medieval soldier.

    Furthermore, the Kodokan charges $750 for promotions and the WTF charges a grand. Surely a decent sword is worth more than one of those cheesy certificates?

  9. #24
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    Default bob elders batto jutsu tai kai

    Boy did a bunch of you guys " slobber a bibfull." Rihjt here and now I want to start a contest. I want to know if anyone has bent a more expensive sword than me. A $6,500.00 Kenpaku Yasutoshi made sword. Huh, can anyone top that? I have it on video ( way after the first 40 times I bent it) that during a kesa/ gyaku kesa and thenon the sui hei , ( on a 6 mat cut) I noticed a flash and stopped the video. About halfway thru the sui hei the sword blade flexed down about 30 degrees! But when the cut was finished, it was hardly bent at all. Weird but true. Maybe Dan from up north can explain if that's even possible. Bob ( the king of the sword benders, uh, so far) Elder P.S. whats a simile?
    Rich and Stress Free

  10. #25
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    Bob:
    My Nobuhide probably costs more than yours does on the open market (alot more with the furniture I have on it), but hhmmm you're right I don't bend it or any of them because I don't force a cut. But I have managed to get other people to bend my swords when I lent them.

    You've probably noticed you can tell when someone bends a sword by the sound of the cut. Terrible when its one you've loaned. But that's why God made David Hofhine; to straighten, polish and sharpen them for me.

    Carl McClafferty

  11. #26
    Dan Harden Guest

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    Toby

    I have seen Howards Knife work, not his sword work.
    His use of L6 is not unusual. Without taking anything away from his considerable skills, its use has been a staple in the knife smith field for decades. Many of us have used it plain or as a mix in Damascus layer work. Due to its nickel content it contrasts nicely with plain carbon steel when etched. It appears as more of a silver layer than the dark higher carbon (see notes below). I prefer NOT to use it in katana as I find the Hamon to be too diffuse and “plain Jane.” Its look reminds me of the oil quench katana. Blah!
    Personally I like a very sharp Hamon with ashi being clearly delineated. Further, I like the look of a .70%carbon content or less. The 80% and higher range is too thin a line in my view. Of course that is just personal taste.
    Your comments about performance are of course accurate. It has excellent ductility. AND!! there are some really nifty benefits to be gained in heat treating it >IF< you know what to do. You can control the transformation of certain properties at certain temperatures. If you can control the heat treat , at a certain point you will gain Maximum ductility. It is a bit of overkill since a properly heat treated plain carbon or better yet Vanadium / carbon blade, with the proper grinds will be practically unbreakable. They will match if not exceed the performance curve of ANY tamahagane blade past or present. In Japan, the poor slobs are chained to the sand iron, sponge iron, electrolytic iron restrictions. God only knows what these excellent Japanese smiths could do with good steel and less restrictions.


    Notes on steel

    *As a side note to those who do not know;
    when highly polished and or acid etched, steel will act as follows
    High carbon will appear darker
    Low carbon will appear lighter
    Nickel will appear shiny-er? Depending on the nickel Content. Pure nickel is a bear to forge but will
    appear as silver streaks in the blade.
    Very small whitish layering between welds is usually due to de-carborasation of the outer skin, prior to a
    fold.

    For those interested in Japanese type blades
    Damascus steel will not produce a uniform or even decent looking Hamon, unless it is made from an all medium to high carbon mix . This is due to the fact that the lower carbon will not produce martensite and make a transitional zone. Therefore the hamon apears interrupted. Yuk!

    Nickel will not form a very sharp hamon. The hamon will be more diffuse and have to be accentuated with the polishing techniques used. This is due to its deeper hardening qualities. You want a shallow hardening steel to get the sharp ashi, or choji look. For that matter ANY detailed Hamon should be done in water.

    The following will inhibit and diffuse a hamons appearance
    1.Nickel
    2.oil quench
    3.water that is too warm
    4.too much vanadium
    a. vanadium inhibits grain growth. This is generally desirable in steel but up to a point will make a diffuse hamon. It will also improve wear resistense and cutting ablity
    5. Low layer count damascus
    6. too much carbon
    7. too little carbon

    Hamon
    The overall width of the hamon is a determining factor (for the experienced smith) in telling the carbon content of a blade WITHOUT chemical analysis. The narrower the line, the higher the content. Items 6. And 7. being the opposite ends of the spectrum.


    To the fellow who asked about the Aikido book.

    I haven't seen it, as I do not follow Aikido. What is the title?


    Dan
    "Bordering on information overload"

  12. #27
    Dan Harden Guest

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    Follow up

    Bob I missed your question about blade deflection.

    I am probably going to raise a few hackles here. So be a little forgiving and read thouroughly.

    You were surprised that the blade deflected severely and then "sprung back" so as to present little or no permanent "set" in the blade.
    I would say that "its a keeper."

    Why?


    So much has been written about the bending of blades and of the methods to fix them that it has become a common place and "almost" expected reaction of a blade to have a bend "set in". In fact, it is an example of failure! The failure can be a combination of poor shape and taper and/or failure in tempering the body of the blade too soft. Of course nothing is perfect and we have to allow for flat out terrible, technique. But, a better performance curve should be expected.

    Excuse yourself of the "legend" of the Katana for a moment and allow me to explain. I will address the processes that produces failures and /or high performance curves in a piece of steel.

    Tempering processes
    *******************
    The clay coating of a blade that allows the ha to expand and form the curve is both wonderful AND limiting. It will have definitive effects on the eventual performance of the steel itself. In many ways, the hardening /tempering process is every bit as important as the steel and the forging.

    edge
    *********
    The clay coating, and quenching process allows for a hard edge 60-65C that must be tempered back to 58-59C to be useful without chipping. we have all born witness to the many chipped blades (Koto to shin-shinto)
    Why?
    The "legendary" smiths screwed up. They, like us, have failures. Many of them were convinced they could harden and temper in one process. For a steel with a carbon content of aprox. .60% or higher that is a practical immpossibility.
    Now... IF, and that is a big IF, you knew you had a carbon content that is low (50% or so) when you quench it, it will only get to about 58C or so. Therefore, it doesn't need to be tempered.
    For the rest. No temper = cracks and chips.

    Body
    *********
    Again, the clay coating, and quenching process allows for a hard edge. BUT! the thickness of the clay and/or the type
    clay will prevent the body from either hardening at all, resulting in a dead soft back and body. Or, hardening to a certain temper, due to either the formation of martensite, pearlite or banite.

    Ultimately you would prefer a spring temper to the body of the blade. Unfortunetly, if you use the method that allows for the full curve of the blade to be made by quenching you frequently wind up with a soft body. What does that mean. "Set in" bends.

    Most American smiths would consider that a failure. It sounds like Bob encountered a blade that did what it SHOULD do. Under stress it should deflect and bend back to it original shape.

    I have conquered the problem by forging a partial curve in and using less clay. This, along with very controlled forge temperatures produce certain structures in the body that are optimum for performance and they produce a higher rockwell rating to the body. The result? its difficult to make the blade bend. And when it does. It tends to maintain its shape by springing back.


    Last
    Forging method
    *****************
    The use of the Kobuse method (wrapped skin) does nothing to improve the performance of a katana. Blade to blade it will not improve the ductility, and in fact increases the chance for weld failures. If I had to bet money on the performance of a blade, I would place it on a forge folded single piece of steel over a Kobuse or san mai. Further, I would place my money on a piece of vanadium or nickel bearing steel NON folded.


    Many of us have been "reversed trained" to accept a lesser quality then what is attainable. This is for the simple reason that we are under the mistaken belief that we have been handed an example of the "finest blades in the world."

    Do not think I am derogatory of Katana or Japanese smiths (who could forge better blades if they were allowed better materials). As I stated earlier. It was NEVER one single thing that made the "legend" of the Katana. Its the totality of the manufacture; the Era, the steel,the tempering, the shape, the polish, and the fittings, that contributed to the well deserved legend.
    But even in their own time, they could have done better.

    Dan



    [Edited by Dan Harden on 09-30-2000 at 10:57 PM]

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    Dan --

    Two questions.

    1. Bob mentions seeing his sword bend on video, but not realizing at the time that it was a bad cut. (As Carl says, the sound is different, so I am assuming that he would have heard if he was really, really off.) So, this made me wonder -- are you aware of anyone having filmed a cut using high-speed photography, the kind that stops bullets in flight?

    The reason I ask is that often things at this level are not what they seem. (Think Eadward Muybridge's photography of horses, for example, showing that horses didn't run as people thought they did.) Therefore it is possible that a sword usually bends as it cuts and then springs back into shape, only much faster than the unassisted eye can follow.

    2. If it isn't uncommon to see a bent katana due to a bad stroke against an unmoving straw target, then what happens to the average katana when the tatami is covered by scrap metal set at acute angles? Here I am thinking that the swordsman's stroke was true, but the opponent was lucky or nimble enough to catch the strike on his breastplate rather than his arm. Blunt trauma injuries could be enormous, no doubt about it, but that seems preferable to being sliced.

  14. #29
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    Originally posted by Joseph Svinth
    Dan --

    1. Bob mentions seeing his sword bend on video, but not realizing at the time that it was a bad cut. (As Carl says, the sound is different, so I am assuming that he would have heard if he was really, really off.) So, this made me wonder -- are you aware of anyone having filmed a cut using high-speed photography, the kind that stops bullets in flight?

    The reason I ask is that often things at this level are not what they seem. (Think Eadward Muybridge's photography of horses, for example, showing that horses didn't run as people thought they did.) Therefore it is possible that a sword usually bends as it cuts and then springs back into shape, only much faster than the unassisted eye can follow.
    If this hasn't been done, such a photographic method can be set up easily using a strobe system invented by an MIT professor (name eludes me at the moment. He passed away a few years ago. Was famous for his photos which captured bullets in motion). Years ago, Choi Hong Hi (old TKD guy) and his student, Jae Hun Kim (at the time, a grad student at MIT) used the strobe lab at MIT to photograph Kim stopping a sword cut with his hands (I'm not kidding. I have the photo. LOL). The strobe flashes in effect do the same thing that Muybridge did. But setting up a strobe-camera is way easier than setting up 25 individual cameras with trip strings, as Muybridge did to capture his famous images of horses, humans and other creatures in motion.

    Anyone who is doing a serious study of cutting would find this setup effective for capturing to movements piece by piece.
    Cady Goldfield

  15. #30
    Dan Harden Guest

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    Dan --

    Two questions.

    1. Bob mentions seeing his sword bend on video, but not realizing at the time that it was a bad cut. (As Carl says, the sound is different, so I am assuming that he would have heard if he was really, really off.) So, this made me wonder -- are you aware of anyone having filmed a cut using high-speed photography, the kind that stops bullets in flight?

    The commercial video "Budo" Has Nakamura from Toyama Ryu ( as well as several other places cutting through a grass bundle. They recorded the cut at 1/100th of a second. They showed it in VERY slow motion. No deflection! I have seen many slow motion cuts with no visible deflection. Come to think of it, I have seen many "stop" action cuts mid way through. These show a straight line cut. Further I have another video here somewhere of calvery sabres being tested that showed considerable (amazingly so) bends in the cut that sprung back. In order to understand this you need to realize that Calvary Sabers are hardened through and through. Then the whole mess is drawn back to spring temper. That is how they withstand the stresses. But they won't hold an edge for long. Their too soft. There is another example to my earlier posts of the need for spring tempered not “soft” bodies. The calvary saber performed above many Katana. But they lacked the all important differential hardening process that kept the edge hard.


    *************************

    2. If it isn't uncommon to see a bent katana due to a bad stroke against an unmoving straw target, then what happens to the average katana when the tatami is covered by scrap metal set at acute angles? Here I am thinking that the swordsman's stroke was true, but the opponent was lucky or nimble enough to catch the strike on his breastplate rather than his arm. Blunt trauma injuries could be enormous, no doubt about it, but that seems preferable to being sliced.

    An interesting question that has much nuance. Lets take several tacks. How sad though, that we even have to discuss the accepted “set”bending of a blade

    1. Obata Toshihiro says that the edges were often blunted prior to battle. I have some other documentation here that mentions that as well. I suppose the theory was that NO EDGE could survive cutting through metal.
    My answer is that the Katana edge angles were not all the same. Some were flat edged from the shinogi to the edge. Others have a tapered rounded edge from the shinogi to the edge (well known, and called appleseed or canard edge by American smiths).
    The first one would cut through soft targets easier. It was easier to polish but makes and inferior blade. It is also the most commonly seen.
    The second will cut through steel and keep its edge. It is also a bear to polish and will be just slightly heavier than the first. In a strange twist, Smiths think of Tamashigiri-yo as needing to be heavier than Iai-yo. While this is true you usually see the thickness expressed in the mune only. You could actually make the overall thickness a wee-bit less. While keeping a bit more metal from the shinogi to the edge in a rounded fashion. This will make an overall lighter blade that will cut through VERY hard objects.
    Decades ago Buck knives and one famous American smith, whos name alludes me at the moment, became famous for cutting through nails and railroad spikes with Appleseed edge ground knives. Several American sword smiths, including myself, (as well as Japanese, German etc.) know the details of how to do this and do it. These Katana can cut through steel cable and brass rods.

    Is it true that they blunted their edges? We may never know. But if you were knowingly going up against an amored opponent it may be a wise course of action.

    yet another tack
    2. A well known researcher stated that field excavations showed little use of the sword in combat. The majority of injuries were from projectile weapons such as arrows and thrown rocks!! This, combined with information from other sources about the Katana being the last weapon used, may be revealing to us that these fellows were not the great sword users we thought. Perhaps they were caught up in the symbol of ability it portrayed on the owner. When in fact, they very rarely, if ever, “closed” with it. Perhaps it was largely theory or Dojo use, or the relativly rare (considering all the swords around) one on one dueling. It may also account for some of the ridiculous looking Japanese sword techniques.

    and yet another

    Your questions about angle of deflection on an armored opponent are of deep interest to me. But I fear it will remain academic. Moving targets and deflection does much to diminish target aquisition and power.
    (Delete essay on gun combatives)
    Here we have all this writing about the Japanese blade and the masters who wield them.
    We read papers about the legendary EDGE and its other worldly cutting ability.
    We read about the veritable cultural cult of the sword in Japan.
    Along comes new research, perhaps showing little use of it in combat,
    blunted edges made to induce trauma in armored opponents and wait minute!! Save the unstoppable edge?
    Add to this the notion of fighting “armored” men in the first place.
    We read next that most could not afford armor.
    Then what percentage wore armor in any given confrontation?

    So....
    I find it difficult enough to accept this talk of blunting edges when I also read how many couldn’t afford armor. WHO were they blunting the edges for?
    As I said, I think it is a queation that will remian academic.
    I simply do not trust much of what has been written about medieval combat. pArticularly when the source was the written record of the times.
    Men dream too much of glory, and write of grand things.

    and finally

    What can be deduced from current study?
    Much of what is shown in weapon Kata will not work in any severe, practical test. You can study several techniques from well known schools on cutting into armor openings. They look great in Kata. Try them in Kendo armor against a well seasoned swordsman, well versed in the use of maai, sen, and peripherals such as topography (something rarely, if ever, taught, not to mention "mindset". They fall apart. They show potential, that’s about all. That is why the study of target aquisition, and the delivery of power in a moving target is a worthwhile study. "Cutting to the heart" that is, the aquisition of a targeted area inside the legs, arms, neck or torso, is very difficult against an adept. His "closed" area, remains closed. You are left with deflections off of armor or blade.
    The question goes beyond weapon work though. Much of Japanese style taijutsu are far too "stand up," stiff, and formal to be used for actual confrontaion with an experienced foe. While being an excellent means to preserve and transmit technique. Many exponents suffer lack of experience in handling a moving opponent hell bent on seeing you undone and having the means at his disposal to see it through.
    A good dose of being “man handled” by someone who knows what he is doing would wake people up to the folly of much of what they do
    Again men dream……………..

    Sorry for the length. I believe form should follow function. I have little patience for “legendary” steel and legendary “martial” technique.





    Joe
    Your final question is apprapo.
    “The reason I ask is that often things at this level are not what they seem.”

    Yes
    Reality is frequently dirtier and a hell of a lot more fun

    Dan
    “Everyone has a plan until they have been hit.”










    [Edited by Dan Harden on 10-01-2000 at 11:49 AM]

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