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Thread: Iaido Sword Metal Alloy Question

  1. #1
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    Default Iaido Sword Metal Alloy Question

    Hello, I'm new here! I've searched this forum thoroughly (I think) and didn't find any answers to my questions.

    I'm going to be purchasing an Iaido Sword very soon and have narrowed my choices down to two companies.

    http://www.samurai-store.com/
    and
    http://www.budo-aoi.com/

    Now with the exception of Samurai Store, every Iaido Store sells a Zinc-Aluminum alloy in their sword. But Samurai Store is the only online store that sells Iaido Swords with Zinc-Tin-Lead alloy in the blade.

    Question 1: What's the difference b/w the two different alloys?

    Question 2: Which metal alloy would last well into my advanced practices and beyond?

    Question 3: Will an Iaido sword "wear out" so to speak after months or years of use.

    Question 4: Anyone have any experience dealing with the two stores I've mentioned, because none of them have returned any of my emails requesting more information on warranty of the swords and stuff.

    I'm going to purchase a good sword, so I want to make sure it lasts cause I might not have the money later to buy another one, which is why I have so many questions and would appreciate any objective and helpful opinions and answers. Thanks!

    Here are the two (customizable) swords I'm looking at purchasing, any comments on them?
    1. http://www.budo-aoi.com/iaito/11_elite_honjidai.html
    2. http://www.samurai-store.com/sword/deluxe/index.html
    Tom Kares
    Practicing: Katori Shinto Ryu
    St. Catharines, Ontario, CANADA
    http://www.jigandojo.com/

  2. #2
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    I thought the blades came from the same place more or less no matter the supplier. At any rate, so long as the blade is properly shaped and balanced which is independant of the exact material, it's the fittings that are really important in a iaito. Especially the wrap. A good one will last you many years of service.
    Neil Gendzwill
    Saskatoon Kendo Club

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kares
    Question 1: What's the difference b/w the two different alloys?
    No clue. Never heard of the Zinc-Tin-Lead alloy. I would imagine it would be used to add some density metal allowing for a heavier blade without thickening the blade.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kares
    Question 2: Which metal alloy would last well into my advanced practices and beyond?
    Well, the Zinc Aluminum blade that I bought 9 years ago is still going strong. The one my sensei bought 26 years ago is also still going strong.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kares
    Question 3: Will an Iaido sword "wear out" so to speak after months or years of use.
    The blade itself probably will not. The fittings might. Ie the saya, the tsukaito, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kares
    Question 4: Anyone have any experience dealing with the two stores I've mentioned, because none of them have returned any of my emails requesting more information on warranty of the swords and stuff.
    I've heard good things about Budo Aoi, but little about Samurai Store. Doesn't mean much.
    Charles Mahan

    Iaido - Breaking down bad habits,
    and building new ones.

  4. #4
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    Tozando supposedly use Zinc/Beryllium in some of their heavier blades. Like Charles said, it's just to add density without modifying the shape of the blade.
    Mat Rous

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    Speaking as an engineer with about 40 years of metallurgy experience, Tom, the majority of iaito are constructed of a zinc-aluminum alloy. The remainder, to my knowledge, are made from zinc-beryllium. Both alloys were chosen because they cannot hold a sharpened edge and also will not flex as much as, say, steel. Zinc-aluminum is less expensive to work with, but zinc-beryllium tends to be slightly heavier. Zinc-tin-lead is used in specialty solders, so I really doubt that particular alloy has made it into any iaito, especially in my dojo....

    As far as why they aren't made from steel, the best overall answer is that there are strict Japanese laws that restrict the use of sharp swords. There is also the weight factor: iaito are made for students who will likely eventually graduate to shinken (mogito) made of steel, but who will benefit from the lighter iaito blades while they are learning. [Trust me that my shinken outweighs my iaito by at least a factor of 1.5.] Some people say that it's also easier to manufacture a zinc-based blade, but you couldn't prove that by me - steel is pretty straighforward to work with.

    As far as iaito longevity, Charles hit on most of the parts that may eventually wear out. There is also the mekugi, which is a bamboo pin that holds the blade to the tsuka - I've gone through a couple of those, mostly for safety (not a good idea to fling your blade around the dojo ). The metal itself does not contact anything other than (1) your hand, (2) the soft wooden saya, & (3) occasionally the floor . Not much chance to wear out metal on those surfaces.

    Choosing a good-quality iaito from the start is, of course, an excellent idea. But as you become a more proficient iaidoka over the years, there is a good chance that you will want to upgrade your iaito more for looks than for actual function. For that reason, many senseis suggest buying a relatively inexpensive iaito when you're just starting, but that's your call. My wife's & my current iai were custom-built for us in Japan (interestingly, they were gifts from my son's Japanese mother-in-law), but our first blades were in excellent shape, & we contributed them to other dojo members, & they are still in use there today. Hope this helps.

    Oh, by the way, there's a longer discussion on this over on Kendo World http://www.kendo-world.com/forum/arc...hp/t-3486.html.
    Ken Goldstein
    --------------------------------
    Judo Kodansha/MJER Iaido Kodansha/Jodo Oku-iri
    Fencing Master/NRA Instructor

    "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it'll annoy enough people to be worth the effort."

  6. #6
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    i'd go for the lighter one.
    it means you can get more training in before getting tired, and as a beginner, you are less likely to strain yourself and cause injury

    as aforementioned, the fittings a very important. the size of tsuba needed for instance depends on you school.
    it may be well worth you asking your teacher which one will be best suited for you, as he knows your needs more.

    and also mentioned above, the fittings are mainly the things to go. for instance, the saya can split or be shaved away from the inside due to lack of left hand in drawing and noto.
    my iaito is 7 years old, the black paint on the brass fittings is wearing away, but the brass is fine.
    the tsuka ito was silk but is now leathery from being encrusted with my sweaty paws, but is not wearing away.
    my sageo became unravelled somehow, but ive replaced them with some pretty silk purple ones chidokan kindly gave me.

    get a decently balanced sword and it should last you a long time.

    good luck
    deborah elizabeth bell
    see spells deb- aint my mum clever

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